First Reading: Acts 14:5-18
Responsorial Psalm: Ps. 113B(115):1-4,15-16
Gospel Reading: John 14:21-26
It is quite unfortunate, today, that the principal task of the Holy Spirit is reduced to healing, speaking in tongues and casting out demons alone. This misconception gets worse when the people of God see the priests or pastors who are into healing and deliverance ministries as powerful men of God, while the rest are not. While in Nigeria, I have had several encounters with some persons who asked whether I belong to the “Holy Ghost Fathers”; and whenever I answer in the negative, I see the reaction on their faces accompanied with statements like “oh no…the Holy Ghost Fathers are powerful priests filled with the Holy Spirit and power (i.e, fire for fire priests).” I came to understand that most of them attribute the phrase “Holy Ghost Fathers” to any priest capable of healing, casting out demons, speaking in tongues, etc. With this, I kept wondering who misled the people this way. However, we must know the solemn truth, and it is this: the Holy Spirit is not only needed to heal the sick, deliver or cast out demons and speak in tongues; nevertheless, the Holy Spirit functions principally as the greatest Teacher and Guide of the Church.
The reference to the Holy Spirit as the Principal Teacher and Guide of the Church is found in Christ’s statement in today’s Gospel: “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything and remind you of all I have said to you.” This task of teaching the people is the basic mandate of the Church in making disciples of all nations (winning souls for God), as Christ also stated in Matthew 28:18 – “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, make disciples of all nations; baptise them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teach them to observe all the commands I gave you.” Similarly, in 1John 2:27, St. John attributes the anointing (of the Holy Spirit) as our Teacher. Thus, the Church firmly believes in this divine mandate of teaching, little wonder it attributes to the Holy Spirit as the One who guides and inspires the Magisterium, the living teaching office and authority of the Church (cf. CCC #85-86)
It will be disastrous to the community to concentrate alone on healing or deliverance without taking out time to teach the people of God the truth because the people might be easily carried away with the healing/deliverance and eventually be led astray and do the wrong thing. The experience of Paul and Barnabas in the first reading explains this truth. Here, Luke tells us that Paul was preaching to the people of Lystra and Derbe and in the surrounding country; and when Paul performed a miracle by healing a crippled man from birth, the people misunderstood Paul and Barnabas as gods and wanted to offer them sacrifice. Nevertheless, it took Paul and Barnabas extra efforts in tearing their clothes, rushing into the crowds and shouting in making them understand that they were humans like them and Messengers of the Good News. In the end, we are told that even Paul’s speech was scarcely enough to stop the crowd offering them sacrifice.
Unfortunately, unlike Paul and Barnabas, many ‘Men of God’ today have succeeded in misleading and confusing their followers and making them believe that they are the “assistant Messiah” (gods of men) through the miracles they claim to have performed. They have failed in making their followers realize that miracles are directly from God (that God alone must take the glory) and that they (pastors) are humans like their followers. Today, many gullible Christians would gladly consume faeces, grasses, acid, etc., because their religious leaders ask them to do so. Some would even go as far as rolling or laying on the ground for their pastors to walk on them, because for them, their pastors are semi-divine (assistant God). This happens because they have failed in their responsibility to teach the people the right thing; rather, all they think is how to go extra lengths to perform miracles in making them look divine for the people. Therefore, today’s message is for us (religious leaders of today) to see ourselves primarily as messengers of the Good News as Paul and Barnabas demonstrated in the first reading, and attribute divine interventions worked through us as solely the work of God, and not ours; just as the Psalmist of today teaches: “Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give the glory”
© Fr. Chinaka Justin Mbaeri, OSJ
Paroquia Nossa Senhora de Fatima, Vila Sabrina, São Paulo, Brazil
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