Christian identity comes from Holy Spirit, not ‘theology degrees’

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Vatican City, Sep 2, 2014 / 09:04 am (CNA/EWTN News).- A Christian earns his ability to speak with authority from the Holy Spirit, not from a theology degree, Pope Francis said during his daily Mass at the Vatican's Saint Martha Residence Sept. 2.

Reflecting on the Gospel reading for the day, the Pope noted how those who heard Jesus were amazed by his teaching because his word “had authority.”

Jesus was not a “commonplace preacher,” the Holy Father said, because his “authority” came from a “special anointing of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus is the “Son of God, anointed and sent out” to “bring salvation, to bring freedom.” Pope Francis added that there were those who were “scandalized” by his style of preaching.

“We, too, can ask ourselves: what is our identity as Christians?”

Turning to the first reading off the day, the Pope cited Saint Paul, saying that we do not speak of these things “with words evoked by human wisdom.”

Saint Paul did not preach because he took a course at a pontifical university, such as the Lateran or the Gregorian, Pope Francis said. The source of his preaching was “the Holy Spirit,” not human wisdom.

A person might have five theology degrees, the Holy Father said, but not have the Spirit of God. “Perhaps you will be a great theologian, but you are not a Christian, because you do not have the Spirit of God! That which gives authority, that which gives you your identity and the Holy Spirit, the anointing of the Holy Spirit.”

“Paul preached with the anointing of the Holy Spirit,” the Pope said, “expressing spiritual things of the Spirit, in spiritual terms. Man, left to his own devises, cannot comprehend the things of the Spirit of God. Man alone cannot understand this!”

The Pope observed that we often encounter people who are simple – for instance, old ladies who, perhaps, never finished primary school – yet have a greater knowledge of theology than others because they have the Spirit of Christ, as Saint Paul did.

“If we Christians do not understand the things of the Spirit well,” he said, “if we do not give or offer a witness, then we lack identity.” Those who do not have this identity see the things of the Spirit as “foolishness,” and lack the “capacity to understand them.”

In contrast, one who is moved by the spirit “judges everything: he is free,” and no one can judge him.

“Now, we have the thought of Christ, and that is the Spirit of Christ. This is the Christian identity.” One who has this identity does not have the “spirit of the world,” its way of thinking, or of placing judgment.

While the preachers and doctors of the law spoke in theological terms, the Pope said, the people did not care for them because they did not speak “to the heart; they did not give freedom.” They were not united by the Holy Spirit, and therefore could not help others “find their own identity.”

“The authority of Jesus – and the authority of the Christian – comes from this ability to understand the things of the Spirit, to speak the language of the Spirit. It comes from this anointing of the Holy Spirit.”

The Pope concluded his homily by calling on the Lord to grant us the Christian identity: “Bestow on us Your Spirit. Bestow on us your way of thinking, of hearing, of  speaking: that is, Lord, bestow on us the anointing of the Holy Spirit.”

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