Today we see that God works through the Holy Spirit to lead the Church into all truth. If the Church is a ship guiding us across the seas of life to the everlasting shores of heaven, then our captain is the Holy Spirit, working through our Bishops. This guidance of the Holy Spirit is played out very clearly in the First Reading from Acts of the Apostles, where the Church must make perhaps the greatest decision it has ever had to: whether Christianity was one and the same with Judaism or whether it had developed from it organically into something new. The Council of Jerusalem (as this episode is sometimes called) ultimately determined that, in keeping with the preaching of Paul and Barnabas, it was not necessary to observe Jewish ritual practices.
As important as this decision is in itself, it is equally important for us how the decision was made: the apostles were sought out, and then met together to determine how God was working in the world.
CCC 76 In keeping with the Lord's command, the Gospel was handed on in two ways:
- orally "by the apostles who handed on, by the spoken word of their preaching, by the example they gave, by the institutions they established, what they themselves had received - whether from the lips of Christ, from his way of life and his works, or whether they had learned it at the prompting of the Holy Spirit";(DV 7)
- in writing "by those apostles and other men associated with the apostles who, under the inspiration of the same Holy Spirit, committed the message of salvation to writing". (DV 7)
And just as then, so also now do we need the Holy Spirit to guide the Church to answer the questions we have in our own time and place. We need the teaching authority of the Church, always subject to the work and direction of the Holy Spirit, to lead us into all truth as Jesus promised.
CCC 78 This living transmission, accomplished in the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it. Through Tradition, "the Church, in her doctrine, life and worship, perpetuates and transmits to every generation all that she herself is, all that she believes." (DV 8)
The Holy Spirit still guides and directs the Church today not only in these universal ways but also individually – according to our specific vocations, our roles in the Body of Christ. Today as we renew our Stewardship of Service, I invite Barb Williams to share with you how the Spirit has prepared, empowered, and invited her to serve the parish and wider community.