Perhaps one of our greatest problems is that we never bother to go to the root meaning of words before we make use of them. This is why we find ourselves easily swayed by the interpretation of others.
What does it mean to be charismatic?
Charisma is from the Greek ‘Kharisma’ which means ‘favour freely bestowed’, or ‘gift of grace’. To say that someone is charismatic therefore means that such a person has been given a free gift by God that is so compelling that others are naturally moved to devotion because of them.
Let’s consider the other term, Pentecost.
Pentecost is from the Greek Pentekoste – fiftieth. It referred to the festival of Pentecost which is a one day celebration at the end of the barely harvest (fiftieth day after the passover). It was the second of three great Jewish feasts, the other two being the feasts of tabernacles and Tenths (or Booths) respectively.
In the New Law, Pentecost has become a feast of the universal Church which commemorates the Descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles (Acts 2:ff), fifty days after the resurrection of Christ, on the ancient Jewish festival called the “feast of weeks”.
When people speak of “charismatics” today (at least within the Catholic Church) they refer to an ‘elite’ group of people who are able to wield a ‘magic wand’ of sorts. They refer to those who are ‘able’ to ‘heal’ the sick and ‘raise’ the dead, irrespective of whether or not these ‘certain persons’ are common or ministerial priests.
I have always known something was terribly wrong with the way our people label us ‘Marian’, ‘Charismatic’ or ‘useless’. But the issue didn’t clearly fall into perspective until after our just concluded priests’ retreat with Rev Fr Prof Anthony Akinwale OP.
Don’t get me wrong. In the Catholic Church, there are not a ‘certain people’ who have been given ‘free divine gifts’ as the ignorant throng would have us believe. By virtue of our baptism, ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit’, we are buried and reborn with Christ and freed from original sin. We are made Christians, children of God and members of the Church.
In that Sacrament of Baptism, we are anointed on the chest with the oil of Catechumen, which frees us from the power of Satan, and on the head with the oil of Sacred Chrism, which makes us sharers in the threefold ministry of Christ as King, Priest and Prophet.
The Holy Spirit who’s active in us at baptism is confirmed in the Sacrament of Confirmation (through a special outpouring of power as was the case with the Apostles in Acts chapter two), which makes us strong, perfect Christians, and Soldiers of Jesus Christ.
So, how does one who has been baptised and confirmed through the very action of the Holy Spirit end up not Charismatic and Pentecostal? How does one who continually receives the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ end up without divine favour and grace? Isn’t this supposed to be elementary catechism (cf. CCC 1241, 1262-1274, 1302, 1303)?
It’s rather sad that many who say “we move by faith and not by sight” end up depending on “sight” as the proof of faith. It is a totally impoverished religious disposition that seeks to reduce the ministry of the Catholic Church (which is essentially that of healing) to ‘visible’ signs and wonders; which today seem to be the criteria for labeling some ‘charismatic’ and others ‘pentecostal’.
Healing may generally be physical, but healing can never be reduced solely to what is physical. Are you pressured to join in the theatrics? Don’t be. We are Catholics. We are truly charismatic and genuinely Pentecostal! However, we aren’t magicians or native doctors.
We are custodians of a mystery so profound that to reduce it to magic would not only be foolhardy, but utterly preposterous.