The first reading highlights a debate among the earliest believers. How completely does the saving death and resurrection of Christ fulfill and replace the Jewish Law? What place does it still hold? In particular, some Jewish converts wondered whether it was still necessary for males to be circumcised in order to be incorporated into the saving promises of God. The presiding “apostles and elders” of the church stated clearly that “it is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden,” and with this statement omitted circumcision as a saving necessity. Christ has fulfilled the law and now in him alone salvation lies.
Christ promised that “whoever loves me will keep my word, my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” After the resurrection, this individual promise of the Holy Spirit was fulfilled through the divine establishment of baptism and confirmation. This gift of the inner life helps to lead us on our path to heaven. We are prompted and encouraged amidst the trials and wonderings of life. “The Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you. Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you.”
This gift of the Holy Spirit is also a corporate gift, that is, it is given to the greater church being one body and animated by “one soul,” the Holy Spirit. The body is ordered so that not all are the head, and not all are apostles, prophets or teachers.
It would be illogical for God, who promised not to leave us orphans, to not leave us a clear mouthpiece to help us discern his call. He gave us Peter and the apostles in union with him, experienced today through Peter’s successor, the pope, and the bishops.
Jesus knew we would be frightened in the face of a hostile world and thus assures us before his death, “Do not let your hearts be troubled or afraid. … I am going away and I will come back to you. … I have told you this before it happens, so that when it happens you may believe.”
In our walk toward full maturity in Christ a necessary step is the conformity of our minds to the Holy Spirit. If we feel the spirit within is saying something contradictory to the risen voice of the Holy Spirit in the greater church, then what we hear within is not the true Spirit. It is simply our minds talking, or something darker, and the call then is to die more fully to self so that Christ may live in us.
Questions for Reflection
1. How fully have I leaned on Christ for the peace I seek?
2. How do I listen to the Holy Spirit?
3. Where is there incongruity between myself and the Holy Spirit?
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.