By Anthony Barich
For many people, an event called ‘Receive the Power Live’ on July 18 was the climax of World Youth Day, but for at least one man, it was nothing less than a life-changing event.
With Bishop Joe Grech and the famed Matt Maher Band among the main acts, Receive the Power Live at Barangaroo – the site of the Opening Mass presided over by Cardinal George Pell – was geared to be one of the big events of WYD08 in Sydney.
‘Receive the Power’ is itself an excerpt from the theme that Pope Benedict XVI chose for WYD08, taken from Acts 1:8: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and you will be my witnesses…. (to the ends of the earth).”
Michael, a man in his mid-30s from Canberra, had been to many different Churches and events looking for that deep peace and a sense of feeling ‘at home’ with God.
He wandered into WYD08 searching for answers that did not lie anywhere else.
There were charismatic ‘prayer teams’ scattered around the ‘Receive the Power Live’ event, where people could pray with others for their own petitions, or just to find a sense of peace.
At about 8.30pm that night, one of the men in the prayer teams belonging to the charismatic Disciples of Jesus community, Martin Pannell, saw Michael amidst a crowd that was wrapped up in the joyful celebrations.
Yet Michael seemed lost, and somehow alone, despite being surrounded by hundreds of WYD08 pilgrims enjoying the moment.
“The reason I approached Michael and offered to chat with him was he was standing ‘alone’ in a big happy crowd of people but he looked sad, lonely and a bit lost,” Martin told The Record.
“After a brief chat about the night and how he was feeling – lost, alienated, disconnected from others and God – I offered to pray with him.
“As I put my hand on his shoulder and we both closed our eyes to pray he began to shake – very gently – as if he was really cold. It was a cold and windy night and we were outdoors, so I asked Michael if he was warm enough.
“He said he was and that God was at work in him… as we continued to pray and chat, Michael continued to gently shake.. it was like one long shiver – but it was gentle and peaceful, although strong as well.
“Then he said he wanted to give his life completely to the Lord again. So we prayed for this and as he made his own prayer to Jesus in his own words he began to stop shaking and he settled into a really deep place of peace. I have no idea what was really going on in Michael’s heart, or much about his background, or why he was shaking… as this guy was a complete stranger to me before we started to pray.
“But I do know without a doubt that God was there, God was at work and this event provided a moment of grace for he and I as we prayed together.”
As the night went on, Martin noticed that Michael appeared much more relaxed, happy and peaceful.
“It was though a spiritual burden, or a heavy backpack was taken from him and he enjoyed the rest of the night,” Martin said.
“My guess is that something was blocking Michael from really entering into relationship with others and especially with God and through the anointing of that particular night, he was set free and we rejoiced and smiled at that together…”