In his catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles during the weekly general audience, Pope Francis says the Holy Spirit gives Christians courage and “the art of discernment” in the face of difficulties.
By Devin Watkins
Pope Francis began by reflecting on the courage shown by the Apostles when they were dragged before the Sanhedrin to stand trial for preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ (Acts 5:34-35,38,39) .
He said they spoke with conviction and with one voice in the face of their accusers, who wanted to imprison them and stop the spread of the Gospel.
‘Megaphone’ of the Holy Spirit
The key to their courage, the pope said, is the Holy Spirit.
“The Apostles become the ‘megaphone’ of the Holy Spirit, sent by the Risen One to spread quickly and without hesitation the Word that brings salvation,” he said.
Pope Francis said these same men acted like “cowards” when Jesus faced similar circumstances. After Pentecost, however, they were completely changed and propelled forward.
“The same thing happens to us: if we have the Holy Spirit within us, we will have the courage to fight, to win countless battles – not by our own strength but by the Holy Spirit who is with us. “
Next, the pope recalled the 21 Coptic Orthodox Christians – construction workers from Egypt – who were martyred for their faith in 2015 on a beach in Libya, at the hands of the so-called Islamic State.
“Their last word was ‘Jesus, Jesus’. They did not deny their faith, for the Holy Spirit was with them. Modern martyrs,” he said.
The art of discernment
Pope Francis then reflected on the wise words of the highly esteemed Doctor of Law, Gamaliel. He urged the Sanhedrin to let the Apostles go, saying that “if this enterprise is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you cannot destroy them; you might even find yourself fighting God.
The Pope called his attitude “the art of discernment”.
“Every human project can be approved first and eventually be wrecked,” he said. “But anything that comes from above and bears the ‘signature’ of God is meant to last.”
The test of time
The Holy Father invited everyone to reflect on the many empires, dictatorships and political projects that have been abandoned throughout history. “Everyone fell apart,” he said.
But Christianity, he noted, has stood the test of time, despite scandal and sin.
“God is with us,” said Pope Francis. “God saves us first, then them. But the Lord always saves. Our strength is God-with-us.