First Reading : ( Acts 2:1-11 ) : The
descent of the Holy Spirit
“I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth.” (Jn 16:12-13) The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth. He comes to help us understand Truth, accept it and live by it. That the Holy Spirit could come more quickly to the apostles, Jesus even said, “It is to your ‘advantage’ that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Advocate will not come to you.” (Jn 16:7)
My father died when I was 9 years old. One day I had to take my 7-year-old sister from the little village of Tai O to the big city of Hong Kong to visit my aunt on Kau Kong St, in Sham Shui Po, Kowloon. We lost our way and both of us were very afraid. I really wanted to cry but I noticed my sister started to cry first. I knew I couldn't cry, dared not cry and had to force myself to remain calm. Because although I had no one to rely on, there was someone else relying on me.
From that day on I have walked a path of self-reliance, relying on
myself alone in order to protect others. I had to be independent and
strong myself, I would not have a father to rely on again. In this way
the early death of my father was a blessing from God. It helped me from
early on to know I must cultivate a strong, self-reliant character.
But unfortunately those were not the apostles' own answers! They found it difficult to apply the answers to their own lives. Even less did they know how to apply them to other concrete situations, or adapt or change them to fit different kinds of circumstances. When they had difficulties, they had turned to Jesus. Jesus would comfort, encourage and support them. But when Jesus was no longer by their side, they probably did not know how to comfort or encourage themselves individually or each other; even less know how to comfort, encourage and support others.
A church whose center is Christ is mainly a visible church. 2000 years ago that church had Jesus; today it has the pope, bishops and priests. They have become the ones upon whom Catholics rely. 2000 years ago, while Jesus was present, it was hard for the apostles to become mature; today, 2000 years later, Catholics sometimes find it difficult to mature in the faith themselves because they are too dependent on the hierarchy!
When Jesus was no longer present, the apostles had no one on whom to depend, so they had to rely on themselves and on each other. Therefore, when a problem arose about whether or not all the faithful should be circumcised, they called the first Council in the history of the church, the Council of Jerusalem. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, they had to solve the problem themselves. (cf. Acts, chap. 15).
Earlier, Jesus had said to them, “I have said these things to you while I am still with you. But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and ‘remind’ you of all that I have said to you.” (Jn. 14:25-26). The Holy Spirit will teach us everything, reveal everything to us, and ‘remind’ us of all that Jesus taught us.
When we are in a specific situation we must use our own wisdom. Inspired by the spirit of Christ and the movement of the Spirit, we must consider, judge and make a decision, and then take responsibility for the results. Then Jesus' teaching becomes part of our thinking and helps us solve the problem. Actually, what belonged to Jesus has become part of ourselves! We have become mature!
Our church is a church with Jesus at the centre. It also is a church which is moved by the Holy Spirit. We must find a balance between these two.
Wong Chong in the ‘Analects’ said, “The way to learning is not fearing inaptitude. The difficulty lies in resisting the teacher, examining the meaning of the way, and proving whether it is true or not.” (1) ‘Resisting the teacher’ means to debate with the teacher, ‘examining the way’ means to critically assess the theories that have been learned and verify them with facts, then live them out in our lives.
Mencius also said, “When a carpenter teaches how to bend wood to make chairs, he can teach the principles but he cannot make people skillful.”(2) That is, carpenters can teach another the principles of carpentry but they cannot make one a highly skillful carpenter. For that one must actually take up the trade, immerse oneself in it and learn the skills gradually.
Jesus gave us rules and the way but only the Holy Spirit can help us learn the necessary skills!
Jesus' church asks us to listen, the church of the Holy Spirit asks us to think. With both of these together we will have a healthy and mature church.