Apparitions, Visions, Revelations

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Criteria Regarding the Church

There is nothing else to apply here beside the already mentioned criteria for the discernment of spirits. The evangelist John writes thus, "Beloved, do not trust every spirit, but put the spirits to a test to see if they belong to God, because many false prophets have appeared in the world. This is how you can recognize God's spirit: every spirit that acknowledges Jesus Christ come in the flesh belongs to God, while every spirit that fails to acknowledge him does not belong to God (1 John 4:1-3; cf 5:1-4). Admittedly, this text shows a particularity of John's community in which the heresy of gnosticism denied the incarnation of Jesus, but it can still be used as a general criterion in so far as it articulates the central significance of Jesus Christ for human salvation. The place and role of Jesus Christ in the life of the faithful is also in question with Paul in Corinth but under a different aspect. "The spirit filled Corinthians do not have a problem with false doctrine, but with the demonic machinations of pagans" which is directly felt in the virtuous life of the individuals in the community. But, in both the former and the latter case, such stimuli cannot come from the Spirit of God but only from the Evil One.

In still another place the Apostles speaks about the authentication of gifts, but again under a different aspect, namely, with regard to their usefulness for the up building of the community (1 Thess 5:19-21; cf 1 Cor 14). The more that particular gifts contribute to the up building and strengthening of the Church, the more sure it is that they are the fruit of the Spirit, but, if they tear down communion, they can be only from the Evil One. Naturally, here only a real communion of faith and charity is in question, and not any kind ideology. That is why Paul can say in another place, "There may even have to be factions among you for the tried and true to stand out clearly" (1 Cor 11:19). That is nothing else but an interpretation of the words of Jesus, "Do you think I have come to establish peace on the earth? I assure you, the contrary is true; I have come for division" (Lk 12:51). In question is a complete commitment to Jesus, which some always meet with rejection.

There is one more general caution for vigilance and sobriety (1 Peter 5:8) and that is all the New Testament has to say about this delicate question. Nevertheless, though there are not many concrete words, the New Testament contains something which like a red thread runs through all of its scriptures and which present the condition for God's activity. It is that openness and readiness of acceptance in regard to the Holy Spirit that we find in Mary. That openness is founded on the readiness and availability for everything that he will give to man and demand from him.

Furthermore, the Christological dimension of salvation that has been emphasized several times, must also be the criterion here. The crucial question is, whether some particular apparition leads closer to Christ or farther away from him. Should Christ be pushed aside, no matter how much other forms of devotion be developed, one should approach that manifestation with scepticism. In other words, the closer the message is to the one of Jesus offered to us by the New Testament, the core of which is a call to conversion, the greater the possibility is for authenticity. It has already been said that revelation, which comes through private apparition, may be of just an inspirational character, in relation to what has already been contained in Revelation. Therefore, it is logical that paucity of content and brevity of message must be taken as a positive sign, especially if that message still finds a responsive chord in the people of God and brings forth fruits of conversion.


For God to live in your hearts, you must love.