"A lay Catholic perspective"

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Maturing in the Spirit

by Cecile Flater


THE CHARISMATIC RENEWAL is a great gift to our Church. It has given expression to a tremendous outpouring of the Holy Spirit and many gifts such as prophecy, visions, miracles, healing, and tongues. In a sense we are like the early Church when the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles like fiery tongues on the day of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit inspired them and they began speaking in tongues. When we go through the Life in the Spirit Seminars we often pray in tongues too which is a confirmation of the release of the Holy Spirit in us. Our constant helper and friend is the Holy Spirit who makes Jesus real to us and enables us to live for God.

Entering into this particular encounter of grace energizes us to share God's love with all we meet. Peter and the apostles did not stay in the upper room once they received the Holy Spirit. They immediately went out to the crowd and called people to turn away from their sins and return to God who would also bless them with the Holy Spirit. Therefore we are not to keep this wonderful blessing to ourselves. Instead we are called to use the gifts of the Holy Spirit to spread the Gospel of Jesus.

As a disciple, I give my whole life to Jesus. Surrendering my life to Jesus may seem like a big risk but Jesus says that whoever loses his life for him will find it. With trust in God and in everything he allows in my life, comes peace. Then I know he is working out my salvation even through trials and tribulations. I rejoice with assurance that Jesus, by his cross and resurrection, brings life out of every cross I experience. This surrender is solid in Jesus. Even if I suffer insecurity, I still trust Jesus. My trust becomes a decision in the midst of obstacles. With consistent decisions and prayer to surrender and trust Jesus as his disciple, my heart grows secure and confident in him. This is the peace that surpasses all understanding. I become a light for the world, or salt for the earth. My life is a witness and my words can be spoken powerfully to those around me, especially those who seek to live the same hope.

Discipleship is best lived out in the Church in a community setting. Jesus encourages community in the Gospel when we find him calling his apostles to follow him and to share his life. And in Acts 2:42-47 after the people believed and were baptized, they were like family. They prayed and broke bread together, sharing their possessions and money freely with one another.

There are various community settings already operating in the Church showing our Church's growing ability to create communities in which disciples are formed. The parish remains the "base community" which in turn sponsors other groups with various degrees of community commitment, eg. the Knights of Columbus, the Catholic Women's League, Cursillo, and charismatic prayer groups.

Two important qualities of a disciple in community are humility and spiritual honesty. Especially in lay communities, it is important to realize that our discipleship is to Jesus, not primarily to another person. Religious communities have particular structures of formation, but in the lay state of life, structures such as marriage and family clearly take precedence. We follow the example of Jesus when he washed the disciples' feet. Like Jesus, we are called to put others first in an attitude of service rather than expecting to be served. In this sense the mature disciple is able to inspire others into a closer walk with Christ. Criticism and condemnation are never instruments of loving discipleship.

The gifts of the Holy Spirit such as prophecy, teaching, pastoring, and evangelizing are meant to be aids or tools for discipleship. For instance, a person may receive repeated prophecies telling about the calling God has for them. Teaching may help them understand the word better. Pastoring can reveal God's tender loving care and evangelizing can encourage the weary disciple to pick up his cross and follow after Jesus with a new exuberance. All of these gifts can be found in a prayer meeting. But developing our lives as disciples requires more than attending prayer meetings. We must make a daily commitment to the Lord in a Christian environment in which we will mutually support one another.

Every Christian is invited to discipleship and maturity in Christ. In Ephesians 4:13, Saint Paul says, In this way we are all to come to unity in our faith and in our knowledge of the Son of God, until we become the perfect man, fully mature with the fullness of Christ himself. As mature Christians, we live in the Church sharing the hope of Christ with one another.

Our hope is the cross. As we pick up our crosses daily and follow after Jesus, let us remember that the cross is our hope of heaven on earth. Jesus is the leaven which causes our hearts to fill with joy and our souls to sing with the knowledge of his presence. For the Holy Spirit encourages us to cry out "Abba, Father", knowing that he has not left us as orphans but has made us his very own sons and daughters. Therefore, as true disciples in the Charismatic Renewal, the Holy Spirit empowers us to live in the hope of the risen Lord, walk more closely with Jesus, and lay our lives down for the building up of our Church.