Wednesday of the Fourth Week of Easter
Discernment and the Holy Spirit
But the word of God continued to spread and grow. After Barnabas and Saul completed their relief mission, they returned to Jerusalem … Now there were in the church at Antioch prophets and teachers: Barnabas, Symeon …, Lucius of Cyrene, Manaen who was a close friend of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul. While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the holy Spirit said, “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Then, completing their fasting and prayer, they laid hands on them and sent them off. Acts 12,24-13,3
How did the Holy Spirit manage to communicate to the brothers in the community of Antioch to preserve Barnabas and Saul for his plan? Almost certainly, He did not make his voice be heard as it had happened at Jesus’s baptism, when he came down in the form of a dove and the Father’s voice was heard saying: “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him”(Mt 17,5). Nothing is impossible to the Holy Spirit; nevertheless, the Spirit usually saves the exceptional ways to send men his messages for unique situations in the history of salvation. In those moments, he can also send an angel, as on the Annunciation to Mary or on the occasion of the announcement of the birth of the Saviour to the shepherds. It is the Spirit who chooses the ways and moments. Life, however, does not consist of a series of extraordinary moments: it is made of daily choices, for which Christians must discern God’s will. In every personal as well as community decision, there are several roads to take, but there is only one divine will. The brothers of the community of Antioch, of which today’s page from the Acts of the Apostles speaks, had gathered in abstinence from food for celebrating the Eucharist and probably to identify two people to devote to a particularly important mission. In such a circumstance, when a community or family gather in prayer to discern God’s will, the Holy Spirit plays his part and the brothers in faith and know it: for this reason, when they make their decision known, they can begin with the same words as in today’s page of the Acts: “The Holy Spirit said”. In moments of prayer and discernment, the Lord can enlighten any person, even the smallest one, and community leaders, who, in a family, are the parents, should be aware that the grace has been given to them to understand and decide within their responsibility. However, even if the Holy Spirit can enlighten anyone and the people in charge have the duty of leading the discussions, it is good that the discernment is eventually shared, because the Spirit blows on everyone.