Spirit Into Flame
by Bishop Sam G. Jacobs
The Grace of Pentecost is part of the essential aspect of the plan of God and of the paschal mystery. It is rooted in the vision of God, which is explicitly revealed in the Letter to the Ephesians. "Praised be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has bestowed on us in Christ every spiritual blessing in the heavens! God chose us in him before the world began, to be holy and blameless in his sight, to be full of love; he likewise predestined us through Christ Jesus to be his adopted sons—such was his will and pleasure—that all might praise the glorious favor he has bestowed on us in his beloved" (Eph 1:3-6). What was in the mind of God in eternity became a fact of reality in time through the creative power of God. Man and woman by nature were human beings and, by grace, sons and daughters of the all-loving God. In this ideal state there was no need of either the paschal mystery or the grace of Pentecost.
Unfortunately, this ideal state of unity and love was shattered because of the misuse of the gift of free will, which resulted in the introduction of sin and alienation from God and one another. Because of sin, human beings lost that privileged relationship with God. Thus, the need for the paschal mystery of which the grace of Pentecost is part of. Where the first creation did not respond properly to the grace of adoption, there was a need for a new creation, not through annihilation but redemption and reconciliation.
This new creation comes through the paschal mystery. Jesus, through His blood, brought the forgiveness of sin and reconciliation with God. The Spirit poured out upon the new creatures who would believe and accept God’s plan.
As a result, we became a new creation. But to live this life of holiness, blamelessness and fullness of love, Jesus and the Father poured out the Spirit upon those who would believe and accept God’s plan. Thus, the role of the Spirit is to sanctify and empower those who are redeemed and reconciled so that they may witness and minister as disciples of Jesus in the power of the Spirit.
This grace of Pentecost was first experienced by Jesus as a foreshadowing of things to come at the time of his baptism in the river Jordan. "When all the people were baptized and Jesus was at prayer after likewise being baptized, the skies opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in visible form like a dove" (Lk 3:21-22). This grace of Pentecost was officially experienced by the one hundred and twenty in the Upper Room in Jerusalem as the reality of God’s promises and plan. But this grace of Pentecost, in the words of Peter, was not meant just for them. "It was to you and your children that the promise was made, and to all those still far off whom the Lord our God calls" (Acts 2:39).
The grace of Baptism is the grace of redemption and the sharing in God’s divine life. We become the temples of the Holy Spirit and are called to live in the Spirit. The grace of Pentecost is the activation of the power of the Spirit, already given to us in Baptism, but now energized and released for ministry on behalf of the Kingdom of God. Through this gift we are called to follow the lead of the Spirit. The grace of Baptism is given that we might grow in holiness as disciples of Jesus. The grace of Pentecost is released that we might fulfill our mission of witnesses for Jesus with signs and wonders as our credentials. Thus, through this special favor from God, we will be able to fulfill the mandate of Jesus: "I solemnly assure you, the man who has faith in me will do the works I do, and greater far than these" (Jn 14:12).
The grace of Baptism incorporates the individual into the Body of Christ. The grace of Pentecost empowers the individual to act in the name of Jesus on behalf of the Body of Christ and for the sake of the upbuilding of the Body. The grace of Baptism enables us to say "Jesus Christ is Lord" by the power of the Spirit. The grace of Pentecost enables us to exercise the gifts of the Spirit, to do various ministries in the Spirit, to complete the works of the Spirit, all of which are directed to the fulfillment of the plan of God.
Since God wills all to be saved, so the grace of Baptism is meant for all, even though not all will accept this grace or, if accepted, not all will respond fully to it. In the same way the grace of Pentecost is meant for all, though not all will receive it, or, if received, may not understand the scope of the grace given and the responsibility incurred. The grace of Baptism and the grace of Pentecost are given once, but because of our human nature need to be stirred to flame again and again so that the full intent of God may be achieved in our lives. Such was the understanding of Paul to Timothy when he wrote: "For this reason, I remind you to stir into flame the gift of God bestowed when my hands were laid on you" (2 Tim 1:6).
Bishop Sam G. Jacobs of Alexandria, Louisiana is Chairman of the US National Conference of Catholic Bishop’s Ad Hoc Committee on the Catholic Charismatic Renewal. Bishop Sam celebrated Mass with us on February 14, 1998. ©1998 ICCRS Newsletter, Vatican City. Used with permission in the May 1998 Edition of the San Francisco Charismatics (ISSN 1098-4046) and on sfSpirit.com.