When the Holy Spirit speaks through an human agent, how do we know the Holy Spirit is speaking and not someone or something else?Let's frame the question.
In the wake of the Amoris Laetitia debate, more than a few have claimed that the Holy Spirit has spoken through Pope Francis' exhortation.
The following thoughts, while not exhausting the number of criteria by which one might accurately measure the merit or orientation of what is being spoken, might serve to enhance one's awareness to a degree that enables a more effective discernment between truth and fiction, and thus help one avoid being conned by pseudo-christian mouthpieces who claim divine inspiration and thereby attempt to avoid the responsibility to defend what humble folk, well formed in the Faith, consider bunk.
"(T)hose who believe in Christ know the Spirit because he dwells with them."Those who aspire to "see" and "hear" with the eyes and ears of the Holy Spirit had best dispose themselves to His presence. How? Fasting, prayer, abstaining and almsgiving, immersion in Holy Scripture, for starters. Staying close to Jesus in the Holy Eucharist is recommended by Holy Mother Church, for those who so do are close to the very "source and summit of the Christian life" (Lumen Gentium 11), and that is not a bad place to be. And,... one should remember: the gifts of the Holy Spirit are gifts from God, not things we can produce in ourselves by any mechanical means, e.g., by highly questionable practices such as Centering Prayer or some exotic Pelagian practice.
Once you have surrendered yourself, you make yourself receptive. In receiving from God, you are perfected and completed.―Fulton J. Sheen, Seven Words of Jesus and Mary: Lessons from Cana and CalvaryNo prophet worth his salt would stand up to scrutiny if he didn't practice self forgetfulness and, with God's help, empty himself of a subtle spiritual pride so that he could be filled up with the Holy Spirit.
Far better it is for you to say: "I am a sinner," than to say: "I have no need of religion." The empty can be filled, but the self-intoxicated have no room for God.—Fulton J. Sheen, Seven Words of Jesus and Mary: Lessons from Cana and CalvaryFurthermore, what kind of saint demands that God give him the gift of prophecy or tongues or any gift? It is one thing to beseech God with a humble heart for the skills needed to carry out Christ's mission. It is, however, misguided to seek the gifts of God and not seek God Himself. Think for a moment: do we want someone to love us merely for what we give them, or do we desire to have people love us for who we are? Jesus wants us, our entire being, not just some little part that we feel comfortable giving Him. Jesus gives us His Body and Blood (Soul and Divinity!) to eat and drink to draw us into His embrace. What may we offer Him?
I had to ponder those words for a moment, for I am surely guilty of giving God less than my all and serving Him with only half a heart.
A small (i.e., stingy) gift to God is a sign that our trust in Him is far too small and our attachment to lesser gods too big.
Let us give ourselves to the consideration of three criteria that may enable people to better recognize the voice of the Holy Spirit.
The voice of the Holy Spirit is characterized by... .
- Amazing clarity.
- Amazing charity.
- Amazing parity.
For example, the teaching of Thomas Aquinas.
The Truth is clear, unvarnished, not necessarily simple but not convoluted.
The Truth is not subject to feelings. Feelings have their place, but are not good for judging between the Truth and fiction because feelings are fleeting and tend to attach to the easy route. The Truth is not fleeting, nor is it an easy route. The Truth is, contrary to the universalist heresy, a narrow gate. The burden is made light when we allow Christ to find a home in our souls. Truth blinds those, however, who have not the grace of God to see. What makes people blind? Arrogance, conceit, pride.
Saint Thomas, by his example and certainly his writings, has taught us many things, not the least of which is that faith, while above reason (which has its limits) is ultimately reasonable. We Catholics are not to abandon reason in our quest for the Truth.
Charlatans get quite angry when challenged to demonstrate the reasonability of a given proposition. Theologians should not get bent out of shape if the demands of reason impose upon them the necessity of proving their thinking within the freeing confines of the Christian revelation.
For example, the witness of Saint Teresa of Calcutta.
What was holy yesterday is holy today. The saints are windows into the working of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit enables people to live heroic lives in grace-filled service to God and neighbour.
That which elevates does not excuse error but rather disposes the person to the grace of God Who makes possible the embrace of His truth. Anything or anyone who says or does something which leads us away from the obligation to live as Christ taught us, which is conformity to His design for us that leads to life eternal, they are neither speaking with charity nor parity with the word of God.
Authentic charity and mercy call us to live with the dignity of sons of God, made in the image and likeness of God. We may fall again and again, but the Lord has given us the Sacrament of Penance to help us return to Him and to live in self sacrificing service to others.
Today’s readings (Dec. 14th) reveal that no matter how far we have run or how many times we have turned away (as Israel had done), He will never abandon us, never forget about us, and loves to wow us with His abundance. All we are asked to do is turn, receive, trust, follow, and repeat. Turn towards Him, receive His love, trust that He’s God, and follow where He leads. Simple, but not easy.—Ennie Hickman at uCatholic.
That is, agreement or continuity with the received teaching of the Church.
As mentioned above, Truth is not fleeting, it is permanent. We may gain new insights into the Truth, but what was true yesterday is true today and for all time. What is true tomorrow must not contradict what was true yesterday.
Any one (pope or priest or layman) who, or any thing which, purports to be of God yet leads people into discontinuity with Tradition, i.e., the received and revealed teaching of salvation in Christ, is not of God.
The Holy Spirit does not innovate nor contradict Himself. Liturgical customs can and do change, but liturgical norms that preserve the dignity of the Mass do not change. Some customs are so integral to the Sacred Liturgy that to change or remove them is to damage the very fabric of the Mass. If people's faith in the Mass changes, say for example in the Real Presence, then whatever changes have been instituted should be rejected and repealed. Enabling error is the first sign that someone or something is not of God.
But even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we preached to you, let him be accursed.
2 Corinthians 11:4-5
For if some one comes and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? So, every sound tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears evil fruit. A sound tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.
CCC 687 "No one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God." Now God's Spirit, who reveals God, makes known to us Christ, his Word, his living Utterance, but the Spirit does not speak of himself. The Spirit who "has spoken through the prophets" makes us hear the Father's Word, but we do not hear the Spirit himself. We know him only in the movement by which he reveals the Word to us and disposes us to welcome him in faith. The Spirit of truth who "unveils" Christ to us "will not speak on his own." Such properly divine self-effacement explains why "the world cannot receive [him], because it neither sees him nor knows him," while those who believe in Christ know the Spirit because he dwells with them.
Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, General Audience of Wednesday, 13 April 2011
"The saints expressed in various ways the powerful and transforming presence of the Risen One. They let Jesus so totally overwhelm their life that they could say with St Paul “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Gal 2:20). Following their example, seeking their intercession, entering into communion with them, “brings us closer to Christ, so our companionship with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from their fountain and head issue every grace and the life of the People of God itself” (cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, n. 50).
At the end of this series of Catecheses, therefore, I would like to offer some thoughts on what holiness is. What does it mean to be holy? Who is called to be holy? We are often led to think that holiness is a goal reserved for a few elect. St Paul, instead, speaks of God’s great plan and says: “even as he (God) chose us in him [Christ] before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him” (Eph 1:4). And he was speaking about all of us. At the centre of the divine plan is Christ in whom God shows his Face, in accord with the favour of his will. The Mystery hidden in the centuries is revealed in its fullness in the Word made flesh. And Paul then says: “in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell” (Col 1:19)
The Second Vatican Council, in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, speaks with clarity of the universal call to holiness, saying that no one is excluded: “The forms and tasks of life are many but holiness is one — that sanctity which is cultivated by all who act under God’s Spirit and… follow Christ, poor, humble and cross-bearing, that they may deserve to be partakers of his glory” (Lumen Gentium, n. 41)"
The Holy Spirit provides us with amazing clarity, charity and parity by bringing our understanding of God's will, God's truth and God's love to fruition in us.
As Christians, we can express nothing less than profound gratitude to God for His merciful care of His children. That gratitude is itself a gift of God. How does gratitude express itself in return? Selfless service through which God draws people closer and closer to Himself. Authentic gratitude is fruitful.
And calling to him a child, (Jesus) put him in the midst of them, and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child, he is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.—St. Matthew 18:2-4