How To Prepare For:
THE COMING MILLENNIUM
(From the teaching notes used at the regional prayer meeting held at Munising, MI. on Sunday, November 9, 1997.)
How should we, as Charismatics, celebrate Twenty centuries of Christianity, the 2000th Birthday of the living Mystical Body of Jesus, Two Millennia of preparing for the Kingdom? How do we jump into the third epoch of Catholic History?
What I hope to do is to suggest some ways we as Charismatics can participate in the vision of our Church for the great Jubilee. Even more than that, how we can grow in our God's eye view of the new millennium? How can we catch God's vision of the coming slice of time, in the unfolding history of His people?
You know, when you look at a mountain, you don't stand with your nose against the side of it. You need to stand back a bit.
GETTING THE VISION
To get a vision of the new thousand year period of the Church, I'd like to back up a few years and view the future from two or three time frames in the passing two millennia.
First let's step back just 30 years to the outburst of charismatic renewal all over the world. Let's try to realize what a mighty and sovereign work of God we are experiencing. Let's try to understand why this is happening precisely at this time in history.
How is this connected with God's plan for the future? Do we Charismatics have a special role? We think so. The timing of the outbreak of the Holy Spirit in the last decades of the old, definitely points to the new.
But why single out Charismatic renewal? There are many good renewal movements in the Catholic Church. From Cursillo to Marriage Encounter, we could each name ten or so. These are indeed signs of the times too, yet each of them was the plan and dream of some enthusiastic individual. Each had an historic founder.
That's OK but, without in the least devaluing these great movements I want to point out that the Charismatic Renewal is not just another movement among several. There is something of historical significance about the Charismatic Renewal. We can point to no founder but the Holy Spirit Himself. Charismatic Renewal is a sovereign work of God. It is something originating directly in an act of God for a very special reason in His plan. It has to be so. All the signs, Word gifts, healings and wonders, not to mention deeply changed lives, have to be either a great work of God or it is all the biggest fraud that ever was foisted on the People of God. But we know it is not a fraud. We have each experienced the reality of the power of God.
Furthermore, we don't have to worry anymore about that, because, right from day one in 1968, it was submitted and tested and discerned by the teaching authority of the Church. Step by step over several years, we have, as you now well know, found official acceptance in the Church. The Charisms are real. The power of the Holy Spirit is real.
AUTHENTIC AND SOVERIGN WORK OF GOD
The Charismatic Renewal is indeed an authentic and sovereign work of God Himself and we have to believe God has a purpose for it. The Renewal is not a passing fancy of our Creator. God doesn't have passing fancies. Jesus is serious about this and it is from this vantage point I'd like to look at the beginnings of the third millennium.
What does Charismatic Renewal have to do with God's plans for the future? What is our role? How can we best participate in this? What an exciting opportunity we have! The questions themselves sparkle with life. What a marvelous time it is to be alive!
Now, what should we be doing about it? I'll leave some answers to your own prayerful alertness but one place to start looking is in the Church's response. How arewe doing?
Today we find charismatic concepts written into Church documents like the New Catechism and the teachings of the pope.
CATECHISM AND THE CHARISMS
Let's look at the Catechism for a minute. Have you looked up, "charisms," in the index?
I'd like to quote parts of items number 799, 800, 801, 1508 and 2003 of the new Catechism of the Catholic Church.
In another place the Catechism says,
"Charisms are to be accepted with gratitude by the person who receives them and by all members of the Church."
"There are sacramental graces, gifts proper to the different sacraments, and there are special graces called charisms. Whatever their character, sometimes it is extraordinary, such as the gift of miracles or of tongues, charisms are oriented toward sanctifying grace and are intended for the common good of the Church."
I could go on, but that's a nice sampling. We could almost make a Life in the Spirit Seminar, from the new official Catechism.
BISHOPS AND THE CHARISMATIC INFLUENCE
We also find charismatic concepts playing a major part in the writings coming from conferences of Bishops. We note how more and more of the preaching and catechesis at the parish level shows a charismatic influence. This is true even in parishes where the word, "charismatic," is held in suspicion. It's becoming more acceptable to openly witness to our love of Jesus. There is a growing awareness in the Church of the reality of power available in the Holy Spirit. We are beginning to see such bold, faith building teaching as we haven't seen in the church for centuries, at least not in such specific terms. No one can deny, much of this comes into the main-line Church through the witness and teaching of the Charismatic Renewal, not just from our lay leaders, but through charismatic bishops, charismatic priests, theologians, and religious.
As much as some others have tried to lay us to rest as a passing experiment, we have, and we are, making our mark on the Church. God's sovereign movements are not easily scrapped and put to rest.
In the early days of the seventies, Cardinal Suenens told us our job was to show the Church how to be Church. We were to do this until the day we disappear. Note that we will not die out, but dis-appear, because people can't tell the Charismatic Renewal anymore from the renewed Spirit-filled Church at large. This is a God's eye view of the third millennium.
Baptism in the Holy Spirit with the use of Charisms is not only an important tool, but also an indication of God's Plan for the third Millennium.
When hunters are out there baiting with deer food, we know deer season is near. From observing the Charismatic Renewal, we can predict the third thousand year era will be the millennium of the Holy Spirit.
In preparing and praying about this teaching God gave me a prophecy:
"The time for individual consolation is being overtaken by a time of power in united service to my plans and directions; it is being overtaken by a time to think less of your personal needs and more of the kingdom"
"I want you to be aware that the era of the Holy Spirit is about to begin; indeed it has already begun."
FROM PENTECOST INTO THE THIRD MILLINNIUM
In the first thousand years of the Church we experienced unimaginable growth. From the first Pentecost to the year 1000, Christianity spread and became part of the society of most of the known world. Who could have guessed it? How could entrenched paganism fall so completely? Certainly not by human skills or design.
The saints of the first millennium expected God to work in wondrous ways to accomplish His work and plan. They expected and He did.
In the second millennium that is quickly coming to an end before our eyes, we had to catch our breath. In this era the Church experienced great testing by the attacks of disunity within and by a rebirth of secularism attacking us from the outside. There also arose what can only be called an intellectual distaste for signs and wonders. We relegated miracles almost exclusively to a few great saints or shrines. We expected little of God in day to day Church life, and for the most part we got what we expected.
Church pulled into itself, in defensive mode, and began to rely more and more on authority and reason and traditions, (small t) and to down play any mystical signs and wonders in the everyday life of the Church. Now, authority and reason are good things but without ordinary active charisms, Church begins to look more and more like any secular institution.
Can you see where God is taking us for the third thousand years? Can you feel His plan for the third millennium about to begin? Can you see why it is such a cause for celebration?
It isn't only our good Pope who is promoting and preparing for an historic event. God Himself is preparing His People. There is something big in the wind and the wind that is blowing is the Holy Spirit Himself.
So, how can we and our prayer groups prepare for the Jubilee? Several things. The most obvious and important is prayer. Honest, expectant prayer. Not just for our personal needs but,
PRAY FOR THE CHURCH
Pray for the Church. Pray for, and with, the Pope. Pray for the Jubilee 2000 celebrations. Pray for the work and plans of God in the next Millennium. Pray for the Charismatic Renewal. Pray for Christian Unity; especially for Christian unity, and pray for World Evangelism. Pray, pray, pray. All these intentions fit together in the great plan of God; but you know God. He's not in the habit of moving mountains without our invitation and participation. That's just the way He is. Somehow if it's happening here on earth, God wants people to be involved in it.
And don't underestimate what our prayer can do when it's in step with God's plan.
A few years ago we all wanted communism to come to an end. But even the most optimistic of us thought it would be at least fifty or a hundred years. Yet once them dominos started tumbling, it was only a matter of weeks and no more Soviet Empire.
That was a big lesson to me. I'm now convinced, when the time is right, and we do our part, Christian unity can happen in even less time. Almost overnight. Let the dominos of separation and rebellion and pride begin to fall. Plop, plop, plop, plop, plop, down the line.
Nothing is impossible when Christians act in harmony with God's plan. Nothing good is even improbable when we act in the power of the Holy Spirit. Christian unity is the first step in world evangelism; another line of dominos ready for the nudge. And then comes the Kingdom. Hallelujah!
Howard and Ruth Mondloch live in rural Daggett, MI and are members of Fruit of the Spirit Prayer Group in Stephenson.