This Mass was the final event of a weekend-long celebration of the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal #ccrgoldenjubilee2017
(As usual, this is only the gist of the Archbishop's homily.
The content of this homily he expressly asked to be distributed far and wide.)
The readings for this Mass were from the 7th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Leviticus 19: Be holy, for I the Lord your God am holy. You must not bear hatred for your brother in your heart. You must love your neighbour as yourself.
Psalm102(103): Who heals every one of your ills: with the Response: The Lord is kind and merciful.
1 Corinthians 3: You are God's temple The Spirit of God is living among you. You must learn to be a fool before you can be truly wise.
Matthew 5: Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you: You must be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.
God is not interested in our acts but in our deeds. Let us not muck around with God. Be serious with Him. Be hot or be cold, don't be lukewarm, because as you know the lukewarm get spat out.
I want to talk to you about how to have healthy prayer groups and communities.
In 1965 Vatican II ended and in 1967 the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) began. The CCR prayer groups are at the heart of the Church. Pope Francis says that the apostolate of the prayer groups is to bring the Baptism of the Holy Spirit to every Catholic and beyond. To live out the vocation of the laity you need to start with the sacrament of Baptism. Let us take seriously the sacrament of Baptism. If we get that right everything else falls into place. The reason the modern controversies about the priesthood get it so wrong is that they start thinking from the sacrament of Holy Orders, when they should start their thinking from Baptism. 'God has no grandchildren. He only has children' David du Plessis used to say.
The waters of Baptism have brought us into the very heart of God. It does not need to be earned. We do not have to prove to God that we are worthy to be loved by Him. He doesn't love me for what I have done. The Father loves me because when He sees me He sees His Son. We are to draw people to Jesus by attraction, by talking to others about what Jesus means to me personally. We are the sacrament of Jesus. We are Christ in the world. Baptism is what animates us. Through Baptism into Jesus I am loved as first born in God, and inheritor of all His gifts.
Bring that Good News experientially into people's lives. We are an encounter religion. We say that we can encounter God like Thomas and Mary Magdalene. What about you? Jesus asks these questions of each of us. Who do you say I am in the depth of your being? When we experience Him, and encounter Him, our response is surrender, 'I surrender myself to you'. Mary the mother of Jesus, is The woman of Pentecost, the Yes woman, the first charismatic. Every parish should have at least one of these groups: Life in the Spirit Seminar; 4 Step Retreats run by The Community of the Risen Lord: Alpha: RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults). Say Yes if you are invited to become involved in them. It doesn't matter which one, they are all ways of sharing Jesus with others.
Just as Priscilla and Aquila, lay people, saw the potential in Apollos and assisted him to come into full relationship with the Holy Spirit, that is your task too. There are lots of ways of doing this. It is always good for us to pray for our bishops, but we don't have to go to the following lengths: There was a diocese in another country which had lots of prayer groups, but a very resistant bishop. In his curial office he had a bronze bust of himself on display. One of the prayer group leaders was a cleaner, and it was his regular task to clean the bishop's office. On one occasion when the premises were thought to be empty, he smuggled in members of his prayer group. In the bishop's office they prayed for their bishop. They prayed over the chair he usually sat in, asking God to guide his decisions. They prayed over the desk asking God to bless the deliberations that took place there, and knowing their slim chances of ever praying over the bishop directly they placed hands on that bronze bust of his and prayed for him personally. The Vicar General of the diocese came by and asked what on earth was going on. In some fear and trembling the prayer group said they were praying for the bishop. He let them off by saying, 'It is good to know that there has been some prayer in that office, but you had better be off and I don’t recommend you trying this again'.
You belong to Christ, and Christ belongs to God. Our starting place is with our wounds and our vulnerabilities. It isn't easy to do because no one wants to talk about weakness, failure and losing. Everyone is in haste to succeed. Someone asked an 80 year old nun, 'When did you decide to become a nun?' and she gave a very wise answer, 'This morning'. Activate your baptism every day, today. Christianity is a today religion. We leave the past to God's mercy, and we leave the future to God's providence, and we trust God today. In this moment you can act in God. Say Yes to God in the present moment, now. If you have messed up – go to confession, do penance and get on with it. Have faith in Him. If you have been to see the tomb of St Mary McKillop you know that on it is written, 'Trust in God'.
You need to be a prayer group. Don't be a 'lonely hearts' group or a 'remember when' group. Don't be a gossip group. If there is something causing division among you, deal with it. Change your leaders every so often. Having the same leader for 20 years is not a good thing. Your prayer group will die out if you don't keep yourselves young. Prayer keeps you young. Seven days without prayer makes a person weak. Getting new younger members keeps you young, too. When we share our vulnerabilities we build trust. Regularly taking part in opportunities for leadership formation keeps you young. Having an apostolate for the poor keeps you young.
Only love matters. Offer no resistance to the Holy Spirit by getting rid of all competition and jealousy. Fr Raniero Cantalemessa, the preacher to the Pope, reminds us that if all the bibles in the world vanished except one, and that one was burnt except for a barely legible page, and a single readable line, 'God is love', then the entire message of the Gospel would have been preserved. I invite you to think about all those who have been love to us in prayer groups. Be inspired by them and imitate them. How can we activate the laity? How can we grow in servant leadership? Only if we are animated solely by God, Who is love. Lay people of the Church, Awake! Revive!
In the book of Genesis we read how God breathed (ruah) into the nostrils of Adam, and he became a living being. To feel a gentle breeze or to hear a whisper we need to be still and to listen carefully. In John's Gospel we read that when the Risen Lord appeared to his apostles, He breathed on them. Our mission to be salt and light to the world began at Pentecost – the beginning of God's new creation. Without the Holy Spirit we become robotic and greedy. We need the Holy Spirit to breathe on us afresh. Take time regularly to be still and to know that God is here with you.
At the end of that Mass, the prophetic word that emerged throughout the weekend was shared in summary form:
•A call for unity among us as children of God. This is the third year in a row for this message: Do not ignore it!
•God is unity and love – there should be no more divisions among you.
•Be united in the one Spirit.
•The Sacred Heart and the Immaculate Heart were embracing us all.
•You have been given wings to fly, that the Church may be awakened and become vibrant once again.
•The future is not only in adults but in the children.
•The call to holiness is for all of us.