Monday, March 19, 2007

"Baptised in the Spirit", "Intentional Disciples" or "Docile Converts"?

How do you talk about the clearly observed difference between the visible fruits of the Spirit in the Baptised?

Charismatic Renewal has chosen to emphasise the difference within the (I think fallacious) terminology of "Baptism in the Holy Spirit" as something additional to sacramental baptism. This sees the problem in a lack of the Holy Spirit.

The Siena Institute ("Called and Gifted" program) has chosen the term "Intentional Disciples", which sees the problem in a lack of human will (intentionality) to dedicate oneself to following Christ.

At his Ash Wednesday public audience, the Holy Father described it as follows:
From the outset, therefore, Lent was lived as the season of immediate preparation for Baptism, to be solemnly administered during the Easter Vigil. The whole of Lent was a journey towards this important encounter with Christ, this immersion in Christ, this renewal of life. We have already been baptized but Baptism is often not very effective in our daily life.

Therefore, Lent is a renewed "catechumenate" for us too, in which once again we approach our Baptism to rediscover and relive it in depth, to return to being truly Christian.

Lent is thus an opportunity to "become" Christian "anew", through a constant process of inner change and progress in the knowledge and love of Christ. Conversion is never once and for all but is a process, an interior journey through the whole of life.

This process of evangelical conversion cannot, of course, be restricted to a specific period of the year: it is a daily journey that must embrace the entire span of existence, every day of our life.
Ah, how beuatifully he puts it. Living one's baptismal vocation involves both the grace of the Spirit and the intentionality of the will, for it is about nothing less than CONVERSION.

We have fallen into the trap of thinking that conversion (like Baptism which is the sacrament of conversion) is a once-off event, or a once-for-all-time event. Evangelicals often talk about "when I was converted". But the Holy Father reminds us that conversion is a DAILY event. Every day we need to beseech God for the gift of the Holy Spirit anew. Every day we need to rise with the intention of following Jesus as his disciples. And every day God answers our prayers and renews our baptismal grace within us.

This is nothing new for me--but then I was brought up with Luther's Small Catechism drummed into me.
What does such baptizing with water signify?

It signifies that the old Adam in us, together with all sins and evil lusts, should be drowned by daily sorrow and repentance and be put to death, and that the new man should come forth daily and rise up, cleansed and righteous, to live forever in God's presence.
But the Pope gives us even more to reflect upon in his Ash Wednesday audience. He uses a word that has been popping up lately in much of his teaching: "docile":
What does "to be converted" actually mean? It means seeking God, moving with God, docilely following the teachings of his Son, Jesus Christ; to be converted is not a work for self-fulfilment because the human being is not the architect of his own eternal destiny. ...

We might say that conversion consists precisely in not considering ourselves as our own "creators" and thereby discovering the truth, for we are not the authors of ourselves.

Conversion consists in freely and lovingly accepting to depend in all things on God, our true Creator, to depend on love.
If you do a search on the Vatican website with the author "Pope Benedict" and the words "docile" or "docility", you will come up with 35 separate documents. In Sacramentum Caritatis (just out) he emphasises that priests should be "docile" in their service of Christ. Above all, Mary is the one who is "docile" in obedience to the Lord, and like her, we should be "attentive and docile disciples of the Lord" (1st Jan 2006). Nor is docility antithetical to courageous action, for on the 3rd Sunday of Easter last year he said that we should "be docile disciples and courageous witnesses of the Risen Lord".

The wonderful thing about this "docility" is that it is precisely the right word to describe what is required for us to both receive the power of the Holy Spirit and to place our wills in the right relationship to this grace. It is not that we do not have the Spirit gifted to us at Baptism and Confirmation. It is not that we are not "intentional" enough in our discipleship. Rather we are too willful--and we block the effectiveness of the Spirit by our selfish assertion of our personal "liberty". Docile Conversion and Discipleship requires a relinquishment of this will, so that we may become vessels which may, like Mary, be filled with the Holy Spirit for his service.

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