Monday, September 22, 2008

Set the Spirit Free Conference

Saturday, September 20, 2008, the Harrisburg Diocese hosted its 2008 Day of Charismatic Renewal at the Diocesan Center in Harrisburg. The theme was "Set the Spirit Free."The day began with faith filled music provided by the Upper Room Prayer Group Music Ministry.

They played, led songs and gave praise for about an hour before Mass began.
The five altar servers were from multiple parishes in the diocese.
Harriburg's Bishop Rhoades was the principal celebrant of the concelebrated Mass.
The religious pictured below are, left to right, Msgr. Robert Lawrence, Fr. Francis Karwacki, Fr. William Weary, Master of Ceremony Fr. Neill Sullivan, Deacon James Rush, Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades and Bishop Sam Jacobs (Diocese of Houma-Thibodaux, Louisiana).
In Bishop Rhoades homily he told the congregation that we must take up the cross daily -- it is not an optional element of the Catholic Christian. We are called to embrace the cross everyday. We must love as Christ loved. Give of ourselves in imitation of the self-giving love of Calvary. The Eucharist strengthens us to do that.
In that Saturday was the feast day of the 103 Korean martyrs, Bishop Rhoades spoke of their willingness to take up the cross. They, individuals ranging in ages from 13 - 72, were true to Christ - they denied themselves and bore their crosses. The Bishop told us that we should pray to the martyrs - all martyrs - asking them to help us by their intercession to take up our cross.
Beyond the 103 Korean martyrs who are recognized as members of the communion of saints, the Church in Korea, young as it is, has had more than 10,000 martyrs. They knew ridicule, unpopularity and faced opposition - things that have kept lesser people from stepping up to embrace their cross. Bishop Rhoades implored everyone to hear again the words of Christ in the Gospel when He said that if we denied Him before men that He would deny us before the Father. Shame should not be a part of our relationship to/with Christ. We need courageous disciples of Christ in the Church. When the apostle Paul wrote, The love of Christ urges me on, he was witnessing to the fact that he didn't lose faith or courage, no matter the circumstances, because he KNEW Christ was with him. In the eighth chapter of his letter to the Romans, with conviction, Paul tells us to take up our cross and follow the Lord everyday for if God is for us, who can be against us? (31). Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (39). Bishop Rhoades concluded his homily by asserting that the love of Christ urges us.

Just before the the concluding blessing of the Mass, Bishop Rhoades came forward to address those present. He thanked the individuals who shared their inspiration, spoke of his experience at World Youth Day 2008 and encouraged everyone to evangelize.

After a break following Mass, because of concerns expressed by conference attendees, Bishop Sam Jacobs first spoke of the the state of his Diocese (Houma-Thibodaux) which was the hardest hit by Hurricane Gustav. He also spoke encouragingly of the outpouring of goodwill by some people, including a priest who was industrious enough to get a hold of a horse so as to visit areas in which people were stranded to ascertain conditions and needs.
There was a couple who went to shelters with the Bishop. The husband and wife were grateful for having not being adversely impacted by the hurricane and felt compelled to find and address the needs of those not so fortunate. Bishop Sam said the Red Cross was very good at addressing the very basic needs of those in shelters, but this couple took it a step further in that, after talking to shelter directors, they went to Wal-Mart and spent $1,000 on items such as fans, towels and food (emergency food ration packages were provided by the Red Cross, but some directors asked for things such as spaghetti and tomato sauce for meals).
Another person who understood that people were in need and wanted give immediate aid decided to raise funds by selling bracelets akin to Lance Armstrong's LIVESTRONG bracelets - having WINDSTRONG on the hurricane recovery bracelets. In the first day, Bishop Sam said, $10,000 was raised. The man and his friends procured a 16 ft truck with which they are directly taking down the bayous to the people in need. The Windstrong Foundation is directly asking people what their needs are and returning with the truck filled with those items which range from water to clothing.
The Bishop said that in spite of devastation there is faith, hope and love to be found. He asked that all pray for those hurt and the workers - both being groups that are very stressed and stretched thin. They were still try to recover from Katrina when Gustav and Ike hit. The USCCB has authorized a special collection at Masses this coming weekend (Sept. 27 & 28) to help the recovery efforts from the latest hurricanes.
Before moving to the "Set the Spirit Free" theme of the Conference, Bishop Sam concluded talk of the hurricane recovery by saying, "We are going to survive, but need the help of others."
Bishop Sam then moved to the topic of the day - Set the Spirit Free
Before we can set the Spirit free, the Spirit must set us free.
God's plan is that we be filled with the Holy Spirit.
In the first two chapters of Luke's Gospel it is noted that seven people are filled with the Holy Spirit. This is not coincidence that at the beginning of this book that such mention is made - it is documentation of God's plan. The seven people listed are:
  • John the Baptist
  • Mary
  • Jesus
  • Elizabeth
  • Zachariah
  • Simeon
  • Anna

The Acts of the Apostles also has being filled with the Holy Spirit as a theme.

The Holy Spirit gives sanctification. The seven gifts of the Holy Spirit - wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord - are personal sanctifers. They are tools for the use of those who have been filled by the Holy Spirit.

We need to get out of our comfort zone - to let God have control. We need to freely be a fool for Christ. In that the life Christ calls us to is in opposition to the ways of the world, to be for Christ is to be foolish in the eyes of the world.

The word "yes" can be seen as an acronym answer to the question of "How will you lead your life?"

  • Y - Yield, E - Everything to, S - Self
  • Y - Yield, E - Everything to, S - Satan
  • Y - Yield, E - Everything to, S - Savior

God has given us freewill. He wants us to be reunited with Him -- freely chosen reunification. We must each decide how we will live our lives. Once we decide to yield everything to our Savior, we can then move toward setting the Spirit free in our lives and the world.

Having received sanctifying grace in the sacraments, we must now set the Spirit free to move in our lives. We need to act on the leadership of the Lord in the use of our freewill. We are filled with the Holy Spirit so that we can be holy -- holy so that we can enter into a relationship with God. This then lets us be witnesses to Christ.

Lacking in today's Church is evangelization, yet God wants it to be done.
God can do anything through you if you are open to Him working through you. What is the use of zeal for the Holy Spirit if you aren't a zealot? We have our marching orders but aren't marching.
Conversion is missing from the Church. That is why so few Catholics regularly attend Mass. We have all been baptized, but we aren't all on fire.
There once were two Baptist ministers - one having the charge of a predominantly African-American congregation which would have loud, nearly riotous, services of praise, the other having a congregation which was predominantly Anglo-American with very sedate services. One day the pastor of the reserved congregation asked the other how it could be that their services were so vastly different. The pastor of the lively followers paused in thought, then said, "Well, we both have filet mignon." He paused, again, then went on, "It's just that yours is still in the freezer. Ours is in the fire."

There is a need to reach out to people, to bring them to conversion. We must witness the Gospel to them.
As persons of God we are good beings; however, we may do bad thing. We should act out of the core of our being - out of the good of God. We should not be doing simply out of a desire to be doing.
We should be looking for opportunities to share what God has done for us. We are to stir the Holy Spirit within the people with whom we are sharing God's impact in our life. One of Bishop Sam's priests held a town hall sort of meeting with the people in the area of his parish -- Catholics and non-Catholics. He did this to find out the needs of the people. The next weekend he had people at Mass whom he had never seen in the church. They told him that the meeting was the first time they had experienced the Church as a church that cared about them.
People need to know of the love of Christ, the love of His Church. We catechize before God is real to individuals. We should be evengelizing them first. They need to be given a taste, then catechize/feed them. Right after Pentecost, Peter gave first gave the 3,000 the experience of Christ -- then brought them into the fold of the faithful.
Of course, the conversion moment is important, but conversion is and ongoing concern.
Solemnly I say to you, whoever believes in me will do the works that I do, and will do greater ones than these (John 14:12).
It is up to us to step out and do. Too often though, people get stuck in the preparation for doing stage and never get to the actual doing.
At some point during the early to mid 1970's, the prolific period of feel good felt banners, an elderly nun was scuffing through the convent when she began to pass by a room where some of the younger sisters were making banners. In an effort of redirection, she detoured through that room to see what was going on. Bend over by the weight of many years, the frail woman again took up her slow methodical pace. As she began to pass a postulant intent upon her purpose, the elderly sister slowly turned her head a bit, yelled, "Do it!," and continued on her way.
The message on the banner? "Love one another."
Today is the day.
"The Church exists to evangelize" (Pope John VI). Evangelization is the nature of the Church. Our faith must be evident. We must bear witness so people may look at the Lord when they see us.
For "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved."
But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? (Romans 10:13-14)
We must give the Spirit total freedom to lead us to what He has called us to do -- Evangelize -- to introduce others to Him.
At the end of his talk, before Exposition, the Bishop gave people who had never done so before the opportunity to come forward and publicly give their lives to Christ.

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