Friday, July 26, 2013

Is Charismatic Renewal for Real? part 8

Letter to Kerry Zmatick continued. (Can’t this guy ever talk about something worth talking about?)

When last I wrote, I posed the question: “So what about the gifts of the Holy Spirit that you say aren’t gifts?” Perhaps I am being a little picky, but strictly speaking the gifts of the Holy Spirit as spoken of by Pentecostal/Charismatics are not called gifts in the Bible.  

When Peter stood up on the first Pentecost and said, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” He uses the word “dorea” referring to the “gift” of the Holy Spirit. The word gift (dorea) is not used in the first letter to the Corinthians to refer to these manifestations. It is used in the second letter to the Corinthians.  “Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!” That word for gift is dorea and it isn’t referring to the “gifts” so called.

So these things like speaking in tongues and prophesy and healing etc. are just not gifts. That’s not what the Bible says no matter how often you’ve heard them referred to as such. It just ain’t there. Deal with it. They are a specific kind of charism, an external manifestation of the power of God.

There are seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding, knowledge, counsel, fortitude, piety, and fear of the Lord. 

There are nine fruits of the Holy Spirit.  Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and, self-control. 

Then there are the charisms. The catechism mentions them in Paragraph 799: “Whether extraordinary or simple and humble, charisms are graces of the Holy Spirit which directly or indirectly benefit the Church, ordered as they are to her building up, to the good of men, and to the needs of the world.” The Bible word for grace is “charis” hence charismata are “graces” things freely bestowed. These graces or charisms exist not for the individual but for the building up of the body of Christ.

The scriptures list the following charisms in Romans 12:6-8, 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 1Corinthians 12:28,Ephesians 4:11, 1 and Peter 4:11: Prophecy,  Service, Teaching, Exhortation, Giving, Leadership, Mercy, Word of wisdom, Word of knowledge, Faith, Gifts of healings, Miracles, Discernment of spirits, Tongues,  Interpretation of Tongues, Apostleship, Administration, Evangelism, 18 in all. Of these, nine are specifically referred to by St. Paul as “phaneroseis” “manifestations” of the Holy Spirit. These are  wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, discernment of spirits, tongues and interpretation of tongues.

So what are they for? Believe me, if you’ve ever seen a true manifestation of the Holy Spirit, you don’t forget it. Take the gift of prophecy for instance. When I was a young priest I was working very hard. I was doing retreats and Masses and Sacraments and prayer meetings and.... I was so tired that I once fell asleep standing in front of a refrigerator at ten at night. I hadn’t eaten that day. I often prayed for some confirmation that I was doing God’s will. Well, I got my word from the Lord, and it wasn’t exactly a confirmation.

 A woman I had never met came over to me after a fund-raising dinner for a drug treatment center and said, “Fr. Rich, you don’t know me, but I have been praying for you. The Lord gave me a vision about you,. I saw you dressed in all sorts of sporting gear, footballs helmet, goggles, track shoes, knee pads and more. The Lord wants to tell you that you aren’t really serving Him. You are playing at this like it was game.” 

You could have knocked me over. I had been asking the Lord for a word and this fearless woman was faithful to her calling and let me have it with both barrels, though she didn’t know me, or my situation. She was actually hesitant to confront a stranger with a hard word from God. She was faithful to the Lord and it changed my life. 

Another dear friend, afflicted with seizures was carried into a prayer meeting and left the meeting running and jumping. She has never had a seizure since, nor has she taken her debilitating anti-seizure drugs since. I have seen people leap out of wheel chairs and even saw a man spring back to life after the paramedics had given him up for dead. You notice these things. They are manifestations of the power and presence of God, a power that can change the life which will let itself be changed.

What about speaking in tongues, isn’t that a bit ridiculous? Yes, it’s quite ridiculous and its supposed to be. Most people think that the charism of tongues was a gift by which the Apostles could preach in languages they had not learned. This is just not so. In the plaza on the first Pentecost in Jerusalem, the crowd that gathered all spoke Greek and Aramaic many also spoke Latin and certainly Hebrew. There was no need for a gift of tongues. Everybody there shared a number of languages.  The disciples went out onto that balcony and were accused not of being eloquent, but drunk!! (Acts 2:13) St. Paul says, “But in the church I would rather speak five intelligible words to instruct others than ten thousand words in a tongue.” (1Cor. 14:19) Whatever glossolalia (the fancy word for “speaking in tongues” which I will now use in order not to sound like a total idiot) was, it was unintelligible just like a good old meetin’ in a store front church in a run down part of town. So what is the good of speaking in tongues? Look at what St. Paul says about the manifestations of prophesy and tongues.

“Tongues, then, are a sign, not for believers but for unbelievers; prophecy, however, is not for unbelievers but for believers. So if the whole church comes together and everyone speaks in tongues, and inquirers or unbelievers come in, will they not say that you are out of your mind? But if an unbeliever or an inquirer comes in while everyone is prophesying, they are convicted of sin and are brought under judgment by all, as the secrets of their hearts are laid bare. So they will fall down and worship God, exclaiming, "God is really among you!” (1Cor. 14:22-25)

Let me get this straight. Tongues is a sign for unbelievers because they’ll think you’re crazy. Prophesy is a sign for believers, because unbelievers will have the secrets of their hearts revealed and say that God is among you. I hear you saying “That’s crazy. It makes no sense !! You must have it backward.”  

I remember a young man who was contemplating suicide. His mother begged him to come to a charismatic retreat. He went. The congregation were all shouting in unintelligible sounds at the top of their voices. They were clearly all crazy and they were clearly all happy. He thought, “Why not?” and joined in the lunacy. He is alive to this day. No one leaves a good prayer meeting and says, “Very nice service, Reverend” after people have been shouting in Babylonian and swinging from the chandeliers. No, they usually say “ You’re all crazy and should probably be arrested and I’m coming back next week to figure out just how crazy you are.” If it’s a real “penny-costal prayer meeting’ ” no one sleeps through the service. Unfortunately there are a lot of so-called prayer meetings through which I have slept quite soundly.  Still when you go to a prayer meeting that the Holy Spirit also attends, you know that something powerful is going on. Prophetic utterance can be a bit overwhelming. When the secrets of your hearts are laid bare, you might just not come back. So crazy tongues is a sign for unbelievers. Insightful prophecy should be reserved for believers who can take it. These manifestations have nothing to do with the personal holiness of the people who exercise them. They are pure unmerited grace. Herein lies one of the great Pentecostal problems, and it is a problem that Catholics jump into with both feet.

St. Thomas Aquinas says that the (real) gifts of the Holy Spirit exist to sanctify us by giving us the opportunity to grow in virtue. Wisdom engenders charity. Understanding engenders faith etc. You can look this up in the Catechism, in paragraph 1831. The fruits of the Holy Spirit; Love, Peace, Patience, Joy, etc. are the very character of Christ which is what the Heavenly Father is trying to work in us that we might be the image of Christ in the world and the adopted children of God.

The manifestation of the Holy Spirit exists only for the purpose of evangelism. The best definition of Charismatic Renewal I ever hear came form Mr. Bill
Beaty who was the President of the National Service Committee of the Charismatic Renewal. He said that the Charismatic Renewal is an evangelistic movement that brings people to a saving knowledge of Christ through signs and wonders. 

The Baptism in the Holy Spirit is a vocation to be an evangelist, and these manifestations exist for the good of the Church and the world. They are not an experience that validates me or heals me or makes me feel better or distinguishes me for my holiness. There is no me in them if they are used properly. The problem above mentioned is that we think that somehow these things are signs of the holiness of the agent. I have met some pretty disreputable people at whose hands great things have been done. I remember when a great faith healer was caught in scandal, someone who had been dramatically healed by that man’s ministry asked me, “Will my sickness come back now?” 

We Catholics have always known that a bad priest can say a good Mass, because it not the priest who says Mass, but it is Christ. So to it not the faith healer who heals or the prophet who speaks, it is Christ. Remember that Caiaphas the high priest, a charlatan if ever there was one, prophesied accurately when he said, “You do not realize that it is better for you that one man die for the people than that the whole nation perish.” (John 11:50)

Jesus says very clearly that you are to judge a man and a ministry not by miracles, but by fruits, which are as I have pointed out are Love, Peace etc. as found in St. Paul’s letter to the Galatians. When a miracle happens, Catholics flock there by busload. Pentecostal Protestants do the same thing. I remember a bright neon sign on a Pentecostal church that read “Why should you suffer when others are being healed?”  The manifestations don’t exist for my convenience and comfort. They exist that the world might know that the Kingdom of God has come about in power and that Jesus Christ is Lord. 

Catholics and Protestants alike misunderstand the role of the miraculous and the narcissism with which people have received these powerful charisms has been a great hindrance to the unfolding of the Pentecost for which good Pope John prayed.  “By a kind of new Pentecost renew Your marvelous works in this our time.....enlarge the kingdom of the Divine Savior, a kingdom of truth and justice, of love and peace. ” 

Pope John asked, God gave, and we who were called frittered away the blessing.

Next week: If you think I’m done you’re not even close.


  1. Father, you are a gifted writer.. er... yes gifted. Please before the END could you sum the whole sum up with a paragraph summary? thanks,

  2. Oh Oh OH! More next week!!! How about putting your hands out to "receive the Spirit" and those darnded things the kids are doing at Eucharistic Adoration these days.