Tag: Holy Spirit

Surrendering to the Spirit

This article originally appeared in Renewal Ministries’ February 2020 newsletter. Ralph Martin was introduced to  Fr. Paul Sciberras while speaking at a priests’ retreat in Malta. In this testimony, Fr. Paul, head of the Department of Sacred Scripture, Hebrew and Greek, at the University of Malta, shares how being baptized in the Holy Spirit at a Life in the Spirit Seminar brought his faith to life in a new way and transformed his understanding of the meaning of his priesthood and the Word of God.

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I have been a priest for thirty years. After my ordination, my superiors asked me to specialize in Scripture Sciences in Rome. I was formed to mentally dissect and filter every word in the Bible with the extra-fine toothcombs of biblical scientific-critical methods.

However, all of this analysing, re-analysing, and re-checking was not satisfying me. Something was missing!

Thankfully, I myself was soaked in the Spirit four years ago, through a Life in the Spirit Seminar, and now I can walk and move in the Spirit as a man and a priest. The breeze that sways the wheat field of my life is the Spirit’s breath in my heart, my actions, and indeed, my whole life.

Baptism in the Spirit is about being soaked (the basic meaning of the Greek verb from which “baptism” derives) like a sponge, not in water but in the Spirit. What comes out and overflows when one is “squeezed” is then the Spirit of holiness of the Father and of Jesus, the Son. Since the Spirit can in no way be separated from its constituents—a father cannot be a father if he doesn’t have a son, and a son is a son because he has been generated—the Spirit is the Spirit of wholeness, integrity, and holiness.

How has this affected the way I experience my faith? Bathing biblical ministry in the Spirit of the Church and for the Church has always meant the world to me. But now it comes more from the heart and makes much more sense. I feel it’s becoming more a question of wisdom and knowledge, than of information and scholarship. The Bible turns out to be always fresh, like living waters, even when I am teaching the simple basics of Hebrew and Greek!

Additionally, Bible scholarship is no longer mere academic prowess. Thanks to the soaking in the power of the Holy Spirit, the Word of God becomes a rhema, truly a Word addressed personally to me. Whilst paying attention to the technicalities of the Hebrew and Greek languages and the historical context of the Scriptures, I now know too well that my academia is not just about producing academics, but about being a source of nourishment for thirsty and seeking believers.

Personally, I feel that the one word that says it all about Baptism in the Spirit, and indeed about the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, is surrender. Surrender! At the beginning of the Life in the Spirit Seminars, I asked myself how could anyone even surrender was possible for me! And yet so it was, as Josef Ratzinger, then prefect of the Congregation of Faith, defined it, “This profound contact with God, becoming a friend of God: it is letting the Other work, the Only One who can really make the world both good and happy.”

After baptism in the Spirit, I began surrendering more and more to the Spirit. Mass has become a heavenly experience. The peace! The joy! After Consecration, I now kneel in adoration: “My Lord and my God; I surrender to You, Lord Jesus!” I make mine the prayer of surrender: “I open all the secret places of my heart to You and say: ‘Come on in.’ Jesus, You are Lord of my whole life. I believe in You and receive You as my Lord and my Saviour. I hold nothing back. Holy Spirit, bring me to a deeper conversion to the person of Jesus Christ. . . . I surrender my understanding of how things ought to be, my choices and my will.” Life in the Spirit is not about doing new things but about doing the old things in a new way: the Spirit’s way.

Yet another discovery is taking place in my heart: not only how the Holy Spirit inspires and breathes his power into the Bible, but how the Bible breathes God back to us—by making it more complete and by making the Bible much more personal!

And finally—because I consider it the filter of all that I am going through—with surrender comes joy; the deep-seated joy where I feel so much at peace!

Surrendering! Yes, it’s possible! It suits me perfectly! It’s the only way!

The Spirit Comes

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By Jack Flanagan

Cyril of Jerusalem had many wonderful things to tell the early Church about the Holy Spirit.  Here is a sampling:

  • The Spirit comes gently and makes himself known by his fragrance.  He is not felt as a burden for he is light, very light.
  • The Spirit comes with the tenderness of a true friend and protector to save, to heal, to teach, to counsel, to strengthen, to console.
  • The Spirit comes to enlighten the mind first of the one who receives Him and then, through Him, the minds of others as well.
  • The Spirit comes to make one man a teacher of divine truth, inspire another to prophesy, give another the power to cast out devils, enable another to interpret the Holy Scriptures.
  • The Spirit comes to strengthen one man’s self-control, show another how to help the poor, teach another to fast and to lead a life of asceticism, make another oblivious to the needs of the body, train another for martyrdom. His action is different in different people, but the Spirit himself is always the same.
  • The Spirit comes, according to St. Cyril, as a light that “floods the soul of the man counted worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit and enables him to see things beyond the range of human vision, things hitherto undreamed of.”

Thanks be to God for the marvelous gift of the Holy Spirit! I share these words that we might deeply desire more of the Holy Spirit in our lives.  Let’s humbly ask for more of the Spirit’s transforming action  Let’s begin now, inviting the Spirit to flood our hearts and minds, the Church and the whole world, so that all may be made new in God’s life and love.

‘Let Your Faith Rise Up’

By Al Mansfield

Just over a year ago, I was praying. I was very concerned about some things in the Church, in our country, and in the world. I admit that I was feeling somewhat discouraged and lacking in faith and hope. Then I was surprised to sense the Lord speaking a word to my heart. The following is what I heard:

“Am I not the Lord God of all flesh? Are not the times and seasons in My hands? Do not the skies and the waters and the earth obey my command? Is anything too difficult for Me, says the Lord.

“You mourn and weep over my Body, the Church, but do not mourn and weep as those who have no faith. You grieve over my Body, the Church, but do not grieve as those who have no hope.

“I say to you, look to who I am, says the Lord. Keep faith with Me and in Me. Let your faith rise when all else would pull you down. Let your faith neither falter nor fail. For your faith is in a living God. Your faith is in an all-knowing and all-wise God. Your faith is in an all-powerful God. Your faith is in an all-loving God. I am never shocked; I am never surprised; I am never caught off-guard; I am never unprepared, says the Lord.

“In Me are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Take hold of Me by faith. Let your faith rise. Let your faith rise. Let your faith rise. I am the victor, says the Lord. Keep faith with my victory, says the Lord. Rejoice in my victory, and your faith will be your victory as well.

“For my Holy Spirit is strong. My Holy Spirit is fierce. My Holy Spirit is tenacious. My Holy Spirit is zealous for my glory. My Holy Spirit is not mocked. Do not grieve my Holy Spirit. Do not grieve or anger the Lord God who gives you his Holy Spirit. Yield to my Holy Spirit, says the Lord, and let your faith rise up!”

In this word, I felt like the Lord was chiding me and challenging me to exercise greater faith. In fact, it seems that the Lord is rather consistently chiding and challenging me, and I believe all of us, to exercise greater faith.

To exercise faith in the midst of the kinds of issues we face in the Church and in the world doesn’t mean that we don’t face reality or remain in ignorance or denial. But it does mean that we “walk by faith and not by sight” (2 Cor 5:7). It means letting God’s Word, rather than our own thoughts and feelings, rule our lives.

To exercise faith means actually living our lives day-by-day, based on the truths that we profess to believe: that God exists; that God is a loving Father; that Jesus came and shed his blood on the cross and rose again for our salvation; that God’s own love is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit; that God promises to make all things work together unto good for those who love Him; that we are destined to share in Christ’s ultimate victory over sin and death.

I wish I could tell you that all it took was receiving this word for me to never again yield to discouragement or negative thinking. Alas, that would not be quite accurate. In fact, it was embarrassing for me to listen to others quote this word back to me, saying how much it helped them, while I myself was still struggling. But I share it here now with the hope that it will challenge me anew, and perhaps benefit others as well.

 

Al Mansfield has served the Catholic Church for fifty years in teaching, pastoral ministry, and administration. He holds an undergraduate degree in history and a Master’s degree in theology from Notre Dame Seminary in New Orleans, Louisiana. He was pursuing a doctorate in religion when the Lord called him into full-time ministry in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal.
Al has been a pioneer in the Renewal in the South since 1970, serving as director of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal of New Orleans Office. Since 1972, Al has had the chief responsibility for organizing and managing conferences and other events in New Orleans that have attracted thousands of people from around the country. He is a past member of the National Advisory Committee and he served the National Service Committee as a “Traveling Timothy.” Al is a recognized teacher with a deep love for the Word of God and has spoken at conferences and retreats around the country. Al is married to Patti Mansfield and they have four children and eleven grandchildren. In 1995, Archbishop Francis B. Schulte appointed Al and Patti to be his
liaisons to the Catholic Charismatic Renewal in the Archdiocese of New Orleans. In 2000, they were awarded the Papal Medal, Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice (For the Church and the Pope), by Saint John Paul II.

Meeting Jesus for the First Time

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The following article is the second in a series called “Casting Nets” that will run over the coming weeks. They are written by “John,” a student in one of Ralph Martin’s New Evangelization classes, and document several evangelization opportunities he has performed in his various ministries. He writes, “Each ministry is unique with various situations, circumstances, and needs; but the one constant is broken and injured people. It is my experience that there is no greater potential for miracles to occur than when desperate people meet Jesus. I have been blessed to have seen many people come to Jesus—often in surprising or unexpected ways—and quite often, it is I who is the most surprised.”

The names of the individuals involved have been changed to protect privacy, and the author has been kept anonymous because he would like Jesus to have the credit for this work.

By John

As my wife and I arrived at the crisis pregnancy center, I had word of knowledge (a “nudge”) about someone with an ankle problem. It came and went so quickly and so quietly that I doubted it and initially brushed it away. However, as we were setting up for our Communion service for the seventeen women present, I overheard someone mention having sprained an ankle (perhaps I dismissed that nudge too soon). As my back was turned, I did not know who had said it, but no matter; God provides. My wife and I introduced ourselves and said that we were from the Catholic Church in town.

“Oh! I’m Catholic,” said a young woman who I’d estimate was between sixteen and eighteen years old. I asked, “Oh? Which church do you belong to?”

She hesitated. “I don’t really belong to a church right now.”

“Oh” I said. “Which church do you live near?”

She did not know the name of the church. I asked her, “When was the last time you went to church?”

She couldn’t remember that either. It became apparent that she was living in a non-practicing Catholic household and, in fact, she later admitted that she had not even been baptized. I had prepared a sermon based on the readings for that day, but this young lady didn’t even know the first thing about Jesus, so I abandoned my plan. I felt the Lord wanted me to focus on this young woman, so I asked her, “How is your prayer life”? “Honestly” she said, “I don’t even know how to pray.” “That’s OK,” I said. “I can help.”

I led her in an impromptu prayer that went something like this: “Jesus, I don’t even know if You are real, but people tell me You are, and You sound awesome. I’ve really messed up my life down here, and I can’t fix it anymore. I need some help. If You are really there, I invite You to come into my life and ask You to please help me. Amen.”

“That’s a prayer?” she asked. I laughed, “Yes; it’s a prayer. It’s a very open and honest prayer from the heart.”

We then spoke about the Holy Spirit, and then I led the whole group in a prayer to the Holy Spirit, followed by some quiet time. I told them that I had the sense that someone was feeling peace, another forgiveness, and that there was someone present with an injured ankle. As it turned out, it was the same young woman who I’d just taught to pray. She was surprised that I called out the ailment. I asked if it would be OK if my wife and I prayed over her. “What do I do?” she asked nervously. I smiled and replied, “Nothing at all. You just sit there and receive.” I asked the group to extend their hands in her direction and imagine Jesus fixing her ankle.

I thanked the Lord for her life and told her that I was going to put my hand on her ankle. I asked her to let me know if she felt anything. After a short while, she began to weep and said she had just felt a wave of emotion. She didn’t understand why she felt that way or what was going on, but I told her it was quite common. Someone else in the group told her it was the Holy Spirit. She said she felt a cold feeling on her ankle. She was shaking, crying, and laughing all at the same time, as the Holy Spirit fell upon her. I asked her how her ankle felt. “I don’t know,” she sobbed.

I said, “Well? Stand up and test it!” She began walking around—completely pain free. It was a very beautiful moment, because she didn’t understand what had happened or why she was healed. She was just completely overwhelmed with emotion and God’s love, and she just kept sobbing and saying, “What? Why? How?”

While reflecting on the incident, it struck me that in a scant fifteen minutes, this young woman—who previously had no idea of who Jesus was or if He even existed—met the risen Lord more powerfully than most people will in their entire lifetime. She went away that day knowing two things for certain: there is a God, and He loves her.

Evangelization’s Essential Ingredient

The following is an excerpt from Game Changer by Pete Burak, director of i.d.9:16, Renewal Ministries’ young adult outreach.


Ignoring or minimizing the Holy Spirit’s role in the New Evangelization is like setting out to make fresh bread by gathering all the ingredients and preheating the oven—but ignoring the yeast and wondering why the bread won’t rise. Or like planning a trip by packing the trunk, putting the keys in the ignition, and buckling up—but deciding gas is optional and being surprised when the car won’t start. In Evangelii Nuntiandi, Blessed Pope Paul VI bluntly states the role of the Holy Spirit in the work of mission. He writes,

“Evangelization will never be possible without the action of the Holy Spirit.”3

Talk about a provocative and challenging statement from the vicar of Christ! Blessed Paul VI clearly insists that the faithful rely on the action of the Holy Spirit because evangelization is pointless and fruitless without the Spirit. Pentecost launched the first evangelization, and Pentecost must continue to fuel our efforts.

The vital role of the Spirit can be difficult to believe, since most of His work happens in disguise. The power of the Holy Spirit, while certainly containing the power to affect outward appearance (like the tongues of fire), primarily transforms the hidden recesses of our hearts. The external preaching, teaching, loving, sharing, and caring that we see in successful evangelizers all come from an unseen but indispensible working of the Holy Spirit.

When we see other people evangelizing and doing great things, we often say to ourselves, “I could never do that,” and we’re right! We can’t do these extraordinary external works without first internally accepting and growing in the power of the Holy Spirit.

What we don’t always realize is that every time we witness someone successfully evangelizing, the Holy Spirit is guiding them. Many evangelization programs, trainings, and books remind us of our duty to evangelize and the incredible need of our personal witness to the Gospel. They share best practices and tips for knowing what to say and how and when to say it. However, none of this ultimately matters if we don’t open ourselves up to the grace and power of the Holy Spirit and allow Him to guide and empower our evangelization efforts.
With the divine Game Changer in mind, it’s worth taking another look at Evangelii Nuntiandi:

“It is the Holy Spirit who, today as at the beginning of the Church acts in every evangelizer who allows himself to be possessed and led by Him.”4

Blessed Paul VI uses the word “possessed,” and that can create confusion or apprehension. Most of us see possession as something out of The Exorcist, yet completely giving of ourselves to Christ, and allowing the Spirit to consume us, are marks of true Christian discipleship. Unlike demonic possession, in which you lose control of your faculties, being owned by the Spirit enhances our nature and allows us true freedom.

And one more quote from Evangelii Nuntiandi:

“The Holy Spirit places on [the evangelizer’s] lips, the words which he could not find by himself, and at the same time the Holy Spirit predisposes the soul of the hearer to be open and receptive to the Good News and to the kingdom being proclaimed.”5

In other words, the Holy Spirit stacks the deck. The Holy Spirit gifts followers of Christ with the supernatural wisdom, power, and grace they need to communicate the Good News. Additionally, the listener receives supernatural power to understand and accept what is being presented. Obviously, either party can resist or flat-out deny this grace, but the Spirit is still there, gently inviting both people to go deeper.

Let’s look again at the scenario we imagined at the beginning of the booklet, regarding a discussion of sensitive topics during Thanksgiving dinner. In moments such as these, our first action should always be to ask the Holy Spirit for insight, wisdom, and the power to respond to His prompting. This humbles us so that we can hear what the Lord wants us to do. Then, no matter what happens, we can peacefully know we tried to be faithful to God’s will.

He may prompt us to speak out boldly; He may whisper to us to wait, perhaps until after dinner; or He may prompt us to invite our relative out for that coffee so that we can speak with them individually and better understand their opinion. We can’t do it on our own, so we might as well give all of these options to Him and then submit to His authority.

This reality should fill us with relief. While catechesis, apologetics, and evangelization training are important, when faced with the weighty task of representing Christ and the Church, we primarily need to rely on the Spirit. The Holy Spirit often is described as the Spirit of Truth, and in those moments, the truth, spoken in love, is precisely what is needed, even if it is eventually rejected.


NOTES

3. Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 75.
4. Ibid., 75.
5. Ibid., 75.


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