First – it’s best to plant your sweet potatoes the first week of April. T or F?
Second – Ben Franklin discovered electricity by flying a kite in a storm. T or F?
Third - when the Rapture comes we hope that WE are the ones left behind… T or F?
The purpose of this test is to show that it’s not always OBVIOUS what the right answer is. Sometimes, we lack the experience to know the answer for… for example, if you’ve never grown sweet potatoes in Southern Indiana, it would not be obvious to you that the 1st week of April is WAY too early to plant. In reality, the first of June or end of May is better.
Even if we have experience with something, it may be easy to THINK something is true, but it turns out to be completely false. For example – we were all taught that Ben Franklin flew a kite in a storm to discover electricity… it’s common knowledge, right? Well, the Mythbusters recently proved that Ben would have been dead if he had carried through on that experiment. So the answer to the first two questions is False.
What’s my point? Truth can be hard to recognize. Jesus told us in the gospel today that he would send the Holy Spirit to teach us and to remind us of all that he told us. In another passage it says – the Holy Spirit will ‘guide us to all truth’. How is that useful to us?
Well – remember when Lincoln said, ‘four score and seven years ago’… do you know what that meant? Many of us probably have a pretty good idea – because historians have preserved the history of the civil war. If not for historians, we couldn’t have learned about the battle of Gettysburg in grade school. If not for historians, we might not know what Lincoln was talking about – heck –without historians, we wouldn’t know anybody named Lincoln ever existed… much less that he opened his famous Gettysburg address with ‘four score and seven years ago’. Somebody had to write it down to preserve the truth.
Jesus knew that we would have a hard time remembering everything HE said – and even if we DID remember, we could easily get confused or wonder what He meant. So he sent the Holy Spirit to guide us – to teach us – to help us remember… in short - to guide us to understand the truth. Not what we THINK should be the truth – but what JESUS would say is the truth.
In that first reading, we have the first council of the Catholic Church…the council of Jerusalem. That was the first one – anybody remember when the latest one was?... Vatican II. Ever since the beginning of the church, whenever a disagreement arose about what Jesus said, or what he meant, or who he was… it has been common practice to ask for the wisdom of a council of bishops… and particularly… to the head of that council… the Pope. This council was within just 20 year of when Jesus died!
At this first council, the issue was whether or not you had to be circumcised in order to be a Christian. To the Jews, it seemed common knowledge…. Of COURSE you have to be circumcised, that’s the tradition we’ve had for centuries. But the first council of bishops said, ‘no’. THEY were the ones who had the authority to decide what Jesus would have wanted. We believe as Catholics that when the Bishops gather as the head of the church, they are guided by the Holy Spirit – and through their prayer and discernment – they guide US to the truth. We saw this very recently when the cardinals gathered to elect Pope Francis. We have faith that the Holy Spirit guided these leaders of the Church to this choice.
If not from the Holy Spirit…Where else are you going to find a pope? … our only hope is to put our trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit. But even in the smaller, everyday decisions each of us makes, we can let the spirit guide us. We don’t have to have a council to decide whether we should do something. That little voice inside of us called a conscience is our own ‘personal’ connection to the Holy Spirit.
We gotta be careful though – because only a well-formed conscience can guide us properly. It’s easy for us to believe something just because it’s ‘common knowledge’. For example – back to our last true/false question – when the Rapture comes we hope that WE are the ones left behind… true or false?
Well, Deacon Mike, everybody KNOWs that only the sinners are going to be left behind after the rapture.. so of COURSE we don’t want to be left. Is that what we’re thinking? Think again… this is a perfect example of where many people- including many Catholics… have been caught up by a lie. It’s a case where a false teaching – based on a false interpretation of scripture – has become culturally accepted and believed by most Christians. We found a copy of this movie ‘Left Behind’ in our library back there – which is based on what might happen after the Rapture. You know – I read the book, and honestly, it was very engaging and even inspiring to see people learning how to live as Christians and to put their trust in the Holy Spirit… but I had to keep reminding myself that the basis of the story is a false teaching… The Rapture is a false interpretation of scripture. I’m not telling you to avoid the book or the movie – but just be careful what information you let into your brain – what we let into our thoughts forms our conscience and can eventually lead us astray. Before we believe anything, we should check our source… what would the Church say is the truth? Maybe check the Catechism… the wisdom of 2000 years of the best minds in Christianity… guided by the Holy Spirit…has been combined into one handy little book. WhenEVER we hear something that doesn’t quite jive with the teachings of the Church, we’d better be questioning it… then asking the Holy Spirit to guide us to the truth.