Mumbai Catholic Charismatic Renewal (CCR) | What is Baptism in the Spirit

What is Baptism in the Spirit

13th October, 2019
Fr Fio Mascarhenas EXTRACT
What is Baptism in the Spirit?

A Biblical and Pastoral explanation by Dr. Fr. Fio Mascarenhas SJ

1. God the Holy Spirit is not a holy ghost, nor a holy bird(dove), nor a figment of our imagination, but a real Person, the third Divine Person of the Blessed Trinity, just like and equal to God the Father and God the Son. This is the greatest mystery of Christianity, unknown to the Old Testament, but revealed specifically by Jesus Christ. This truth cannot be satisfactorily understood by our inadequate human intellect, but it can be experienced by a person of faith. God the Holy Spirit is not something (not just a nice blessing sent by God) but someone God’s self-gift to us - JP2. The Catholic Church teaches us (see 4th Eucharistic Prayer) that the Holy Spirit is sent to us that we might live no longer for ourselves but for God(2 Cor 5:15), unlike some Pentecostal preachers who keep repeating, “Receive the Holy Spirit and you will receive health, wealth and success”, (the very opposite of Jesus’ teaching in the Beatitudes).

2. It is only the New Testament that teaches us about this Divine Person and his sanctifying action in and on us. On the last and great day of the feast Jesus stood up and proclaimed, “if anyone thirsts, let him/her come to me and drink”. Whoever believes in me, as the scripture has said, Out of his heart shall flows rivers of living water. Now this He said about the Spirit which those who believed in Him were to receive for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified. John 7:37-39.
3. Theology teaches that "the Holy Spirit is the love between the Father and the Son”. It follows then that the BHS is God’s way of involving us in this love between the Father and the Son. Our sacramental baptism started this process of personal invoIvement of each of us in the mutual love of Father and Son by our new birth from above of water and spirit (John 3:4). Now the charismatic BHS is a post-Vatican II move of God to make us aware of and to experience in visible ways that we have become a real part of the love between the Father and Son. That is why the most common experience of those baptized in the Spirit is of the love of God poured into our hearts(Rom 5:5), and of the spirit of sonship making us "heirs of God our Abba Father” and co-heirs of Jesus" (Rom 8:16-17).

4. In short, the charismatic BHS is simply a response to our prayer to become sharers in an experiential way in the love between the Father and the Son. The BHS is not an esoteric happening but the fulfilment of Jesus’ promise in Acts 1:5,8 that you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you. This power is God’s transforming action in us primarily making us aware in new ways that we are real sons and daughters of God and only secondarily empowering us to witness to the Lordship of Jesus by some charismatic gifts (see Acts 4:33). Jesus' warning in Matt 7:21 is very relevant here!.

5. Jn 1:12 confirms that the whole purpose of the BHS is to transform us into children of God, and to let us experience this transformation by a deep person experience of the Father saying to us (in our regular personal prayer time) what He said to Jesus “You are my beloved son/daughter in whom I find my delight”.
6. We must pray first for this BHS! The gifts will come maybe later according to what service role in the Church God wills for us. But many charismatics have been influenced by the Pentecostals to believe instead that BHS means gift of tongues and healing and deliverance. This was never true of the original CCR which began in the USA 52 years ago, and in India 47 years ago. Thousands were baptized in the spirit then and received with awe and wonder, and joyful gratitude, the grace of revelation that they were in fact infinitely beloved of God as his children, because of Jesus’ death and resurrection and the action of the indwelling Holy Spirit. A genuine BHS is and is meant to be a life-transforming experience! l experienced this 47 years ago in Mumbai when I was baptized in the spirit during my personal prayer time, alone with God, and kneeling before my Vow's Crucifix. A genuine BHS is a spiritual experience, and not something physical in which I have to feel something!

7. Jesus himself had spoken about a most important grace of revelation. Jesus rejoiced in the Holy Spirit and said, “I thank thee, Father, that thou hast hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to babes; yea, Father, for such was thy gracious will. All things have been delivered to me by my Father and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him”.
Then turning to the disciples he said privately, “Blessed are the eyes which see what you see! For I tell you that many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it” (Lk 10:21-24).

8. Indeed, the most important grace that Jesus and the Holy Spirit can give to a human being is this “grace of revelation”. This is what God has done for us in our day through the charismatic “Baptism of the Spirit” (BHS).

9. Three Scriptural precedents can teach us about the BHS, the first in Acts 1:5-8, the second in Acts 4:29-31 and the third in 2Tim 1:6-7
a) In Acts 1, Jesus promises to send the Holy Spirit as power
b) In Acts 4, the early Church receives a new Pentecost
c) In 2Tim 1:6-7, Paul declares that the Spirit already received can be and needs to be stirred up “not a spirit of timidity but of power and love and self-control”.

10. The first important sign of a genuine BHS is a deeper relationship with God through personal Prayer. We are the disciples whom Jesus calls “to be with him, and to be sent out”.(Mk 3:14). Hence the first requirement of a disciple who wishes to grow In the Spirit is to be with the Master in secret personal prayer. Jesus himself in his humanity, cultivated an intimate personal relationship with the Father, spending not only 40 days in prayer and fasting at the beginning of his public life, but many hours daily, early in the morning or late at night throughout his private life till the age of 30, and then in his public life of 2-3 years till his death.
11. For us charismatics too, a PERSONAL RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD will grow and deepen when we seek the Lord in secret through our commitment to a life of prayer leading to action. The BHS supposed to start us on our way to new familiarity with God, it is meant to give new impetus to our gift of(sonship/daughterhood). But in this area of personal prayer, perhaps most ‘charismatics’ have failed till now! We are very good at praying in prayer groups, loudly and together with other people, but much of it is often superficial prayer, we call it “praise and worship”, but much of it is external and loud praise, it is not the kind where Jesus said, “when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who in secret and your Father who sees in secret will reward you. And in praying do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. Pray then like this “Our Father who art in heaven” (Mt 6:6-9).

12. Is it not significant that early and veteran leaders of the CCR in Ann Arbor, USA, like Ralph Martin, wrote his first book, not on charismatic gifts, but on personal prayer. ‘Hungry for God’ was written in 1974, and his latest book written in 2006 was ‘The Fulfilment of all Desire?’ Look also at Fr. Cantalamessa! What a powerful charismatic leader he is, not with charismatic gifts, but in biblical and charismatic spirituality - his prayer life is of a high caliber. Pope St. John Paul Il too was very charismatic but also very prayerful. His vision and leadership of God’s people was surely Spirit-filled and Spirit-led! But more recent leaders seem to focus more on selective charisms rather than on our relationship with God and each other. (See how much of this unity and of power-hungry behavior stains our claim to be God’s new People!).
13. The prayer of contemplation: “Prayer is keeping company with God” (Clement of Alexandria).The aim of all prayer is to create an atmosphere of intimate relationship and a certain familiarity between God and the human person. St. Francs de Sales, the master teacher on prayer, calls all prayer a “heart to heart conversation between the person and God”. This is what “praying in tongues” is supposed to lead us into, deep worship and
union with God.

14. As for praise, can screaming and shouting at God, with tense faces and bodies, and non-stop parroting words like “Hallelujah” or “Praise the Lord,” be Christian prayer? Is this the “making melody” St. Paul exhorts (Eph 5:18-20) the early Christians to do?

15. Another main effect of a genuine BHS is a hunger to read, study and pray God’s Word in the Bible, and most especially in the NT. This “becoming familiar” with Scripture can become a nominal effort after its “honeymoon” period, and requires sustained and energetic effort on our part. Here again, I believe, most charismatics have become lukewarm (see warning in Apoc 2:4). Many Catholics, and also charismatics, have not yet realized that the Eucharist and the Word of God are both powerful sources of grace, and that they both nourish and energize us for our daily Christian “marathon pilgrimage” of life. (See THE BIBLE GIVES LIFE, or also CONTEMPLATING GOD’S WORD).

16. Another main effect of a genuine BHS is the desire to evangelize, by word and by deed, and the courage to put this desire into daily practice. Forgiveness, and loving service, are daily God-given opportunities to show the world that we are true disciples of Jesus Christ, Saviour and Lord, Brother and co-heir.
(Read more from my Handbook for Leaders first published in 1979 and many times thereafter).