• Voice In The Wilderness?

    Ditulis pada tanggal : Friday, 08 March 2013, 01:29 PM

    Voice in the Wilderness?

    Catholic Charismatic Renewal and Evangelization in Asia-Oceania


    Deshi Ramadhani, SJ

    Driyarkara School of Philosophy – Jakarta



     (First ISAO Conference – JakartaSeptember 14-18, 2008)



    he title in this reflection is taken from one of the most intriguing verses in the New Testament. While the original version from Isaiah reads “A voice cries out: In the desert prepare the way of the Lord!” (NAB; Is 40:3), the Gospel version reads “A voice of one crying out in the desert: Prepare the way of the Lord. Make straight his paths! ” (NAB; Mk 1:3; Mt 3:3; Lk 3:4). It is indeed very intriguing for exegetes who sometimes pay attention even to little details like full-stops and commas. Yet, as we can tell, both versions offer different theological notions. Isaiah speaks substantially about something that needs to be done in the desert. The Synoptic Gospels tell us about someone who cries out in the desert.

    For us, the question at stake here is concerning the presence of listeners or audience. It seems that this question will fit into our reflection on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) and Evangelization in Asia-Oceania. In other words, what is offered here will invite us to ask ourselves: “Is the CCR still a bold and convincing voice in the hearts of many people in Asia-Oceania, or rather, a voice in the wilderness with no audience?”


    CCR in the minds of the Popes

    In order to do this, we need to listen again to those authoritative voices in our Church, namely, the Popes. They have raised their voices regarding the CCR. Voices recorded in history can turn to be prophetic as history has unfolded further events. It is so inspiring therefore to listen to those voices and have a sense of the prophetic nature already present there. We simply want to make room in our hearts for the Popes and let their voices hammer our hearts one more time.


    Paul VI

    The First International Leaders Conference of the CCR was held in Grottaferrata on October 10, 1973. If we count the time, that first international conference was held a bit more than six years after the historic Duquesne Weekend (February 1967) that sparked the beginning of CCR worldwide. On that occasion the then Pope, Paul VI, gave his address. He began his address with the following:


    We rejoice with you, dear friends, at the renewal of the spiritual life manifested in the Church today, in different forms and in various environments. Certain common features appear in this renewal: the taste for deep prayer, personal and in groups, a return to contemplation and an emphasis on praise of God, the desire to devote oneself completely to Christ, an openness to the Holy Spirit, more assiduous reading of the Scriptures, generous brotherly devotion, a willingness to serve the Church. […][1]


    I came upon this address of Paul VI only recently. To be honest, one of my biggest concerns in the CCR is that we may have lost our grip. We may be amazed by the size of our rallies, conventions, and retreats. If in a sense we can admit that we have become simply a voice in the wilderness without anyone really cares and takes heed to what we have to say, one reason is simply that people in the CCR do not really grow through what Paul VI said to be the “assiduous reading of the Scriptures.” I sometimes ask myself these questions: How many among the people who had attended our events would come home renewed in their love and zeal to read the Scriptures? With the arrival of the high-tech improvement that makes the Scriptures available in our cell phones, that personal relationship between us and the Scriptures will slowly disappear. People do bring the Scriptures to our events, but not many will read the Scriptures as part of their daily schedules. This used to be one of the first fruits that were strongly felt at the early years of the CCR and Pope Paul VI also noticed and was highly amazed by this.

    There is a saying “Life begins at forty.” If after forty years, people in the CCR do not really open themselves everyday to the Word of God in the Scriptures, we should say just the opposite, namely, “Life ends at forty.” If Pope Paul VI were still alive today, the Holy Father must be saddened by the loss of the good old day in the form of the true “assiduous reading of the Scriptures” in this Holy Mother Church. Furthermore, how can we talk about true Evangelization if we are not deeply rooted in our personal knowledge and intimate relationship with the Scriptures? We have really become a voice in the wilderness.


    John Paul II

    Twenty years later, the Ninth International Leaders Conference was held. During the audience in Fiuggi, October 30, 1998, the then Pope, John Paul II, gave his address. Here is an excerpt:


    […] The Catholic Charismatic Renewal has helped many Christians to rediscover the presence and power of the Holy Spirit in their lives, in the life of the Church and in the world; and this rediscovery has awakened in them a faith in Christ filled with you, a great love of the Church and a generous dedication to her evangelizing mission. […][2]


    Eight years later, in RiminiApril 29, 2004, John Paul II gave a message to the Italians participating in the 27th National Conference of the Rinnovamento nello Spirito Santo. The Holy Father raised the following issues:


    […] The Holy Spirit is bound to enrich the testimony of each and every one of you with the “spiritual gifts which He endows the Church.” Among these gifts there are a few that are of particular importance, “the ones which serve the fullness of spiritual life,” instilling a “taste for prayer,” which does not exclude “the experience of silence.” […][3]


    In 1998 Pope John Paul II spoke about the rediscovery of the presence and power of the Holy Spirit, a rediscovery that eventually also took form as dedication to the Church s evangelizing mission. Towards the end of his life on earth, the same John Paul II spoke rather differently. It seems that one last item should be urgently mentioned, and that is “the experience of silence.” We are so easily amazed by the presence of power of the Holy Spirit with all the noisy manifestations. Some of us even believe that the presence and power of the Holy Spirit should be manifested only in such noises. For me, this is one of the last prophetic voices delivered by our dear Pope John Paul II. The CCR has taken part in the battle to keep the flock in the Catholic Church. One of the things that we have done, and we are still doing it, is simply to offer room for noise. In many cases this is still the best option. Yet, John Paul II made a very strong point on purpose. We may never lose contact with “the experience of silence.”

    What is the relationship between this loss of silence and evangelization? The answer is very simple. Jesus, our model of evangelization was a busy young man involved in many activities, big gatherings, healing ministries, casting off demons, liberating people. Yet, we find in the Scriptures that Jesus left the crowds on purpose so that He could find a place where He could really have “the experience of silence.” I sometimes ask myself, how many of the people who come to our big events spend their daily lives with a conscious effort to have that silence. So, ask yourselves this pressing question: “If in the CCR there are less and less people who really read the Scriptures, and less and less people who really have that experience of silence, what kind of evangelization we still want to think that we can offer?”


    Benedict XVI

    Our present-day Pope, Benedict XVI, offered a deep reflection in his homily during the Pentecost Vigil at St. Peter s Square,June 3, 2006. The Holy Father mentioned in particular three aspects of the effects performed by the Holy Spirit, namely, life,freedom, and unity:


    [...] It is only in giving life that it is found; life is not found by seeking to possess it. This is what we must learn from Christ; and the Holy Spirit teaches us that it is a pure gift, that it is God s gift of himself. The more one gives one s life for others, for goodness itself, the more abundantly the river of life flows [...]. True freedom is demonstrated in responsibility, in a way of behaving in which one takes upon oneself a shared responsibility for the world, for oneself and for others [...]. But in him [Holy Spirit] multiplicity and unity go hand in hand. He breathes where he wills. He does so unexpectedly, in unexpected places and in ways previously unheard of. And with what diversity dan corporality does he do so! And it is precisely here that diversity and unity are inseparable [...]. The Holy Spirit desires unity, he desires totality. Therefore, his presence is finally shown above all in missionary zeal. Anyone who has come across something true, beautiful and good in his life – the one true treasure, the precious pearl – hastens to share it everywhere, in the family and at work, in all the contexts of life [...].[4]


    While the first two aspects should raise our personal reflection, it is the third one that from my point of view is more pressing. Indeed, the first two are some sort of preparation before we arrive at the third aspect. In our efforts in evangelization, we are called to proclaim true life. We are called to promote the value of giving, as an urgently needed option to the world characterized very strongly by the value of taking. We are also called to convince people of the true freedom that is inseparable from responsibility.

    Evangelization means that we first need to become agents of unity, not of uniformity. And wherever we go in proclaiming Jesus and the Good News, we need to have clearly in mind that we are called to prepare or even to transform people with God s grace into agents of unity, not of uniformity. In other words, evangelization means inviting people to live joyfully in tension between life and freedom without threatening the unity on the one hand, and fighting for unity without suppressing life and freedom on the other. It is this life and freedom that can give different manifestations. Yes, we are called to fight for unity, not for uniformity. However, we need to remind ourselves, that true life and true freedom that the Holy Spirit brings to the Church and humanity are never intended to disrupt the unity. The Holy Spirit is one, and the Holy Spirit is that agent, so to speak, that creates the harmonious unity in love and total self-gift in the Trinity.

    If we may sum up what we can treasure from the prophetic voices of the Popes, three key points can be mentioned. First, we need to return to the good old day when the CCR was existentially characterized by “the assiduous reading of Scriptures.” Second, we need to promote hunger and thirst for “the experience of silence.” Third, we need to be agents of unity, not of uniformity, because when we fight for uniformity in the name of unity, we may kill the true life and the true freedom that we want to promote. It is still possible to dream of CCR becoming again the voice that can boldly and convincingly encourage people to prepare in the wilderness the way of the Lord. That is evangelization!


    Spiritual longings of John Paul II

    It is now time to shift gear. We want to enter into the contexts of Asia and Oceania. For this purpose let us now move to two important documents offered by the late Pope John Paul II.

    On November 6, 1999 in New DelhiIndia, our late Pope John Paul II gave his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia (EA). Two years later, November 22, 2001, at St. Peter s Vatican, the same dear Pope gave another Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Oceania (EO). It is still fresh in our memory how John Paul II was called to lead this One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church to pass that gate into the third millennium. If we believe that timing is fully in God s control, looking at the Jubilee Year of 2000, we can join our voices again with that of John Paul II. Further, that Year of 2000 was framed by two Apostolic Exhortations. This is very suggestive.

    If we are allowed to contemplate the mind of God, we cannot help being surprised by the timing. When God looked at the Year 2000, which we celebrated with John Paul II and the whole Church, as well as the whole humanity, as the 2000thanniversary of the Birth of Jesus Christ, God seemed to plan something very specific. God led John Paul II to give a wake up call to the Church in Asia, just shortly before the Year 2000 had its start. Later on, looking at the Year 2000 and the whole millennium that would follow, God led John Paul II to give a wake up call to the Church in Oceania, not long after the Year 2000 began.

    Exegetes are fond of finding inclusio, that is framing that will show the real content of a text. I guess, I am one of them. Yet allow me to invite you to entertain ourselves and to let ourselves be marveled by how our Good God framed the Jubilee Year of 2000, with two Apostolic Exhortations. The Church in Asia and the Church in Oceania have been chosen to have the privilege of framing that great Jubilee Year of 2000. When God looked at the Year of 2000, God indeed through John Paul II chose to look at us. Here we are, God s beloved people in Asia and Oceania. As God s beloved people, who by the grace and mercy of God, not by our own merits, have experienced renewal through a very particular contact with the Holy Spirit, we need to ask: “Where has the Holy Spirit been leading us into, as part of God s great plan of evangelization?”

    I do not want to make this presentation an academic and theological investigation. That is the task of my fellow theologians. Rather, for our present purpose here, I simply want to offer some thoughts for our spiritual journey together during these days.

    John Paul II liked to end his Apostolic Exhortations with a prayer offered to Mary. In such prayers we can see a summary of his thoughts expressed in that spirit of longing. From my perspective, based on the Ignatian spirituality, it is this longing that can assure us the presence and the work of God s spirit. In John Paul II s prayers offered to Mary, the petitions reflect deeper mysteries of such spiritual longing. John Paul II voiced our longings to God, through the intercession of Mary. That is the place where we want to go now. [Full texts of both prayers are attached at the back of this reflection].

    Before we jump to the endings, let us take a look briefly at how John Paul II introduced his Apostolic Exhortations. It is shown in the formulations of the titles. The first one was about the Church in Africa (September 14, 1995). It goes like this: “On the Church in Africa and Its Evangelizing Mission towards the Year 2000.” The second was for the Americas (January 22, 1999): “On the Encounter with the Living Jesus Christ: The Way to Conversion, Communion and Solidarity in AmericaEurope came last as the fifth (June 28, 2003). It opens with this statement: “On Jesus Christ Alive in His Church the Source of Hope forEurope.”

    We turn now to ourselves. The second Apostolic Exhortation was on Asia. In the opening title we read: “On Jesus Christ the Savior and His Mission of Love and Service in Asia: …that They May Have Life, and Have It Abundantly (John 10:10).” The third was for Oceania: “On Jesus Christ and the Peoples of Oceania: Walking His Way, Telling His Truth, Living His Life.”

    If we want to ask ourselves about the final destination of all our efforts in evangelization, John Paul II already gave a clear answer. Here are the two excerpts from his prayers:


    For the Church in Asia:

    […] Pray that through the Church s love and service, all the peoples of Asia may come to know your Son Jesus Christ, the only Savior of the world, and so taste the joy of life in all its fullness.


    For the Church in Oceania:

    […] Our Lady of Peace, in whom all storms grow still, pray at the dawn of the new millennium, that the Church in Oceania will not cease to show forth the glorious face of your Son, full of grace and truth, so that God will reign in the hearts of the Pacific peoples and they will find peace in the world s true Savior.


    Reading through the two prayers offered to Mary, some significant points will immediately emerge. When the Holy Father spoke about the Church in Asia, both the title and the closing part of his prayer offered to Mary underlines two key words, namely “love” and “service.” So, for our present purpose we can say that evangelization means “loving” and “serving.” Christ did this, and so the Church in Asia should do the same. This mission of loving and serving as Christ Himself did must be rooted in the one of the saddest characteristics of the Church in Asia, and that is, the poverty.

    Yes, Asia is “a continent of plentiful resources and great civilizations, but where some of the poorest nations of earth are to be found, and where more than half the population suffers deprivation, poverty and exploitation” (EA #34). Evangelization in Asiashould address this issue. We need to echo more powerfully that Jesus has come to the people of Asia to bring the abundance or the fullness of life. The quotation of part of John 10:10 in the title as well as the good wish in the closing prayer show this need clearly. In other words, the key word for the evangelization in Asia is “hope.” Jesus command to love is the best reason for this hope. This is in accordance to what the Pope stresses: “The poor of Asia and of the world will always find their best reason for hope in the Gospel command to love one another as Christ has loved us (cf. Jn 13:34); and the Church in Asia cannot but strive earnestly to fulfill that command towards the poor, in word and in deed” (EA #34).

    Regarding the Church in Oceania, the word that is repeated again and again is “peace.” Jesus is called the “Prince of Peace,” and Mary is “Our Lady of Peace.” The prayer offered to Mary is rich with the imagery of turbulent seas. It even invites us to look specifically at Christ and say as those present with Him in the boat: “Who is this that even wind and sea obey Him?” In this imagery, the Church in Oceania is presented as en movement through the raging waters of the sea. Evangelization in this sense can mean precisely as a mission of “calming.”

    In this regard, we need to understand that this mission of “calming” serves to sum up “walking in His way, telling Hid truth, living His life” that is mentioned in the title. The same thing can be found in the prayer. The mission of “calming” should be the evident proof that the Church in Oceania does have the strength “to follow faithfully the way of Jesus Christ, to tell courageously the truth of Jesus Christ, to live joyfully the life of Jesus Christ.”

    The CCR in Asia is called to become a school of evangelization where the pupils learn the basic skill of “hoping,” while the CCR in Oceania is called to become a school of evangelization where the pupils learn to equip themselves with the basic tool of “calming.” In other words, asking about the evangelization performed by those involved in the CCR in Asia and Oceania is actually asking “How much hope has the CCR in Asia offered to the Church and to God s people in general?” and “How much peace has the CCR in Oceania offered to the Church and to God s people in general?” These, I believe, are the deep spiritual longings that the late John Paul II always wanted (and now, in his new place, still wants) to see happening in Asia and Oceania.


    More pressing needs

    It seems to me that both documents show a striking contrast between the Church in Asia and the Church in Oceania. On the one hand, Asia is characterized by the presence of different religions. People still tend to be religious (for better or for worse). In Oceania, on the other, many people do not want to be religious or to consider themselves as such. We now need to see particular challenges in both contexts.

    The Church in Asia cannot run away from the responsibility to dialogue with different religions and cultures. However, this is never intended to be a religious relativism (against which our present-day Pope, Benedict XVI, has been fighting). Dialogue should never forget the need to speak honestly about Jesus. Of course, in some circumstances we need the divine wisdom to do this. Yet, the need is always there. Otherwise, we will compromise too much. This is what John Paul II said in EA #23:


    In all evangelizing work, however, it is the complete truth of Jesus Christ which must be proclaimed. Emphasizing certain aspects of the inexhaustible mystery of Jesus is both legitimate and necessary in gradually introducing Christ to a person, but this cannot be allowed to compromise the integrity of the faith. In the end, a person s acceptance of the faith must be grounded on a sure understanding of the person of Jesus Christ, as presented by the Church in every time and place, the Lord of all who is the same yesterday, today and for ever (Heb 13:8).


    Here we may recall that part in the closing prayer that consists of John Paul II s ultimate dream that “all the peoples of Asiamay come to know your Son Jesus Christ, the only Savior of the world.” Without this in mind, and without God s grace to help us make wise decisions and acts, dialogue is stripped from its true and basic Christian nature. In other words, evangelization should always be part in our dialogue.

    In Oceania, things seem to be different. The challenge is not related to the strong religiosity, but to the lack of it. People inOceania need to be awaken newly to such religiosity. This is what John Paul II said in EO #18:


    The sense of God and of his loving Providence has diminished for many people and even for whole sections of society. Practical indifference to religious truths and values clouds the face of divine love. Therefore, “among the priorities of a renewed endeavor of evangelization there has to be a return to the sense of the sacred, to an awareness of the centrality of God in the whole of human existence.”


    Bringing back that sense of the sacred is one of the basic challenges of the Church in Oceania. We need to find our way in opening people s hearts to their true and deepest longing. Evangelization therefore is not so much an act of giving information about the divine as an act of internalizing our deepest human experiences.

    Let us sum up. The task of the CCR in the evangelization in Asia is to find the right balance between the openness to the various religious traditions and the persistence to the complete truth of Christianity. Our experience of deep and personal conversion as an experience of being loved so dearly and personally by Jesus Christ is a tremendous treasure we can share with others, Christians and non-Christians.

    In Oceania, the task of the CCR for evangelization consists of bringing back God to the stage. God is not a set of rules and norms. God is a person who can be felt even here and now. There is no doubt, that in the CCR the room for feeling is widely open. We need to let others experience that presence of God. Evangelization is inviting people to be honest with that sense of the sacred in our daily lives. Furthermore, we really need to encourage people to admit that there is a lot more than our human enclosure. Evangelization here can also mean therefore to enter exactly into the people s search for something that really satisfies. In our terms, this is a way of telling them that only God can really satisfy all our longings and desires in life.


    Facing the rapid pentecostalization

    Reflecting on our experiences in evangelization, we cannot but acknowledge that we are not the only ones who feel called for this effort. If we open our eyes to look around, we will immediately realize that along the road there are our brothers and sisters from the Pentecostal/Charismatic traditions who also give themselves for the evangelization. We may sometimes feel threatened by their zeal. Yes, they are really serious in evangelization. For our present purpose here, it seems appropriate to take a look on this phenomenon and try to learn something for our evangelization.

    Vatican II concluded in 1965. That is, two years prior to the famous Duquesne Weekend that gave official birth to the CCR. Pentecostal David du Plessis was also invited as an observer in Vatican II. Since 1972 there have been dialogues between the Roman Catholic Church and Pentecostalism. The dialogues have gone through several stages (1972-1977, 1978-1982, 1985-1989, 1990-1997; the fifth stage began in 1998 and unfortunately resources on that stage are not yet available to me). It is the fourth stage which I want to focus on, since it deals precisely with the issues related to evangelization. The following topics were treated during that stage:[5] Mission and Evangelization (1990), The Biblical and Systematic Foundation of Evangelization (1991), Evangelization and Culture (1992), Evangelization and Social Justice (1993), Proselytism (1994), and Common Witness (1995).

    This is certainly not the place to talk about those highly theological discussions. However, it will be helpful if we just take a look on the issue of proselytism. In daily language we can talk about this in terms of “stealing sheep from other flock.”

    For Roman Catholic Church, proselytism is always “a disrepectful, insensitive and uncharitable effort to transfer the allegiance of a Christian from one ecclesial body to another.”[6] In this sense, proselytism includes “inappropriate attempts at conversion which violate the infividual s right to religious freedom and prevent him or her from making decision in freedom.”[7] Therefore the Roman Catholic stresses that “witness must proceed from the Spirit of love, it must be concerned for the good of God and human beings, not for that of a single community, and it must leave the addressee with full freedom to make personal decision and so on.”[8] In a stronger way everyone is invited to avoid at all costs “every kind of violence, moral constraint, pressure, using of material benefits, other kinds of inducements and so on.”[9]

    Our Pentecostal/Charismatic brothers and sisters understand themselves as inseparable from evangelization. For them, “evangelization is the self-understood raison d être of the Pentecostal Movement.”[10] They act because they have sincere and holy desire for the salvation of other people, including the Roman Catholics. Their zeal for evangelization is “a result of Pentecostal understandings of ecclesiology, of spiritual discipline, of Christian discipleship, of fruit in the Christian life which points to the transformation which has taken place or is taking place in the one who claims to be Christian.”[11] What can be suspected by the non-Pentecostals as proselytism is actually rooted in their sincere willingness to be faithful to the mission of evangelization entrusted by God.

    For Pentecostals, baptism does not guarantee a person to live faithfully to God. It is only the road of discipleship and a conscious decision for Christ which will bring fruits. From this point of view, any baptized Christian who does not live up to their faith still needs to arrive at that commitment to Christ. Catholics who live unfaithfully to Christ is a right target for Pentecostal evangelization. More specifically, this is what they say about their evangelization:


    Pentecostals have exchanged the initial message of renewal and power to the historic churches for a message of evangelization, in part, because the older churches have failed to recognize their original message of renewal and power as having any real legitimacy. The result is misunderstanding, ecclesial animosity, proselytism, frustration, and a compromised witness before the world.[12]


    I want to look at this as an invitation to look honestly at ourselves. The CCR does have a tremendous responsibility and special calling to respond to this global phenomenon. We need to thank God because the CCR was born yesterday, is living today, and growing to face what tomorrow can promise. The CCR needs to return humbly to the true “renewal” and “power” that can only come from God. We really need to look at the way we bring forward our evangelization. Do we still give the same truth that God has revealed and continues to reveal to us, or we simply powerlessly offer “a compromised witness before the world.”

    Of course, we are not eager to steal each other s flock. Yet, this is a global phenomenanon and if we do not really pay attention to it, we will become like the rich man who ignores Lazarus. In this sense, Roman Catholics whose hearts or families have been torn apart by the departure of some of us to join the Pentecostals are also the poor of our time. This, I think, is true, for Asia, Oceania, and anywhere in the world. Furthermore, looking more closely, it is our young people who can be affected. To this point we need to turn now.


    Young People

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