“‘We must obey God rather than men!’”
How does the Church need the Gift of the Holy Spirit today? Baptism is not a private experience. It washes away not only one’s own personal sins, but also the sin of Adam and Eve. That original sin has been shared among all members of the human race (except two) through all generations. And just as this washing away of death is both personal and communal, so is the bringing of new life. The individual finds his salvation through his membership in the Body of Christ.
This Church, the Body of Christ, is the answer to the questions raised in today’s readings. In the Gospel passage, Jesus explains that there’s a difference between the type of person who speaks of earthly things, and the type of person who speaks of God. Peter himself, the first visible head of the Church, says ultimately the same thing in Acts. In front of Jewish officials, Peter offers an explanation for the apostles disobeying the officials: “We must obey God rather than men!” But these officials were supposed to be the representatives of God!
Like the person of Jesus Christ, true God and true man, it’s easy to become confused about the nature of the Church. Who, as a member of the Church, speaks merely as a human, and who speaks for God? For those of us who are looked upon as “representatives” of the Church, we know how easily our offenses can be taken as the offenses of the Church, and certainly if this confusion is sometimes a mistake, it is also at times taken correctly.
The Church can give offense through her sinful members. From the day of Pentecost, the Church has not been perfect. As we prepare ourselves for the celebration of Pentecost, we beg the Holy Spirit for those gifts that will allow us to be seen as pure icons of our Crucified and Risen Lord.