Questions and Responses
Doctrinal Commission – International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services
To answer this question let us consider the case of Mary the Mother of Jesus, who was with the disciples in Jerusalem praying “in one accord” for the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 1:14). In a catechesis on this passage (May 28, 1997), Pope John Paul II noted that the Holy Spirit had already descended upon Mary many years earlier at the Annunciation, bringing about her divine motherhood. Having already experienced the gift of the Spirit, now in the upper room “she was in a condition to appreciate [this gift] more than anyone.” Indeed, her experience up to that time “made her ardently long for the Spirit’s coming.” Thus, the Pope said, she prayed in “deep communion with the Apostles (and the others) for the gift of the Spirit for herself and for the community.” Why would she need the gift of the Spirit for herself, since she was already filled with the Spirit? First, the pope says, “it was appropriate that the first outpouring of the Spirit upon her… should be repeated and reinforced.” Secondly, several weeks earlier, at the foot of the cross, Mary had received a new mission: to be Mother of all Jesus’ disciples—and this new mission called for a renewed gift of the Spirit.
John Paul II’s references to Mary in the upper room provide a helpful basis for reflecting on what might be called supplemental baptisms in the Spirit.
Mary could appreciate the gift… more than anyone
Many people who are baptized in the Holy Spirit can testify to unique and unrepeatable encounter with the Spirit, one that casts their whole life into a “before” and “after.” In this sense it is a unique event, like Pentecost in the early Church. However, this does not preclude the possibility of renewed comings of the Spirit, as also occurred in the early Church (Acts 4:31). By analogy, we can imagine that the Blessed Mother’s whole outlook in the upper room was deeply conditioned by that baptism she received when the Spirit came upon her as a young girl at Nazareth, and by the fruit brought forth by the Spirit (Jesus!) that illuminated her entire life. Clearly, the Annunciation was the greatest before- and-after outpouring of the Spirit of all time. Yet it is precisely from her deep appreciation of this personal experience that Mary prays “with ardent longing” for the Spirit to come in another history- making episode—Pentecost. Anyone who has been baptized in the Holy Spirit is prepared by personal experience to appreciate the utter need and joyful expectation of the Spirit to bring about the next step in their life.
Mary had an ardent longing for what comes next
Baptism in the Spirit so heightens a person’s desire for God that further “seekings, askings, and knockings” become a normal accompaniment to life in the Spirit. The prophet Isaiah expressed this pattern of needfulness when he said, “morning after morning he opens my ear than I might hear” (Isa 50:4). The longings aroused in us by the Spirit are not disappointed, because “the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words… according to the will of God” (Rom 8:27), so that we can indeed count on God’s wherewithal for realizing his plan.
Jesus too implies a dynamic like this within himself when he says to his disciples at the Samaritan well, “my food is to do the will of the one who sent me and to accomplish his work” (John 4:34). Jesus’ life and ministry depended on the power of the Spirit, who rested on Him as a full and continuous anointing. When the Spirit cultivates an ardent desire in us to “accomplish God’s work,” it requires divine help in ways we can’t predict—coming from deep within the mystery of God. We need the power of God to do God’s work, and that power is the Holy Spirit outpoured! Whether this astonishing power comes continuously, or in bursts or chunks or streams throughout our lives, is in the end something that “pertains to God” of which no one else knows “except the Spirit of God” (1 Cor 2:11).
Mary was concerned for future fruitfulness
God’s will is that our life in the Spirit be immensely fruitful, bearing the divine type of fruit that “remains” (John 15:1-17). The only means to fruitfulness in this world, however, is the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit, acting from within. The ideal way to express our desire to bear fruit according to God’s will is thus by a continuous openness to the Holy Spirit. Before Pentecost, Jesus himself had told the disciples to expect the Spirit to come upon them in power (Acts 1:8). The Virgin Mother was with them, and as John Paul II says, led the others in a devoted prayer of expectancy, anticipating the fruitfulness of her next mission—the one that continues today. May all of us who continue to pray as she did never doubt God’s willingness to supply the gift of his Spirit by whatever cycles of refreshment are needed, since “he gives his Spirit without measure” (John 3:34).