Jesus reminds us that the Holy Spirit will guide us to the truth and will proclaim to us all things that were belong to Him. That's a beautiful promise that many of us have rejected or forgotten here two thousand years later. When we look around we find not just one Christian family, but over forty thousand Christian denominations. All of them claiming to be led by the Spirit, all of them claiming to know the truth, but all of them holding different beliefs. Just the other day a friend was telling me that at a church they had attended the Pastor had said that all of the miracles in the bible were not real, they legends. Then another Pastor at another church declared that Jesus did not actually die, but rather was in a state of deep sleep, a coma perhaps? We see the results of this fracture, this drifting from the truth handed on by the Apostles and protected by the Church Father's, throughout all of our societies today. From the people who protest military funerals and declare that God hates people who have same sex attraction, to those who say that everyone is saved and you can live whatever hedonistic lifestyle you want to live.
The Church has long taught that the fruit of the Spirit is a necessary sign of His presence in our Church. In the Morning Prayer of the Divine Office this morning one of the intercessions proclaims: "Come, Holy Spirit, that we may show your fruit in our lives: charity, joy, peace, equanimity, kindness, generosity, long-suffering, patience, faithfulness, modesty, self-control, and chastity." Isn't that a poignant reminder of what it means to be the body of Christ? It means to be one, just as Jesus and the Father are one. That's what we are to learn about the trinity. That they aren't struggling for glory and honor, but sharing in it. They aren't breaking ranks to form their own godhead, but rather are one God.
When I grew up as a Protestant, I began to realize that something was amiss. As I shopped churches looking for the one that had the truth, I watched as people left one church to form another over some of the most interesting things. At one point I watched as a church split because one preacher said it was OK to smoke and the other felt it was a sin.. so the congregation split too forming another church just down the road. Everything else was the same... but that one thing. Then I sat and listened to that man preach about the ills of tobacco smoke while he spit in a cup from his 'chaw.' I journeyed from the Baptist faith that I had grown up around into the Pentecostal arena and listened to people shout out in tongues and fall out in the spirit. I was even known to speak tongues and raise my hands while shouting Amen to the preachers message. Then one day I sat down because I didn't feel God in it. Someone turned around demanding to know what was wrong.. and I said nothing, and he declared I was no longer saved because I didn't speak tongues anymore.
"Now there are a variety of gifts, but the same Spirit, and a varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of working, but it is the same God who inspires them all in everyone." God decides where He goes and whom He saves. I truly believe that. I do not know who will be in Heaven with me, but I imagine that there are going to be some Catholics who are truly surprised when they come face to face with some Protestants who also will be in wonder. Then there will be others whom we expected to be there and we will look down in sadness at their condition. What I do know without a shadow of a doubt is that Jesus left us a Church to guide us. That Church wrote the New Testament scriptures themselves. Yes, God can go outside of the ordinary means of salvation to save anyone he chooses, but if you're standing in a desert with a water fountain next to you, do you take a drink? Or stumble through the hot sands hoping to find a drop somewhere else? The Church is that fountain... God has given Peter the keys to the vault of grace and mercy, and it's available to every person who seeks it in earnest.
It's time for us to stop trying to write our own Gospel and be united. One faith, one baptism, one Church. Jesus asked his Apostles to do just that, he prayed that they might become one, as He and the Father were one. What is the bond that connects the Father and the Son? It's the Holy Spirit. It's love. Jesus then breathed on his Apostle's and sent them on a mission to evangelize the world. In the words of Saint Athanasius written in the 6th century (which may seem harsh to some):
It will not be out of place to consider the ancient tradition, teaching and faith of the Catholic Church, which was revealed by the Lord, proclaimed by the apostles and guarded by the fathers. For upon this faith the Church is built, and if anyone were to lapse from it, he would no longer be a Christian either in fact or in name.
It's time to come home.
His servant and yours,
"He must increase, I must decrease."