Sacred Tradition and the Spirit of Truth
May 27th Readings Reflection: Saturday of the Seventh Week of Easter
There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain the books that would be written.
On this eve of Pentecost, our Gospel reading ends with the above words that are often used to defend the existence of Sacred Tradition. Catholic belief in Sacred Tradition sets us apart from other Christian religions who believe in sola scriptura, which holds that the Bible alone has supreme authority in spiritual matters. This verse in today’s Gospel, which is also the closing line of St. John’s Gospel, shows us that the Bible does not contain everything that Jesus said and did during His time on earth.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines the Gospels as “the source of all saving truth and moral discipline” (CCC, § 75). Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, which they received at Pentecost, the Apostles and Evangelists wrote down the message of salvation in the books that we know today as the New Testament. However, as St. John said, “[t]here are also many other things that Jesus did [that are not contained in Sacred Scripture].” The Acts of the Apostles and Epistles of St. Paul relate how the Apostles preached extensively to spread the Word of God in the early days of the Church. “This living transmission, accomplished through the Holy Spirit, is called Tradition, since it is distinct from Sacred Scripture, though closely connected to it” (CCC § 78).
Sacred Scripture is the Word of God as written by the human authors under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. Sacred Tradition is the “entirety” of the Word of God that Our Lord entrusted to His Apostles (CCC § 81). The Apostles faithfully passed this verbal Tradition down throughout the centuries, preserved from error by the power of the Holy Spirit. Since both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition find their sources in Christ, the Incarnate Word of God, the Church reveres them both equally.
Tomorrow we will celebrate Pentecost, which is often called the Birthday of the Church. It is the day on which Christ fulfilled His promise at the Last Supper to send His Apostles the Paraclete, the Spirit of Truth, “that [H]e may abide with you for ever” (Jn 14:16 DRB). Today’s Gospel reminds us that these words still hold true: the Holy Spirit continues to abide with the Catholic Church and guide her in the path of truth.
The gates of Hell shall never prevail against the Catholic Church (cf Mat 16:18), and it is through the power of the Holy Spirit that the Church will endure until Christ’s Second Coming. However, the Enemy shall try everything in his power to destroy the Church and to shake the faith of her members. Thus, on Pentecost and every day, may we ask the Holy Spirit to “protect, unite, and govern [the Catholic Church] throughout the world” and to grant her peace (Roman Canon).