Several years ago, the Synod of Bishops discussing the New Evangelization noted that the first step, before any “strategic planning” (whatever that means), the Church must undergo a revitalization in which, “She makes the Person of Jesus Christ and a personal encounter with him central to her thinking, knowing that he will give his Spirit and provide the force to announce and proclaim the Gospel in new ways which can speak to today’s cultures.”
Notice that it doesn’t say that encountering Christ and receiving His Spirit provides a program or strategy by which the Church can put a tourniquet on the bleeding indicated by statistical data. No. The Word and Spirit provide a “force” capable of expressing the Gospel in ways that speak to today’s culture.
Forty days after the resurrection, Jesus took his disciples – those who were closest to Him, those who echoed Thomas’ “My Lord and my God, those who aligned with Peter in saying “You are the Christ” to Jesus’ infamous question “Who do you say that I am?” – outside of Jerusalem. Here they pressed him, “Are you now going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” His response is so typical…”It’s not for you to know the times or the seasons…” The classic God-answer of “I’m not telling.”
But, Jesus follows this line with something remarkable. He tells them, “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses…” (see Acts 1:6-8).
The Greek word for “witnesses” here is martys, from which we get our word “martyr.” The word used for “power” is dynamis, from which we get “dynamite.”
“Lord, will you restore the kingdom?”
“No. But you will. And I will give you the
dynamite power of the Holy Spirit, and you will be martyr-witnesses here and to the ends of the earth.”
The Word and the Spirit provide the force, the dynamite power that the Church needs in order to proclaim the saving Gospel, in order to continue the joint-mission of Son and Spirit. When the apostles receive that power at Pentecost, they practically force their way out of the upper room to proclaim the Gospel, and they never stop. This is why the Church desperately needs to pray for the New Pentecost right now.
One of the beloved Dominican friars who was stationed at St. Gertrude’s Priory for a number of years, Fr. Clement Joseph Burns, OP, recently passed away. At his funeral (which may go down as one of the most cheerful funerals I’ve ever attended), Fr. Nicholas Lombardo, OP, gave a homily on the impact Fr. Clem had throughout his life as a preacher. During the homily he recounted once asking Fr. Clem if what Archbishop Fulton Sheen said about priests only preaching one homily during their lives was actually true. Fr. Clem paused, and then answered “yes.” Fr. Nicholas asked him what his homily was. Without hesitation, Fr. Clem responded, “Get Holy Ghost Power.”
You want the force? Beg for it.
He wants to supply it.