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... From the Goodnews archives, Mar/Apr 2008

 

Charisms and Evangelisation

 

Fr Chris Thomas from the Emmaus Family of Prayer reflects on the importance of unity in the christian life.

 

Fr ChrisIt was a normal weekday morning mass. There were about thirty people there when we began. As I stood to proclaim the Gospel I noticed out of the corner of my eye a young man come into the Church. For many years the Parish Community had a run a project to help those in our town who were disadvantaged and I recognised this guy as someone who came to us for food. I finished the Gospel and began to preach. The Gospel had been from Matthew where Jesus tells us that he didn’t come for the healthy but for those who are sick. I spoke very simply of the goodness of God and the invitation we were given to recognise the mess in our lives not so that we could feel bad about ourselves but so that we would know our need of God. I think I said when we know our need God will most surely respond.

“Preaching touched his heart”

As I left the Church I came across this young man weeping. As I sat down next to him he kept repeating ‘He came for me, He came for me.’ It was only afterwards that I realised the charism of preaching had been used to touch this man and soften his heart.

I’ve reflected on this experience and others like it since then and I’ve begun to realise that the Lord often provides the extraordinary in our time of need. I remember once having to turn two young people away from our door in the depths of winter. They wanted sleeping bags and I knew that we had given the last two away half an hour earlier. I gave them food and drink but the time came for them to leave and my heart was broken. It was all I could do to keep myself from crying. One of the sisters who worked with me persuaded me against my better judgement to go and look in the sleeping bag store and as I looked, there in the recesses of the cupboard were two brand new sleeping bags, not even used. God is never outdone in generosity. Those two young people were touched deeply as I shared with them what God had done.

“The Lord provides what’s needed”

I was once celebrating Mass that a woman came along to, who was giving God a last chance. I didn’t know that, but after communion a word of knowledge was given that someone was there who was at breaking point with God. That could have applied to anyone but then a very specific word was given and the woman knew that it was for her and was brought to her knees as she realised God’s tender care for her.

In his letter to the Corinthians Paul reminds the Corinthians of the importance of spiritual gifts saying to them that none of the gifts are any more important than the other and that all of them have their place in the Church, which is the Body of Christ, and all are as essential to each other as are the various parts of the human body.

“Love is the supreme charism”

There is however a higher gift of the Spirit than any and without it all the other gifts mean little. It’s the gift of love; patient, kind, unselfish, generous love. Along with faith and hope Paul says these are all that are eternal. Everything else will pass away. It seems to me that when we are open to love we are open to the possibility of God doing the extraordinary in us and through us.

So I guess the question then, that we can’t run away from or pretend hasn’t been asked is, do we love? I sometimes wonder how we’ve come so far from the simple law of love often replacing it with legalism and narrow mindedness. This law of love is about being non-judgemental. It’s about forgiving. It’s about loving your enemies. It’s about bringing healing and peace into people’s lives. It’s about being willing to always go the extra mile, to give yourself away for the sake of others. Can we really say that’s the journey we’re on?

“When we love, the rest follows”

When we’re prepared to love then God will supply the gifts we need to draw God’s people closer to God. We are co-workers with Christ and he loved powerfully and in the love that poured from him God was seen to be at work. It’s when we’re prepared to love like Jesus that we’ll see multiplication of food and healings and prophecies that will turn the hearts of the people back to God. It seems to me that for too long we have wanted the power gifts without the cost of loving. Maybe we’ve got it wrong? Maybe we should be praying to be filled with love so that our hearts are open and vulnerable and broken and then God can supply the gifts we need in the circumstances in which we find ourselves.


 

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