In today’s liturgy we perceive another connection. The Holy Spirit is Creator, he is at the same time the Spirit of Jesus Christ, but in such a way that the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one God. And in the light of the First Reading we may add: the Holy Spirit gives life to the Church. She is not born from the human will, from man’s reflection, from his ability or from his organizational capacity, if this were so she would have ceased to exist long ago, as happens with all that is human. Instead the Church is the body of Christ, enlivened by the Holy Spirit. The images of wind and fire, used by St Luke to portray the coming of the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 2:2-3), evoke Sinai, where God revealed himself to the People of Israel and granted it his Covenant. “Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke”, we read in the Book of Exodus, “because the Lord descended upon it in fire” (19:18). Indeed Israel celebrated the 50th day after the Passover, after the commemoration of the flight from Egypt, as the feast of Sinai, the feast of the Covenant. When St Luke speaks of tongues of fire to represent the Holy Spirit, this Old Covenant is called to mind, established on the basis of the Law received by Israel on Sinai. Thus the event of Pentecost is represented as a new Sinai, as the gift of a new Covenant in which the Covenant with Israel was extended to all the peoples of the earth, in which all the barriers fall from the old Law and its heart appears holier and more unchangeable; in other words as love, which the Holy Spirit himself communicates and spreads, a love that embraces all things. At the same time the Law is expanded, it is opened, even though it becomes simpler: it is the New Covenant which the Spirit “writes” in the hearts of all who believe in Christ. The extension of the Covenant to all the peoples of the earth is represented by St Luke with a list of peoples, that is considerably long for that epoch (cf. Acts 2:9-11). With this we are told something most important: that the Church was catholic from the very outset, that her universality is not the result of the successive inclusion of various communities. Indeed, from the first moment the Holy Spirit created her as the Church of all peoples; she embraces the whole world, surmounts all distinctions of race, class and nation; tears down all barriers and brings people together in the profession of the triune God. Since the beginning the Church has been one, catholic and apostolic: this is her true nature and must be recognized as such. She is not holy because of her members’ ability but because God himself, with his Spirit, never ceases to create her, purify her and sanctify her.
Lastly, today’s Gospel presents these beautiful words to us: “the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord” (John 20:20). These words are profoundly human. The Friend lost is present once again and those who were formerly distraught rejoice. But it says far more. For the lost Friend did not come from just anywhere but from the night of death; and he passed through it! He is not just anyone; indeed he is the Friend and at the same time the One who is the Truth that gives life to men and women; and what he gives is not just any kind of joy but joy itself, a gift of the Holy Spirit. Yes, it is beautiful to live because I am loved and it is the Truth who loves me. The disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Today, at Pentecost, these words are also addressed to us, because in faith we can see him. In faith he comes among us and to us too he shows his hands and his side and we are glad. Therefore let us pray: Lord, show yourself! Make us the gift of your presence and we shall have the most beautiful gift: your joy. Amen!
St Peter's Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The Solemnity of Pentecost which we are celebrating today concludes the liturgical season of Easter. In fact, the paschal mystery — the passion, death and resurrection of Christ and his ascension into Heaven — finds its fulfilment in the powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles gathered together with Mary, Mother of the Lord, and the other disciples. It was the “baptism” of the Church, baptism in the Holy Spirit (cf. Acts 1:5). As the Acts of the Apostles recount, on the morning of the feast of Pentecost, a noise as of wind burst into the Upper Room and tongues of fire, as it were, came to rest upon each of the disciples (cf. Acts 2:2-3). St Gregory the Great commented: “Today, the Holy Spirit has came down upon the disciples with an unexpected sound and changed the minds of carnal beings within his love; and while he appeared externally in tongues of fire, their hearts blazed within them, because in receiving God in the vision of fire, they burned gently with love” (Hom. in Evang. XXX, 1: CCL 141, 256). God’s voice divinized the human language of the Apostles who were enabled to proclaim the one divine Word in a “polyphonic” manner. The breath of the Holy Spirit fills the universe, generates faith, leads to truth, and predisposes people to unity. “At this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one heard them speaking in his own language” of “the mighty works of God” (Acts 2:6,11).
Blessed Antonio Rosmini explained that “on the day of Christian Pentecost God promulgated… his law of love, writing it through the Holy Spirit not on stone but in the hearts of the Apostles, and through the Apostles, subsequently communicating it to the entire Church” (A Catechism of Christian Doctrine Arranged According to the Order of Ideas, n. 737, Turin, 1863). The Holy Spirit, “who is the Lord and Giver of life” — as we say in the Creed — is joined to the Father through the Son and completes the revelation of the Blessed Trinity. He comes from God like a breath from his mouth and has the power of sanctifying, abolishing divisions, dispelling the confusion due to sin. Incorporeal and immaterial, he lavishes divine goods upon living beings and sustains them so that they may act in conformity with the good. As an intelligible Light he gives meaning to prayer, vigour to the evangelizing mission, he makes the hearts of those who listen to the happy message burn and inspires Christian art and liturgical music.
Dear friends, the Holy Spirit who creates faith within us at the moment of our Baptism enables us to live as children of God, aware and consenting, in accordance with the image of the Only-Begotten Son. The power to forgive sins is also a gift of the Holy Spirit; in fact, in appearing to the Apostles on the evening of Easter Day, Jesus breathed upon them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven” (John 20:22, 23). Let us entrust the Church to the Virgin Mary, temple of the Holy Spirit, so that she may always live by Jesus Christ, by his word, by his commandments and, under the perennial action of the Spirit Paraclete, proclaim to one and all that “Jesus is Lord!” (1 Corinthians 12:3).
After the Regina Caeli:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, I am pleased to recall that tomorrow in Dresden, Germany, Bl. Alois Andritzki will be beatified. He was a priest and martyr killed by the National Socialists in 1943 at the age of 28. Let us praise the Lord for this heroic witness of faith whose name is being added to the ranks of all those in concentration camps who gave their life in Christ’s name. I would like to entrust to their intercession, on this day of Pentecost, the cause of peace in the world. May the Holy Spirit inspire courageous resolutions of peace and sustain the commitment to carry them ahead, so that dialogue will prevail over weapons and respect for human dignity get the better of private interests. May the Spirit, who is the bond of communion, correct hearts that selfishness has led astray and help the human family to rediscover and to preserve with watchfulness its fundamental unity.
The day after tomorrow, 14 June, is the World Day of Blood Donors, millions of people who silently contribute to helping their brothers and sisters in difficulty. To all donors I address a cordial greeting and invite young people to follow their example.
I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking visitors gathered for this Regina Caeli prayer. My particular greeting goes to the group of ringers from the United States. On this Pentecost Sunday we celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church. Let us pray that we may be confirmed in the grace of our Baptism and share ever more actively in the Church’s mission of proclaiming the Good News of our salvation in Jesus Christ. Upon you and your families I cordially invoke the Holy Spirit’s gifts of wisdom, joy and peace.
To everyone I wish a happy feast day, a good Sunday, a nice week. Thank you. Have a good feast of Pentecost.
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homilies of Pope Benedict XVI, so that they could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
HOMILY OF POPE FRANCIS
“They were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:4).
Speaking to the Apostles at the Last Supper, Jesus said that after he left this world he would send them the gift of the Father, that is, the Holy Spirit (cf. John 15:26). This promise was powerfully fulfilled on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples, who were gathered in the Upper Room. This extraordinary outpouring was not limited solely to that moment, but was an event that was renewed and still continues to be renewed. Christ glorified at the right hand of the Father continues to fulfill his promise, sending upon the Church the life-giving Spirit, who teaches us, reminds us, and lets us speak.
The Holy Spirit teaches us: he is the Interior Master. He guides us along the right path, through life’s challenges. He teaches us the path, the way. In the early times of the Church, Christianity was called “the way” (cf. Acts 9:2), and Jesus himself is the Way. The Holy Spirit teaches us to follow him, to walk in his footprints. More than a master of doctrine, the Holy Spirit is a master of life. And he surely takes part in life as well as in knowledge, but within the broadest and most harmonious horizons of Christian existence.
The Holy Spirit reminds us, he reminds us of all that Jesus said. He is the living memory of the Church, and when he reminds us, he helps us to understand the words of the Lord.
This remembrance in the Spirit and by virtue of the Spirit is not reduced to a mnemonic fact; it is an essential aspect of Christ’s presence within us and within his Church. The Spirit of truth and charity reminds us of all that Christ said, and helps us to enter ever more fully into the meaning of his words. We all have this experience: one moment, in any situation, there is an idea and then another connects with a passage from Scripture .... It is the Spirit who leads us to take this path: the path of the living memory of the Church. And he asks us for a response: the more generous our response, the more Jesus’ words become life within us, becoming attitudes, choices, actions, testimony. In essence the Spirit reminds of the commandment of love, and calls us to live it.
A Christian without memory is not a true Christian but only halfway there: a man or a woman, a prisoner of the moment, who doesn’t know how to treasure his or her history, doesn’t know how to read it and live it as salvation history. With the help of the Holy Spirit, however, we are able to interpret interior inspirations and life events in light of Jesus’ words. And thus, within us grows the knowledge of memory, knowledge of the heart, which is a gift of the Spirit. May the Holy Spirit rekindle the Christian memory within all of us! And there that day with the Apostles was our Lady of Memory, who from the beginning meditated on all those things in her heart. Mary, our Mother, was there. May she help us on this path of memory.
The Holy Spirit teaches us, reminds us, and — another aspect — lets us speak, with God and with men. There are no muted Christians, mute of soul; no, there’s no place for this.
He lets us speak with God in prayer. Prayer is a gift that we freely receive; dialoguing with him in the Holy Spirit, who prays in us and allows us to address God, calling him Father, Dad, Abba. (cf. Rm 8:15; Gal 4:4); and this is not merely an “expression” but a reality: we truly are children of God. “All who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Rm 8:14).
He lets us speak in the act of faith. Without the Holy Spirit, none of us is able to say: “Jesus is Lord” — we heard this today. It is the Spirit who lets us speak with people in fraternal dialogue. He lets us speak with others, recognizing them as brothers and sisters; to speak with friendship, with tenderness, with compassion, understanding the heartaches and hopes, the sorrows and joys of others.
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22 June 2014