300 at charismatic event urged to proclaim “Jesus is alive!”

Photo Caption: Some of the 300 participants in the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conference offer praise to God. The theme of the July 26 event was “Jesus Christ, Our Only Hope.”

By: By Jennifer Willems

EAST PEORIA — While Jesus is an integral part of Catholic theology and sacramental life, he is often the forgotten member of the church and misunderstood. One of the greatest misperceptions may be that Jesus is off in heaven, according to Father Richard McAlear, OMI.

“Jesus is alive,” said the priest, one of the keynote speakers at the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Conference last weekend. “It’s not like he died and went to heaven and is waiting for you to get there and will give you a big hug when you get to heaven and say, ‘Nice going.'”

When the women come from the tomb after the resurrection they proclaim, “He is alive!” and that should be our proclamation, too, he said.

“If your God is dead, if your Christ is somewhere else, something is wrong,” Father McAlear, who is from Tewksbury, Massachusetts, told the 200 people gathered at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Riverfront Conference Center on July 26. The theme for the 28th annual conference, sponsored by the diocesan Office of Charismatic Renewal, was “Jesus Christ, Our Only Hope.”

Conference participants had an opportunity to celebrate the living Lord in eucharistic adoration, the sacrament of reconciliation, Mass and a healing service during the day, which also included presentations by singer and songwriter Annie Karto of Treasure Island, Florida. Helping them to lift their hearts and voices was the Pete Buncher Band from St. Louis.

A native of Boston, Father McAlear was ordained for the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Rome in 1970. He returned to the United States to teach high school and attended his first prayer group meeting in 1972.
He said the first time he heard people pray in tongues “it was the most beautiful sound in the world. It was the voice of angels. I thought to myself either heaven has come down to join earth or earth has risen up to heaven.”

Father McAlear also marveled at how the people all seemed to have a personal relationship with Jesus. When he was asked if he would like to be baptized in the Holy Spirit, he said yes.

“It was the beginning of a new walk with the Spirit,” he said. “It was like the sacraments and the Mass were suddenly different. Prayer was different. The Scriptures were different. But ultimately, Jesus became very real.”

Not only is Jesus the living Lord, but he’s among his people even now, Father McAlear said, adding that “the living Lord wants a living church and the living church has living people.”

People don’t always act like they’re alive, but rather are gritting their teeth and just trying to get through life. He reminded his listeners that Jesus needs them to be his healing presence in the world.

“He needs you to touch,” Father McAlear said. “Your word, your touch, your blessing, your look, your smile is the smile, is the blessing of Jesus. He needs you to do it and he’s there do it in you, through you, for you.”

Many people fear Jesus, thinking he is an angry God. That’s not what the Gospels say, however.

“I think this is why we have devotion to Divine Mercy,” Father McAlear said.
“He’s a God of mercy and forgiveness. In our time, in our day, we are privileged to have Pope Francis. If you want an image of Jesus, look at Francis.”

Karto also praised Pope Francis and his predecessors, St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, for their example. In addition to these holy men, she encouraged conference participants to show their appreciation for their priests, deacons, Sisters and bishops.

Her message, often told with music, was one of Divine Mercy, forgiveness, perseverance and joy.

“We need to take Jesus seriously and his words, but not ourselves,” Karto said, noting “the joy of the Lord is my strength.”

Pope Francis has said that “joy is the net that catches souls.” That’s important, she said, because “we’re all called to rise up and shape the culture.”

She pointed to the Blessed Mother as one who lived in hope, trusting in the promises of God. Blessed Mother Teresa also trusted and continued her work in the slums of Calcutta, despite going for long periods without feeling the presence of God in her life.

“Feelings are true, but we can’t let our feelings dictate our faith,” Karto said. “We have to keep our eyes on Jesus.”

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