Sell What You Have

Brothers and Sisters,

This week I would like to discuss the charism of voluntary poverty.

 In Mark’s gospel Jesus tells the man who ran up to him,

“You are lacking in one thing, go and sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21) 

In the next paragraph He drives the point home,

“How hard it is for those who have wealth to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:23)

  And then comes the memorable,

“It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for one who is rich to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10:25)

In this pointed visual allegory, a king who personifies wealth counts his money at a table while a jester places a fool’s hat over his head. His female counterpart, distracted by her aged reflection in a mirror, displays her vanity in her luxurious clothing, lap dog, and hangers-on: flattery fans her, and stupidity, with a boar’s head, serves her food and drink. Such allegories were meant to both entertain while cautioning the viewer to question their own relationship to wealth.
Wealth Permits Stupidity by Raphael Sadeler 1588 https://clevelandart.org/art/2017.199

I was privileged to be the leader of children’s liturgy one Sunday when we read this gospel, so I got to talk with the kids about this passage.  As we are often prone to do, the kids thought the “rich” that Jesus refers to, are someone else, perhaps someone who has so much money that they have never had to work, or someone with household servants, etc.  I had to break the news to them that compared with the majority of the people the world, even the poorest people in the United States have it pretty good, and most of the people in the United States are rich by world standards. 

I told the kids that this passage doesn’t mean that, none of us (rich people) are going to heaven, but that we need to make Jesus, and spreading his message, more important than everything else.  But there is still something that lingers in my mind which says that perhaps, we really can’t make Jesus the most important thing while we are encumbered with the typical American load of stuff. 

Pope Francis certainly has been emphasizing the importance for us to pay attention to the poor, to make an effort to help them, and to sacrifice some things to try to better identify with them.

The Breakers, the summer home of Cornelius Vanderbilt II, located in Newport, Rhode Island, United States. It was built in 1893, added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1971, and designated a National Historic Landmark in 1994. Photo by Matt H. Wade.

This topic inspired me to pick up a book of Mother Theresa’s sayings (Mother Teresa: Her Essential Wisdom edited by Carol Kelly-Gangi) that had been lying on a pile of books in my bedroom.  The first story I came across, was how she left her teaching ministry with the Loreto Sisters with 5 rupees and set off by herself for Calcutta, obediently following the Lord’s instructions though she said it was the greatest sacrifice that she had ever made.  When she arrived at Calcutta, she was asked by a priest for a donation for the Catholic press.  She had given 4 or the 5 rupees to the poor, and so she hesitated, but gave him her last one.  That afternoon, the same priest came to see her and brought an envelope.  The priest told her that a man had given him the envelope because he had heard about her projects and wanted to help her.  There were 50 rupees in the envelope.  She had the feeling at that moment that God had begun to bless the work and would never abandon her.

I am certainly not at that level of trust and detachment.  But, despite all the objections that get raised, like “you have a family to support, you can’t just leave everything,” I could go a lot farther in simplifying my life than I have. 

Mother Theresa goes on to say, “One by one, from 1949 on, my former students (from the school run by the Sisters of Loreto where she taught) began to arrive.  They wanted to give everything to God, right away.  With what joy they put away their colorful saris in order to put on our poor cotton one.  They came because they knew it would be hard.  When a young woman of high caste comes and puts herself at the service of the poor, she is the protagonist of a revolution.  It is the greatest, the most difficult revolution—the revolution of love.”

The voluntary poverty charism seems to be working in the former students that she describes.  The feelings are there, “with what joy they put away there colorful saris”; the fruit is there, the Missionaries of Charity has become a world-wide order; the feedback is also obvious, most people know and admire Mother Teresa and her sisters.

The most intriguing thing to me is that voluntary poverty, sets conventional American wisdom on its head.  We are so convinced that happiness lies in stuff, or power, or fame when in reality those things don’t really give us lasting joy at all.    Lord, free us from conventional wisdom, and help us to know the joy that comes from trusting only in you.

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

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Did you ever feel like the Holy Spirit was trying to get your attention?

Brothers and Sisters,

I have to apologize that my title doesn’t have much to do with the post, but I thought it went well with the featured picture which I took while stuck in traffic on the way to work one day recently.

I would like to revisit a post that I wrote a few weeks ago. The post had to do with some charisms that were on a list of charisms that I had not commonly seen.  I decided to contact the leader of the Life in the Spirit Seminar to get an explanation of his understanding of these charisms.  I figured that was probably the best way to clear up the misunderstandings that I had.

The leader shared his source material with me, so I would like to pass it along.  Fr. Bob Hogan wrote a document1 called “Catholic Charismatic Renewal Resources” which is also linked at the Catholic Charismatic Renewal National Service Committee website2.  Fr. Bob was a member of the National Service Committee (for the United States) from 2007- 2013.

The first thing to note from the document is that the charism lists that we find in scripture are understood to be examples of charisms rather than an all-encompassing list. 

“The lists of charisms (spiritual gifts) in the Scriptures are not meant to be all inclusive. An area of ability or responsibility in our lives can become a spiritual gift, if it is prayerfully given over to the management of the Holy Spirit. If we begin to experience a power and wisdom in this area that is greater than our own, coming from God, then it has become a charism (ex. Fatherhood-motherhood, music, teaching, administration, helping, one’s job, etc.).”3

Even in the list of charisms provided in the document on page 38, the charisms from my previous post (holiness, inner healing, resting in the Spirit, and scripture) were not listed. So, I guess the short answer to the question is that these charisms were added to the list for that particular Life in the Spirit seminar, because the prayer group had seen those charisms more commonly than others that could have been on the list. Let’s look at the documents references to each of the four charisms.

Holiness

The document’s mention of holiness does not really treat it as a charism. Rather it is one of the four major roles of the Holy Spirit in the life of believers.

“This action of the Holy Spirit leads to:

Experiencing union with God

Inner transformation, leading to personal holiness

Ministry empowered by charisms for evangelization and service

Building communities that witness to a renewed Catholic life.”4

Expounding on the second point the document states:

“After we have this deep experience of union with God through the Holy Spirit we often think that we are now ready to minister in the power of the Spirit. However, this was not Jesus’ pattern. Jesus was first led by the Spirit to the desert for 40 days of prayer, fasting and facing his temptations. After the first years of initial excitement of the Catholic charismatic renewal many people began to hear the call to deeper inner transformation, leading to greater holiness. We needed to face our areas of temptation that can keep us from ministering in the full power of the Spirit because we are not fully rooted in the wisdom and fruit of the Spirit. We needed to learn to be better servants by crucifying the works of the flesh, and living in the Spirit, so that we embody the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:13-26: Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). Only after this time of inner transformation in the desert does Jesus return to Galilee in the power of the Spirit (Lk 4:14).”5

Holiness is also listed as one of the ten Major Focuses for Catholic Charismatic Prayer groups.

“4) Growth in Holiness: The Spirit’s work of inner transformation leading to a life of holiness; overcoming evil influences and growing in the fruit of the Spirit.”6

The Holy Spirit is definitely the source of the power behind a holy life.  Also, holiness is certainly a gift rather than something that is earned. But, to list it as a charism still seems like a category mistake to me.  Holiness would seem to universal to all who have invited the Holy Spirit into their lives rather than one of the many charisms given to certain individuals.

Inner Healing

The document does not treat inner healing as an independent charism.  It is more of a subset of the charism of healing.  It highlights the importance of inner healing in the healing process. It is on the list of Obstacles and Blocks to Healing.

“10) Inner Healing Needed: Guilt, past sins, past hurts, unforgiveness, tormenting memories, holding on to self-pity, like attention from your sufferings, deliverance.”7

There is often a link between inner healing and physical healing.  In certain cases, inner healing results in physical healing as well. Given the importance of inner healing in restoring people to total health, it is reasonable to believe that there is room for specialization in this type of healing.  As people grow in the healing charism, it will be very important for them to understand the roll of inner healing and the special ways of ministering to people who need it.

Resting in the Spirit

Resting in the Spirit is mentioned in the context of two charisms.  The first is related to the charism of prophecy, and specifically related prophetic messages. 

“Includes prophecy, prophetic images/visions, prophetic actions, words of knowledge (knowledge about how God is acting or an insight into the faith), words of wisdom (insight about how God wants us to respond), discernment, interpretation of tongues, prophetic manifestations (resting in the Spirit, tears, laughter, etc.), inspired Scripture, inspired prayer, word of exhortation.”8

It also appears in the guidelines for a healing workshop.

“- Resting in the Spirit (p. 49): Not sought for own sake or unduly emphasized; not manipulated; focus more on fervent worship and sound teaching of the gospel, than on emotional excitement; there is a strong correlation between what is preached and what is experienced; not all experiences are salvific; avoid term ‘slain in the Spirit.’”9

This treatment in the document would seem to support my conclusion in the previous post.

Scripture

Scripture when spoken of as a gifting in the document seems to be used in the context of the charism of prophecy.  In the section on the Elements of a Charismatic prayer group it says:

“5) Prophetic Gifts (prophecy, prophetic images, word of knowledge, word of wisdom): You love reading and praying with Scripture. You have a consistent personal prayer life in which you sense the Holy Spirit’s inspirations, guidance, wisdom and knowledge. You have a desire for God to guide, build up, encourage and console his people through his personal prophetic guidance.”10

“2) Prophetic Inspirations and Scripture: 1 Thessalonians 5: 19-22; 1 Corinthians [I suspect Romans is meant] 4: 1-6, 18-19, 23-25; 2 Peter 1:19 [20].

-Teaching people how to receive prophetic inspirations and how to discern what is from the Holy Spirit; one’s own spirit; the world; the flesh; the devil. Need good, balanced teaching.”11

Scripture is also mentioned in the context of Developing and Ongoing Prayer Life.

“3) Scripture: Praying with a Scripture passage. Scripture is the living Word of God and the ‘sword of the Spirit.’ As we prayerfully read and ponder Scripture, the Holy Spirit reveals God to us through these words and relates what we are hearing to our life. Other prayers/books based in Scripture can be used (ex. Rosary, Catechism, Spiritual reading book). When a phrase, line or story of Scripture strikes you, go over it a few times and talk with the Lord about it, since this can mean that the Holy Spirit is seeking to show you something for your life. You can use a journal to jot down inspirations.”12

This exercise was helpful for me to understand more fully how these four charisms were understood in the context of the life in the Spirit seminar.  Perhaps more importantly, for those who may not be familiar with this document, it might answer some questions for you that I haven’t even thought of.

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

  1. http://cccrsa.net/charismaticcenter/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Charismatic-PG-Resources.pdf
  2. https://www.nsc-chariscenter.org/charismatic-prayer-group-resources/
  3. See endnote 1. Pg. 35 item 5.
  4. Ibid. Pg. 12.
  5. Ibid. Pg. 13.
  6. Ibid. Pg. 10.
  7. Ibid. Pg. 94.
  8. Ibid. Pg. 34.
  9. Ibid. Pg. 91.
  10. Ibid. Pg. 39.
  11. Ibid. Pg. 7.
  12. Ibid. Pg. 29.

Saint Augustine on Intoxication with the Spirit.

Featured Image: The Intoxication of Wine by Claude Michel circa 1780-90.

Brothers and Sisters,

I had a friend in college that was a teetotaler.  It did not stop him from coming to parties where people were drinking.  He said it was entertaining to watch people lose their inhibitions and discernment.  In the beginning he would occasionally get picked on for not joining in but eventually people accepted his decision.  Unfortunately, I was not so prudent.  My friend never really tried to get anyone to stop drinking nor did he talk about Jesus.  Later in his life his Christianity was much more explicit and fortunately so is mine.

Another situation that has come to my attention recently involves someone that I know who has recently gotten into a relationship.  This person is “in-love”.  He/she is really enamored with the other person.  He/she is convinced that their destiny is to be together for life.  The person is considering making major financial changes, which to me sound a little risky and not particularly prudent, especially with someone in a new relationship.

So why am I telling you all this?  I was noticing the parallels between the infatuation stage of relationships and behavior resulting from excessive drinking.  Both feel pretty good, they dull your inhibitions, they can strike others as funny, they can also have a negative effect on discernment.  My last post on phenomenon of being “drunk in the Spirit” has some possible connections to these parallels.  There are similarities and differences.

Getting back to that topic, let’s look at another scripture relevant to the discussion. 

“Do not get drunk with wine, for that is debauchery; but be filled with the Spirit, as you sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs among yourselves, singing and making melody to the Lord in your hearts,giving thanks to God the Father at all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph. 5: 18-20 NRSV).

So why does Paul contrast being filled with the Spirit with getting drunk on wine?  Getting drunk on wine is clearly not encouraged, but when people have been drinking to excess they often engage in singing, karaoke, dancing, and other kinds of revelry.  So, what does that have to do with singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.  Shouldn’t singing and making melody to the Lord be very proper, with everyone reverently dressed, sitting or standing in rows of pews, singing prescribed songs with the only indication that the people are at all enjoying what they are doing being a slight smile on their faces?

In traditional liturgical setting, any behavior even slightly resembling drunkenness would clearly be inappropriate.  Turning back to scripture though:

“As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David, Michal daughter of Saul looked out of the window, and saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord; and she despised him in her heart….David returned to bless his household. But Michal the daughter of Saul came out to meet David, and said, ‘How the king of Israel honored himself today, uncovering himself today before the eyes of his servants’ maids, as any vulgar fellow might shamelessly uncover himself!’ David said to Michal, ‘It was before the Lord, who chose me in place of your father and all his household, to appoint me as prince over Israel, the people of the Lord, that I have danced before the Lord. I will make myself yet more contemptible than this, and I will be abased in my own eyes; but by the maids of whom you have spoken, by them I shall be held in honor.’” (2 Sam. 6:16, 20-22 NRSV)

David is clearly going beyond the decorum that Michal expected from him.  The curse of Michal being childless which is mentioned in verse 23 would seem to indicate that David’s choice was appropriate. Further this distain from David’s wife could be likened to being reviled for the name of Christ that believers face at times.

“But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad and shout for joy when his glory is revealed.If you are reviled for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the spirit of glory, which is the Spirit of God, is resting on you.” (1 Pt. 4:13-14 NRSV)

Don’t get me wrong I am not suggesting that there is anything wrong with beautifully done solemn liturgy.  Nor am I suggesting that the Spirit of God is not present in solemn liturgy.  But I am not sure the claim that the Spirit of God can not be at work when people appear to be inebriated to outside observers is always true either.

The reaction of the crowd to the behavior of the disciples on the day of Pentecost would seem to suggest otherwise.

“But Peter, standing with the eleven, raised his voice and addressed them, ‘Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say. 15 Indeed, these are not drunk, as you suppose, for it is only nine o’clock in the morning.’” (Acts 2:14-15 NRSV)

It might be a stretch to assume from this text that the modern examples of being “drunk in the Spirit” are what was happening in this passage, but there must have been something related to being “drunk on wine” in the behavior of the disciples that would make such an accusation anything other than baseless.

St. Augustine of Hippo Washes the feet of Christ by Theodoor Rombouts, 1636.

In Father Raniero Cantalamessa’s book, Sober Intoxication of the Spirit, he quotes Saint Augustine, “The Holy Spirit has come to abide in you; do not make him withdraw; do not exclude him from your heart in any way.  He is a good guest; He found you empty and He filled you; He found you hungry and He satisfied you; He found you thirsty and He has intoxicated you.  May He truly intoxicate you! The Apostle said, ‘Do not be drunk with wine which leads to debauchery.’ Then, as if to clarify what we should be intoxicated with, he adds, ‘But be filled with the Holy Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart’ (see Ephesians 5:18ff). Doesn’t a person who rejoices in the Lord and sings to Him exuberantly seem like a person who is drunk? I like this kind of intoxication.  The Spirit of God is both drink and light.”1

Who am I to argue with St. Augustine?

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

  1. Raniero Cantalamessa O.FM. Cap., Sober Intoxication of the Spirit: Filled with the Fullness of God. Cincinnati, OH: Servant Books, 2005. Chpt. 1, location 104.

Sober Intoxication vs. Drunk in the Holy Spirit

Featured image: Church of the Holy Spirit in Munich – Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit: Spirit of Understanding (1753)

Brothers and Sisters,

I have been doing a little investigation of a phenomenon called being “Drunk in the Holy Spirit”.  From the articles/posts that I have found on the subject there seems to be different camps.  One side sees it as a sign that the Holy Spirit is really working in a person’s life, drawing them into greater levels of intimacy with God. The other side sees it as unbiblical and some go as far as to say, “it’s the work of the devil.” 

To begin, let me take a stab at defining what is meant by being Drunk in the Holy Spirit.  This has nothing to do with physically drinking anything (alcohol or otherwise).  It can happen when people are in an emotionally charged environment, usually with worship music playing, and with a group of people that are comfortable with outward demonstrations of what they are feeling interiorly.  These outward demonstrations might include raising their hands, swaying back and forth, dancing, clapping their hands.  Those demonstrations are not being “drunk in the Holy Spirit” but may be considered precursors to it.  When people move into the realm of being “drunk in the Holy Spirit” other behaviors can be pointed to, such as, shaking, falling over, spontaneous outbursts of laughter (sometimes obnoxiously loud), not being able to stand without support, stumbling gaits, slurred speech, etc. 

Looking at the phenomenon as an objective observer, it would not be a stretch to assume that the people experiencing this had indeed been drinking alcohol to excess.  I am sure my limited exposure to this, does not begin to capture the variety experiences or environments in which it has occurred.  I do know that it can cause concern when it happens to a person you care about or for whom you are responsible.  I have not personally come across any negative consequences resulting from this phenomenon.

I have it heard it suggested that removing the person or people from the external environment until they calm down is the proper response.  However, when talking to people that have experienced it, they would not have wanted to be taken out.  They describe experiencing great joy and peace, having a tremendous sense of God’s love and intimacy with them, and not wanting the experience to end. 

When I have seen it, I would not consider it behavior that was learned from observing others.  The people that it happened to, had not experienced anything like it before and later were still not sure what had happened to them. 

All this information leaves me somewhat sympathetic to both camps.  There are certainly examples of it that seem excessive and far from what is normally considered an encounter with the presence of the Holy Spirit.  In these cases, one might wonder if people are just trying to outdo one another in demonstrating how uninhibited they are in worship.  On the other hand, I have felt the power and presence of God in ways that are foreign to others that I try to describe them to.  They cannot relate.

There are biblical passages that are pointed to as relating to the subject.  First of all most of the places in the bible where the word drunk is used have negative connotations.

“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Gal. 5: 19-21 NRSV

So, it is not to hard to make a case that anything to do with drunkenness or even appearing to be drunk is not something a Christian should be involved with.

Of course, there is the potentially troublesome fact that Jesus himself was accused of drunkenness.

“For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’;the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” Luke 7:33-35 NRSV

Why would his enemies accuse him of being drunk?  Maybe in his mingling with the sinners, he blended in so well that they couldn’t tell whether he was or not.  Could it be that there is another kind of drunkenness that is not being drunk on wine?

Consider this verse.

“I come to my garden, my sister, my bride; I gather my myrrh with my spice, I eat my honeycomb with my honey, I drink my wine with my milk. Eat, friends, drink, and be drunk with love.” Song of Songs 5:1 NRSV

Perhaps there is a type of drunkenness, or better termed sober intoxication that doesn’t involve forfeiting our inheritance.  I will unpack this idea in a future post.

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

Is this Gift from God?

Featured image: Vision of Ignatius of Loyola

Brothers and Sisters,

This is the fourth and final post on counterfeit spiritual gifts often associated with New Age spirituality. For my earlier posts please use these links: Catholic Take on the New Age, Guarding against Counterfeits, and Sin or Only Imperfect Knowledge.

Turning to the scriptures we see that gifts that are not from God will go away when they are subjected to discernment of spirits and exorcism or deliverance.

“16 One day, as we were going to the place of prayer, we met a slave-girl who had a spirit of divination and brought her owners a great deal of money by fortune-telling. 17 While she followed Paul and us, she would cry out, “These men are slaves of the Most High God, who proclaim to you a way of salvation.” 18 She kept doing this for many days. But Paul, very much annoyed, turned and said to the spirit, “I order you in the name of Jesus Christ to come out of her.” And it came out that very hour.

19 But when her owners saw that their hope of making money was gone, they seized Paul and Silas and dragged them into the marketplace before the authorities.” (Acts 16)

It is interesting to note that in this story, the girl is actually telling people that the apostles were proclaiming “a way of salvation” other translations say “the way of salvation”.  So she (under the influence of the spirit of divination) is not condemning the apostle’s message.  We could ask why did Paul react this way?  Paul discerned the spirit of divination and saw that this girl was enslaved by the spirit.  The loving thing to do was to set her free, even though she lost the ability to use these counterfeit gifts to make money for her owners.

The Fortune Teller by Valentin de Boulogne, circa 1628

This story shows us that counterfeit gifts can be removed by discernment and prayer.  If we have some doubts about the origin of our gifts or some of the messages, visions or inspirations that come to us, it might be a good idea to seek guidance from a spiritual director and potentially prayers from people that are gifted in the area of discernment and deliverance.

One way to tell if our gifts are counterfeits would be to submit them to this type of prayer, if they are authentic then they will remain and maybe even grow stronger, if not then they will disappear. 

One of the principles of discernment of spirits from Saint Ignatius in his Spiritual Exercises is “the Spirits Adapt Themselves to the Persons They Are Trying to Influence”. 1 By this he means that if someone is not living his life according to God’s will and is not really concerned about it, both good and evil angels will treat him or her in a way that will most effectively accomplish their respective ends.  But if someone is fully submitted to God’s will, striving for holiness and virtue in their lives, the spirits will treat them much differently.  The tactics are customized.

Because we have been awakened to the power of the Holy Spirit working in and through us, the tactics of the enemy will be considerably less obvious than tactics used with a person who has no care about the things of God.  Hence, the temptations or deceptions that we face might seem to be good on the surface and anything negative about them may take some time to come to light.  

Let’s take as an example the gift of healing.  This gift can take many forms.  Medical doctors and nurses may be given the gift of being able to discern which treatments will work best for people, healing prayer might be particularly effective for someone else, alternative therapies might be extraordinarily effective for someone else.  The question is, could a person have what seems to be the gift of healing actually have a counterfeit gift?  What if the real cause of the illness is spiritual in nature rather than physical?  If an evil spirit was causing the illness, and wanted to make the person exercising the “gift of healing” think that it was authentic and from God, how could they do it?  If the spirit is causing the illness it could simply stop for a time, in hopes of gaining a stronger hold over the person in the future.  Thus it might appear that there was a benefit from a particular method of healing, but actually it was a deception.

Going back to scripture, in 1 John 4 we read.

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. And this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming; and now it is already in the world. 4 Little children, you are from God, and have conquered them; for the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore what they say is from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and whoever is not from God does not listen to us. From this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.”

This passage I think points to another principle, we need to look at the origins of an idea, method, or philosophy.  If the source is questionable or raises some doubts in your reasoning or your prayer, it would be prudent to put it to the test.  Does it agree with what the Church (the us in verse 6) teaches? Does it have a track record of leading people closer to God and to practicing virtues of humility and generosity? Do the benefits last for a significant period of time or are they just temporary?

We could obviously make a similar case for gifts of prophecy or wisdom or even craftsmanship.  If the gifts manifested themselves after we were confirmed or received prayers for the release of the Holy Spirit in our lives, we can have confidence that they are from God.  But if we received a gift after our involvement with transcendental meditation, we might want question whether or not we are being deceived.  That might be a time to cut the ties with the source of the ability and seek authentic gifts from Christian sources.  Many of the testimonies of people who have left the New Age, found it essential to break the ties with the counterfeit gifts obtained from non-Christian origins.

Another thing to consider to determine the authenticity of spiritual gifts is the motives of the person who exercises the gift.  With the gifts come responsibility and many times, opposition and even persecution.  Is the gifted person willing to accept these crosses and continue to serve people regardless of the trials?  I think of Saint Pio, along with many other saints, who endured times of trial as the authenticity of their gifts was questioned or denied.  The saints endure the cross while others abandon it.

In all these things we must remember that “the one who is in you (us) is greater than the one who is in the world.”  God has already defeated our enemy and when we cling to Him we have nothing to fear.

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

  1. (http://www.therealpresence.org/archives/Christian_Spirituality/Christian_Spirituality_030.htm

Sin or only Imperfect Knowledge?

Brothers and Sisters,

I haven’t gotten much feedback on the topic reflecting on the New Age Movement to raise awareness of counterfeit gifts of the Holy Spirit. (Post 1, Post 2) So, either you don’t find it interesting, or you dumb-struck by the insightful analysis, or you think I am off in the weeds on this one.  Whatever the case, I always welcome feedback.  So, I will give this topic another week to see if anyone is paying attention.

I may have touched on the following idea before, but I think this is critical in discerning the difference between Christianity and the New Age.  I found this to be a good summary statement (again this is from the “Jesus Christ: Bearer of the Water of Life document”).

“In what might be termed a classical New Age account, people are born with a divine spark, in a sense which is reminiscent of ancient Gnosticism; this links them into the unity of the Whole. So, they are seen as essentially divine, although they participate in this cosmic divinity at different levels of consciousness. We are co-creators, and we create our own reality. Many New Age authors maintain that we choose the circumstances of our lives (even our own illness and health), in a vision where every individual is considered the creative source of the universe. But we need to make a journey in order fully to understand where we fit into the unity of the cosmos. The journey is psychotherapy, and the recognition of universal consciousness is salvation. There is no sin; there is only imperfect knowledge. The identity of every human being is diluted in the universal being and in the process of successive incarnations. People are subject to the determining influences of the stars, but can be opened to the divinity which lives within them, in their continual search (by means of appropriate techniques) for an ever greater harmony between the self and divine cosmic energy. There is no need for Revelation or Salvation which would come to people from outside themselves, but simply a need to experience the salvation hidden within themselves (self-salvation), by mastering psycho- physical techniques which lead to definitive enlightenment.”1

Also, it is important to be aware that when someone (a spirit or a person) talks about Christ, we need to be really clear about whether they are talking about Jesus of Nazareth who lived on the earth around 0-33 A.D. or something else as shown in this quote.

When it is consciously received by men and women, ‘divine energy’ is often described as ‘Christic energy’. There is also talk of Christ, but this does not mean Jesus of Nazareth. ‘Christ’ is a title applied to someone who has arrived at a state of consciousness where he or she perceives him- or herself to be divine and can thus claim to be a ‘universal Master’. Jesus of Nazareth was not the Christ, but simply one among many historical figures in whom this ‘Christic’ nature is revealed, as is the case with Buddha and others.”2

The New Age conception of the world is also different than the Christian view as is evident in this quote.

“The move from a mechanistic model of classical physics to the “holistic” one of modern atomic and sub-atomic physics, based on the concept of matter as waves or energy rather than particles, is central to much New Age thinking. The universe is an ocean of energy, which is a single whole or a network of links. The energy animating the single organism which is the universe is ‘spirit’. There is no alterity (otherness) between God and the world. The world itself is divine and it undergoes an evolutionary process which leads from inert matter to “higher and perfect consciousness”. The world is uncreated, eternal and self-sufficient. The future of the world is based on an inner dynamism which is necessarily positive and leads to the reconciled (divine) unity of all that exists. God and the world, soul and body, intelligence and feeling, heaven and earth are one immense vibration of energy.”3

In talking about this new way of seeing the world the buzz-word “new paradigm” is often used.  To me it seems like a reversal of the Copernican revolution, which told us that everything revolved around the sun rather than the earth, now everything is moving away from revolving around God, and is back to revolving around us or creation.

One last thing from the document, has to do with the distinction between New Age mysticism and Christian mysticism.  The distinction seems to mainly be whether or not your experience involves God or not.

“For Christians, the spiritual life is a relationship with God which gradually through his grace becomes deeper, and in the process also sheds light on our relationship with our fellow men and women, and with the universe. Spirituality in New Age terms means experiencing states of consciousness dominated by a sense of harmony and fusion with the Whole. So ‘mysticism’ refers not to meeting the transcendent God in the fullness of love, but to the experience engendered by turning in on oneself, an exhilarating sense of being at one with the universe, a sense of letting one’s individuality sink into the great ocean of Being.”4

Some of the experiences that I have had in deep prayer might be interpreted in either camp of mystical experience.  So, I would say it is important for a Christian to make a conscious effort to make sure our minds are focused on God while in prayer or meditation.  Even to the point that we ask Jesus through the intercession of Mary (Satan reportedly does not like either one) to protect us from deception.

Having listened to the testimony of people who have left the New Age, their experiences are very real and much more dramatic than anything I have experienced.  Their initial experience was wonderful, and they were drawn in, as was the case with Edmond in C.S. Lewis’s book, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, (Edmond was enticed by a fabulous tasting treat called “Turkish delight” by the White Witch.  He forsook his brother and sisters and began to keep company with the White Witch, who eventually enslaved him,) but their spirit guides eventually turned on them when they began to have doubts or tried to stop practicing New Age techniques.

Sand Sculpture at Weston super Mare of The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe by Montse Cuesta

Given that, I think Christians should be very sure that what they expose themselves to does not have any links to the occult, eastern religions, New Age methods or techniques, etc.  I have listened to testimonies people who experienced demons attaching themselves to people, objects or places (the classic haunted house), and tormenting ex-New-agers to the point of suicide even after they had become Christians.  They found little relief until they sought prayer for deliverance.

Most of the testimonies involved people getting involved through some seemingly innocent activity (often Yoga) and gradually moving into deeper things.  Then through the grace of God, they were given doubts and began struggling to extract themselves, often experiencing much worse conditions (depression, despair, suicidal thoughts, etc.) than they ever had before they started.

That being said, I would like to put a qualifier on what I have quoted from the Jesus Christ: Bearer document.

“…it is worth saying once again that not everyone or everything in the broad sweep of New Age is linked to the theories of the movement in the same ways. Likewise, the label itself is often misapplied or extended to phenomena which can be categorized in other ways. The term New Age has even been abused to demonize people and practices. It is essential to see whether phenomena linked to this movement, however loosely, reflect or conflict with a Christian vision of God, the human person and the world. The mere use of the term New Age in itself means little, if anything. The relationship of the person, group, practice or commodity to the central tenets of Christianity is what counts.”5

For more on this topic see the post Is this Gift from God?

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

  1. Jesus Christ The Bearer of the Water of Life a Christian Reflection on the “New Age” Pontifical Council for Culture Pontifical, Council for Interreligious Dialogue. Section 2.3.4.1.
  2. Ibid. Section 2.3.4.2.
  3. Ibid. Section 2.3.4.3.
  4. Ibid. Section 3.4.
  5. Ibid. Section 6.2.

Holiness, Inner Healing, Slain in the Spirit, and Scripture.

Brothers and Sisters,

Today, I would like to address something I have been meaning to write about that was presented at the Life in the Spirit seminar that I recently attended.  The list of gifts of the Holy Spirit that was used to help people understand their gifts included some that I had not seen on other lists. Those included Holiness, Inner healing, Resting in the Spirit, Scripture.  I do need to state that I missed some of the sessions that may have offered helpful explanations to improve understanding of what the terms refer to.  I will offer some thoughts on each of the four.

Should holiness be considered a gift of the Holy Spirit?  I found an article that suggests that there is a vital relationship between holiness and spiritual gifts, but holiness was not spoken of as a gift itself.  The topic of holiness is too big for the time I have available.  But here are some things to consider.

“All Christians in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity. All are called to holiness: Be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect…Thus the holiness of the People of God will grow in fruitful abundance, as is clearly shown in the history of the Church through the lives of so many saints.”1

“In the Old Testament the Hebrew term Kadosch (holy) meant being separated from the secular or profane, or dedication to God’s service, as Israel was said to be holy because it was the people of God. The holiness of God identified his separation from all evil. And among creatures they are holy by their relation to him.”2

“Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, and make holiness perfect in the fear of God.”3

I would have a hard time claiming that the Holy Spirit was not involved in the growth in holiness of a person, and in that sense, holiness is a gift of the Spirit.  But since we play a part in “cleansing ourselves” it seems to be different, than the gifts or charisms as more commonly understood.

Is Inner Healing a charism of Holy Spirit?  On most lists of the charisms healing holds a prominent place.  It is very evident in the ministry of Jesus and his disciples.  The question is, should inner healing be a separate charism, or is it encompassed by the charism of healing?  Most treatments on the subject of healing that I have read, suggest that inner healing (from past emotional trauma) is an important element of many healings.  Physical problems can result from emotional baggage and thus by letting go of the baggage, the physical issues can be healed.

I also wonder if sometimes if inner healing is more comfortable to pray for, because we don’t have to deal with prayers that don’t result in physical healing.  The most perplexing question, that even famous people with healing gifts have to deal with, is why isn’t everyone healed?  What is the difference between those that are and aren’t physically healed? There are lots of answers, but for me none are totally satisfying.  I love the times when Jesus “healed them all.”4

What about Resting in the Spirit, or being “slain” in the Spirit, is that a gift of the Spirit? My initial reaction was that it is a manifestation of the presence of the Holy Spirit rather than a gift.  It is not something that is used by a person in service of the Body of Christ.  In my experience it happens mainly in environments where it is expected.  When is happens where it is not expected it can get a lot of attention and concern about the person’s health.   For those not familiar with it, basically the person falls over on the floor.  People report a great sense of peace, a powerful awareness of God’s love for them, and sometimes communication with the heavenly realm.  It may involve the laying on of hands by others and sometimes it happens spontaneously.  One person described it as a “trust fall with Jesus that you don’t have control over.” 

Other phenomena that I would put in this category are holy laughter, holy tears, and shaking of limbs. Holy laughter is basically being overwhelmed with joy usually in the context of prayer or singing praise to God.  People may seem to laugh uncontrollably and even jump up and down with delight.  Holy tears is a term used to describe experiences where people are overcome with powerful emotions of gratitude, sorrow, or regret.  The Holy Spirit seemingly is helping the person to release powerful emotions to bring healing and/or forgiveness that might not otherwise be possible.  The shaking of limbs, involves hands, feet, arms, or legs that begin to shake, sometimes uncontrollably.  Some have reported this happening in conjunction with the reception of charisms of healing or prophecy. 

All of these manifestations could be mimicked easily enough by those seeking to be seen as holy, having surrendered to God, or just to fit in.  It is difficult to tell by looking at this behavior what is an authentic work of the Spirit and what is not.  Trying to make this judgement might not be helpful.  If these things help others it is more indirect than a typical gift of the Spirit.

The last unfamiliar gift was called scripture. Of the four this is the one that is the least clear.  There are certainly people that have a gift for memorizing or locating scripture passages.  It could also be that a person might have a special ability to present a scripture that is particularly relevant to a given situation.  It might also be the gift of being able to provide sound and engaging interpretation of the text.  I have heard of many people who claim to have an insatiable appetite for reading scripture after being Baptized in the Spirt.  This gift might also commonly fall under the charism of teaching.

I would appreciate any insights that you could offer that might help us to understand these less common gifts. 

Peace of Jesus,

Dave

P.S. Please see a follow-up to this post at this link.

  1. Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2013.
  2. John A. Hardon, S.J, Modern Catholic Dictionary.  Eternal Life, Bardstown, KY 2008.
  3. 2 Cor. 7:1, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition 2006.
  4. Luke 6:19, Revised Standard Version, Second Catholic Edition 2006.