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Does God Speak in an Earthquake or a Whisper? PDF Print E-mail
Written by Sherry   
Sunday, 25 March 2007 02:51
John Allen posted a very interesting story Friday. It was about Oscar Osorio.

"Osorio, an articulate Honduran layman with a wife and four children, is a leader in the Catholic Charismatic movement in Central America. He’s also a star of Channel 48, the Catholic television network in Honduras, where his compelling Bible-based preaching opens each morning’s programming.

In a Catholic culture without much tradition of lay activism, Osorio is a rare bird – a full-time lay preacher with a wide regional following. . .Part of Osorio’s appeal is that he unabashedly speaks the same deeply personal, spiritual language which has driven the phenomenal growth of Pentecostal Christianity across the globe. He was, in effect, a Catholic version of what the Pentecostals do so well … offering personal testimony about the awesome power of God to change lives."

Amy Welborn posted a link to the piece and I found myself expecting a certain reaction from her readers because Osorio is charismatic. And it quickly happened. As one commenter put it:

"It is my perception that much of Pentecostal evangelization is based upon an emotional appeal. Emotions can be a dangerous and fleeting thing and emotion-based evangelization can be like planting seeds on rocky ground.

Does God speak in an earthquake or a whisper?"

When the commenter above asked that question - he or she had already made it clear what the answer was: God really speaks in whispers.

The working assumption around St. Blog's seems to be that the evangelical/charismatic experience is simple shallow emotionalism. This is often accompanied by the insinuation that the charismatic renewal is not orthodox, not legitimately Catholic, and should be avoided like the plague.
So we don't need to take Allen's implications about Osorio's impact on the Honduran church seriously - because his manner isn't really Catholic and therefore any evangelizing impact he could have will be shallow and ephemeral.

The fact that the church has already rendered its judgement by officially recognizing the charismatic renewal (here is the the decree from the Pontifical Council for the Laity. ) doesn't seem to matter.

There are, indeed, many signs throughout the world by which we can see the fruits of the Spirit. Currents, movements and testimonies of holiness renew the communion and the mission of the Church, built on hierarchical and charismatic gifts. Among them are the Catholic Charismatic Renewal or Renewal in the Spirit and the new forms of Community life arising from it. "The vigour and the fruits of the Renewal – said His Holiness John Paul II to the participants in the 6th International Assembly of Charismatic Renewal, on 15 May 1987 – certainly testify to the powerful presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church during these years following the Second Vatican Council. The Spirit has, of course, guided the Church in every age bringing forth a great variety of gifts among the faithful. Thanks to the Spirit, the Church constantly keeps her youth and vitality. And the Charismatic Renewal is an eloquent manifestation of this vitality today, a vigorous affirmation of what "the Spirit is saying to the Churches" (Rev. 2:7), as we draw near to the end of the second millennium".

As John Allen pointed out, Osorio's impact is based upon his personal testimony about the awesome power of God to change lives." In other words, the real issue isn't emotionalism or a particular kind of spiritual experience. The real issue is God's transformation and salvation of human beings which he accomplishes through a spectacularly wide variety of means and people.

My personal passion has always been this area which the church calls "subjective redemption". Subjective redemption is the whole historical drama whereby the grace of Christ's redeeming sacrifice reaches and is appropriated by individuals and communities, the power of sin, alienation, and death is broken; and we are transformed into the image of Christ. The whole historical drama that you and I are living right now. The drama in which Osorio has been used by God.

I have never have been part of the charismatic or Pentecostal movement either as a Protestant or a Catholic. I used to be a Quaker and so was used to charisms emerging out of silence.)

The fact that Our Lord did a number of in-your-face, attention-getting things during his earthly ministry seems to slipped our minds. Walking on water, anyone? Healing crowds of the sick? Driving out demons? Multiplying loaves and fishes? Raising the dead on several notable occasions?

And then there's that low-key, subtle resurrection thing that we're going to be celebrating in a couple weeks. You know, the event the whole world has been talking about for the past 2,000 years. While the exact means by which the resurrection took place is subtle enough to have eluded us, one could hardly call the event itself "a whisper". Especially with those little added dramatic touches like the veil in the Temple in Jerusalem ripping in two.

The answer seems to be God speaks and acts for our ultimate salvation in many different ways. He accomplishes our redemption through earthquakes and whispers; whatever is most appropriate and loving in a given situation or life. He may knock you off your horse or he may whisper. Sometimes he does both together. He'll use a Oscar Osorio and a Ronald Knox. It's up to Him. All we can do is be open, receptive, and grateful.

The Church recognizes the legitimacy of both the earthquake and the whisper while reminding us that both must be discerned. How can a faithful Catholic do otherwise?


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