In this regard, it is necessary to add another aspect: that of the theological vision of the Acts of the Apostles concerning the journey to Rome of the Church of Jerusalem. Among the peoples represented in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, Luke also mentions "visitors from Rome" (Acts 2: 10). At that time Rome was still distant, "foreign" to the newborn Church: it was a symbol of the pagan world in general. But the power of the Holy Spirit was to guide the footsteps of the witnesses "to the end of the earth" (Acts 1: 8), even to Rome. The Acts of the Apostles ends precisely when St Paul, through a providential plan, reaches the capital of the Empire and proclaims the Gospel there (cf. Acts 28: 30-31). Thus the journey of the Word of God which began in Jerusalem reached its destination, because Rome represents the entire world and therefore embodies Luke's idea of catholicity. The universal Church is brought into being, the Catholic Church, which is the extension of the Chosen People and makes its history and mission her own.
At this point, and to conclude, John's Gospel offers a word that harmonizes very well with the mystery of the Church created by the Spirit. The word that came twice from the lips of the Risen Jesus when he appeared among his disciples in the Upper Room on the evening of Easter Day: Shalom - "peace be with you!" (John 20: 19, 21). The expression "shalom" is not a mere greeting; it is far more: it is the gift of peace promised (cf. John 14: 27) and won by Jesus at the price of his blood, it is the fruit of his victory in the battle against the spirit of evil. Thus, it is a peace "not as the world gives" but as God alone can give it.
On this feast of the Spirit and the Church, let us thank God for having given to his people, chosen and formed in the midst of all peoples, the precious good of peace, of his peace! At the same time, let us renew the awareness of the responsibility that is connected with this gift: the Church's responsibility to be, constitutionally, a sign and instrument of God's peace for all peoples. I sought to pass on this message recently by going to the Headquarters of the United Nations Organization in order to address my words to the representatives of the peoples. However, we must not only think of these events "at the summit". The Church carries out her service to Christ's peace above all in the ordinary presence and action among men and women, with the preaching of the Gospel and the signs of love and mercy that accompany it (cf. Mark 16: 20).
Of course, among these signs it is mainly the Sacrament of Reconciliation that should be emphasized. The Risen Christ instituted it at the very moment he gave the disciples his peace and his Spirit. As we heard in the Gospel passage, Jesus breathed on the Apostles and said: "Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained" (John 20: 22-23). How important and, unfortunately, insufficiently understood is the gift of Reconciliation which sets hearts at rest! Christ's peace is only spread through the renewed hearts of reconciled men and women who have made themselves servants of justice, ready to spread peace in the world with the force of the truth alone, without descending to compromises with the world's mentality because the world cannot give Christ's peace: this is how the Church can be the leaven of that reconciliation which comes from God. She can only be so if she remains docile to the Spirit and bears witness to the Gospel, only if she carries the Cross like Jesus and with Jesus. The saints of every epoch witness precisely to this!
In the light of this word of life, dear brothers and sisters, may the prayer we are raising to God in spiritual union with the Virgin Mary become ever more fervent and intense. May the Virgin of listening, the Mother of the Church, obtain for our communities and for all Christians a renewed outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete. "Emitte Spiritum tuum et creabuntur, et renovabis faciem terrae - Send forth your Spirit, and they shall be recreated, and you shall renew the face of the earth". Amen.
St Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we are celebrating the Solemnity of Pentecost, an ancient Jewish feast on which the Covenant that God made with his People on Mount Sinai (cf. Exodus 19) was commemorated. It also became a Christian feast because of what happened on that day 50 days after Jesus' Pasch. We read in the Acts of the Apostles that the disciples were praying all together in the Upper Room when the Holy Spirit descended upon them powerfully, as wind and as fire. They then began to proclaim in many tongues the Good News of Christ's Resurrection (cf. 2: 1-4). This was the "Baptism of the Holy Spirit" which had been foretold by John the Baptist: "I baptize you with water", he said to the crowds, "but he who is coming after me is mightier than I... he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire" (Matthew 3: 11). In fact, Jesus' entire mission aimed at giving the Spirit of God to men and women and at baptizing them in his regenerative "bath". This was brought about with his glorification (cf. John 7: 39), that is, through his death and Resurrection: then the Spirit of God was poured out in superabundance, like a cascade capable of purifying every heart, extinguishing the fire of evil and kindling the flame of divine love in the world.
The Acts of the Apostles present Pentecost as the fulfilment of this promise and hence as the culmination of Jesus' entire mission. After his Resurrection, he himself ordered the disciples to stay in Jerusalem, because, he said, "before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 1: 5); and he added: "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth" (Acts 1: 8). Thus Pentecost is in a special way the Baptism of the Church which carries out her universal mission starting from the roads of Jerusalem with the miraculous preaching in humanity's different tongues. In this Baptism of the Holy Spirit the personal and community dimension, the "I" of the disciple and the "we" of the Church, are inseparable. The Holy Spirit consecrates the person and at the same time makes him or her a living member of the Mystical Body of Christ, sharing in the mission of witnessing to his love. And this takes place through the Sacraments of Christian initiation: Baptism and Confirmation. In my Message for the next World Youth Day 2008, I have proposed to the young people that they rediscover the Holy Spirit's presence in their lives and thus the importance of these Sacraments. Today I would like to extend the invitation to all: let us rediscover, dear brothers and sisters, the beauty of being baptized in the Holy Spirit; let us recover awareness of our Baptism and our Confirmation, ever timely sources of grace.
Let us ask the Virgin Mary to obtain also today a renewed Pentecost for the Church that will imbue in all, and especially in the young, the joy of living and witnessing to the Gospel.
After the Regina Cæli:
In the past few days I have been deeply concerned about the situation in Lebanon where the stalling of the political initiative was followed by verbal violence and then armed conflicts, with numerous dead and injured. Even if in these last hours the tension has relaxed, I consider it only right today to urge the Lebanese to abandon every logic of aggressive opposition that would bring their beloved Country towards the point of no return.
Dialogue, mutual understanding and the search for reasonable compromise are the only way that can restore to Lebanon its institutions and to the population the security necessary for a dignified daily life full of hope for the future.
Through the intercession of Our Lady of Lebanon may Lebanon be able to respond courageously to its vocation to be for the Middle East and for the whole world the sign of the real possibility of peaceful and constructive coexistence among human beings. The various communities of which it is comprised, as the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Une Espérance Nouvelle pour le Liban recalls, are at the same time, "A treasure, an originality and a problem. But all its inhabitants must share the common task of making Lebanon live" (cf. n. 1). With Mary, the Virgin in prayer at Pentecost, let us ask the Almighty for an abundant outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the spirit of unity and harmony, to inspire thoughts of peace and reconciliation in everyone.
I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Regina Caeli prayer, including the group from Magdalen College in the United States. On this Pentecost Sunday let us pray for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. May the Spirit's gifts of life and holiness confirm us in our witness to the Risen Lord and fill our hearts with fervent hope in his promises! Upon all of you I cordially invoke the Holy Spirit's gifts of wisdom, joy and peace. God bless you!
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we are celebrating the great Solemnity of Pentecost. If, in a certain sense, all the liturgical solemnities of the Church are important, Pentecost is uniquely so. This is because, having reached the 50th day, it marks the fulfilment of the event of the passover, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus through the gift of the Spirit of the Risen One. In the past few days the Church has prepared us for Pentecost with her prayer, with her repeated and intense invocation to God to obtain a fresh outpouring upon us of the Holy Spirit. The Church has thus relived all that happened at her origins, when the Apostles gathered in the Upper Room of Jerusalem “with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren” (Acts 1:14).
They were gathered in humble and trusting expectation that the Father’s promise, announced to them by Jesus, would be fulfilled: “Before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit... you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you” (Acts 1:5,8).
In the liturgy of Pentecost Psalm 104, which we have heard, corresponds with the account in the Acts of the Apostles of the birth of the Church (cf. Acts 2:1-11): a hymn of praise of the whole creation which exalts the Creator Spirit who has made all things with wisdom: “O Lord, how manifold are your works! In wisdom you have made them all; the earth is full of your creatures…. May the glory of the Lord endure for ever, may the Lord rejoice in his works” (Ps 104:24, 31).
This is what the Church wants to tell us: the Spirit Creator of all things and the Holy Spirit whom the Lord caused to come down from the Father upon the community of the disciples are one and the same. Creation and redemption belong to each other and constitute, in depth, one mystery of love and of salvation. The Holy Spirit is first and foremost a Creator Spirit, hence Pentecost is also a feast of creation. For us Christians, the world is the fruit of an act of love by God who has made all things and in which he rejoices because it is “good”, it is “very good”, as the creation narrative tells us (cf. Genesis 1:1-31). Consequently God is not totally Other, unnameable and obscure. God reveals himself, he has a face. God is reason, God is will, God is love, God is beauty. Faith in the Creator Spirit and faith in the Spirit whom the Risen Christ gave to the Apostles and gives to each one of us are therefore inseparably united.
Today’s Second Reading and Gospel show us this connection. The Holy Spirit is the One who makes us recognize the Lord in Christ and prompts us to speak the profession of the Church’s faith: “Jesus is Lord” (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:3b). “Lord” is the title attributed to God in the Old Testament, a title that in the interpretation of the Bible replaced his unpronounceable name. The Creed of the Church is nothing other than the development of what we say with this simple affirmation: “Jesus is Lord”. Concerning this profession of faith St Paul tells us that it is precisely a matter of the word and work of the Spirit. If we want to be in the Spirit, we must adhere to this Creed. By making it our own, by accepting it as our word we gain access to the work of the Holy Spirit. The words “Jesus is Lord” can be interpreted in two ways. They mean: Jesus is God, and, at the same time: God is Jesus. The Holy Spirit illuminates this reciprocity: Jesus has divine dignity and God has the human face of Jesus. God shows himself in Jesus and by doing so gives us the truth about ourselves. Letting ourselves be enlightened by this word in the depths of our inmost being is the event of Pentecost. In reciting the Creed we enter into the mystery of the first Pentecost: a radical transformation results from the tumult of Babel, from those voices yelling at each other: multiplicity becomes a multi-faceted unity, understanding grows from the unifying power of the Truth. In the Creed — which unites us from all the corners of the earth and which, through the Holy Spirit, ensures that we understand each other even in the diversity of languages — the new community of God’s Church is formed through faith, hope and love.
The Gospel passage then offers us a marvellous image to clarify the connection between Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father: the Holy Spirit is portrayed as the breath of the Risen Jesus Christ (cf. John 20:22). Here the Evangelist John takes up an image of the creation narrative, where it says that God breathed into the nostrils of man the breath of life (cf. Genesis 2:7). The breath of God is life. Now, the Lord breathes into our soul the new breath of life, the Holy Spirit, his most intimate essence, and in this way welcomes us into God’s family. With Baptism and Confirmation this gift was given to us specifically, and with the sacraments of the Eucharist and Penance it is continuously repeated: the Lord breathes a breath of life into our soul. All the sacraments, each in its own way, communicate divine life to human beings, thanks to the Holy Spirit who works within them.
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22 June 2014