NORTH MYRTLE BEACH—Rituals, liturgy and theology mean nothing if Catholics don’t truly know the love of Jesus Christ.
Father Richard McAlear of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate delivered that message to over 270 people from five states during his third appearance as keynote speaker at the annual Catholic Charismatic Conference Oct. 24-26 at Our Lady Star of the Sea Church.
“People need to have a relationship with Jesus because He is alive and He is in the Church,” the priest said. “The bond we have with Jesus is a true relationship, not just theology or a theory.”
The charismatic movement focuses on the Holy Spirit, and Father McAlear said this is important because that aspect of the Trinity helps the faithful to develop a relationship both with God the Father and His Son.
“The Holy Spirit comes to glorify Jesus, and once you have the Holy Spirit you come to know Jesus,” he said. “Once you know Jesus, everything else follows. Because Jesus is alive and present with us, we are able to pray, we are able to work in ministry.”
Father McAlear used examples from Scripture to illustrate Christ’s all-encompassing love and mercy. He described Jesus’ kindness to the sinful woman who washed his feet with her tears and the adulterous woman whom he saved from being stoned by an angry crowd.
“When Jesus was on earth, nobody ran away from Him — they ran to Him,” he said. “He was not frightening and not angry. He was Jesus being Jesus, the merciful face of God the Father.”
It is important to learn about Christ’s mercy because that knowledge helps the faithful to live merciful lives, he said.
“You become what you worship,” Father McAlear said. “If you worship a jealous, vengeful God you will become vengeful. If people believe God only condemns sinners, you get an angry, condemning version of Christianity. If you really understand Christ’s mercy, you become more merciful, and you can’t do that if you don’t first know His love. That is the model we need to follow.”
The weekend offered participants a chance to pray together, attend Mass and receive the sacrament of penance. Father Edward J. Kelley, a retired U.S. Army chaplain based in Columbia, was introduced as the newly appointed diocesan liaison for the charismatic renewal.
Sharon Crocker of Columbia worked to organize the weekend. She said Father McAlear’s talks and the rest of the activities helped people discover God’s love in their lives.
“It’s said the one true sign of maturity in faith is to know that we are loved,” she said. “I know people sometimes get tired of hearing that, and we all have days where we feel like we missed a blessing and ask if we’re doing something wrong. We all need to hear that God loves us, that we are doing what he wants us to do.”