On Being Led by the Spirit of God

Homily offered by Father Matthew C. Dallman, Obl.S.B., for the Parish of Tazewell County on the Sixth Sunday after Pentecost, 2021

“All who are led by God are sons of God,” Paul writes in Romans 8:14. This incredible teaching from the Apostle has been the theme, or point of departure, since Trinity Sunday, the first Sunday after Pentecost. It has been the theme because Paul’s teaching, as it so often does, goes to the heart of being a Christian person, goes to the heart of being a follower of Jesus Christ. It is being led by God that marks Christian life; being led by God is one of the key characteristics of being a Christian. The Gospel is that this life is possible—it is not a dream, nor a fanciful idea—this life is possible, only through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. Because of Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross, and only because of it, we are able to be led by God, and thereby in Paul’s teaching be sons of God.

This is at the heart of being a Christian because if we are not led by God, what are we led by? In absence of our following of God’s leading, we are led by that which is not of God. If we are not led by God, all sorts of false, god-like idols fill in the vacuum. If we are not led by God, what are we led by? Ourselves; or selfish desires; temptations that come from the passing whims of the world. The Church in general refers to these false things as being of the Devil. Paul writes in Ephesians 6 that we are not contending against flesh and blood, but against the principalities, against the powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness, against the spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. We are either led by all that, or we are led by God. If we are not led by God, then the world rulers of this present darkness have us as slaves. It is stark, even difficult language; but it is the clear witness of the Church both East and West.

It is because of this that the people who heard our Lord Jesus teach in the synagogue were astonished and full of unbelief. They were not leading lives led by God, and so instead of hearing the Father proclaimed through Jesus, they regarded Jesus in strictly worldly terms, and entirely missed His divine message. According to the terms of the world, the Gospel is an offense. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 1: “The word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” To the world under the slavery of devilish temptations, self-centeredness, and the idols of the world’s savory whims, the Word of the Cross—the Gospel—is folly; it makes no sense; it is, at best, a nice-sounding mythology; at best, to the world, a story that helps unintelligent people live (supposedly) decent lives. That is what people perishing say about the Christian faith; they have said it from the beginning of the Church, they say it today, and it will be said until the End of Days.

But, Paul adds, to us who are being saved the Cross is the power of God. And it is that phrase “being saved” where we might substitute in “being led by the Spirit of God.” To be led by the Spirit of God is to participate in God’s salvation. To us who are being led by the Spirit of God, the Cross is the power of God. This is why we must always face the Cross in our lives as Christians—this is why we must always face the Cross in worship, must always face the Cross in our prayer, must always face the Cross in our hearts. Because if we are not facing the Cross in our hearts, our hearts find something else to face—something of the world, something of our selfish desires, something of idol and illusion.

In facing the Cross, we bring ourselves face to face with Jesus in His power. Jesus shows us what it means to be God in the ways He dies on the Cross as a man. He says to Paul, “my power is made perfect in weakness.” Living a life led by the Spirit of God continually bring this image, this icon, of Christ’s power made perfect in weakness on the Cross to our eyes, to our mind, to our heart, and to our prayer. Our hearts are always restless until they rest in Christ—rest in Him, in awe and wonder and thanksgiving resting in His perfect sacrifice for us.