Our First Reading gives us the conclusion of the Council of Jerusalem. Following on that council, the Catholic Church has held twenty-one ecumenical councils over two thousand years.
At times our church has faced problems for which Jesus had not prepared it. Jesus, at the Last Supper, foreseeing that his church would encounter unexpected difficulties, told the Apostles, “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now. But when he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to all truth.” (John, 16:12-13)
Our church leaders, through the centuries, on being faced with nearly insurmountable difficulties, have recalled that promise of Jesus that the Spirit of truth would led them to the right solutions. For that they saw they would need to come together to avail themselves of the direction of the Holy Spirit.
In 1520 Martin Luther, on rebelling against the Catholic Church, lead many people to believe that our human race is entirely and permanently immersed in sinfulness. He used Bible passages to back up his contentions that: first, our only path to salvation is through a faith that Jesus would cover over our sins; and second, that we need the direction of no authority other than that of the Bible.
In reply to that, the bishops of three nations, assembling at the city of Trent, pointed out that the Bible on which Luther depended clearly stated God’s grace can completely displace sin from our souls, and the Bible itself counsels us to follow the direction of Church leaders.
By 1960 those Church leaders found themselves overwhelmed with modern problems. A new pope, John XXIII, saw that the Roman Catholic Church had become ninety percent Roman, and only ten percent Catholic.
So, Pope John, on seeing that wise direction from the Spirit of truth does not come only through Romans, convened the Second Vatican Council. At it, twenty-five hundred bishops from a hundred countries came together to find Bible based solutions to the world’s problems. They availed themselves of help from a band of fine theologians. Then over four years of debating on the issues, while they were pleading for guidance from the Spirit of Truth, they produced sixteen admirable documents giving wise solutions to our major concerns.