In today’s first reading, the Lord “takes some of the spirit that is on Moses, and puts it on seventy elders, and they prophesy.” To those who wanted Moses to stop two of them from prophesying, Moses responds with this beautiful wish: “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them.” Nm 11,29
Later on, in the prophetic writings, this wish becomes a prophecy, a promise: “Not for your sake, house of Israel, but for the sake of my holy name – in other words, that my name might become known beyond Israel – the nations shall know that I am the Lord when through you I show my holiness before their very eyes.” How will God achieve this? “I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit within you, so that you will be my people, and I will be your God.” Ez 36,22…28
In the gospel of Luke, in a sort of booster-shot to this promise, at one and the same time a fulfilment of the promise and a repetition of it, Jesus endows seventy-two of his disciples with his spirit, and empowers them to go to every town and place that he intended to visit, and to say to the people: “The Kingdom of God is at hand for you.” Lk 10,1-12
At Pentecost and thereafter, right up until now, the promise is being fulfilled. Through baptism and confirmation, and in countless other ways – the ways that God chooses – the promise is being fulfilled. God is putting the Spirit that He placed upon his son at his baptism in the Jordan, God is putting that same Spirit upon the disciples of his Son. In recent times, God seems to have chosen a special vessel, the “charismatic renewal”, to inject his Spirit into the hearts of Christians in a new and powerful way. The fallout from this ongoing phenomenon has been immense, but I wish to focus on just one thing. As a result of the charismatic renewal of the Church, in fulfilment of Moses’ wish and of Ezekiel’s promise, the laity in the Church have been empowered, just like the seventy-two disciples whom Jesus empowered, to become evangelizers. They are telling the world that “the Kingdom of God is at hand for you.” What, in my childhood used to be, -and was perceived to be – strictly the work of priests and religious brothers and sisters, has become the task of lay-people. It is a marvel to behold.
We have a striking illustration of this reality right here at St. Mary’s. Last Tuesday, I was present at the first evening of the Life in the Spirit seminar that is being put on by our Mission Ablaze prayer group. There were two hundred people in the church basement. Everything worked like a well-oiled machine. There was an energy, a joy, and a calm in the assembly that made me want to cry. What amazed me most of all was the thought that it had nothing to do with me, as a priest, as the pastor. I am not a part of this process. I could have been absent that night, as I will be no doubt, for most of the seven upcoming evenings, and the process will go on. Entirely conceived of, and run, by lay-people. They have been empowered to do God’s work, to do what used to be the work of priests and nuns. They calmly and boldly proclaim God’s gospel. And the Spirit, walking on the waters of their efforts, deposits God’s gospel into the hearts and minds of the participants.
And it’s not just Mission Ablaze. The same thing is happening in Alpha, Couples for Christ, Light of Jesus, and Couples for Christ-Foundation for Life, and many other movements in the Church. All of them, lay-people, bringing God’s gospel to people, and bringing those people into the Church.
It is an ongoing miracle which it is our privilege to witness, since it is happening in our time. I just wanted to point it out for the benefit of those who aren’t aware that this game-changer in the life of the Church is actually happening. For my part, I can only say “By the Lord has this been done; it is wonderful in our eyes.” Ps 118,23 And I pray: Lord, continue to “send forth your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth.” Ps 104,30