By KATHY SCHMUGGE
COLUMBIA — The speakers for the 2000 South Carolina Charismatic Conference, Father Tom Forrest and Jim Murphy, had one joint goal for the conference. It was to get people excited about the jubilee year especially during its final two months.
Held the last weekend of October at St. John Neumann School, the conference titled, “Jubilee Year of Favor,” covered a variety of topics that related to the jubilee celebration and the spiritual gifts available this year for those who ask.
“We are two months away from the greatest Christmas celebration we will ever have, yet too many Christians are out of it,” said Father Forrest. “How can we glean the most out of this short time?” he asked and answered, “By living this time in the company of those who knew how to live it 2,000 years ago, Mary and Joseph, who never lost their focus on Christ.”
Father Forrest, a prominent figure in Charismatic Renewal, serving as its director for six years, is presently the international director of Evangelization 2000, “a Catholic effort to promote church renewal.”
The popular author, who has been translated in several different languages, gave several motivating talks during the conference giving the “headlines of living a good life.”
The other speaker, Jim Murphy, is the president of Vera Cruz Communications and has been a guest on 700 Club and EWTN Network. An active member of his church, Murphy serves as a consultant to the National Service Committee for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal and staff member of Renewal Ministries, a group that helps spread the Gospel in Eastern Europe. He gave powerful testimony for the need of reconciliation during this Jubilee year.
Murphy told a story about a woman who came to a healing service to be cured of her arthritis. One of the leaders kept on asking her if she had someone to forgive. When she did finally forgive a 21-year-old fight, she received a healing both physically and spiritually. If she had not forgiven her neighbor, the arthritis of the body could have been eventually healed but in the end, she may have “gone to the clinic of purgatory to be rid of the arthritis of the soul.”
Murphy also spoke of how the jubilee year offers graces to heal relationships like that of feuding neighbors and to liberate people from the oppression and bondage of sin. “Jesus knows the deepest desperate whisper in your heart and he says, ‘Here I come to free you from your anger, guilt, shame, sins, unhealthy habits or patterns ’ Jesus has paid your ransom with his blood and set you free.”
As a salvage diver, Murphy had sea stories to share. He recalled a time when a magnetic object was accidentally placed under the ship’s compass, throwing them off course.
“New Age, secular media, and various temptations are just magnets planted around our compass to throw us off track. Jesus comes and removes those magnets, so we can stay on course,” he remarked.
With his strong Brooklyn accent, Father Forrest stuck with the “headlines of the Good News,” and he told the story of salvation history using one word, “the yes.” With Adam and Eve’s “yes” to selfishness, they destroy the paradise God had made for them, doing the greatest damage to mankind. Father Forrest then describes how the Blessed Mother, with her “yes” brought humanity its greatest blessings in her role as the “handmaid of the Lord.”
“Mary generously took on the ‘mission of God’ by mixing his flesh with hers and making the invisible love of God visible,” said Father Forrest, who went on to explain, “No other human creature spoke a more important word then the “yes” that came from the voice and heart of Mary.”
Father Forrest said the story continues with Jesus, Son of Mary, Son of God. Who also said the word “yes” agreeing to do his Father’s will. Through Jesus’ “yes” humanity has been sanctified and given eternal life. But the story does not end according to Father Forrest, “We, too, have a mission as we are all called to say a “ready yes” not, “yes, but .”
“As soon as we add the second word, “but” we are in control. “You don’t get two words!” he loudly exclaimed, “We must give God our unconditional ‘yes.’ Like Mary we must vest God in our flesh and give God a new visibility in us.”
Sandra and George Wright from Christ Our King Church in Mount Pleasant, part of the 150 participants, felt challenged and invigorated by the words of the priest, “We hear a lot about unconditional love, but today we heard about the unconditional “yes” we all must say just as Mary and Jesus did,” said the couple.
In the jubilee year, the speakers emphasized a call to holiness and mission. Father Forrest explained, “Skip the mission, and you are not the saint you were meant to be. Skip the holiness, and you are not the success in the mission as you were meant to be. The success of the mission is measured by the holiness, and holiness is measured by how you go to work for God.”
Fulfillment of the Christian calling is counterculture in the world today according to Father Forrest. He spoke of the sharp contrast between the ways of the world and the ways of Christ. “The world says gratify yourself, while Christ says die to yourself. The world says be served, and Christ says be a servant, even to the children. The world says glorify yourself, while Christ says humble yourself. And finally the world says be your own god, while Christianity says kneel before your God.”
“If you are a baptized Christian, you have been called to go to the very heights of holiness. No one has a call to go halfway,” said Father Forrest, adding that humility is a key to success because “the proud are of no use to God because they never accept the degree to which they need God. ”
The conference ended with a Mass celebrated by Bishop Robert J. Baker. In his homily, the bishop elaborated on the Gospel reading about Bartimaeus, the blind man and his ability to know God and recognize him despite his physical blindness.
“The blind man had tremendous faith. He was one of those singular people who welcomed and followed God, calling Jesus, ‘Son of David’ a messianic term. The blind man was in the midst of many who were well-educated and knowledgeable of the scriptures but who could not see, even though Christ was right in front of them,” explained the bishop.