In a previous post, I mentioned “Alpha”. It’s a kind of “Jesus 101” evangelization course that we’re kicking off at our parish. This weekend was the Alpha retreat, which is devoted to seeking to be filled with the Holy Spirit. We learned more about the power of the Holy Spirit. We experienced it.
I had a few worries going into the weekend. Alpha features video presentations, and I was wondering how well the videos would handle the topic of the Holy Spirit. Too often, such presentations are somewhat vague. The unfortunate result is that the Holy Spirit Himself comes across as vague, insubstantial, or even weak and inconsequential.
But the Alpha videos on the Holy Spirit were anything but. For example, I’d known that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all cooperated in the creation of the universe. But the first video’s presentation of what that actually means was breathtaking. Image after image flashed past in bewildering beauty. Galaxies and supernovas, leopards and apes, waterfalls and rushing rapids, peacocks, rainbows, hurricanes, canyons – all are the work of the Holy Spirit in their stunning array of life and power. It is He who has poured them out on the Earth.
The Holy Spirit’s power to transform human lives also blazed forth in the videos. Samson and Gideon, nobodies in terms of human position, were filled with the power of the Lord to deliver Israel. Isaiah and Ezekiel declared the glory of the coming of Christ and the grace of the New Covenant four centuries before they came to pass. Jesus Himself waged war on the Devil, set captives free, healed the brokenhearted, led prisoners out of slavery, healed the sick, raised the dead, and invited sinners to His Father’s table. All He did was through the power of the Holy Spirit. His disciples, similarly filled with the fire and power of the Holy Spirit, journeyed forth to transform the world.
In other scenes, we saw the power of the Holy Spirit transforming lives today. Missionary Jackie Pullinger prays with an addict in the notorious Kowloon Walled City of Hong Kong. The Walled City was a densely populated, drug-infested hive of crime and poverty until its demolition in 1992. She went alone into that forsaken place in 1966, and still continues her mission of prayer and peer ministry to addicts and prostitutes today. Through the power of the Holy Spirit, addict after addict has experienced miraculous freedom by means of a 10-day intensive period of prayer ministry by former addicts. Impossible? Talk to Wayne, my good friend for 35 years who still stays with us on his yearly trips through Omaha. We met at a booming charismatic prayer meeting in Chicago. Wayne was freed of multiple drug addictions instantaneously through the ministry of a television evangelist. On fire for the Lord, he has brought many to Christ and never looked back.
But could that be for us on the Alpha weekend? One passage from the video fired our faith to ask boldly:
And I tell you, Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For every one who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent; or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Lk 11:9-13)
It was so easy. The facilitator prayed simply for us as a group: “Come, Holy Spirit!” He and my wife each made themselves available to pray for people one-on-one for the infilling of the Holy Spirit. The power of the Holy Spirit came. Tears flowed as hearts were healed. The bond among us – the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13:14) – was palpable. Like the trio of apostles on the Mount of the Transfiguration, we didn’t want to leave. My concerns – would we be open enough? Would God really show up? Would this weekend really be the watershed that the Alpha presenters promised? – vanished.
How good the Father is to all who ask Him! Do you desire more of the Holy Spirit? Ask. Do you want the power of the Holy Spirit in your life? Seek. Do you want to know God’s love, poured out in the Holy Spirit, as Jesus knew the Father’s love? Knock. It will be given to you. You will find. The door will be opened to you.