Test the Spirits!


Beloved, do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God, and every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus does not belong to God. This is the spirit of the antichrist that, as you heard, is to come, but in fact is already in the world. You belong to God, children, and you have conquered them, for the One who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They belong to the world; accordingly, their teaching belongs to the world, and the world listens to them. We belong to God, and anyone who knows God listens to us, while anyone who does not belong to God refuses to hear us. This is how we know the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of deceit.  I John 4:1-6          

What a section of scripture to wrestle over, right? I mean, this is pretty straight forward stuff, right? If anyone acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh, he belongs to God, right? If they don’t they don’t, right?

If you will allow me to take a bit of liberty here, I would like to explore this section of scripture in a different way. A way you may never have looked at it before. I certainly had not.

Test the spirits; every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God.  

It hit me when reading a St. Agustine homily (VI,12) about half-way into point 12, he states: “Then is the spirit that is among the heretics of God, seeing they ‘confess that Jesus Christ came in the flesh’?” He then goes on to name some heresies. The Arians, Eunomians, Macedonians,Cataphryges and Novatians. He then goes on: “Then have all these heresies the Spirit of God? Are they then no false prophets? Is there then no deception there, no seduction there? Assuredly they are antichrists, for’ they went out from us, but were not of us’.” St. Agustine then in point 13 of the same homily, concludes,” Thou sayest with the voice, deniest with the heart; sayest in words, deniest in deeds.” His point? ” For thine own honor dividest unity.”

This got me thinking of todays Christian heresies. Who is it, these days, that denies Christ come in the flesh?

It is every one who “went out from us, but were not of us” (the apostolic teachers) and denies “Christ come in the flesh” in the Eucharist.

If anyone other than St. John himself had written this letter, I might not have looked at it this way. In John’s gospel, chapter 6, Jesus says,”Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves.” This was a “hard statement; who can listen to it?” Many of His disciples “withdrew and were not walking with Him anymore.”

I see the division and then, the denial. The division comes from not accepting the Apostolic teaching! The teaching that has remained the same, since the very beginning. Once broken off from the ” One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church” it’s open, for free lance interpretation by anyone in any way they please. It reminds me of St. Paul’s letter to St. Timothy (II Tim. 3:5) warning him about the last days: “..having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof..” Could this be the denial of the power of the Holy Spirit, transforming the bread and the wine into the Body and Blood of Christ? It very well could be!

Again, I have taken some liberties in the interpretation of this passage. To my knowledge, the Church has never interpreted this passage this way, nor may it ever. So while it may not be in the realm of strict Catholic Magisterial teaching, it is within the guidelines of personal and/or spiritual interpretation that leads me to a greater love of God, and of my neighbor.I urge us all to seek Christ in the miracle that is the Eucharist, and to bring those who “went out from us” back home.

This week, let us pray and work for unity. Also for  an increase in our love for God and neighbor.

Amen.

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