Charismatic Renewal Conference

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 Homily notes of  Most Rev. Diarmuid Martin  Archbishop of Dublin

RDS, Dublin, 25th June 2016

“We gather to rejoice in being open to the gifts of the Holy Spirit, gifts we receive for our own sanctification and for the building up of the Church. The Second Vatican Council stressed that “The Spirit continually renews [the Church], builds her up, and guides her ‘with hierarchical and charismatic gifts’” (LG 4).

The charismatic gifts of the Spirit are not just optional extras.  The Holy Spirit is present with the Church in many ways.  The Spirit sanctifies the People of God and guides it.  The Spirit generously endows and enriches the Church with special gifts which build up the Church.   The Spirit enriches the Church with surprises which wake us up and shake us up.  The Spirit restores restlessness to a Church which it is tempted to become tired and timid.   I love that concept of a restless Church, a Church which does not give into complacency or inertia.

A recent Vatican document quoted from John Chrysostom who wrote about the gifts of the Spirit:

“What gifts that work for our salvation are not given freely by the Holy Spirit?  Through Him we are freed from slavery and called to liberty; we are led to adoption as children and, one might say, formed anew, after having laid down the heavy and hateful burden of our sins…; from this source spring forth gifts of revelation, healing graces, and all of the other charisms that adorn the Church of God”.

The work of the Spirit is not a work outside or parallel to the Church.  This is the era of the Spirit.  It is interesting to note that in all the Trinitarian Creeds of the Church the work of the Church is placed in the section of the Creed dedicated to the Holy Spirit.

Today, perhaps more than at other times in the history of the Church,  work of new evangelization is so necessary that it needs to be open to the all the charisms which the Spirit gives to re-awaken and renew and nourish the life of faith of the People of God.

We need a spirit-filled-Church which can welcome all those who seek the light of faith.   Pope Francis noted that:

“If something should rightly disturb us and trouble our consciences, it is the fact that so many of our brothers and sisters are living without the strength, light and consolation born of friendship with Jesus Christ, without a community of faith to support them, without meaning and a goal in life”.

Even though in the early 70’s I had already gone abroad from Ireland to study and work in Rome, I well remember the contribution of the Charismatic Renewal brought to the rejuvenation of the Church in Ireland at a critical time.  At a period of transition in the religious culture of Ireland, the Charismatic Renewal brought a new warmth, charismatic dynamism and a deeper understanding of prayer to many who were seeking a different home in a changing Church.  Charismatic Renewal gave birth to a range of new pastoral initiatives which still flourish today.

Today we need a new and vibrant affirmation within the entire Church of the “Joy of the Gospel”.  A Church which does not at all levels radiate the “Joy of the Gospel” is a Church doomed to stagnation, closed in within an unreal comfort zone, focussed inwards.  Such a Church will never truly reach out and embrace the marginalised and bring them and our society towards experiencing the “Joy of the Gospel”. It may seem a paradox, but a without vibrant lay affirmation of the “Joy of the Gospel” we will never produce priestly vocations.

Witnessing to the joy of the Gospel will only be effective if we understand what the Pope also calls “the delightful and comforting joy of evangelizing” EG, 9).    We experience the Joy of the Gospel when we spread the Gospel.  You do not spread the Gospel simply through decrying the evils of the world or through spiritual narcissism. We will never understand the joy which springs from the Gospel by just looking into a mirror at ourselves.

A Church community is not just a supermarket of spiritual services for individual shoppers.   Faith in Jesus Christ is never just individualistic.  When we read the Acts of the Apostles, we see that the early Christians were known by the fact that “they gathered”: they gathered to share the prayers, the word and in the breaking of bread and their gathering developed a particular style of life, that of sharing, that of communion.

A Eucharistic community by its nature is one which reaches out beyond itself accompanying in prayer and service individuals, families and whole communities in their quest for Jesus Christ and the healing and hopes he alone can bring.

Pope Francis stresses that “those who enjoy life most are those who leave security of the shore and become excited by the mission of communicating that life to others” (EG, 10)

The Joy of the Gospel springs from the fundamental fact that our God is a God of love.  “He who abides in love abides in God and God abides in him”.  The fundamental unity of all believers is not a sociological unity.  Theological reflection on the Church is not just a sort of sociological analysis of the Church.  The fundamental unity is a unity in holiness.  The Church is not our creation.   We are called into a Church which is holy.  We defile the holiness of the Church when we fail in our own holiness.   The Call to holiness is a call to all to become part of the life of God’s Holy People and to witness authentically to that holiness.

The love which should be the mark of the Church springs from a particular style of life.  It is not a sort of do-goodism, but an ascetical life.  The Council stresses:

If charity is to grow and fructify in the soul like a good seed, each of the faithful must willingly hear the word of God and carry out his will with deeds with the help of his grace:  he must frequently partake of the sacraments, chiefly the Eucharist and take part in the liturgy; he must constantly apply himself to prayer and self-denial, active brotherly service and the practice of all the virtues”

The Council stresses, however, that in responding to this call to holiness the Christian is not opting out of his or her responsibilities for promoting human progress.

“It is therefore quite clear that all Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of love and by this holiness a more human manner of life is fostered also in earthly society.

Our Gospel reading is an interesting one which show us how much Jesus cared or those who were sick or troubled. He heals the servant of the centurion, he heals Simon’s mother-in law and in the evening he heals the many who were brought to him sick or possessed by devils.  Jesus’ generous care is without bounds.

The credibility of the Church comes in a special way through the witness of those of its members who bring to the world that concept of gratuitousness which is the opposite of market consumerism, where everything has its price tag and you only get what you pay for.  This sense of gratuitousness is not just about doing something over and above what one does daily.  It is a call for a different way of living and forming society which is inspired by the life and teaching and mission of Jesus himself, who revealed the gratuitousness and the superabundance which are the marks of God’s love.

I reflected earlier how the Charismatic Renewal almost fifty years ago, at a period of transition in the religious culture of Ireland, brought a new warmth, charismatic dynamism and a deeper understanding of prayer to many who were seeking a different home in a changing Church.  Today at another time of transition of the religious culture of Ireland we need, perhaps more than at any time in the past, men and women open to the Spirit, through whom the gifts of the Spirit can enrich the Church, make hearts restless and radically renew the Church and the face of the earth.   Come Holy Spirit.