HOMILY FOR THE SIXTH SUNDAY OF EASTER, ©, MAY 26TH, 2019:
The Holy Spirit faithfully and truly guides this church, Holy Mother Church. God’s Holy Spirit has done so since this church’s birth, two-thousand-years ago at Pentecost. That fact is critical to the authenticity of this church and for her survival until Jesus Christ’s second coming. Jesus promises to send another, the Paraclete, to be with the apostles always, forever, if they keep Jesus’s commands. The important point is that these apostles are Jesus’s first priests and bishops in His Church, which He will establish when He sends them the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. This Church will be led by these apostles after Jesus ascends into heaven and sends them the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit. Always remember this. The scriptural basis for this is in John 16:13: “When he comes however, being the Spirit of truth he will guide you to all truth. He will not speak on his own, but will speak only what he hears, and will announce to you the things to come. Another scriptural basis for this is in John 14:16: “I will ask the Father and He will give you another Paraclete-to be with you ALWAYS: the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot accept, since it neither sees him nor recognizes him; but you can recognize him because he remains with you and will be within you. I will not leave you orphaned….”(John 14:16). The Holy Spirit guides this church always. The Holy Spirit discloses the fullest and truest meaning of the gospel truth. It is Satan who spreads confusion, deception, doubt, error, and falsehood. The Holy Spirit defeats that. This magisterial infallibility means that the pope and/or the pope and bishops united with him are divinely protected from teaching error on matters of faith and morals. The Holy Spirit’s guidance is Jesus Christ’s guarantee that the gospel truth will not be corrupted, distorted, or misunderstood by the ordained shepherds of this Church during her earthly pilgrimage.
St. Luke refers to this in the reading from Acts. Some Jewish Christians who are or were Pharisees have come to the Antioch, Syria church. They begin to teach that there is no salvation in Jesus Christ without circumcision into the old, Abraham covenant. They oppose the baptism of uncircumcised Gentile pagans into the Christian Church. Sts. Paul and Barnabas disagree vehemently. So, the Antioch, Syria church leaders and Sts. Paul and Barnabas decide wisely to go to the Mother Church in Jerusalem to decide this. The Antioch, Syria church is accountable to the mother church in Jerusalem and her teaching authority. This question must be answered accurately and authoritatively by the Jerusalem church teaching magisterium. “Finally it was decided that Paul, Barnabas, and some others should go up to see the apostles and presbyters in Jerusalem about this question”(Acts 15:2). This is a question of faith and the composition of the Church. It cannot be answered independently.
From verses 1-2, the reading skips to verses 22-29. Read the inbetween verses. Read Acts 15:1-29 to get the entire story. Today’s reading resumes with the Jerusalem Council’s letter to the church at Antioch, Syria in verse 22. “It was resolved by the apostles and the presbyters, in agreement with the whole Jerusalem church, that representatives be chosen from among their number and sent to Antioch along with Paul and Barnabas”(Acts 15:22). The Church apostles and presbyters/elders/priests of the entire Jerusalem church send two representatives to reinforce authoritatively what they have written in this letter to answer what the Gentile Christian converts must do to be admitted/included in this Catholic Church. These two, Judas and Silas, will speak and teach with the approval of the mother church’s teaching magisterium.
Listen to verse 24: “We have heard that some of our number WITHOUT ANY INSTRUCTIONS FROM US have upset you with their discussions and disturbed your peace of mind”(Acts 15:24). These Jewish Pharisee Christians have taught on their own, without the permission and approval of the teaching magisterium, that without circumcision there is no salvation in Jesus Christ. They teach that “without any instructions from us”(Acts 15:24). There is a legitimate and an ultimate teaching authority. It is located in the mother church, the Vatican. In this reading from Acts, it’s in Jerusalem.
Then, in verse 28, the letter says something profoundly shocking, POSITIVELY, for our church: “It is the decision OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, AND OURS TOO, not to lay on you any burden beyond that which is strictly necessary,….”(Acts 15:28). This teaching authority-magisterium, is not simply a bureaucratic office operating independently. GOD’S OWN HOLY SPIRIT DIRECTS IT. The deliberations and decisions of the Jerusalem Council were guided by God’s own hands. This is precisely what Jesus promised to do for the ordained leadership of the Church through the Holy Spirit.
The Holy Spirit discloses the fullest and truest meaning of the gospel truth. It is Satan who spreads confusion, deception, doubt, error, and falsehood. The Holy Spirit defeats and reverses that. So magisterial infallibility means that the pope and/or the pope with the bishops united with him are divinely protected from teaching error when they define matters of faith and morals. The Holy Spirit’s guidance is Jesus Christ’s guarantee that the gospel will not be corrupted, distorted, or misunderstood by the ordained shepherds of the Church during her earthly pilgrimage.
So what should we know? We should know that this church has genuine teaching authority and has exercised it in exactly the way Jesus intended it to be used from this church’s infancy. Today’s reading from Acts confirms that. We should also know that God’s Holy Spirit guides this church’s teaching magisterium. What should we do? We should have faith in that. We should trust and comply with this Church’s teachings. They are established for our benefit, not our detriment. We should also pray for our Church’s leadership, from the pope on down, to be open faithfully and sensitively to the Holy Spirit’s guidance. It’s easy to criticize the pope. It’s harder to have faith and carry it out. Why should we care? Because in this instance, from today’s reading from Acts, if the Holy Spirit didn’t lead this Church’s teaching magisterium, we would not be here today. We who are Gentiles would have to comply with the added obstacle or burden of Jewish circumcision to receive Jesus’s salvation. We would not be here and have the opportunity and privilege of holding onto salvation and of clinging to Jesus. Remember, in this Church, only Jesus saves, no one else.
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