The Great Auditorium, Ocean Grove, New Jersey
June 7, 2014
This evening begins the annual celebration of Pentecost, the birthday of the Catholic Church, when we recall the Holy Spirit’s descended upon the Apostles in the Upper Room. Well, here in this great room, we can say the Holy Spirit has arrived a bit early in Ocean Grove. The Acts of the Apostles, tomorrow’s first reading, reminds us of that first Pentecost:
When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled,
they were all in one place together.
And suddenly there came from the sky
a noise like a strong driving wind,
and it filled the entire house in which they were.
Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire,
which parted and came to rest on each one of them.
And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 2: 1-4).
And, so, here we are, over one thousand strong, two thousand years later, disciples of the Lord Jesus “all together in one place … all filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Last Sunday, Our Holy Father Pope Francis spoke to over 50,000 people gathered in Rome’s Olympic Stadium for the 37thNational Charismatic Renewal Convention entitled “Renewal in the Spirit.” What a power-filled assembly, not simply because of the power of the Holy Father and his awesome presence but, rather, because of the power and presence of the Holy Spirit. It was power-filled and, so, it was powerful. That same power fills us here today:
In his remarks, Pope Francis said that Charismatics … have received a great gift from the Lord. You were born of the will of the Spirit as "a current of grace in the Church and for the Church." This is your definition: a current of grace.
“A current of grace!” When we think of the word current, we think of electricity, that charge, that power that enables us to have light and warmth and energy to do so much and without which our world would be a very different place. “A current of grace!” That is how Pope Francis described you in the Charismatic Renewal Movement. You are a current of grace with the Holy Spirit as your source. And with the Holy Spirit as the source of this current of grace, no one can ever” pull the plug!”
The Holy Father continued:
Charismatic Renewal is a great force at the service of the proclamation of the Gospel, in the joy of the Holy Spirit. You received the Holy Spirit that made you discover the love of God for all his children and love of the Word.
Proclamation of the Gospel … joy of the Holy Spirit … love of God for all his children. Love for the Word.
Love for the Word … what that means to us is that we “can never get enough of it.” The Word instructs us. The Word informs us. The Word nourishes and feeds us. The Word challenges us. The Word affirms us. The Word stands right beside us as we give our witness.
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory (John 1: 14).” Love for the Word is love for the Lord Jesus Christ and it is the Lord Jesus Christ who prompts us to “discover the love of God for all his children” … to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel … to experience the joy of the Holy Spirit that brings us here today --- “all together in one place”---and that will send us forth into the celebration of Pentecost. “We have seen his glory … the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” We are “currents of grace” and currents of truth!
The Acts of the Apostles today tells us that St. Paul, even though chained and suffering imprisonment, … received all who came to him, and with complete assurance and without hindrance he proclaimed the Kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.
My sisters and brothers, that is what faith is: “complete assurance;” believing “without hindrance” so much so that in any and all the circumstances of our lives, we proclaim and teach and give witness to the Lord Jesus Christ.
St. John’s Gospel today continues the post-resurrection stories about Jesus. In this chapter, St. Peter feels a little tinge of jealousy toward St. John the Beloved Disciple. The Lord Jesus had just finished telling Peter to feed his sheep and what that ministry would cost him, and Peter says, “well, what about him?” referring to John. Jesus responds almost sharply, I am talking to you about you. All you have to worry about his following me.
In our Church today, there is division among Christians trying to prove whose opinion, whose interpretation is right or wrong. Some embrace charismatic renewal while others criticize it.
Today is an occasion where we --- “all together in one place”--- should hear our Lord say, never mind about all that division and debate. “Just follow me.”
In St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, he writes: Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear. Do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you (Ephesians 4: 29-31).
We have been sealed by the “Holy Spirit of God,” haven’t we? We believe that, don’t we? Pentecost is the first day of our redemption in the Church when we were filled with wisdom and understanding; right judgment and courage; knowledge and reverence; and wonder and awe. Those are the electricity, the charges in this “current of grace” that we are. “The life I live now is no longer my own, but it is Christ who lives in me, who loves me and gave himself for me (Galatians 2: 20-21).” That faith, that “complete assurance” is what makes us Christians. That faith, “complete assurance” is what makes us Catholics. That faith, that “complete assurance” is what makes us the Church.
We have been blessed by the last three Popes who have embraced the charismatic renewal movement. Bishop Blaise Cupich of Spokane, Washington, said just a few days ago: Pope St. John Paul told us what to do. Pope Benedict XVI told us why we should do it. Pope Francis is telling us, “do it (Cupich, “Remarks at The Catholic University of America,” June 3, 2014).”
So, my sisters and brothers, let’s “do it.” On this eve of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit may seem to have arrived a bit early here in Ocean Grove. But for us as a charismatic people of faith, the Holy Spirit can never come too early or too often. So let’s pray, with “complete assurance,” “”all together in one place:” “Come Holy Spirit.” “Come Holy Spirit.” “Come Holy Spirit, light the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in them, the fire of your love!”
Most Reverend David M. O’Connell, C.M.
Bishop of Trenton