Questions and Responses
Doctrinal Commission – International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services
When you received the baptism in the Holy Spirit, you may have felt an overflowing joy, an inner fullness, a new sense of the love of God, a new fervor to tell others about Jesus. But this may have been followed by a time of unexpected spiritual dryness and even of more intense spiritual warfare. So what should you do next? How can you sustain, foster and deepen this wonderful grace that you’ve received?
What comes next is to live that outpouring every day, seeking the fullness of life in the Spirit. In order to grow in our spiritual life, we have to make radical choices, turning to the Lord with great confidence. Patti Mansfield, on the day of her baptism in the Holy Spirit, prayed a prayer of unconditional surrender to the will of God: “Lord, I give you my life. I choose all that you desire for me. If it is suffering, I accept it. Only teach me how to follow your Son Jesus and to love as he loves.”
For an example of how to live baptism in the Spirit long-term, there is no better place to look than at biblical account of the very first Christians who received the baptism in the Spirit on the day of Pentecost. Luke tells us that they “held steadfastly to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers” (Acts 2:42). This way of life remains a model for those baptized in the Spirit today. Let us look at each of its elements.
The Apostles’ Teaching
The early Christians sought to deepen their faith by listening intently to the apostles who had learned from Jesus himself for three years. For us too, it is essential to deepen our knowledge of God by studying Scripture and the teachings of the Church. This includes developing a habit of daily Bible reading and attending formation retreats whenever possible.
Fellowship With Others
The early Christians lives a life of close brotherhood and sisterhood, having “all things in common” (Acts 2:44). This means they cared for one another by generously sharing their material goods. But they also cared for one another by generously sharing the charisms that God had given each for the building up of the body. The charisms are powerful instruments for serving others and being vehicles of God’s love to them. St. Paul tells us, “Pursue love, but strive eagerly for the spiritual gifts, above all that you may prophesy” (1 Cor 14:1). He gives lists of charisms in 1 Corinthians 12:8-10 and Romans 12:6-8, and there are many others besides those listed. To grow in the grace of baptism in the Spirit, we must develop relationships with others who have received this grace and help one another welcome the charisms, discern them, and exercise them with humility. Our prayer group or community, family prayer, and evangelization are privileged places for the awakening and exercise of charisms. In serving the brethren in love and the obedience of faith, charisms will grow.
The Breaking of Bread
The “breaking of bread” means both that the early Christians enjoyed each other’s company in common meals and that they received the bread of life, the Eucharist. We too sustain and deepen the life of the Spirit within us by participating in the Eucharistic liturgy together and by receiving other sacraments, especially the sacrament of reconciliation.
The early Christians loved to attend temple together and praise God (Acts 2:45-47). For us too it is impossible to grow in the Spirit without a regular prayer life. This includes daily time spent with the Lord, praising and worshiping him, listening to him through his Word, and interceding for others. It may also include the rosary and daily Mass if possible.
Life in the Spirit
Finally, growing in the Holy Spirit means being led by the Holy Spirit day by day, as St. Paul exhorts. “For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Rom 8:14).“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:25); “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16). To gratify the desires of the flesh is to disobey the Word of God, to yield to sin, anger, impurity, or disobedience. The essence of life in the Spirit, in contrast, means:
- Not grieving the Holy Spirit through bitterness, human anger, hot temper, malice (cf. Col 3:8), criticism, bitterness, or unwillingness to forgive.
- Not resisting the Holy Spirit when he convicts us of sin, but acknowledging our sin, repenting, humbling ourselves and confessing. The grace of baptism in the Spirit may fade, dry out, or get lost in lukewarmness because of sin.
- Being filled with the Spirit (Eph 5:18), that is, living by the Spirit each day, dedicated to God and separating ourselves from evil. Jesus gave us life in abundance so that we can bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23).
- Loving the Holy Spirit, praying to him every day, invoking him, listening to him when he inspires us, and obeying him when he urges us to act in exercising his gifts and charisms.