I’ve posted the first of the two talks as an audio podcast. Here’s an excerpt:
Last year, in England, there was a consultation of all the charismatic renewal in England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, to make a balance of the first forty years of the charismatic renewal, and in preparation for this consultation, a survey was distributed with many questions. One of the questions was: “What do you think has been the greatest blessing the charismatic renewal has brought to your life?” Well, the answer, almost unanimous, was the love of God. “For the first time, I discovered what it means to be son of God / daughter of God.” And any time I myself have an occasion to meet people who have received the baptism in the Spirit, I ask them, “What remains to you after years of this experience?” Usually the most common answer is the love of God. The love of God.
This is the miracle of miracles. Usually we are looking for miracles, but this is the greatest miracle: God loving us. When we know, at least a little, who God is and who we are, this is the greatest miracle. And it’s difficult to believe. Apparently, this is the most easy thing to believe. But on the contrary, very few people reach this position of really believing that God loves them… personally, eternally, in such a way that we have no idea. So Pentecost, my dear brothers and sisters, should be this: a rediscovery of the love of God for us. We are more preoccupied with how we love God, but this comes later.
One of the most important contributions of the charismatic renewal to the whole theology of the Church is precisely to restoring this order. Before the commandments, before the duties, comes grace — the gift. This shows the essential difference between Christianity and any other religion or religious philosophy. Any religion starts telling people what they must do to reach the final goal (nirvana, and so on.) Christianity doesn’t begin by telling people what they must do. It begins by telling what God has done for them. Grace!
Somebody could say, “Yes, but isn’t the first and most important commandment this: ‘You must love your God with all your soul and all your strength?'” Yes, this is the highest commandment. But the order of commandments is not the first order, it’s the second one. Before the order of commandments, there is the level or the order of gift: grace. And we have contributed to this rediscovery which is the secret of making evangelization effective nowadays. The power of Christianity is grace.