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The Holy Spirit Will Teach Us Everything!

May 26, 2019

A reflection for the 6th Sunday, Easter, Year C. The readings are Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Psalm 67; Revelation 21:10-14; 22-23 and John 14:23-29.

“The Holy Spirit will teach you everything and will remind you of everything that I have spoken.”

That’s what I want to talk to you about today.

I suspect that most of you don’t usually pray to the Holy Spirit. Most of us pray to God, the Father, “Dear God”, “Father in Heaven” or “Our Father”, or we pray to Jesus, “Dear Jesus”. But how often do we pray to the Holy Spirit? “Dear Holy Spirit”? And when we pray to God or Jesus, how often do we ask for them to send us the Holy Spirit? Unless we are Charismatic, we probably don’t usually do that.

But we should. Every day. If you don’t remember anything else from today, I want you to always remember this. Pray for the Holy Spirit, every day. Everyday ask God to send you the Holy Spirit, to guide you, to inspire you, to move you.

We need the Holy Spirit.

We’re almost at the end of the Easter season and the focus has begun to shift from Jesus to the Holy Spirit. Jesus has to leave so that He can send us the Holy Spirit. This means that we are better off with the Holy Spirit than we are with Jesus being here with us. That’s why Jesus couldn’t stay: He had to leave in order to send the Holy Spirit.

And He says that the Holy Spirit will “teach you everything and will remind you of all that I told you.” That means that Jesus didn’t teach us everything. That’s why the Holy Spirit will remind us of what Jesus taught us, and then He will teach us everything else. That’s why the Catholic Church believes that even though God’s revelation stops with Jesus Christ, it has not been made completely explicit. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says in #66:

“Yet even if Revelation is already complete, it has not been made completely explicit; it remains for Christian faith gradually to grasp its full significance over the course of the centuries.”

That’s why the Teachings of the Catholic Church are not just based on Scripture but also on Tradition; because of the Holy Spirit, who is God, continues to help us grasp the full significance of Revelation over the course of the centuries.

The Council of Jerusalem

A great example of this is what we hear in today’s first reading from the Book of Acts. Those of you who come to daily Mass have been listening to the whole story – we don’t get the whole story today (Acts 15:1—29). This is what’s happening: Jesus taught the disciples many things, but when He said go make disciples of all nations, He didn’t give them a handbook. But the apostles went ahead. About 10 or so years after the Resurrection, there are now, I don’t know, 50,000 Christians all over? The Church is growing and everyone is making disciples, not just the Apostles. And you can imagine, there was no Catechism, no Bible, no official Teaching, so of course there were slight differences in what was being taught.

By now, most Christians are probably non-Jewish converts. And what happens? There’s a group of Christians that called themselves the Judaizers – they were Jewish Christians – that were preaching Jesus Christ and teaching that in order to be a Christian, you first had to be Jewish. They had to follow all the Jewish laws, and for adult males, unfortunately this included circumcision. They said that in order to be saved, you had to be circumcised. It makes sense. At this time, Christianity was a Jewish sect; Jesus was the fulfillment of Jewish Scripture and He was the Jewish Messiah. So of course, it made sense that you had to be Jewish in order to be saved.

But Paul and Barnabas had some difficulty with this. Scripture tells us that they had a “not small dissent or debate” with them – that means they had a big dissent and debate. Paul and Barnabas didn’t have the answer. Jesus didn’t tell them what to do in this situation, but it didn’t sit quite right with them. So what did they do? Did they make up their own decision? No – they take it to the Church leadership. They go back to Jerusalem and take it to Peter and James and the Apostles. This is so significant that the Church now refers to this meeting as the first Church Council: the Council of Jerusalem.

And ever since then, when the Church encountered a matter that needed to be defined or clarified, she gathered in a council in order to define doctrine or teaching. You’ve heard of the Council of Trent, the Council of Nicaea and the two Vatican Councils. The Council of Trent was called as a response to Martin Luther and the Reformation; the Council of Nicaea defined the articles of the creed – that’s where we get the Nicaean Creed. That’s how the Church defines Doctrine. Whenever there is confusion or lack of clarity about an issue, the Church calls a council in order to define it. The last Council was the Second Vatican Council, which gave us the Apostolic Constitution of the Church and the Pastoral Constitution of the Church, as well as many other documents.

The First Council was the Council of Jerusalem.

And how did the Apostles in Jerusalem decide? With the Holy Spirit. The letter that the Apostles send back to Antioch says, “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and us…” It doesn’t say they decided under the guidance of the Holy Spirit or that the Holy Spirit inspired them to decide… no: They decided together with the Holy Spirit.

And that’s the way the Church has been since then. Together with the Holy Spirit, Doctrine can be defined because the Church speaks with the authority of Jesus. Because of the Holy Spirit, the authority of the Church IS the authority of Jesus Christ.

And what was the decision? That you do not have to be Jewish, in order to be a Christian. Circumcision is not necessary. They kept it simple and removed unnecessary burdens on people that would prevent them from following Jesus Christ. They did ask that they maintain some dietary practices – in order to keep unity when sharing a meal with Jewish Christians – and to refrain from certain sexual practices, translated in many Bibles as “unlawful Marriage” because that is not just a Jewish requirement but also a Christian one.

This continues to this day. Of course Jesus didn’t teach us everything. Jesus didn’t tell us what to do in every situation. That’s why the “What Would Jesus Do?” movement doesn’t really help much. We need the Holy Spirit; we need the Church. Without the Church we don’t know what Jesus would do. Every time there is confusion or lack of clarity about something, we don’t go off and start our own church or publish a letter saying the pope is a heretic. No. We go back to Peter and the Apostles.

Everything we do has to be unitive. If it’s divisive, it is not of the Spirit.

The successor of Peter is the pope and the successors of the Apostles are the Bishops. The Authority of Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit has been given to them. I say this to everyone, even to Bishops. When bishops disagree – and they can disagree – they need to take it to Rome. Together with the Holy Spirit, the Will of God will be done.

If you don’t believe that the Holy Spirit is in charge of the Church, you might as well go be a Jehovah Witness or a Mormon or something else.

As the Church continues to find situations that are new we have to continue finding new ways of applying what Jesus taught. The Church now does that through Synods. How do we care for young people with the challenges of today? How do we care for families given the realities of today? How do we preach the Word of God today? These have been topics of the Synods in the last 8 years. The next Synod will deal specifically with issues concerning the Amazon. The Holy Spirit certainly has something to say about everything that concerns human beings.

Including you and your daily life. So don’t forget to always pray to and for the Holy Spirit. Pray that the Spirit guides you and inspires you.

And pray that the Holy Spirit continues to teach you everything and remind you of all that Jesus told us.

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From → English, Reflections

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