Summary: “the absence of the Holy Spirit in the Church creates all the divisions.”
Thursday of the 21st Week in Course 2017
Paul’s first letter to the church in Thessalonika is likely the earliest letter we have from him. He and his band of missionaries are on his second missionary journey, one that took him to western Anatolia and Greece. The church in Thessalonika was his first community in Europe, and at this point it was very young, enthusiastic, and hungry for teaching. So Paul sent Timothy back to strengthen and encourage them. This was particularly important because preachers of all kinds of religions were going all over, looking for recruits and donors. Moreover, many of the Thessalonikans were converts from Judaism, and the Jews were hounding and persecuting them because they embraced this new Way of Christ. Paul’s words here are encouraging. He is gathering as many believers as he can and exhorting them to remain as one community, so that all could some day be gathered into the kingdom of Our Lord. As St. Matthew says, we all have to be ready for the unknown moment when the Lord will come. We will all have to account for our stewardship of the many graces with which He has saturated us.
St. Paul’s communities were Spirit-filled, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit were being exercised. They are for the upbuilding of the Church, and they are attractive to those who are spiritually malnourished. Some, like the gifts of tongues and miracles, are pretty spectacular. Others, like discernment of spirits and healing, are more subtle. They are also more important, because if someone claims to say something under inspiration, how otherwise would we know that they are true, or just making it up?
I found a passage in Cardinal Sarah’s recent book on silence that says it very well: “the absence of the Holy Spirit in the Church creates all the divisions.” He also says about people who divide: “in their imagination and in disregard of the will that intends that we be one, some men, on their own initiative, create their own churches, their own theologies, and their own beliefs, which in fact are only petty subjective opinions. The Holy Spirit has no opinions. He only repeats what Christ taught us in order to lead us to the whole truth.”
“Truth?” Pilate asked, “What is that?” Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. Satan began his conquest of the newly-born humans with a lie: “did God command you not to eat from any of the garden’s trees?” Eve responds by saying that God forbade even touching the fruit, another lie. All the lies led to the fall of humans from grace, and in His mercy, after a promise of a Savior, He stationed the fearsome cherubim to guard the way to the tree of life. So Jesus’s words, that He is the way, the truth, and the life reverses the curse of Eden.
How do we know what is true doctrine, and what is false? True spirit-inspired teaching simply repeats, perhaps in new ways, “what Christ taught us in order to lead us to the whole truth.” The whole Truth, however, is not a list of statements or commands, but rather is a person, the Second Person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ Himself.