The Spirit Comes to Liberate Us and Give Us Peace

05-22-2022Weekly ReflectionFr. Anthony Okolo, CSSp

The Easter season is gradually winding down and some of the readings will be focused on the events before the Pentecost. Luke tells us in the first reading, “It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us not to place on you any burden beyond these necessities namely, to abstain from meat sacrificed to idols, from blood, from meat strangled animal and from unlawful marriage if you keep free of these, you will be doing what is right”. There was a problem between the Jewish Christians and the Gentiles in the early life of the church. The first group of people who became Christians were the Jews and they came into Christianity with their Jewish tradition, customs and rituals. When the Gentiles, who are not conversant with the Jewish tradition, started believing in Jesus the Jews wanted them to observe all the Jewish traditions and the Mosaic law.

Thus, the Jewish Christians wanted the imposition of the Mosaic practices of circumcision on the Gentile Christians who are ignorant of such Mosaic customs. As a result, they debated on which customs and rituals should be adopted. After a long debate on the issue, they came to an agreement that the Gentile Christians should not be burdened with the practice of circumcision, but rather they would focus on what are the essential elements of being a Christian. This could be called the first ecumenical council to resolve issues of disagreement within the early church community. The resolution adopted by the apostles demonstrates that Christianity is not a set of rules and legislations or principles, but a life centered on the person of Jesus Christ who rose from the dead and this is the most essential thing. It further enlightens us on how to resolve issues of differences and division within a Christian community as attention should be on what would bring liberation and not burden to the Christian community. The apostles focused on not burdening the Gentile Christians with unnecessary Mosaic regulation which could become an obstacle to their acceptance of the gospel message. In our lives it would be necessary to evaluate if our decisions on others aim at liberating them or creating more problems for the people. The humility of those whose views were not carried along, but accepted the decision is also a lesson for us. This could only work well when we allow the Holy Spirit to guide our deliberations.

As we gradually come to the end of the Easter season, the gospel presents us with events before the Pentecost. We had no details in the scriptures of what Jesus' teachings were during these periods leading to Pentecost Sunday. That is the reason the reading of the last supper before his death suites Him well in this moment. Thus, Jesus reiterates the strong connection between love and obedience. The passage opens with the following words from Jesus “whoever loves me will keep my word.” He goes on to offer a great reward that “whoever keeps His word, would be loved by His father.” In other words, to keep His words would equally attract the love of the Father and Him (Jesus) to that person. Not stopping at that, Jesus further says, whoever keeps His words which are proof of His love, that Him and His Father, will come to dwell on the person. The experience of enjoying the presence of God begins in this world when we love Him and keep His words, then He fills us with the presence of Himself and the Father. As this may not be very easy, He assures us of the Holy Spirit who will teach us and assist us to keep His words. “Therefore, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit we are assured of the power that would enable us to keep His words.”

Finally, Jesus then goes further to offer His followers a peace that goes beyond the ordinary peace of the world. “The peace is shalom, the right relationship that flows from our loving union with God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit makes connections, establishes unlikely partnerships and breaks barriers between people. If we are open & welcoming to the Spirit, advocacy for this is in us.”

Fr. Tony