Evangelization and the Power of Pentecost
Interview With the Coordinator of a Charismatic Renewal Group
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VATICAN CITY, MAY 31, 2004 (Zenit.org).- On the eve of Pentecost, 15,000 members of the Italian branch of Catholic Charismatic Renewal attended the vespers in St. Peter's Square, where John Paul II appealed for a rediscovery of the person and gifts of the Holy Spirit.
To learn more about this theme, ZENIT interviewed Salvatore Martinez, national coordinator of the branch known as Renewal in the Spirit.
Q: What does Pentecost represent for Renewal in the Spirit?
Martinez: Renewal in the Spirit intends to be an eloquent sign of the inexhaustible wonder of Pentecost and of the reawakening of faith in the charisms of the Spirit, an admonition so that the Church will rediscover the physiological structure of Christian life which is, by its nature, a life in the Holy Spirit.
Since it arose, Renewal in the Spirit seems to be the fulfillment of the bold prophetical hopes formulated by John XXIII, at the opening of Vatican II.
There are two salient stages: in the first instance, the affirmation of the "current of grace," of a spirituality supported by the communal experience of charisms, image of a Church that loves to be "in the Cenacle," to "speak to God about the world," and "outside the Cenacle," to "speak to the world about God"; progressively, the affirmation of the notion of "ecclesial movement," in a growing apostolic commitment, of communion with pastors, of permanent formation that renders manifest the new life in the Spirit in the "lay charismatic ministries" activated in the Church and in the world.
Q: What is the Spirit for you?
Martinez: Without the Spirit, evangelization is like a stagnant river, charity like fire without heat, the Word something indeclinable, the Eucharist an impenetrable mystery, the other will never be a neighbor, the world a hell, paradise a forgotten reality, the Church a mother without love.
In my personal experience, I have seen thousands of sinners return to God, persons sick in body and soul restored to health; men and women who had lost their human dignity and wandered without hope through thousands of poverties find again the joy of living and of calling themselves "sons, daughters of God."
The Spirit does this and much more in those who are docile to his power, according to Jesus' promises.
This power was manifested in the life of the apostles and is manifested in the life of every believer by the free and unforeseeable initiative of the Spirit. This is why we speak of "Pentecostal, charismatic effusion of the Spirit" together with the programmed and effective effusions of the Spirit in the sacraments of Christian life.
Q: Renewal in the Spirit is a movement that has more than 80 million followers in the world. In what way did you plan to communicate and witness to the Spirit of God among people? What plan of life do you propose?
Martinez: The effusion of the Spirit represents the founding experience of the specific charismatic spirituality of Renewal in the Spirit. It is the "unleashed charism," the specific experience of Renewal in the Spirit.
John Paul II defines it as [a] "cause of an ever more profound experience of the presence of Christ."
The effusion of the Spirit makes present and reactivates our baptism, unleashing the Holy Spirit. It is a call to permanent conversion, as on the day of the Pentecostal descent of the Spirit in Jerusalem.
It is a new awareness of the Lordship of Jesus in our life, that Jesus who is Lord, and only through the Spirit can he be loved, adored, proclaimed, witnessed and shared.
We owe to Paul VI the first, convinced, immediate and "prophetic" recognition of the role of Renewal in the Spirit in the Church and in the world.
In 1975 he said: "The Renewal must rejuvenate the world, it must give it a spirituality, a soul. It will be an opportunity for the Church if you were to cry out to the world the glory of the God of Pentecost."
We are grateful to John Paul II for having stimulated Renewal in the Spirit to become -- as he told us from the first audience in 1980 "a hope for the world," an advance guard of witnesses of the "new evangelization" in docility to the Spirit.
The incidence of John Paul II's pontificate, his constant concerns addressed to us, were the boldest impetus to the ecclesial maturation of Renewal in the Spirit.
Since 1998, we receive annually a signed letter from the Supreme Pontiff on the occasion of the greatest event organized by us, in Rimini: an ecumenical congress in which an average of 25,000 people participate: many cardinals and bishops; more than 600 priests and religious; 5,000 family households; more than 600 volunteers; and an animation ministry made up of more than 120 people, between singers and instrumentalists.
A clear demonstration of the notion of "people of God" so dear to Vatican II which in Rimini sees the interaction of institutions and charisms in a truly unique style for the world and with spiritual returns that are truly unique.
Q: Is it enough to entrust oneself to the Lord to live more humanly?
Martinez: Thousands of baptized people do not experience the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in their lives.
The Spirit was given to us by Jesus as the Paraclete, that is, "He who is called to be next to us." Yet many Christians not only do no avail themselves of his amiable company, but actually do not invoke him, do not seek him, do not entrust to him the direction of their lives.
Meanwhile, as a result, it is very obvious to see signs of the "absence" of the Holy Spirit: disintegration of family life, the decrease in vocations, the indifference toward so many poverties in our time, the weakening of the testimony of Christians, which is to be found in a weak and sterile life in the Spirit.
One who opens to the Spirit, and through prayer rediscovers the primacy of the interior life and the beauty of intimacy with God, sees his own natural aspirations transformed into hope. The human and rational interpretations of reality are revivified in the faith. Human love is regenerated in charity.
The human quest for justice is sublimated in the commitment to build the Kingdom of God on earth.
Q: What role does prayer play in your spiritual proposal?
Martinez: The experience of the prayer of praise and intercession made "in the Spirit" is a central dimension of Pentecost, as Paul VI already affirmed in 1964.
Prayer is our very soul before God. The more it is surrendered, "gripped by the Spirit," the more it experiences the "praiseworthy madness" of David before the ark of the covenant, or, as John Paul II has reminded us in Number 33 of "Novo Millennio Ineunte," of "ardent devotion, until the heart truly 'falls in love.'"
On the occasion of the special audience for our 30th anniversary in 2002, we received a special instruction from the Pope: to become a "school of prayer" in the Church, in a special way by making the prayer of praise loved, a form of prayer that renders glory to God for what he is, even before for what he does.