Summary: 'A spirit-filled evangelization is one guided by the Holy Spirit, for he is the soul of the Church called to proclaim the Gospel.'
Thursday of 6th Week of Easter 2017
Joy of the Gospel
Today’s reading from Acts is one of those gems of the Bible that gives evidence for its historicity. Aquila and Priscilla were probably already Christians when they came to Corinth, about AD 49. They were caught up in the dragnet Emperor Claudius put in place when he expelled the Jews from Rome. Jews and Christians were all considered by the Romans to be one seditious group. That was not the first time an Emperor expelled Jews, either. Paul took the opportunity of visiting them to establish a residence in Corinth, and to spread the good news of Jesus. We know from his later letters to Corinth that the church there, from the beginning, was Spirit-filled. That means they were exercising the spiritual gifts Jesus promised–healing the sick, prophesy, speaking in tongues, and all the rest. This Spirit-filled worship was one of the characteristics of the early Church that attracted pagans and Jews alike to Jesus. It was one of the joys of Catholic life that helped them endure persecution in the years between the Resurrection and the Second Coming. So those who spread the Gospel must be full of the Holy Spirit.
The Pope recognizes this: ‘Spirit-filled evangelizers means evangelizers fearlessly open to the working of the Holy Spirit. At Pentecost, the Spirit made the apostles go forth from themselves and turned them into heralds of God’s wondrous deeds, capable of speaking to each person in his or her own language. The Holy Spirit also grants the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel with boldness (parrhesía) in every time and place, even when it meets with opposition. Let us call upon him today, firmly rooted in prayer, for without prayer all our activity risks being fruitless and our message empty. Jesus wants evangelizers who proclaim the good news not only with words, but above all by a life transfigured by God’s presence.’
The Pope is beginning the fifth and final chapter of the encyclical. He writes, ‘I do not intend to offer a synthesis of Christian spirituality, or to explore great themes like prayer, Eucharistic adoration or the liturgical celebration of the faith. For all these we already have valuable texts of the magisterium and celebrated writings by great authors. I do not claim to replace or improve upon these treasures. I simply wish to offer some thoughts about the spirit of the new evangelization.’
‘Whenever we say that something is “spirited”, it usually refers to some interior impulse which encourages, motivates, nourishes and gives meaning to our individual and communal activity. Spirit-filled evangelization is not the same as a set of tasks dutifully carried out despite one’s own personal inclinations and wishes. How I long to find the right words to stir up enthusiasm for a new chapter of evangelization full of fervour, joy, generosity, courage, boundless love and attraction! Yet I realize that no words of encouragement will be enough unless the fire of the Holy Spirit burns in our hearts. A spirit-filled evangelization is one guided by the Holy Spirit, for he is the soul of the Church called to proclaim the Gospel. Before offering some spiritual motivations and suggestions, I once more invoke the Holy Spirit. I implore him to come and renew the Church, to stir and impel her to go forth boldly to evangelize all peoples.’
In this the Holy Father and Archbishop Gustavo are of one accord. It makes sense, because Gustavo belongs to a religious congregation devoted to the Holy Spirit. In this time before Pentecost–remember today is the traditional date of the Ascension–we ought to bombard heaven with prayers for spiritual awakening in our people, our clergy, our religious congregation. The Church has the answers to the questions so many are asking, like “what is the final end of humanity.” We have the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist, the other sacraments that flow from the Paschal Mystery. We mustn’t hide them under a bushel basket. Lord, stir us up with the first of Thy Spirit. Send forth Thy Spirit and we shall be recreated, and You shall renew the face of the earth.”