Monday of the Seventh Week of Easter
(Acts 19:1-8; John 16:29-33)
What can it mean, “’We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit?’” Some may think of the Charismatic movement with its “Baptism in the Spirit” and opine that the majority of Christians do not really know the Holy Spirit because they do not speak in tongues or sway their arms in prayer. But more radically, never hearing of the Holy Spirit may refer to an insufficient appreciation of sanctifying grace, the work of the Spirit. It is a shortcoming just as prevalent today as it was in the beginning and perhaps throughout Church history.
In the days of St. Augustine a priest from Britain named Pelagius evidently taught that grace is not really necessary for eternal life. We say “evidently” because little of his writings remain. We can only surmise what Pelagius taught from what his critics, like Augustine and St. Jerome, wrote about him. However, these two scholars were so upset with Pelagius that his teachings must have been defective. According to our understanding today, Pelagius held that free will guided by Christ’s example is sufficient to overcome the pitfalls the world poses.
Such a concept conflicts with St. Paul’s teaching of Christ’s saving grace. Without such grace the strongest will falter and the weakest are lost from the start. With such grace everyone has hope. The grace, which we acclaim as “amazing,” should never be taken for granted.