Acts 15:1-2, 22-29; Ps. 67; Rev. 21:10-14, 22-23; Jn. 14:23-29
(Audio recorded live, 22 May 2022)
Today’s gospel passage focuses us on the mystery of the Trinity. Jesus says, “Whoever loves me will keep my word…yet the word you hear is not mine but that of the Father who sent me.” He begins by describing how the Father and the Son are One. Jesus, the Incarnate Word of God, speaks the words of the Father. Just as the words I speak right now are my words, they are at one and the same time both a part of me, yet distinct. The Father and the Son, therefore, are of the same God-head, yet distinct in their Persons. But, Jesus has more to reveal about God. He says, “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.” This Holy Spirit was made manifest on Pentecost, which we will celebrate in a couple of weeks. The Holy Spirit was sent by God to teach the apostles and remind them of all that Jesus told them. Have you ever wondered how it was possible for the Church to hold on to and hand on the teaching of Jesus for nearly 2,000 years? It does not seem humanly possible. Remember, the early Church was built on the kerygma, or first preaching, of the apostles. That was an oral tradition. The best writings many Christian communities had were pamphlets with the sayings of Jesus and later on the letters of St. Paul. It took decades before the gospels were written—decades of prayer, growth in the spiritual life, service to the poor, and formation of the universal Church.
We have a glimpse into the early Church in the Acts of the Apostles. St. Luke recounts for us the details of the Jerusalem Council. As more and more Gentiles were being baptized and entering into the Church, some of the Jewish-Christians insisted that the Gentiles must be circumcised to be saved. They neglected what Jesus said about his Body and Blood, namely that the sacrifice of salvation has already been made for those who believe. He shed his Blood for many, so that many might be saved. No prior commitment need apply, save that of a contrite heart and a profession of faith that Jesus is Lord.
Naturally, the Gentile Christians were distressed by the tensions placed on them by the Jewish-Christians and a council was convened to see about this issue. What we heard proclaimed today is what was determined by the apostles, with Peter as their head, who says, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meats of strangled animals, and from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farewell.” The Gentiles were delighted to hear such a response and the Church continued to grow in those regions. But, did you notice how it was the decision of the Holy Spirit along with the apostles that led to their response? This shows the fulfillment of what Jesus had foretold when he said the Holy Spirit will teach you everything. This teaching is one of harmony between peoples and unity within Christ’s Church. This teaching is Divine.
Such harmony can only come from God, such love can only come from God, such joy can only come from God. To be filled with the Holy Spirit, then, is to embody qualities such as these, and more. Many of the recently confirmed are aware of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, the fruits of the Holy Spirit, and the intimate connection we have with God in the Spirit. In fact, when we pray, we pray in the Spirit, through the Son, to the Father. Listen closely to the words of the prayers the priest prays at Holy Mass. Notice how often he says, “We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, in the Unity of the Holy Spirit, God forever and ever.”
The Holy Spirit, the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, shares perfect harmony with the Father and the Son. Yet, they are all the same God-head, the same Divine substance. But, the spiration of the Spirit is such that it overflows to all God’s creation, and that includes us. We, like the apostles, receive the same Holy Spirit, the same truth, the same love, the same peace, the same joy. Jesus bids his disciples rejoice that he is going to the Father. He has spoken all that is necessary for our salvation. Now, the Holy Spirit teaches us and leads us to all truth.
And so, as we pray in the Spirit during this Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, may our hearts be opened to the truth He wants us to know, may our minds be opened to knowledge and understanding, and may our souls be nourished by the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, the Incarnate Word of God present in our midst.