Entry 0279: Reflections on Pentecost Sunday by Pope Benedict XVI
On eight occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the Pentecost Sunday, on 15 May 2005, 4 June 2006, 27 May 2007, 11 May 2008, 31 May 2009, 23 May 2010, 12 June 2011, and 27 May 2012. Here are the texts of eight brief addresses before the recitation of the Regina Caeli, seven homilies, and one speech delivered on these occasions.
St Paul explains and
underlines this in the Second Reading when he says: “It was in one Spirit that
all of us, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, were baptized into one body.
All of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit” (I Cor 12: 13).
Vatican Basilica, Sunday, 11 May 2008
Vatican Basilica, Sunday, 31 May 2009
Vatican Basilica, Sunday, 12 June 2011
Like when it was born, today the Church still gathers with Mary and prays: “Veni Sancte Spiritus! - Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!”. Amen.
St Peter’s Square, Pentecost Sunday, 15 May 2005
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 (see Jn 14: 16) and the guide to the entire truth (see Jn 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 (see Lk 1: 35), descended today on the nascent
Church joined together around her in the Upper Room (see 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!
MASS OF PRIESTLY ORDINATION
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
St Peter’s Basilica, Pentecost Sunday, 15 May 2005
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The First Reading and the Gospel of Pentecost Sunday offer us two great images of the mission of the Holy Spirit. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles speaks of how, on the day of Pentecost, under the signs of a strong wind and fire, the Holy Spirit sweeps into the community of the disciples of Jesus who are in prayer, thus bringing the Church into being.
Pentecost - celebration of the harvest - had become the celebration marking the
conclusion of the Covenant on Mt Sinai. In wind and fire, God made his presence
known to the people and then gave them the gift of his Law, the Ten
Commandments. In this singular way was the work of liberation, begun with the
Exodus from Egypt,
brought to fulfilment: human freedom is always a shared freedom, a “togetherness”
of liberty. Common freedom lasts only in an ordered harmony of freedom that
reveals to each person his or her limits.
In this way the gift of the Law on Mt Sinai was not a restriction nor an abolition of freedom, but the foundation of true liberty. And since a correct human ordering finds stability only if it comes from God and if it unites men and women in the perspective of God, the Commandments that God himself gives us cannot be lacking in a correct ordering of human freedom.
In this way,
fully became a people, through the Covenant with God on Mt Sinai. Israel’s
encounter with God on Sinai could be considered to be the foundation and the
guarantee of its existence as a people. The wind and fire, which enveloped the
community of Christ’s disciples gathered in the Upper Room, becomes a further
development of the event of Mt Sinai and gives it new fullness.
They were gathered in
on that day, according to what is written in the Acts of the Apostles: “devout
Jews of every nation under heaven” (Acts 2: 5). Here is made manifest the
characteristic gift of the Holy Spirit: all understood the words of the
Apostles: “each one heard these men speaking his own language” (Acts 2: 6). The
Holy Spirit gives understanding.
Overcoming the “breach” begun in
- the confusion of hearts, putting us one against the other - the Spirit opens
The People of God who found its first configuration on Mt Sinai, now becomes enlarged to the point of recognizing no limitations. The new People of God, the Church, is a people that derives from all peoples. The Church is catholic from her beginning and this is her deepest essence.
The Church must always become anew what she already is; she must open the borders between peoples and break down the barriers between class and race. In her, there cannot be those who are forgotten or looked down upon. In the Church there are only free brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. The wind and fire of the Holy Spirit must continually break down those barriers that we men and women continue to build between us; we must continually pass from
Babel - being closed in on ourselves - to
Thus, we must continually pray that the Holy Spirit opens us and gives us the grace of understanding, so that we become the People of God deriving from all peoples.
St Paul tells us more
along these lines: in Christ, who as the one Bread feeds all of us in the
Eucharist and draws us to him in his Body wracked on the Cross, we must become
only one body and one spirit.
The second image of the sending of the Spirit that we find in the Gospel is much more hidden. Exactly in this way, however, all of the greatness of the Pentecost event is perceived. The Risen Lord passes through the closed doors and enters the place where the disciples are, and greets them twice with the words: “Peace be with you”.
We continually close our doors; we continually want to feel secure and do not want to be disturbed by others and by God. And so, we can continually implore the Lord just for this, that he come to us, overcoming our closure, to bring us his greeting: “Peace be with you”.
This greeting of the Lord is a bridge that he builds between heaven and earth. He descends to this bridge, reaching us, and we can climb up on this bridge of peace to reach him. On this bridge, always together with him, we too must reach our neighbour, reach the one who needs us. It is in lowering ourselves, together with Christ, that we rise up to him and up to God. God is Love, and so the descent, the lowering that love demands of us, is at the same time the true ascent. Exactly in this way, lowering ourselves, coming out of ourselves, we reach the dignity of Jesus Christ, the human being’s true dignity.
The Lord’s greeting of peace is followed by two gestures that are decisive for Pentecost: the Lord wants the disciples to continue his mission: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20: 21).
After this, he breathes on them and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound” (Jn 20: 23). The Lord breathes on the disciples, giving them the Holy Spirit, his own Spirit. The breath of Jesus is the Holy Spirit.
We recognize here, in the first place, an allusion made to the story of creation in the Book of Genesis, where it is written: “The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gn 2: 7). Man is this mysterious creature who comes entirely from the earth, but in whom has been placed the breath of God. Jesus breathes on the Apostles and gives them the breath of God in a new and greater way.
In people, notwithstanding all of their limitations, there is now something absolutely new: the breath of God. The life of God lives in us. The breath of his love, of his truth and of his goodness. In this way we can see here too an allusion to Baptism and Confirmation, this new belonging to God that the Lord gives to us. The Gospel Reading invites us to this: to live always within the breath of Jesus Christ, receiving life from him, so that he may inspire in us authentic life, the life that no death may ever take away.
To his breath, to the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Lord joins the power of forgiveness. We heard earlier that the Holy Spirit unites, breaks down barriers, leads us one to the other. The strength that opens up and overcomes
Babel is the strength of forgiveness.
Jesus can grant forgiveness and the power to forgive because he himself suffered the consequences of sin and dispelled them in the flame of his love. Forgiveness comes from the Cross; he transforms the world with the love that is offered. His heart opened on the Cross is the door through which the grace of forgiveness enters into the world. And this grace alone is able to transform the world and build peace.
If we compare the two events of Pentecost - the strong wind of the 50th day and the gentle breath of Jesus on the evening of Easter - we might think about this contrast between the two episodes that took place on Mt Sinai, spoken of in the Old Testament.
On the one hand, there is the narration of fire, thunder and wind, preceding the promulgation of the Ten Commandments and the conclusion of the Covenant (see Ex 19 ff.); on the other, there is the mysterious narration of Elijah on Mt Horeb. Following the dramatic events on Mt Carmel, Elijah fled from the wrath of Ahab and Jezebel. Following God’s orders, he journeyed to Mt Horeb. The gift of the holy Covenant, of faith in the one God, seemed to have disappeared from
In a certain way, Elijah must rekindle the flame of faith on God’s mountain and bring it back to
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 (see 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 (see Eph 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.
Sacrament of the Eucharist
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” (Jn 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
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!
SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST 2006
St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 4 June 2006
Today’s Solemnity of Pentecost invites us to return to the origins of the Church, which, as we affirm in the Second Vatican Council, was “made manifest in the outpouring of the Spirit” (Lumen Gentium, no. 2).
At Pentecost, the Church shows herself as one, holy, catholic and apostolic; she shows herself as missionary, with the gift of speaking all the languages of the world, because the Good News of God’s love is destined for all peoples.
The Spirit, the Council again teaches, “[g]uiding the Church in the way of all truth and unifying her in communion and in the works of ministry, he bestows upon her varied hierarchic and charismatic gifts, and in this way directs her; and he adorns her with his fruits” (ibid., no. 4).
Among the realities raised up in the Church by the Holy Spirit are the Movements and Ecclesial Communities, which yesterday I had the joy of meeting in this Square in a great worldwide gathering. The entire Church, as beloved Pope John Paul II used to say, is one great movement animated by the Holy Spirit, a river that travels through history to irrigate it with God’s grace and make it full of life, goodness, beauty, justice and peace.
SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST 2006
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
St. Peter’s Square, Sunday, 4 June 2006
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
On the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit descended with power upon the Apostles; thus began the mission of the Church in the world.
Jesus himself prepared the Eleven for this mission, appearing to them on many occasions after his Resurrection (see Acts 1: 3).
Prior to the Ascension into Heaven, he ordered them “not to depart from
Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the
Father” (see Acts 1: 4-5); that is, he asked them to stay together to prepare
themselves to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And they gathered in prayer
with Mary in the Upper Room, awaiting the promised event (see Acts 1: 14).
To stay together was the condition laid down by Jesus in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit; the premise of their harmony was prolonged prayer. In this way we are offered a formidable lesson for every Christian community.
Some think at times that missionary effectiveness depends primarily on careful programming and its subsequent intelligent application through a concrete commitment.
The Lord certainly does ask for our collaboration, but before any other response his initiative is necessary: his Spirit is the true protagonist of the Church. The roots of our being and of our action are in the wise and provident silence of God.
The images used by St Luke to indicate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit - wind and fire - recall Sinai, where God revealed himself to the people of Israel and offered his covenant (see Ex 19: 3ff.). The feast of Sinai, which
Israel celebrated 50 days after the
Passover, was the feast of the Covenant.
Speaking of the tongues of fire (see Acts 2: 3), St Luke wants to show Pentecost as a new Sinai, as the feast of the New Covenant, where the Covenant with
is extended to all the nations of the earth.
The Church has been catholic and missionary from her birth. The universality of salvation is meaningfully manifested with the list of the numerous ethnic groups to which those who heard the Apostles’ first proclamation belonged (see Acts 2: 9-11).
The People of God, which had found its first configuration in Sinai, extends today to the point of surmounting every barrier of race, culture, space and time. As opposed to what occurred with the tower of Babel (see Gn 11: 1-9), when people wanted to build a way to heaven with their hands and ended up by destroying their very capacity of mutual understanding, in Pentecost the Spirit, with the gift of tongues, demonstrates that his presence unites and transforms confusion into communion.
Human pride and egoism always create divisions, build walls of indifference, hate and violence. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, makes hearts capable of understanding the languages of all, as he re-establishes the bridge of authentic communion between earth and heaven. The Holy Spirit is Love.
But how is it possible to enter into the mystery of the Holy Spirit? How can the secret of Love be understood?
The Gospel passage takes us today to the Upper Room where, after the Last Supper, a sense of loss has saddened the Apostles. This is due to the fact that Jesus’ words arouse disturbing questions: He spoke of the world’s hatred of him and of his own, he spoke of his mysterious departure; and there were still many other things to be said, but for the time being the Apostles were not able to bear the weight (see Jn 16: 12).
To console them, he explains the meaning of his departure: he will go, but he will return; meanwhile, he will not abandon them, will not leave them orphans. He will send the Consoler, the Spirit of the Father, and the Spirit will enable them to understand that Christ’s work is a work of love: love of the One who gave himself, love of the Father who has given him.
This is the mystery of Pentecost: the Holy Spirit illuminates the human spirit and, by revealing Christ Crucified and Risen, indicates the way to become more like him, that is, to be “the image and instrument of the love which flows from Christ” (Deus Caritas Est, no. 33).
The Church, gathered with Mary as at her birth, today implores: “Veni, Sancte Spiritus! - Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love!”. Amen.
Saint Peter’s Square, Pentecost Sunday, 27 May 2007
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today, we celebrate the great feast of Pentecost, in which the liturgy has us relive the birth of the Church, according to what St Luke narrates in the book of the Acts of the Apostles (2: 1-13).
Fifty days after Easter, the Holy Spirit descended on the community of disciples - “with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” - gathered with “Mary, the mother of Jesus” and with the Twelve Apostles (see Acts 1: 14; 2: 1). We can therefore say that the Church had its solemn beginning with the descent of the Holy Spirit.
In this extraordinary event we find the essential and qualifying characteristics of the Church: the Church is one, like the community at Pentecost, who were united in prayer and “concordant”: “were of one heart and soul” (Acts 4: 32).
The Church is holy, not by her own merits, but because, animated by the Holy Spirit, she keeps her gaze on Christ, to become conformed to him and to his love.
The Church is catholic, because the Gospel is destined for all peoples, and for this, already at the beginning, the Holy Spirit made her speak all languages.
The Church is apostolic, because, built upon the foundation of the Apostles, she faithfully keeps their teaching through the uninterrupted chain of episcopal succession.
What is more, the Church by her nature is missionary, and from the day of Pentecost the Holy Spirit does not cease to move her along the ways of the world to the ends of the earth and to the end of time.
This reality, which we can verify in every epoch, is already anticipated in the Book of Acts, where the Gospel passage from the Hebrews to the pagans, from
Jerusalem to Rome,
is described. Rome
represents the pagan world, and hence, all people who are outside of the
ancient People of God. Actually, Acts concludes with the arrival of the
Gospel to Rome.
It can be said, then, that
is the concrete name of catholicity and missionary spirit, it expresses
fidelity to the origins, to the Church of all times, to a Church that speaks
all languages and extends herself to all cultures.
Dear brothers and sisters, the first Pentecost took place when Mary Most Holy was present amid the disciples in the Upper Room in
Jerusalem and prayed. Today, too, let us
entrust ourselves to her maternal intercession, so that the Holy Spirit may
descend in abundance upon the Church in our day, fill the hearts of all the
faithful and enkindle in them the fire of his love.
SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 11 May 2008
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
(see Ex 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 (see
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” (Mt 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 (see Jn 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
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.
St Peter’s Square, Wednesday, 7 May 2008
Greeting to His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II,
Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians
It is my great joy today to greet His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and the distinguished delegation accompanying him. Your Holiness, I pray that the light of the Holy Spirit will illumine your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, the important meetings you will have here, and particularly our personal conversations. I ask all who are present today to pray for God’s blessing upon this visit.
Your Holiness, I thank you for your personal commitment to the growing friendship between the
and the Catholic Church. In 2000, soon after your election, you came to Armenian Apostolic Church Rome to meet Pope John
Paul II, and a year later, you graciously received him in Holy Etchmiadzin. You
came once again to Rome
together with many Church leaders from East and West, for the funeral liturgy
of Pope John Paul II. I am sure that this spirit of friendship will be further
deepened during the coming days.
In an external niche of Saint Peter’s Basilica, there is a fine statue of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, founder of the Armenian Church. It serves to remind us of the severe persecutions suffered by Armenian Christians, especially during the last century.
many martyrs are a sign of the power of the Holy Spirit working in times of
darkness, and a pledge of hope for Christians everywhere.
Your Holiness, dear Bishops and dear friends, together with you I implore Almighty God, through the intercession of Saint Gregory the Illuminator, to help us grow in unity, in one holy bond of Christian faith, hope and love.
* * *
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
As you see we have with us this morning His Holiness Catholicos Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, and a distinguished delegation. I renew the expression of my joy at the possibility of welcoming him which has been granted to me this morning. His presence today rekindles our hope for the full unity of all Christians. I gladly take this opportunity also to thank him for the friendly welcome he recently offered my Cardinal Secretary of State in
It is likewise a pleasure for me to recall the Catholicos’ unforgettable visit
to Rome in
2000, just after his election. On meeting him, my beloved Predecessor John Paul
II gave him a famous relic of St Gregory the Illuminator and later went to Armenia
to reciprocate his visit.
The efforts made by the Armenian Apostolic Church for ecumenical dialogue are well known, and I am sure that this visit of the venerable Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians will help to intensify the relations of fraternal friendship that bind our Churches. These days of immediate preparation for the Solemnity of Pentecost encourage us to rekindle our hope in the Holy Spirit’s help so that we may advance on the path of ecumenism. We are certain that the Lord Jesus will never abandon us in our quest for unity, since his Spirit is tirelessly at work to sustain our efforts in striving to overcome every division and mend every tear in the living fabric of the Church.
It was precisely this that Jesus promised his disciples in the last days of his earthly mission, as we have just heard in the Gospel passage: he assured them of the help of the Holy Spirit that he would send to continue to make them aware of his presence (see Jn 14: 16-17). This promise became reality when, after the Resurrection, Jesus entered the Upper Room, greeted the disciples with the words, “Peace be with you”, and breathing on them said: “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20: 22). He authorized them to forgive sins. Here, therefore, the Holy Spirit, appears as a power for the forgiveness of sins, for renewing our hearts and our lives; and thus he renews the earth and creates unity where there was division. Furthermore, on the Feast of Pentecost the Holy Spirit showed himself in other signs: in the sign of a mighty wind, tongues of fire, and the Apostles’ ability to speak all languages. This was a sign that the Babylonian dispersion, the result of pride that separates men and women, had been overcome in the Spirit who is love and gives unity in diversity. Since the very first moment of her existence the Church has spoken in all languages - thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit and the tongues of fire - and has lived in all cultures, she does not destroy any of the various gifts, of the different charisms, but draws all of them together in a great, new unity that reconciles: unity and multiformity.
The Holy Spirit, who is eternal charity, the bond of unity in the Trinity, with his power of divine charity unites scattered humanity thereby creating the vast multiform community of the Church throughout the world. In the days following the Ascension of the Lord until Pentecost Sunday, the disciples, with Mary, were gathered in the Upper Room to pray. They knew that they themselves could not create or organize the Church: the Church had to be born and organized by divine initiative; she is not created by us, she is a gift of God. And this is likewise the only way in which she creates unity, a unity that must grow. The Church in every time - and particularly in these nine days between the Ascension and Pentecost - is spiritually united in the Upper Room with the Apostles and Mary to ceaselessly implore the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Driven onwards by his mighty wind she will thus be able to proclaim the Gospel to the very ends of the earth.
This is why even in the face of difficulties and divisions, Christians cannot be resigned nor yield to discouragement. The Lord asks this of us: to persevere in prayer in order to keep alive the flame of faith, love and hope which nourishes the desire for full unity. “Ut unum sint!”, says the Lord. May Christ’s invitation always resound in our hearts, an invitation I was able to relaunch on my recent Apostolic Journey in the
States of America, when I referred to the centrality of prayer
in the ecumenical movement. In this epoch of globalization and at the same time
of fragmentation, “without [prayer], ecumenical structures, institutions and
programs would be deprived of their heart and soul” (Ecumenical Prayer
Service and Meeting, St Joseph’s Church, New York, 18 April
2008). Let us give thanks to the Lord for the goals reached in ecumenical
dialogue thanks to the Holy Spirit’s action; let us be docile, listening to his
voice so that our hearts, filled with hope, may continuously seek the path that
leads to the full communion of all Christ’s disciples.
In his Letter to the Galatians, St Paul recalls that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal 5: 22-23). These are the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we also implore today for all Christians, so that in the common and generous service to the Gospel, they may be a sign of God’s love for humanity in the world. Let us turn our gaze confidently to Mary, the Shrine of the Holy Spirit and through her pray: “Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love”. Amen.
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 (see 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
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 (see
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 (see Ex 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” (Ex 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
(see Gn 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 (see Mt 28: 19). The Church which is born at
Pentecost is not primarily a particular Community - the
- 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. Church of Jerusalem
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
of the . Among the peoples represented
in Church of Jerusalem 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 (see 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!” (Jn 20: 19, 21). The expression “shalom” is not a mere greeting; it is far more: it is the gift of peace promised (see Jn 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 (see Mk 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” (Jn 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.
SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST
Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 31 May 2009
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today the Church throughout the world is reliving the Solemnity of Pentecost, the mystery of her birth, her own “Baptism” in the Holy Spirit (see Acts 1:5) which occurred in Jerusalem 50 days after Easter, precisely on the Jewish Feast of Pentecost. The Risen Jesus had told his disciples: “Stay in the city, until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49). This actually happened in the Upper Room, while they were all gathered in prayer with Mary, the Virgin Mother.
As we read in the Acts of the Apostles, that place was suddenly filled with the rush of a mighty wind and tongues as of fire settled on each one of those present. The Apostles then went out and began to proclaim in different languages that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, dead and risen (see Acts 2:1-4). The Holy Spirit, who with the Father and the Son, created the universe, who guided the People of Israel through history and spoke through the Prophets, who in the fullness of time cooperated in our redemption, came down at Pentecost upon the nascent Church and made her missionary, sending her out to proclaim to all peoples the victory of divine love over sin and death.
The Holy Spirit is the soul of the Church. Without him what would she be reduced to? She would certainly be an important movement in history, a complex and solid social institution, perhaps a sort of humanitarian agency. And to tell the truth she is considered such by those who do not see her from a perspective of faith. Yet, the reality is that in her true nature and also in her authentic presence in history, the Church is ceaselessly formed and guided by the Spirit of her Lord. She is a living body, whose vitality is, precisely, the fruit of the invisible divine Spirit.
Dear friends, this year the Solemnity of Pentecost occurs on the last day of the month of May on which the beautiful Marian feast of the Visitation is normally celebrated. This fact invites us to let ourselves be inspired and, as it were, instructed by the Virgin Mary, who was the protagonist of both these events. In
Nazareth she received the
announcement of her unique motherhood and, immediately after conceiving Jesus
by the power of the Holy Spirit, she was impelled by the same Spirit of love to
go and help her elderly kinswoman Elizabeth, who had reached the sixth month of
a pregnancy that was also miraculous. The young Mary who is carrying Jesus in
her womb and, forgetting herself, hurries to the help of her neighbour, is a
wonderful image of the Church in the perennial youthfulness of the Spirit, of
the missionary Church of the incarnate Word called to bring him to the world
and to witness to him especially in the service of charity. Let us therefore
invoke the intercession of Mary Most Holy, so that she may obtain for the
Church of our time that she be powerfully strengthened by the Holy Spirit. In
particular, may the ecclesial communities that are suffering persecution in
Christ’s name feel the comforting presence of the Paraclete so that,
participating in her suffering, they may receive the spirit of glory in
abundance (see 1 Pt 4:13-14).
ON THE SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Every time we celebrate the Eucharist we live in faith the mystery that is fulfilled on the altar, that is, we take part in the supreme act of love that Christ accomplished with his death and Resurrection. The one and only centre of the liturgy and Christian life itself the Paschal Mystery acquires in the various Solemnities and Feasts specific “forms”, with additional meanings and special gifts of grace. Pentecost is distinguished from all the Solemnities by its importance since what Jesus himself had announced as the purpose of the whole of his mission on earth is brought about in it. Indeed, on his way up to
Jerusalem he had declared
to his disciples: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were
already kindled!” (Lk 12: 49). These words were most visibly brought about 50
days after the Resurrection, at Pentecost, the ancient Jewish feast which in
the Church has become the feast par excellence of the Holy Spirit: “There
appeared to them tongues as of fire... and they were all filled with the Holy
Spirit” (Acts 2: 3-4). The real fire, the Holy Spirit, was brought to the earth
by Christ. He did not steal it from the gods like Prometheus, according to the
Greek myth, but rather made himself the mediator of the “gift of God”,
obtaining it for us with the greatest act of love in history: his death on the
God wants to continue giving this “fire” to every human generation and he is naturally free to do so as and when he wishes. He is spirit, and the Spirit “blows where he wills” (see Jn 3: 8). However, there is a “normal way” which God himself chose “to cast fire upon the earth”: this way is Jesus, his Only-Begotten Son, incarnate, dead and Risen. In his turn Jesus Christ constituted the Church as his Mystical Body so that she might extend his mission in history. “Receive the Holy Spirit”, the Lord said to the Apostles on the evening of the Resurrection, accompanying these words with an expressive gesture: “he breathed” on them (see Jn 20: 22). In this way he showed that he was communicating his Spirit to them, the Spirit of the Father and of the Son. Now, dear brothers and sisters, in today’s Solemnity Scripture tells us once again how the community should be, how we should be in order to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. In the account which describes the event of Pentecost, the sacred Author recalls that the disciples “were all together in one place”. This “place” was the Cenacle, the “Upper Room” where Jesus had eaten the Last Supper with his Apostles, where he had appeared to them risen; that room which had become, so to speak, the “headquarters” of the nascent Church (see Acts 1: 13). The Acts of the Apostles, however, rather than insisting on the physical place, intend to point out the inner attitude of the disciples: “All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” (Acts 1: 14). Harmony among the disciples is thus the condition for the coming of the Holy Spirit; and a presupposition of harmony is prayer.
Dear brothers and sisters, this also applies to the Church today, it applies to us, who are gathered here. If we want to prevent Pentecost from being reduced to a mere rite or even an evocative commemoration but want it to be an actual event of salvation, we must prepare ourselves in devout expectation for the gift of God through humble and silent listening to his Word. Since Pentecost is renewed in our time, perhaps taking nothing from the freedom of God the Church should concentrate less on activities and be more dedicated to prayer. The Mother of the Church, Mary Most Holy, Bride of the Holy Spirit, teaches us this. This year Pentecost falls on the very last day of May on which the Feast of the Visitation is normally celebrated. That too was a sort of miniature “pentecost” which caused joy and praise to well up in the hearts of Elizabeth and Mary, one barren and the other a virgin, who both became mothers through an extraordinary divine intervention (see Lk 1: 41-45). The music and singing that accompany this liturgy help us likewise to be with one accord devoted to prayer, and for this I express my deep gratitude to the Cathedral Choir and the Kammerorchester of
Joseph Haydn’s Harmoniemesse has very appropriately been chosen for this
liturgy on the bicentenary of his death, the last of the “Masses” composed by
the great musician and a sublime symphony to the glory of God. I address my
most cordial greeting to all of you who are gathered here on this occasion.
In the account of Pentecost the Acts of the Apostles uses two important images to indicate the Holy Spirit: the image of the storm and the image of fire. Clearly, St Luke has in mind the theophany of Sinai, recounted in the Books of Exodus (19: 16-19) and Deuteronomy (4: 10-12, 36). In the ancient world the storm was seen as a sign of divine power, before which man felt subjugated and terrified. However, I would like to emphasize another aspect too: the storm is described as a “mighty wind” and this makes one think of the air which distinguishes our planet from the other stars and enables us to live on it. What air is for biological life, the Holy Spirit is for spiritual life; and just as an atmospheric pollution exists that poisons the environment and living beings, thus a pollution of heart and spirit exists that mortifies and poisons spiritual life. In the same way that one must not become inured to the poisons in the air and for this reason ecological commitment is a priority today likewise one must not become inured to what corrupts the mind. On the other hand it seems that it is not difficult to become accustomed to the many products that contaminate both the mind and the heart and that circulate in our society for example, images which boost pleasure, violence or contempt for men and women. This is also freedom, people say, without realizing that all this pollutes, and intoxicates the mind, especially that of the new generations and moreover ends by conditioning their very freedom. The metaphor of the mighty wind of Pentecost makes one think instead of how precious it is to breathe clean air, physically with the lungs and spiritually with the heart, the healthy air of the Spirit who is love!
The other image of the Holy Spirit which we find in the Acts of the Apostles is fire. I mentioned at the beginning the comparison between Jesus and the mythological figure of Prometheus which recalls a characteristic aspect of modern man. In possessing himself of the energies of the cosmos “fire” the human being seems today to assert himself as a god and to wish to transform the world excluding, setting aside or even rejecting the Creator of the universe. Man no longer wants to be an image of God but of himself; he declares himself autonomous, free and adult. Of course, this attitude reveals a relationship with God which is not authentic, the consequence of a false image which has been fabricated of him, like the Prodigal Son in the Gospel parable who believes that he can fulfil himself by distancing himself from his father’s house. In the hands of such a man “fire” and its enormous potential become dangerous: they can backfire against life and humanity itself, as history unfortunately shows. The tragedies of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki, where atomic energy used for the
purposes of war, ended by sowing death on an unheard of scale, serve as a
It would truly be possible to find many examples, less grave but equally symptomatic, in everyday reality. Sacred Scripture reveals to us that the energy capable of moving the world is not an anonymous and blind force but the action of the “Spirit of God... moving over the face of the waters” (Gn 1: 2) at the beginning of the Creation. And Jesus Christ “brought to the earth” not the vital force that already lived in it but the Holy Spirit, that is, the love of God who “renews the face of the earth”, purifying it from evil and setting it free from the dominion of death (see Ps 103: 29-30). This pure, essential and personal “fire”, the fire of love, came down upon the Apostles gathered in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room, to make the Church an extension of Christ’s work of renewal.
Lastly, a final thought may also be found in the account of the Acts of the Apostles: the Holy Spirit overcomes fear. We know that the disciples sought shelter in the Upper Room after the arrest of their Lord and that they had remained isolated for fear of suffering the same fate. After Jesus’ Resurrection their fear was not suddenly dispelled. But here at Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit rested upon them, those men emerged fearless and began to proclaim the Good News of the Crucified and Risen Christ to all. They were not afraid because they felt they were in the hands of the strongest One. Yes, dear brothers and sisters, wherever the Spirit of God enters he puts fear to flight; he makes us know and feel that we are in the hands of an Omnipotence of love: something happens, his infinite love does not abandon us. It is demonstrated by the witness of martyrs, by the courage of confessors of the faith, by the undaunted zeal of missionaries, by the frankness of preachers, by the example of all the saints, even some who were adolescents and children. It is demonstrated by the very existence of the Church which, despite the limitations and sins of men and women, continues to cross the ocean of history, blown by the breath of God and enlivened by his purifying fire. With this faith and joyful hope let us repeat today, through the intercession of Mary: “Send forth your Spirit, O Lord, and renew the face of the earth”.
SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 23 May 2010
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Fifty days after Easter we celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost, in which we recall the manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit, who as wind and as fire descended upon the Apostles gathered together in the Upper Room, and enabled them to preach the Gospel to all nations with courage (see Acts 2: 1-13). The mystery of Pentecost, which we rightly identify with the event of the Church’s true “baptism”, is not, however, exhausted by this. The Church in fact lives constantly from the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, without which she would exhaust her own strength, like a sailboat without the wind. Pentecost is renewed in a special way in certain powerful moments, whether this be at the local or the universal level, whether it be in small assemblies or in large ones. The Councils, for example, had sessions graced by special outpourings of the Holy Spirit, and among these is certainly the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council. We might also recall that famous meeting of the ecclesial movements with Venerable John Paul II, here in St Peter’s Square, precisely on Pentecost in 1998. But the Church knows countless “pentecosts” that vivify the local communities. Let us think of the liturgies, particularly those experienced in special moments of the community’s life, in which the power of God is perceived in an evident way, infusing joy and enthusiasm in hearts. We may think of many other prayer gatherings in which young people clearly feel the call of God to root their lives in his love, even consecrating themselves entirely to him.
Thus there is no Church without Pentecost. And I would like to add that there is no Pentecost without the Virgin Mary. This is how it was at the beginning, in the Upper Room, where the disciples “with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with his brethren”, as the Acts of the Apostles says (1: 14). And this is how it always is, in every place and in every time. I witnessed it a short time ago at
What did that great multitude on the square in front of the Shrine experience,
where we were truly all of one heart and one soul? It was a renewed Pentecost.
In our midst was Mary, the Mother of Jesus. This is the typical experience at
the great Marian sanctuaries Lourdes, Guadalupe,
or even in the smaller ones. Wherever Christians gather in prayer with Mary,
the Lord grants his Spirit.
Dear friends, on this Feast of Pentecost, we too would like to be spiritually united with the Mother of Christ and of the Church, faithfully invoking a renewed outpouring of the Paraclete. We invoke this for the whole Church, in particular, in this Year for Priests, for all the ministers of the Gospel, that the message of salvation be proclaimed to all the nations.
HOLY MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
St Peter’s Basilica, Sunday, 23 May 2010
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In the solemn celebration of Pentecost we are invited to profess our faith in the presence and in the action of the Holy Spirit and to invoke his outpouring upon us, upon the Church and upon the whole world. With special intensity, let us make our own the Church’s invocation: Veni, Sancte Spiritus! It is such a simple and spontaneous invocation, yet also extraordinarily profound, which came first of all from the heart of Christ. The Spirit is indeed the gift that Jesus asked and continues to ask of his Father for his friends; the first and principal gift that he obtained for us through his Resurrection and Ascension into heaven.
Today’s Gospel passage, which has the Last Supper as its context, speaks to us of this prayer of Christ. The Lord Jesus said to his disciples: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor, to be with you for ever” (Jn 14: 15-16). Here the praying heart of Jesus is revealed to us, his filial and fraternal heart. This prayer reaches its apex and its fulfilment on the Cross, where Christ’s invocation is one with the total gift that he makes of himself, and thus his prayer becomes, so to speak, the very seal of his self-gift out of love of the Father and humanity. Invocation and donation of the Holy Spirit meet, they permeate each other, they become one reality. “And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counsellor, to be with you for ever”. In reality, Jesus’ prayers that of the Last Supper and that on the Cross form a single prayer that continues even in heaven, where Christ sits at the right hand of the Father. Jesus, in fact, always lives his intercessional priesthood on behalf of the people of God and humanity and so prays for all of us, asking the Father for the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The account of Pentecost in the Book of the Acts of the Apostles we listened to it in the First Reading (see Acts 2: 1-11) presents the “new course” of the work that God began with Christ’s Resurrection, a work that involves mankind, history and the cosmos. The Son of God, dead and Risen and returned to the Father, now breathes with untold energy the divine breath upon humanity, the Holy Spirit. And what does this new and powerful self-communication of God produce? Where there are divisions and estrangement the Paraclete creates unity and understanding. The Spirit triggers a process of reunification of the divided and dispersed parts of the human family. People, often reduced to individuals in competition or in conflict with each other, when touched by the Spirit of Christ open themselves to the experience of communion, which can involve them to such an extent as to make of them a new body, a new subject: the Church. This is the effect of God’s work: unity; thus unity is the sign of recognition, the “business card” of the Church throughout her universal history. From the very beginning, from the Day of Pentecost, she speaks all languages. The universal Church precedes the particular Churches, and the latter must always conform to the former according to a criterion of unity and universality. The Church never remains a prisoner within political, racial and cultural confines; she cannot be confused with States nor with Federations of States, because her unity is of a different type and aspires to transcend every human frontier.
From this, dear brothers, derives a practical criterion for discerning Christian life: when a person or a community limits itself to its own way of thinking and acting, it is a sign that it has distanced itself from the Holy Spirit. The path of Christians and of the particular Churches must always coincide with the path of the one, catholic Church, and harmonize with it. This does not mean that the unity created by the Holy Spirit is a kind of egalitarianism. On the contrary, that is rather the model of
or in other words, the imposition of a culture characterized by what we could
define as “technical” unity. In fact, the Bible tells us (see Gen 11: 1-9) that
everyone spoke the same language. At Pentecost, however, the Apostles speak
different languages in such a way that everyone understands the message in his own
tongue. The unity of the Spirit is manifest in the plurality of understanding.
The Church is one and multiple by her nature, destined as she is to live among
all nations, all peoples, and in the most diverse social contexts. She responds
to her vocation to be a sign and instrument of unity of the human race (see Lumen
gentium, no. 1)
only if she remains autonomous from every State and every specific culture.
Always and everywhere the Church must truly be catholic and universal, the
house of all in which each one can find a place. Babel
The account of the Acts of the Apostles offers us another very concrete indication. The universality of the Church is expressed by the list of peoples according to the ancient tradition: We are “Parthians, Medes, Elamites”, etc. Here one may observe that St Luke goes beyond the number 12, which itself always expresses a universality. He looks beyond the horizons of Asia and northwest Africa, and adds three other elements: the “Romans”, that is, the Western world; the “Jews and proselytes”, encompassing in a new way the unity between
and the world; and finally “Cretans
and Arabians”, who represent the West and the East, islands and land. This
opening of horizons subsequently confirms the newness of Christ in the
dimension of human space, in the history of the nations. The Holy Spirit
involves individuals and peoples and, through them, overcomes walls and
At Pentecost the Holy Spirit is manifest as fire. The Spirit’s flame descended upon the assembled disciples, it was kindled in them and gave them the new ardour of God. Thus what Jesus had previously said was fulfilled: “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!” (Lk 12: 49). The Apostles, together with diverse communities of the faithful, carried this divine flame to the far corners of the earth. In this way they opened a path for humanity, a luminous path, and they collaborated with God, who wants to renew the face of the earth with his fire. How different is this fire from that of war and bombing! How different is the fire of Christ, spread by the Church, compared with those lit by the dictators of every epoch of the last century too who leave scorched earth behind them. The fire of God, the fire of the Holy Spirit, is that of the bush that burned but was not consumed (see Ex 3: 2). It is a flame that blazes but does not destroy, on the contrary, that, in burning, brings out the better and truer part of man, as in a fusion it elicits his interior form, his vocation to truth and to love.
A Father of the Church, Origen, in one of his Homilies on Jeremiah, cites a saying attributed to Jesus, not contained in the sacred Scriptures but perhaps authentic, which reads: “Whoever is near to me, is near to the fire” (Homily on Jeremiah, L. I [III]). In Christ, in fact, there is the fullness of God, who in the Bible is compared to fire. We just observed that the flame of the Holy Spirit blazes but does not burn. And nevertheless it enacts a transformation, and thus must also consume something in man, the waste that corrupts him and hinders his relations with God and neighbour. This effect of the divine fire, however, frightens us; we are afraid of being “scorched” and prefer to stay just as we are. This is because our life is often based on the logic of having, of possessing and not the logic of self-gift. Many people believe in God and admire the person of Jesus Christ, but when they are asked to lose something of themselves, then they retreat; they are afraid of the demands of faith. There is the fear of giving up something pleasant to which we are attached; the fear that following Christ deprives us of freedom, of certain experiences, of a part of ourselves. On the one hand, we want to be with Jesus, follow him closely, and, on the other, we are afraid of the consequences entailed.
Dear brothers and sisters, we are always in need of hearing the Lord Jesus tell us what he often repeated to his friends: “Be not afraid”. Like Simon Peter and the others we must allow his presence and his grace to transform our heart, which is always subject to human weakness. We must know how to recognize that losing something indeed, losing ourselves for the true God, the God of love and of life is actually gaining ourselves, finding ourselves more fully. Whoever entrusts himself to Jesus already experiences in this life the peace and joy of heart that the world cannot give, and that it cannot even take away once God has given it to us. So it is worthwhile to let ourselves be touched by the fire of the Holy Spirit! The suffering that it causes us is necessary for our transformation. It is the reality of the Cross. It is not without reason that in the language of Jesus “fire” is above all a representation of the mystery of the Cross, without which Christianity does not exist. Thus enlightened and comforted by these words of life, let us lift up our invocation: Come, Holy Spirit! Enkindle in us the fire of your love! We know that this is a bold prayer, with which we ask to be touched by God’s flame; but above all we know that this flame and it alone has the power to save us. We do not want, in defending our life, to lose eternal life that God wants to give us. We need the fire of the Holy Spirit, because only Love redeems. Amen.
SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST
St Peter’s Square, Sunday, 12 June 2011
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 (see 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 (see Acts 2:2-3). St Gregory the Great commented: “Today, the Holy Spirit has come 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).
Bl. 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, no. 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” (Jn 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 Cor 12:3).
PAPAL MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST
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 (see 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 (see Gen 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” (see 1 Cor 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
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 (see Jn 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 (see Gen 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.
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 (see Acts 2:2-3), evoke Sinai, where God revealed himself to the People of Israel and granted it his Covenant. “
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 (see
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” (Jn 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!
SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST
St Peter’s Square
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Today we celebrate the great Feast of Pentecost, which brings the Easter Season to a close, 50 days after the Sunday of the Resurrection. This Solemnity makes us remember and relive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and the other disciples gathered in prayer with the Virgin Mary in the Upper Room (see Acts 2:1-11). Jesus, risen and ascended into Heaven, sent his Spirit to the Church so that every Christian might participate in his own divine life and become his valid witness in the world. The Holy Spirit, breaking into history, defeats aridity, opens hearts to hope, stimulates and fosters in us an interior maturity in our relationship with God and with our neighbour.
The Spirit, who “has spoken through the prophets”, with the gifts of wisdom and knowledge continues to inspire women and men who engage in the pursuit of truth, offering original ways of understanding and of delving into the mystery of God, of man and of the world. In this context, I am delighted to announce that on 7 October, at the start of the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, I will proclaim St John of Avila and St Hildegard of Bingen Doctors of the universal Church. These two great witnesses of the faith lived in two very different historical periods and cultural environments. Hildegard was a Benedictine nun in the heart of medieval
Germany, an authentic teacher of
theology and a profound scholar of natural science and music. John, a diocesan
priest in the years of the Spanish Renaissance, shared in the travail of the
cultural and religious renewal of the Church and of all society at the dawn of
modern times. But the sanctity of their life and the profundity of their
doctrine render them perennially relevant: the grace of the Holy Spirit, in
fact, projected them into the experience of penetrating understanding of divine
revelation and intelligent dialogue with that world which constitutes the
eternal horizon of the life and action of the Church.
Especially in light of the project for a new evangelization, to which the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, mentioned above will be dedicated on the eve of the Year of Faith, these two Saints and Doctors are of considerable and timely importance. Even today, through their teaching, the Spirit of the Risen Lord continues to resonate his voice and illuminate the way which leads to the Truth that alone can set us free and give full meaning to our lives.
Praying the Regina Caeli together — for the last time this year — let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary that the Church may be powerfully animated by the Holy Spirit, in order to witness to Christ’s Gospel with evangelical honesty and to open herself ever more to the fullness of truth.
PAPAL MASS ON THE SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST
HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
Papal Chapel, Sunday, 27 May 2012
Dear brothers and sisters,
I am happy to celebrate this Holy Mass with you – a Mass animated by the Choir of the
the Youth Orchestra, which I thank – on this Feast of Pentecost. This mystery
constitutes the baptism of the Church, it is an event that gave the Church the
initial shape and thrust of its mission, so to speak. This shape and thrust are
always valid, always timely, and they are renewed through the actions of the
liturgy, especially. Academy
of Santa Cecilia
This morning I want to reflect on an essential aspect of the mystery of Pentecost, which maintains all its importance in our own day as well. Pentecost is the feast of human unity, understanding and sharing.We can all see how in our world, despite us being closer to one another through developments in communications, with geographical distances seeming to disappear – understanding and sharing among people is often superfical and difficult. There are imbalances that frequently lead to conflicts; dialogue between generations is hard and differences sometimes prevail; we witness daily events where people appear to be growing more aggressive and belligerent; understanding one another takes too much effort and people prefer to remain inside their own sphere, cultivating their own interests. In this situation, can we really discover and experience the unity we so need?
The account of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles, which we heard in the first reading, is set against a background that contains one of the last great frescoes of the Old Testament: the ancient story of the construction of the
. But what is Tower
of Babel ? It is the
description of a kingdom in which people have concentrated so much power they
think they no longer need depend on a God who is far away. They believe they
are so powerful they can build their own way to heaven in order to open the
gates and put themselves in God’s place. But it’s precisely at this moment that
something strange and unusual happens. While they are working to build the
tower, they suddenly realise they are working against one another. While trying
to be like God, they run the risk of not even being human – because they’ve
lost an essential element of being human: the ability to agree, to understand
one another and to work together. Babel
This biblical story contains an eternal truth: we see this truth throughout history and in our own time as well. Progress and science have given us the power to dominate the forces of nature, to manipulate the elements, to reproduce living things, almost to the point of manufacturing humans themselves. In this situation, praying to God appears outmoded, pointless, because we can build and create whatever we want. We don’t realise we are reliving the same experience as
It’s true, we have multiplied the possibilities of communicating, of possessing
information, of transmitting news – but can we say our ability to understand
each other has increased? Or, paradoxically, do we understand each other even
less? Doesn’t it seem like feelings of mistrust, suspicion and mutual fear have
insinuated themselves into human relationships to the point where one person
can even pose a threat to another? Let’s go back to the initial question: can
unity and harmony really exist? How? Babel
The answer lies in Sacred Scripture: unity can only exist as a gift of God’s Spirit, which will give us a new heart and a new tongue, a new ability to communicate. This is what happened at Pentecost. On that morning, fifty days after Easter, a powerful wind blew over
and the flame of the Holy Spirit
descended on the gathered disciples. It came to rest upon the head of each of
them and ignited in them a divine fire, a fire of love, capable of transforming
things. Their fear disappeared, their hearts were filled with new strength,
their tongues were loosened and they began to speak freely, in such a way that
everyone could understand the news that Jesus Christ had died and was risen. On
Pentecost, where there was division and incomprehension, unity and
understanding were born. Jerusalem
But let’s look at today’s Gospel in which Jesus affirms: “When he comes, the Spirit of truth, He will guide you to the whole truth”. Speaking about the Holy Spirit, Jesus is explaining to us what the Church is and how she must live in order to be herself, to be the place of unity and comunion in Truth; he tells us that acting like Christians means not being closed inside our own spheres, but opening ourselves towards others; it means welcoming the whole Church within ourselves or, better still, allowing the Church to welcome us. So, when I speak, think and act like a Christian, I don’t stay closed off within myself – but I do so in everything and starting from everything: thus the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of unity and truth, can continue to resonate in people’s hearts and minds, encouraging them to meet and welcome one another. Precisely because it acts in this way, the Spirit introduces us to the whole truth, who is Jesus, and guides us to examine and understand it. We do not grow in understanding by closing ourselves off inside ourselves, but only by becoming capable of listening and sharing, in the “ourselves” of the Church, with an attitude of deep personal humility. Now it’s clearer why
and Pentecost is Pentecost. Where people want to become God, they succeed only
in pitting themselves against each other. Where they place themselves within
the Lord’s truth, on the other hand, they open themselves to the action of his
Spirit which supports and unites them. Babel
The contrast between
and Pentecost returns in the second
reading, where the Apostle Paul says: “Walk according to the Spirit and you
will not be brought to satisfy the desires of the flesh”. Babel tells us that our personal life is
marked by interior conflict and division, between impulses that come from the
flesh and those that come from the Spirit: and we cannot follow all of them. We
cannot be both selfish and generous, we cannot follow the tendency to dominate
others and experience the joy of disinterested service. We have to choose which
impulse to follow and we can do so authentically only with the help of the
Spirit of Christ. St Paul
lists the works of the flesh: they are the sins of selfishness and violence,
like hostility, discord, jealousy, dissent. These are thoughts and actions that
do not allow us to live in a truly human and Christian way, in love. This
direction leads to us losing our life. The Holy Spirit, though, guides us
towards the heights of God, so that, on this earth, we can already experience
the seed of divine life that is within us.St Paul confirms: “The fruit of the
Spirit is love, joy, peace”. We note how the Apostle uses the plural to
describe the works of the flesh that provoke the loss of our humanity – while
he uses the singular to define the action of the Spirit, speaking of “the fruit”,
in the same way as the dispersion of St Paul
contrasts with the unity of Pentecost. Babel
Dear friends, we must live according to the Spirit of unity and truth, and this is why we must pray for the Spirit to enlighten and guide us to overcome the temptation to follow our own truths, and to welcome the truth of Christ transmitted in the Church. Luke’s account of Pentecost tells us that, before rising to heaven, Jesus asked the Apostles to stay together and to prepare themselves to receive the Holy Spirit. And they gathered together in prayer with Mary in the Upper Room and awaited the promised event.
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