In a certain way, Elijah must rekindle the flame of faith on God's mountain and bring it back to Israel. He experiences, in that place, wind, earthquake and fire. But God is not present in all of this. He then perceives a sweet soft murmur; and God speaks to him in this soft breath (cf. I Kings 19: 11-18).
Is this not precisely what takes place the evening of Easter, when Jesus appeared to his Apostles to teach them what it means here? Might we perhaps see here a prefiguration of the servant of Yahweh, of whom Isaiah says: "He will not cry or lift up his voice, or make it heard in the street" (42: 2)? Does not the humble figure of Jesus appear this way, as the true revelation in whom God manifests himself and speaks to us? Are not the humility and goodness of Jesus the true epiphany of God?
On Mt Carmel, Elijah sought to overcome the distancing from God with fire and the sword, killing the prophets of Baal. In this way, though, he was unable to restore the faith.
On Mt Horeb, he was made to understand that God is not in the wind, the earthquake or the fire; Elijah has to learn and perceive the soft voice of God, and in this way to recognize in advance the One who overcame sin not with power but by his Passion; the One who, by his suffering, has given us the ability to forgive. This is how God wins.
Dear Ordinandi, in this way the message of Pentecost is now aimed directly at you. The Pentecostal scene of the Gospel of John speaks to you and of you. To each one of you, in a very personal way, the Lord says: Peace to [all of] you - peace to you! When the Lord says this, he does not give something, but he gives himself. Indeed, he himself is peace (cf. Ephesians 2: 14).
In this greeting of the Lord, we can also foresee a reference to the great mystery of faith, to the Holy Eucharist, in which he continually gives himself to us, and, in this way, true peace.
This greeting is placed at the centre of your priestly mission: the Lord entrusts to you the mystery of this Sacrament. In his Name you can say: "This is my Body.... This is my Blood". Allow yourselves to be drawn ever anew by the Holy Eucharist, by communion of life with Christ. Consider the centre of each day the possibility to celebrate the Eucharist worthily. Lead people ever anew to this mystery. Help them, starting from this, to bring the peace of Christ into the world.
In the Gospel Reading we have just heard, a second phrase of the Risen One resounds: "As the Father has sent me, so I send you" (John 20: 21). Christ says this in a very personal way to each one of you.
With priestly ordination you are inserted into the Apostolic mission. The Holy Spirit is wind, but it is not amorphous; it is an orderly Spirit. It becomes manifest precisely when it orders the mission, in the Sacrament of the Priesthood, in which the ministry of the Apostles is continued.
Through this ministry, you are inserted in the multitude of those who, beginning with Pentecost, have received the apostolic mission. You are inserted into the communion of priests, into communion with the Bishop and with the Successor of St Peter, who here in Rome is also your Bishop. All of us are inserted in the network of obedience to the Word of Christ, to the word of the One who gives us true freedom because he leads us in the free spaces and open horizons of the truth.
It is precisely in this common bond with the Lord that we can and must live the dynamism of the Spirit. As the Lord came from the Father and has given us light, life and love, so too the mission must continually set us in motion, make us restless, to bring the joy of Christ to those who suffer, those who are in doubt, as well as to the reluctant.
Lastly, there is the power of forgiveness. The Sacrament of Penance is one of the Church's precious treasures, since authentic world renewal is accomplished only through forgiveness. Nothing can improve the world if evil is not overcome.
Evil can be overcome only by forgiveness. Certainly, it must be an effective forgiveness; but only the Lord can give us this forgiveness, a forgiveness that drives away evil not only with words but truly destroys it. Only suffering can bring this about and it has truly taken place with the suffering love of Christ, from whom we draw the power to forgive.
In closing, dear Ordinandi, I recommend that you love the Mother of the Lord. Do as St John did, welcoming her deeply into your own heart. Allow yourselves to be continually renewed by her maternal love. Learn from her how to love Christ. May the Lord bless your journey as priests!
St Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I ask you above all to excuse me for my great lateness! I had the honour of being able to ordain today, the day of the Holy Spirit, 21 new priests for the Diocese of Rome. And such a harvest of God naturally takes a bit of time! Thank you for your understanding!
A little while ago this Eucharistic Celebration concluded, during which I had the joy of ordaining 21 new priests. It is an event that signifies a moment of important growth for our Community. In fact, from ordained ministers one receives life, above all through the service of the Word of God and of the Sacraments.
This, therefore, is a day of celebration for the Church of Rome. And for the new priests, this is in a special way their Pentecost: I renew my greeting to them and pray that the Holy Spirit accompanies them always in their ministry. Let us thank God for the gift of new priests, and let us pray that in Rome as well as in the entire world numerous and holy priestly vocations blossom and come to maturity.
The happy coincidence between Pentecost and the Priestly Ordinations invites me to underline the indissoluble bond that exists in the Church between the Spirit and the institution. I already mentioned this last Saturday, in taking possession of the Chair of the Bishop of Rome in St John Lateran. The Chair and the Spirit are an intimately connected reality, as also are the charism and the ordained ministry. Without the Holy Spirit, the Church would be reduced to merely a human organization, weighed down by its own structures. But, for its part, in the plans of God, the Spirit habitually makes use of human mediations to act in history. Precisely for this, Christ, who established the Church on the foundation of the Apostles closely around Peter, has also given it the gift of his Spirit, so that throughout the centuries he would be the comfort (cf. John 14: 16) and the guide to the entire truth (cf. John 16: 13). May the Ecclesial Community remain always open and docile to the action of the Holy Spirit, to be among men and women a credible sign and efficacious instrument of God's action!
We entrust this hope to the intercession of the Virgin Mary, who today we contemplate in the glorious mystery of Pentecost. The Holy Spirit, who at Nazareth descended upon her to make her the Mother of the Word Incarnate (cf. Luke 1: 35), descended today on the nascent Church joined together around her in the Upper Room (cf. Acts 1: 14). We invoke with trust Mary Most Holy, in order to obtain a renewed outpouring of the Spirit on the Church in our days.
I wish a happy Feast of Pentecost to all! Happy Sunday! Thank you!
EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION ON THE SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
St Luke places the account of the event of Pentecost that we heard in the First Reading in the second chapter of the Acts of the Apostles. The chapter is introduced by the words: "When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place" (Acts 2: 1). These words refer to the previous setting in which Luke described the small company of disciples that had gathered perseveringly in Jerusalem after Jesus' Ascension into Heaven (cf. Acts 1: 12-14). It is a description rich in detail: the place "where they were staying" - the Cenacle - was an "Upper Room"; the 11 Apostles are listed by name and the first three are Peter, John and James, the "pillars" of the community; mentioned with them are "the women" and "Mary the Mother of Jesus, and "his brethren", already an integral part of this new family, no longer based on blood ties but on faith in Christ.
The total number of people which was "about a hundred and twenty", a multiple of the "Twelve" of the Apostolic College, alludes to this "new Israel". The group constitutes an authentic "qlhll", an "assembly" in accordance with the model of the First Covenant, the community summoned to listen to the Lord's voice and to walk in his ways. The Acts of the Apostles stresses that "[a]ll these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer" (1: 14). Prayer, therefore, is the principle activity of the nascent Church through which she receives her unity from the Lord and lets herself be guided by his will, as shown by the decision to cast lots in order to elect the one who would take Judas' place (cf. Acts 1: 26).
This community was gathered in the same place, the Upper Room, on the morning of the Jewish Feast of Pentecost, the feast of the Covenant which commemorated the Sinai event, when God, through Moses, proposed that Israel be his own possession among all peoples to be a sign of his holiness (cf. Exodus 19). According to the Book of Exodus, that ancient pact was accompanied by a terrifying manifestation of power by the Lord when we read: "Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke, because the Lord descended upon it in fire; and the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain quaked greatly" (Exodus 19: 18). We find the elements of wind and fire in the Pentecost of the New Testament, but untainted by fear. The fire specifically took the form of tongues of flame which settled on each one of the disciples who "were all filled with the Holy Spirit" and through the effect of this outpouring "began to speak in other tongues" (Acts 2: 4). It was a true and proper "baptism" of fire of the community, a sort of new creation. At Pentecost, the Church was not established by human will but by the power of God's Spirit. And it is immediately clear how this Spirit gives life to a community which is at the same time one and universal, thereby overcoming the curse of Babel (cf. Genesis 11: 7-9). Indeed, it is only the Holy Spirit who creates unity in love and in the reciprocal acceptance of diversity which can free humanity from the constant temptation to acquire earthly power that seeks to dominate and standardize all things.
"Societas Spiritus", a society of the Spirit, is what St Augustine calls the Church in one of his homilies (71, 19, 32: PL 38, 462). However, prior to him St Irenaeus had already formulated a truth which I would like to recall here: "Where the Church is, there also is God's Spirit; where God's Spirit is, there is the Church and every grace; and the Spirit is the truth; to distance oneself from the Church is to reject the Spirit", and thus "exclude oneself from life" (Adversus Haereses III, 24, 1). Beginning with the event of Pentecost this union between Christ's Spirit and his Mystical Body, in other words the Church, was fully manifest. I would like to reflect on a particular aspect of the Holy Spirit's action, that is, the manner in which multiplicity and unity are interwoven. The Second Reading speaks of this, addressing the harmony of the different charisms in the communion of the same Spirit. But already in Acts we heard the account of this interweaving which is revealed with extraordinary clarity. In the event of Pentecost it becomes clear that many languages and different cultures are part of the Church; in faith they can be understood and make one another fruitful. St Luke aims unambiguously to convey a fundamental idea, which is, that the very act of the Church's birth is already "catholic" or universal. From the outset the Church speaks in all languages, because the Gospel entrusted to her is destined for all peoples, according to the will and mandate of the Risen Christ (cf. Matthew 28: 19). The Church which is born at Pentecost is not primarily a particular Community - the Church of Jerusalem - but the universal Church, which speaks the languages of all peoples. From her other communities were to be born in every part of the world, particular Churches which are all and always actualizations of the one and only Church of Christ. The Catholic Church is therefore not a federation of Churches but a single reality: the universal Church has ontological priority. A community which was not catholic in this sense would not even be a Church.
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