THEME: LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT!
READINGS: Acts 10:25–26, 34–35, 44–48 / 1 John 4:7–10/ John 15: 9–17
6th Sunday of Easter
Today’s first reading (taking from Acts 10) mentions the Roman soldier, Cornelius, who was led by the Holy Spirit. Let us consider what “led by the Holy Spirit” means, and then illustrate it with the story of Cornelius.
A study of the fifth chapter of St. Paul’s Letter to Galatians gives us a good understanding of what to be led by the Holy Spirit means. Firstly, St. Paul admonishes us to “live by the Spirit,” so that we “do not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal. 5:16). That is, if we live by the Spirit, He will enable us to overcome the temptations to sin.
Secondly, how does the Spirit enable us to overcome temptations? The Spirit, according to St. Paul, does so by guiding us: “If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25).
Thirdly, how do we know that we are following the lead of the Spirit? Again, according to St. Paul, when we are led by the Spirit, we, on the one hand, do not give in to the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21); and, on the other hand, we exhibit the fruit of the Spirit: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23). This is, however, not an exhaustive list of the multifaceted fruit of the Spirit. Here are other facets of the fruit of the Spirit: worshipping the only true God, being prayerful and devout, leading a good lifestyle, having a reverential fear of God, etc.
Now, scanning through Acts 10, we find that Cornelius demonstrated some of the facets of the fruit of the Spirit, even before he experienced the external manifestation of the Spirit and was subsequently baptized.
Firstly, even at a time when Cornelius – a Gentile – did not know Jesus as the Saviour of the world, he worshipped the only true God (Acts 10:1-4). Thus, unknowingly, Cornelius followed the ‘lead’ of the Spirit.
Secondly, he was a man of prayer (Acts 10:1-5), who fasted occasionally (Acts 10:30). This was certainly inspired by the Spirit, who enables us to pray (Rom. 8:15-16, 26-27).
Thirdly, Cornelius was a man who loved to help the poor (Acts 10:2, 4). God is love and He has shown us His love by offering His only Son. God, in turn, commands us to love one another (cf. 1 John 4: 7–10). This commandment of love is repeated twice in today’s gospel reading (cf. John 15: 9–17). And a practical way to show love to another person who is in need is to give him/her alms. It was therefore certainly the Spirit of God who led Cornelius to be charitable to the poor.
Fourthly, generally, the Jews in those days did not have a cordial relationship with the Romans who had occupied the Holy Land. In that situation, therefore, it is amazing that Cornelius had a good reputation even among the Jews (Acts 10:22). There should be no doubt that the lifestyle of Cornelius by which he won the hearts of the Jews was inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Furthermore, Cornelius was “a devout man and one who feared God” (Acts 10:2). He might have even influenced some of his subordinate Roman soldiers to worship Yahweh (cf. Acts 10:7). Certainly, only a person led by the Spirit can lead others to the Living God.
Thus, through the worship of the only true God, prayer and fasting, works of charity, good lifestyle, attracting souls for God, devotion to and fear of God, among others, the Holy Spirit led Cornelius even when he did not know Him. Eventually, the Spirit manifested His hitherto “hidden” presence in the life of Cornelius, as St. Peter preached the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ. That is, the power of the Spirit descended upon Cornelius and his household, and they spoke in tongues and praised God. As a result, they were baptized (cf. Acts 10:44-48).
Beloved, when someone is leading us to a destination, we may walk behind him/her or walk abreast of the person. In this respect, we could say that Cornelius started walking far behind the Holy Spirit, but he eventually reached the point of walking abreast of the Holy Spirit. The question, therefore is: where are we in our walk with the Spirit? Yes, many of us started walking with the Spirit even as infants when we were baptized. So, are we still walking abreast of the Spirit? In other words, are we exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit in our lives? Or have we lost track of the lead of the Spirit, like losing a friend who is driving another car ahead of us in a heavy traffic?
Beloved, to conclude:
- I pray that, if we have lost sight of the Spirit, probably because we are not even doing half of what the yet-to-be-Christian Cornelius was doing, the Spirit will give us a fresh start; like a friend who drives his car off the road to wait for us to catch up with him/her, so may the Spirit of God give us the opportunity to catch up
- If we have not lost sight of the Spirit but we are far behind His “lead”, then, I pray that He will enable us to double up our steps by doing all that Cornelius did; and
- If we are already walking abreast of the Spirit, then, I pray that we will begin to walk hand-in-hand, by opening up more and more to the enlightenment and unconditional love that He pours out into our hearts. Amen.
By Very Rev. Fr. John Louis