by Ralph Martin

John Paul II has said that the most important thing about his whole pontificate is to prepare the Church for the Great Jubilee of the year 2000. In his first encyclical in the late 70’s, he was starting to speak about it. John Paul II writes in reference to the preparations for the Jubilee year in his apostolic letter. "The year 1998, the second year of the preparatory phase, will be dedicated in a particular way to the Holy Spirit and to his sanctifying presence with the community of Christ’s disciples" (Tertio Millennio Adveniente, 44).

The book, "The Holy Spirit, Lord and Giver of Life," prepared by the Theological-Historical Commission of the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000, is devoted to what we can expect from the Great Jubilee of the year 2000. While not a complete doctrine on the Holy Spirit, the book offers an outline for reflection and help for a better understanding of the teachings of the Pope regarding the Great Jubilee. What we are celebrating in the year 2000, of course, is the 2000th anniversary of the Word becoming flesh, the Incarnation. The Pope has said some amazing things about it. He said that just as when the Word first became flesh 2000 years ago was a special moment in time, so also the year 2000 is going to be a special moment in time. The Pope is expecting a renewed presence of Christ in conjunction with the Great Jubilee. The Pope is expecting some kind of revelation of Christ; some kind of making present of the Word of God in conjunction with the Great Jubilee.

Another thing the Pope has said is that the Great Jubilee will make clear what the life of the Church is all about: an encounter with God, an encounter with the Spirit. He says, "The primary tasks of the preparation for the Jubilee thus include a renewed appreciation of the presence and activity of the Spirit, who acts within the Church both in the sacraments, especially in Confirmation, and in the variety of charisms, roles, and ministries which he inspires for the good of the Church" (TMA, 45).

We are presently engaged in a great battle between the culture of life and the culture of death, between the civilization of love and the civilization of hate, and between the Gospel and the anti-gospel. The Pope raises the question, "Who will win this struggle? Who will conquer in this battle?" The answer he gives is very striking. He says that those who will conquer will be those who welcome the gift of the Holy Spirit.

The year of the Holy Spirit is designated by the Pope to focus on the gifts of the Holy Spirit during this new advent that we are living through—the years between now and the year 2000. In another document, the Pope has said God is preparing a new springtime for Christianity, which will be revealed in the Great Jubilee, if we are docile to the Holy Spirit. This is not the Pope exercising his teaching office, this is the Pope prophesying! The Pope is trying to wake up the Church so we don’t miss what God is doing. He talks about God wanting to give the Church and the world a new springtime of Christianity. However, the Pope says there is a condition attached. It will only come if we are docile to the Holy Spirit.

The Pope says that God is preparing a new springtime for Christianity and we can already see its first signs. It’s like the first stirrings of springtime. You can already see certain places where spiritual flowers are coming up, where new life is starting to grow in the Church. What are some of these signs of the new springtime? One sign is the Catholic Charismatic Renewal!

Another sign of the new springtime, I believe, is the Pope himself. A few years ago, the Pope asked the College of Cardinals whether they would be in agreement with him to actually do an Examination of Conscience for the whole Church, acknowledging honestly and freely ways in which we have fallen short as a Church in living the Gospel. Many of the Cardinals advised him not to do this; they said that this is too dangerous. "People will misunderstand what he was saying." they cautioned. "The enemies of the Church will take advantage of this." Yet, the Pope does it anyway. He began to repent for different ways in which we as a Church have fallen short of living the Gospel.

Ninety-one times since he has been Pope he has asked forgiveness or expressed sorrow for ways in which we as Catholics have fallen short of living the Gospel. He went to Africa, and at the slave-port, apologized for Catholic involvement in the slave trades. He wrote a letter to the women of the world and expressed regret for ways in which sometimes the Church hasn’t fully encouraged women to use the gifts that God has given them. He went to Slovakia and apologized and asked forgiveness for Catholics having killed Protestants in Slovakia 400 years ago. To sum up his actions: the Pope is humbling himself. When I first became aware of the Pope’s humility, a little chill ran down my spine because I know that repentance precedes revival. It is a law of the Gospel. The Gospel says that he who humbles himself will be exalted and he who exalts himself will be humbled. It is very significant that the leader of our Church is humbling himself before the Lord. He is an example to us.

How can we prepare ourselves for the Great Jubilee that John Paul II is prophesying about? "The Church cannot prepare for the Jubilee in any other way than in the Holy Spirit", the Pope affirms in his encyclical on the Holy Spirit, Dominum et Vivificantem (May 18, 1986). There is no way we can prepare for what is coming, except in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit does so many things in our life. One thing the Holy Spirit is right now doing in our life, the Holy Spirit is praying in us. The New Testament shows us at least four different prayers that the Holy Spirit, right now, is praying in our lives. We need to become aware of what the Spirit is praying in our life and yield ourselves to that prayer. Then we would be ready for whatever the Lord will be unfolding.

The first prayer the Holy Spirit is praying for us is mentioned in Romans Chapter 8:15--"You did not receive a spirit of slavery leading you back into fear, but a spirit of adoption, through which we cry out, "Abba!" (That is, "Father"). The Spirit himself gives witness with our spirit that we are children of God." Another example can be found in Galatians Chapter 4:6—"The proof that you are sons is that fact that God has sent forth in our hearts the spirit of his Son which cries out, "Abba!" You are no longer a slave but a son! And the fact that you are a son makes you an heir, by God’s design." So, the first prayer that the Holy Spirit is praying in us is "Father."

In the Old Testament, we read that the Jewish people had such a respect for God that they wouldn’t even say his name. God revealed his name in the Old Testament as "Yahweh, as I Am Who Am." It s a powerful revelation of God’s existence. Jesus prayed and said, "Father, I have revealed your name to them." What name did Jesus come to reveal? He revealed God as Father. Jesus shared with us his relationship with the Father. He gives us his spirit so that we can cry out, "Father." When he says, "Cry out!" he is talking about passion. He is talking about a powerful reaching out of the depths of our being to God. He says the Holy Spirit gives witness with our spirit. We have received the spirit of God that enables us to cry out "Father" as only God’s sons and daughters can. If we have no other prayer except to simply say, "Father, dear Father", the Holy Spirit will bring us into union with God. Another prayer of the Spirit is the simple prayer: "Come, Lord Jesus!" It sounds like a simple prayer, but it takes a lot of courage to pray it. Because, when we pray for Jesus to come, we re also praying for Jesus to make us ready for his coming. When we say, "Jesus is Lord" and invite him to come, we are saying, "Jesus be Lord of my life. Prepare me to see you face to face."

When we ask for Jesus to come we are also saying, "Lord, I open up to you any closed part of my life that I haven’t been willing to trust you with before. Now, I’m willing to surrender to you." I think that is why the Holy Spirit is bringing us together. Together we can express gratitude to the Father for giving his only son.

The Holy Spirit is speaking through the Pope pointing to Jesus. The Holy Spirit is speaking through Mary pointing to Jesus. All over the world, Mary the mother of Jesus, is saying what she’s always said, "Do whatever he tells you." There is no better way to prepare for the Great Jubilee.

Ralph Martin is the President of Renewal Ministries, Ann Arbor, MI. This article is condensed from "Preparing for the Great Jubilee-Spirit," Ralph Martin’s presentation at the 1998 Nor/Cal Charismatic Catholic Convention in Santa Clara, May 1998. Ralph Martin’s latest book, Is Jesus Coming Soon? A Catholic Perspective on the Second Coming, (Ignatius Press, San Francisco, ISBN 0898706351).