Editor’s Note: Over 20 issues, The Michigan Catholic is bringing you, in bite-sized chunks, Archbishop Vigneron’s pastoral letter, Unleash the Gospel. Below is the seventh of 20 excerpts, taken from the letter’s first guidepost, “The New Pentecost.” To read the whole letter — or to catch up on sections you’ve missed — visit www.unleashthegospel.org.
“You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses… to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).
Synod 16 has definitively set the Church in Detroit on the path of the new evangelization; we are living in our own time the Gospel mysteries of the Great Commission and Pentecost. What Scripture reveals about the Holy Spirit’s activity in the evangelizing Church is not only a challenge and a guide, it is what the Lord is continuing to do in our midst.
After giving his disciples the Great Commission, Jesus told them to “stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49). As the first evangelization could not have taken place without the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost, so the new evangelization cannot be accomplished without a new Pentecost. The Holy Spirit is God’s love poured into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5), revealing to us the Lordship of Jesus and our own exalted identity as beloved sons and daughters of God. The Holy Spirit is the “new wine” of divine life (cf. Lk 5:38; Acts 2:13). It is he who fills Christ’s disciples, then and now, with a compelling zeal to go forth and announce the good news of salvation.
The transformation caused by the Spirit was most visible in the apostle Peter. Before Pentecost, Peter had left everything to follow Jesus and was earnestly seeking to live by his teaching. But his ability to fulfill his apostolic mission was compromised by his own fears and failings. He vehemently resisted Jesus’ prediction of his passion, which seemed senseless to human reasoning. Then after boasting of his loyalty to the Master, he came face to face with his own weakness and cowardice. But after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, Peter was filled with an unshakable inner conviction of the truth of the Gospel and a love that compelled him to share that good news with all who would listen. Even under persecution, his evangelical boldness and joy were uncontainable (Acts 4:12-13; 5:40-42). It was because of such a transformation in Peter and all the members of the Church that “The word of God continued to spread, and the number of the disciples in Jerusalem increased greatly” (Acts 6:7).
For the Church in Detroit, reliving the Gospel mysteries means that we continually return to the Upper Room, asking for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit on us and on the whole region. We seek to bring every member of the Church, insofar as possible, into a personal and life-transforming experience of the Holy Spirit. Recognizing that we cannot give what we do not have, we continually seek to be refreshed in God’s presence and filled again and again with his love, so that it is his own love we are giving away.
The book of Acts ends in chapter 28 with Paul under house arrest in Rome, still boldly preaching the Gospel. Luke ends without finishing the story because the story of the Church’s mission continues in every age. We are living the 29th chapter of Acts! The ecology of the New Testament by which the Gospel was unleashed in the ancient world is the ecology of the Church today. It thus includes the same elements of repentance and faith; signs and wonders.
To read more of the archbishop’s letter, or to catch up on sections you’ve missed, visit www.unleashthegospel.org.
What is similar to what the Apostles did in the Acts of the Apostles and what the archbishop is calling us to do today?