thoughts and observations on the daily readings
Monday of the Fifth Week of Easter
Readings may be found here
Today in our Psalm, we pray, “not to us, O Lord, not to us, but to your name give the glory.” This Psalm of humble praise acknowledges our dependence upon Divine mercy and providence.
In the passage from John, we hear from Jesus about the promised gift of the Spirit. Here Jesus is speaking of His approaching departure and He is reassuring the disciples that He will remain present to them. The Spirit will continue to teach and guide them.
This is exactly what happens in the early Church as revealed by the Acts. Peter and Paul, among others, receive guidance by the Holy Spirit - and they teach, heal and minister by that same power.
As Paul’s Letter to the Corinthians also indicates, claims regarding gifts of the spirit also caused challenges to the early Church. Paul had to correct zealous individuals claiming the authority of the Holy Spirit for words and actions that enhanced their own reputation. Paul rejected these claims because they divided rather than united the Church.
Even in our own time, the nature of this gift of the Spirit may appear puzzling. There are sometimes tensions between what an individual might believe that they have learned by the power of the Spirit and the larger Church. How are we to reconcile that tension?
We might begin by noticing that when Jesus addresses His promise today, he speaks not to an individual, but to a plural “you” (“Y’all” in Southern parlance and “youse guys” in my native Brooklynese). He is speaking of a gift to the Body of Christ that is the Church. Among the Saints, there are certainly individuals who have been inspired by the Holy Spirit. But even these individual gifts, when authentic, work to build up rather than divide that Body of Christ. Even as Jesus makes His promise today, notice that the promise is linked to those who “keep His word.”
Consider this rather strong assertion from #738 of the catechism: “the Church's mission is not an addition to that of Christ and the Holy Spirit, but is its sacrament: in her whole being and in all her members, the Church is sent to announce, bear witness, make present, and spread the mystery of the communion of the Holy Trinity.” We are all, I pray, open to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, but the discernment of the authenticity of the Spirit belongs to the whole Church. For all gifts of the Spirit exist not to assert us or our authority, but the presence and goodness of God to Whom belongs glory forever and ever!