by Dr. Kevin Ranaghan
Very often when we gather for prayer meetings, we experience the presence of the Lord. The words of the well known hymn, "The Lord is present in His Sanctuary", ring true. Over and over again when we begin to worship together, we realize that the Lord himself is with us. "The Lord is gathered in His people gathered here," the song reminds us.
Individual participants and the group as a whole not only believe, but also have a knowledge, a sense, a feeling that God is with them. Sometimes it seems as if Jesus is standing in the middle of the room. Sometimes it seems that a waterfall of the Spirit is cascading over everyone present. Still other times it seems like the whole group has been caught up into the heavenly court before the throne of the Father. All these different experiences strengthen our conviction that in a wonderful way the Lord is present in our prayer meetings.
This experience of the Lord's presence in our prayer meetings is not new. It has been characteristic of the Renewal for thirty years. Nor is it limited to Catholic charismatic groups. Protestant charismatics and Pentecostals also bear witness to same reality. How should we understand this presence of the Lord?
For us, as Catholics, when we consider the Lord's presence, the first thing we think of is the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. This is as it should be, for in the eucharistic sacrifice Jesus comes fully, entirely present under the appearances of bread and wine in the on going celebration of His paschal mystery of redemption. This great mystery of faith at the center of our life as the Church and of our lives as individual members of Christ's body. We know Christ is really resent both in the Mass itself, in the Blessed Sacrament reserved for the sick, for personal devotion, and for public adoration. This is so wonderful that whenever we think of His presence among us, this is what we think of first.
But this is not the only way the Lord has chosen to be present in s and among us. We w that, historically, Lord was present n His Incarnation. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1: 14). We also know that He promised to continue to be with us even after His Ascension. "Lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28:20). The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council has helped us greatly to understand the multiple ways that Christ is present among us, teaching us that Christ is present in His Church, in the liturgy, in the person of the minister, in the Sacraments, in His proclaimed Word, and whenever we gather to pray and sing, for "where two or three are gathered together in my name there am I in the midst of them"(SC 7; Mt 18:20).
Jesus Christ the risen Lord, who is surely enthroned at the right hand of His Father, is also surely here with us. And He is not just here in one way, He is here in many ways. In different ways the one Lord is present with the whole parish at the Sunday Eucharist, and with the Christian family gathered in their living room for prayer.
It may help us to understand this if we consider what happens at Baptism. In Baptism, a person is reborn into the life of Christ. The Holy Spirit transforms one into a member of the Body of Christ, and makes one a sharer in Jesus' son-ship. In Baptism one is joined to Christ in His death and resurrection and becomes so identified with Him that, St. Paul says, "I live now, not I, but Christ lives in me" (Gal 2:20). and "Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?" (2 Cor 13:5). The fact is, that the presence of the Lord with us is fundamentally the presence of the Lord in us, a presence that begins in our Baptism and which establishes our identity as Christians.
It is little wonder then, that when we pray to be baptized in the Spirit, which is a renewal of our sacramental Baptism, we experience so powerfully the presence of the Lord with us and in us. And when we who are (by God's grace) in the Spirit, and who have (by His mercy) Christ living in us, gather for a prayer meeting, it is no wonder that His presence becomes stronger, clearer and more effective as members of His body are joined together. Both for the individual and the group, this is another way in which the Lord is truly present. Since our charismatic Protestant and Orthodox brethren share with us both Baptism and the release of the Spirit, they experience this same presence of the Lord themselves. And we experience it together in ecumenical settings.
In His true presence at our gatherings, we worship our Father through Him. At the same time, with Him living in us, we act as Him extending His ministry of preaching, prophesying, teaching, healing, combating evil spirits and building the Kingdom of God. We can do these things because by His Spirit He is truly in us and with us.
Dr. Kevin Ranaghan writes for the ICCRS Newletter and represents the USA on the International Catholic Charismatic Renewal Services Council. ©1998 ICCRS Newsletter, Vatican City.