Not often do I have the privilege of participating in events that will be written in history books as monumental game-changing moments of history. Today was such a day.
My team of discipleship students arrived at the Circus Maximus in Rome hours before the opening band would step out on stage. The sweat oozing from our pores boiled under the intense Italian sun, but that did not stop the crowds from gathering. Already, hundreds of fully-garbed nuns, enthusiastic tourists with matching red hats, and patriotic Zambians all wearing homemade outfits in the colors of their flag, swarmed the premises. In a matter of hours, the empty plain of the Circus Maximus overflowed with colorful umbrellas and flags in the hands of 50,000 believers from over 120 countries!
Who are they and why had they come?
As worship escalated for the next three hours, one moment in particular caught my breath. The worship leader paused, inviting Holy Spirit to linger. Songs began erupting spontaneously throughout the crowds and fifty thousand voices lifted up their heavenly language as one. The sound, unlike anything I have ever heard, struck awe in my heart. The power of that moment electrified me. This must be a glimpse of heaven. I could not worship myself for gazing at the upturned faces around me, lifted in such reverence to Him. Crucifixes dangled from their necks, blinking in the sun. These were Catholics. You know, that one sect of Christianity that us evangelicals deny their salvation and speculate that their leader may be the anti-Christ. I’ve heard such statements from those who call themselves “the Church.” And it grieves me. Looking around, I felt at home here in the midst of Catholics who loved the Lord. But how had this happened? You see, God has been moving.
We ask for God to move but He already is.
Fifty years ago, the Holy Spirit began encountering those inside the Catholic Church on a widespread scale. Their hunger and thirst for more of the Lord sparked the Catholic Charismatic Movement that would continue until today. This year, Pope Francis, recognizing the significance of this movement within the church orchestrated a Jubilee celebration of these fifty years since the first outpouring of the Holy Spirit. He invited charismatic Catholics from all around the world to converge in Rome in the first week of June for a commemoration celebration. In announcing this Jubilee celebration, Pope Francis made two significant statements. The first declared his heart intent to have not only Catholics join, but for other denominations to participate as well. A call for unity. The second urged all Catholics to pray for another outpouring of the Holy Spirit, even as this celebration coincided with the first outpouring at Pentecost.
What does a movement in the Catholic Church have to do with us?
The Word promises that Yeshua will one day return for His Bride. As we see the signs of the times and recognize that this day is on the horizon, we also must recognize that He is not coming for a fragmented, and divisive Bride, but one who is united in her desire for Him. Today, we see many ugly divisions within the Bride of Christ and even animosity between one denomination and the next. Any direction you look, you can find negativity, back-biting, competition and criticism tearing apart His Bride and destroying any influence we might have had over our cities.But the Lord’s ultimate plan is to “unite all things in Him,” [Eph 1:10] and as that day approaches, I believe we will see—we must see—unity restored in the Church, between all those who call on His name. And it is the responsibility of the Church to humble herself to embrace that unity.
We can expect nothing less than for the God of the universe to respond.
Looking around at the upturned faces and mouths uttering the beautiful praise of our Savior, I understood this: these are my brothers and sisters. Their expression may look a little different. They may still wear their white collars, nun habits, and crucifixes, but we are family united in the Messiah. This truly was an historic moment for an evangelical missionary from a Messianic Jewish ministry to join my heart in worship with my Catholic brothers and sisters. Pope Francis has taken a stand for unity, urging his flock to cry out for the Holy Spirit, and asking other denominations to join in that cry. God is doing something unprecedented in this time to restore unity. Will we join in that call?
Scriptures say “… if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them.” [Matthew 18:19-20] We celebrate the one and two that do gather. But when we see 50,000 uniting with one voice to cry out for another outpouring of the Spirit, we can expect nothing less than for the God of the universe to respond! It is an unprecedented call from the Catholic corner. Let there be an unprecedented response! His Bride is coming together, heralding the soon return of the Lord. And He is eagerly waiting.
By: Alicia Grove
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