Growing up, we had seminarians from the major seminaries come to our parish during the summer holidays (long vacation) for their yearly apostolic work. We, the children in the catechism class, normally look forward to having them because they come with loads of stories and lessons apart from their friendly and playful dispositions. The sad part would be when they would end their apostolic work and leave the parish; we always had tears to shed, especially for the good ones.
I could still recall that when we go about in the parish church lamenting that the seminarians would be leaving us the priests would often calm us down by promising us that we would have better ones come again and they would teach us better things and tell us more beautiful stories. Those words often help to calm our agitated minds as we hope for fresh teachers and guides in the future.
From this opening story, one could imagine the amount of tension the apostles felt when our Lord Jesus Christ announced that he would be going away from them soon. The Gospel of John (16:6-7) reports the following response from our Lord to their agitation:
“But because I have said these things to you, sorrow has filled your hearts. Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.”
The liturgy of the word this Sunday introduces us to the person and mission of the Holy Spirit. After his earthly mission, our Lord Jesus Christ promises to send another advocate, the Holy Spirit, to consolidate his work in the community of believers and to be with them forever (John 14:16).
The First Reading today tells us about the resolution of one of the internal conflicts that confronted the early Christian community. Some people in the community were insisting that the mosaic circumcision must be a precondition for salvation and that brought a lot of misunderstanding in the early Church.
Being a delicate issue that could potentially cause disaffection and disintegration in the community, the apostles gathered together and sought the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Afterward, the council declares thus:
“It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities, namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, from unlawful marriage. If you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right. Farwell.”
From the above statement, we understand that the early Church was dependent on the Holy Spirit to make decisions. This point supports the words of our Lord Jesus Christ in the Gospel today where he says that the Holy Spirit will teach you everything and remind you of what I have told you (John 14:26).
At this point, the disciples may have forgotten that our Lord Jesus Christ broke the barriers separating the Jews and the Gentiles, the righteous, and the sinful. They may have forgotten that he converted a Samaritan woman by the well (John 4:7 ff). They may have forgotten that he brought salvation to the sinful tax collector, Zacchaeus (Luke 19:2-10). They could not remember that he cured the daughter of the Syrophoenician woman (Mark 7:25-30); surely, they needed the Holy Spirit to teach and remind them of all these.
Moving Forward: Giving Attention to Our Teacher and Guide
A good teacher with inattentive students would be running a chaotic class. Good students, on the other hand, display commendable traits which include the ability to pay attention to the teacher, understanding, and proper application of learning, which leads to success.
For us Christians, the Holy Spirits remains our ideal teacher and guide. The Christian life is impracticable and impossible without the Holy Spirit. Without Him, in our plans and aspirations, we make mistakes and fall short of our expectations. Imagine if the early Church had to decide on the admission of the uncircumcised in the community by themselves without the superlative direction of the Holy Spirit.
In our world today, we could see the obtrusion of teachers in various forms and shapes. We have some people who claim to know more than God Himself and leading gullible minds away. Some time ago, a preacher claimed to have a telephone number to heaven and placed a call as the service was going and making the helpless congregation to believe that he was talking to God. Today, most people pay more attention to electronic teachers like their television, telephones, and internet more than they would to the Holy Spirit. It is now more about what is in the news than what is in God’s word.
Our life on earth would become more worthwhile and spiritually effectual if we relied on the direction and guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is within us but mostly undiscovered and unserviced. As we march towards the celebration of the great descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, let us start refocussing our minds on the importance and necessity of the Holy Spirit as our teacher and guide.
God bless you and have a glorious Sunday and a wonderful week ahead.