Questions and Responses
Doctrinal Commission – International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services
“Look to the future by committing yourselves to a new evangelisation, new in ardour, method, and expression.” With these words Pope John Paul II gave the Church its primary task for the third millennium: a new proclamation of the gospel carried out with renewed vigour inspired by the Holy Spirit, the power who creates witnesses (Acts 1:8).
The Life in the Spirit Seminar is an ideal tool for the New Evangelisation. When it is done well, one can find in it the three characteristics mentioned by Pope John Paul II.
New in Ardour
Zeal and fervour come from the Holy Spirit. Only baptism “in the Holy Spirit and fire,” lived in a context of deep and permanent conversion, enables a person to act in the anointing of the Holy Spirit to evangelise and to serve the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit gives us the courage to proclaim Christ to those who do not know him, just as the Samaritan woman, given the living water to drink, became a zealous evangelist (Jn 4:39–49).
Today, people listen to witnesses whom Jesus’ unlimited love compels. People hear and believe the ardent evangelist because he has met the Lord, who has attracted him, called him, healed him, and sent him to bear fruit. His heart is inflamed with love like those of the disciples of Emmaus when they heard the word of God.
New in Method
Christians who become syncretistic or lukewarm generally have not been evangelised. They have not had as yet a personal encounter with Jesus the Messiah, the crucified and resurrected Saviour. The first step in the new method of evangelisation is therefore the presentation of the risen Jesus. The Life in the Spirit Seminar proclaims Jesus by experiential testimony, speaking openly of his name, his teaching, his life, his promises, and his kingdom. It proclaims the kerygma: “God the Father loves you personally. Jesus is your Saviour and Lord.”
The second step is the communal sharing in Jesus’ mission. Jesus sends workers into his vineyard to work as a team, using the gifts and charisms of the Spirit. The unity established by the word of God gives us credibility and plants the seed of fruitful action. When the apostles Peter, Andrew, James and John worked together, they filled their boats with fish (Lk 5:1-11).
New in Expression
The new evangelisation is new in expression if the evangelist proclaims the gospel in clear and direct terms, if he pays attention to the signs that accompany the proclamation of the word, and if he, driven by a deep faith, speaks under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.
Through baptism in the Holy Spirit, we learn to imitate Jesus, who “went about all Galilee, teaching… preaching the gospel of the kingdom and healing every disease and every infirmity among the people” (Mt 4:23), and who sent his disciples to do the same (Mk 16:15–17). The proclamation of the kingdom is not only in words but also in deeds, done through faith in Jesus’ name and the power of the Holy Spirit.
The new evangelisation calls us to return to the teaching of Jesus and the powerful action of the Holy Spirit. It therefore calls for a return to basics. The Life in the Spirit Seminar proposes an approach to meeting the living Jesus and experiencing the power of the Holy Spirit. It is truly a royal path of entry into the abundant life (Jn 10:10).
Can the Life in the Spirit Seminar be done in one day?
The Life in the Spirit Seminar was originally designed to be a seven-week program, modelled on the seven weeks of prayer and expectancy that Jesus’ disciples, including his mother Mary, lived from the Resurrection until Pentecost. On the fiftieth day, “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:4).
Today, the Life in the Seminar is sometimes done in a two-week format, or over a weekend, or even in a single day. For some groups, these are the only feasible options due to various pastoral circumstances. However, they are less than ideal. Whenever possible, it is best to use the full seven-week format. In some cases, where people are unfamiliar with the gospel message, a longer format such as three months or a year is even better.
The Seminar is not only a matter of listening to talks, but of following a path of deep conversion, breaking with a life of sin, obtaining inner healing and liberation. People discover anew the Father’s love, come to know Jesus’ salvation and lordship, and are equipped to become his disciples and witnesses in the world. It is only after this formation and conversion that people are ready to receive a deeper outpouring of the Spirit and his gifts.
If there is insufficient preparation, the prayer for baptism in the Spirit will usually not bear the expected fruit of holiness, nor will it bring authentic charisms to serve the body of Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.
Of course, God sometimes sovereignly baptises people in the Holy Spirit apart from the Life in the Spirit Seminar, for example through the sacrament of Confirmation if its preparation stresses the same themes as the Seminars. God pours out his Spirit when he wills.