In this address given to the recent Synod for the New Evangelization and the Transmission of the Christian Faith, Pedro Ossandón, Auxiliary Bishop of Chile, calls us to a new awakening of our awareness of the Holy Spirit working in our own lives and in the Church for the handing on of the Faith. This, he says, is the key to the new evangelisation.
The Gifts of the Second Vatican Council
Our beloved Blessed John Paul II wrote appreciatively of the gift of the Second Vatican Council, fruit of the action of the Spirit, of our indebtedness to this Council, and of the necessary examination of conscience we must undertake concerning its reception. He also left us a vision: “To make the Church the home and the school of communion: this is the great challenge facing us in the millennium which is now beginning, if we wish to be faithful to God’s plan and respond to the world’s deepest yearnings.”[i] The Pope here was inviting us to a new spirituality. This, I believe, is the challenge of the present moment: to rebuild and to reignite our communities throughout the world in the life of the Holy Spirit in a way that lays solid foundations for the New Evangelisation.
The Holy Spirit, the inner Teacher
In baptism the Holy Spirit calls us to sanctity[ii]. He makes His dwelling in our hearts, not as a mere place of passive residence, but as the best place from which to move us to love God and love our neighbour as ourselves. So we are to recognise the Spirit as the Teacher of the interior life and the Teacher of evangelisation who helps us discover and walk the journey of faith, both personally and as the Church of God.[iii] From within ourselves, therefore, through the indwelling of the holy Spirit, should spring that mystical life that every Christian ought to cultivate in order to give, in the very heart of society, an eloquent testimony of his faith, shining like a light in the midst of the world.
The invitation consists, then, in asking ourselves about our recognition of the divine person of the Holy Spirit and His mission in the Church. On the one hand this calls us to recognise the primacy of grace by the gift of faith. On the other hand, this calls us to a faith-filled discernment of the Divine will at every hour of our lives, both for the individual Christian and for the whole Church in the service of the Kingdom of God.
This is what the Catechism says with respect to the work of the Holy Spirit:
“He prepares the Church to encounter her Lord, He recalls and makes Christ manifest to the faith of the assembly. By His transforming power, He makes the mystery of Christ present here and now. Finally, the Spirit of communion unites the Church to the life and mission of Christ”.[iv]
We should realise that the Christian mystery and our participation in it, and especially the role of the Holy Spirit in this dispensation, is still not understood by all God’s people. It is largely regarded as a science for the initiated! Our churches, schools, and apostolic movements have not yet engaged with it in its fullness. Nor is it much considered when it comes to the planning of the organic pastoral life of our dioceses.
Joy of life in the Spirit
So, we can ask ourselves if the time has come for a new pastoral emphasis on the importance of life in the Spirit, as much at an individual, personal level as for our communities. How may we build up an energetic understanding and appreciation of the life in the Spirit?
We must assist the Church at the local level. We need to provide real pastoral support for all the faithful, organising the evangelising mission of the diocesan Church to discern the life and working of the Spirit. This requires cultivating a much better understanding of the interior life and of the call to all the faithful, in every vocation, to engage seriously with a spiritual journey which unites their own personal growth in the Christian mystery with the pastoral needs of the local Church to reach out for a New Evangelization.
The focus must be on the renewal of a Christian spirituality of life in the Spirit. To focus on the Holy Spirit does not mean to over-spiritualize! Rather, we need to help our faithful understand that the Holy Spirit will help us to recover conversion of heart as a permanent need; the Holy Spirit will teach us that disciples are called to be daily martyrs if they are to be true and credible witnesses of the living presence of God. This path of faith should integrate the different dimensions of prayer, life, service, celebration, and proclamation of Christ into one unified way.[v] The faithful will discover that the way they are called to follow is that which God himself followed when he came among us in Christ.[vi].
The way is not complex. It means to do the work of God: “This is the work that God requires: believe in the one that He has sent”.[vii] Our work is simply to believe that He wants, and has the power, to give us what He promised in the Gospel. This recovery of a focus on the Holy Spirit will help us to see that the centre of the Christian life lies in a Trinitarian spirituality of communion and that communion is also the bedrock from which the common service of evangelisation flows. This recovery will also provide that “freedom of the Spirit” which will help us to overcome the moralistic and fundamentalist caricatures of Christianity which have done us so much harm.
To sum up, the transmission of the faith both now and to future generations is dependent upon the quality of the life in the Spirit of each one of us, on our attentiveness to His call, and on our willingness to let Him move in our lives. If we allow Him, the Spirit will always bring out in us a greater and greater likeness to Christ, filling us with the Lord’s passion for the Kingdom and an ardent desire to proclaim and serve it, by words and works. The Spirit will call us to work with the very poorest and most needy in this world who, often without even knowing it, cry out for the presence of God in their lives.
[i] John Paul II, Novo Millennio Ineunte, 43.
[ii] Lumen Gentium Ch.5.
[iii] Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, Ch 7.
[iv] CCC, 1092
[v] cf CCC, 3.
[vi] cf. John Paul II, Redemptor Hominis.
[vii] Jn 6:29.
This article is originally found on pages 11-12 of the printed edition.