View Articles

Monday, May 27, 2013

0280: Reflections on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity by Pope Benedict XVI



Entry 0280: Reflections on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity by Pope Benedict XVI during His Pontificate 




On eight occasions during his Pontificate, Pope Benedict XVI delivered reflections on the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, on 22 May 2005, 11 June 2006, 3 June 2007, 18 May 2008, 7 June 2009, 30 May 2010, 19 June 2011, and 3 June 2012. Here are the texts of eight brief addresses before the recitation of the Angelus and four homilies delivered on these occasions.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Sunday, 22 May 2005

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, the liturgy celebrates the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity almost to underline that in the light of the Pascal Mystery is fully revealed the centre of the universe and of history: God himself, eternal and infinite Love. The word that summarizes all revelation is this: “God is love” (I Jn 4: 8, 16); and love is always a mystery, a reality that surpasses reason without contradicting it, and more than that, exalts its possibilities.

Jesus revealed to us the mystery of God: he, the Son, made us know the Father who is in Heaven, and gave us the Holy Spirit, the Love of the Father and of the Son. Christian theology synthesizes the truth of God with this expression: only one substance in three persons. God is not solitude, but perfect communion. For this reason the human person, the image of God, realizes himself or herself in love, which is a sincere gift of self.

We are contemplating the mystery of the love of God shared in a sublime way in the Most Holy Eucharist, the Sacrament of the Body and Blood of Christ, the representation of his redeeming Sacrifice.

For this I am glad to address today, the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, my greeting to the participants of the Eucharistic Congress of the Church in Italy which opened yesterday in Bari. In the heart of this Year dedicated to the Eucharist, the Christian people converge around Christ present in the Most Holy Sacrament, the source and summit of their life and mission.

In particular, each parish is called to rediscover the beauty of Sunday, the Lord’s Day, in which the disciples of Christ renew, in the Eucharist, communion with the One who gives meaning to the joys and hardships of each day.

“Without Sunday we cannot live”: thus professed the first Christians, even at the cost of their lives, and this is what we are called to repeat today.

In expectation of going personally to Bari next Sunday for the Eucharistic Celebration, I am already spiritually united with this important ecclesial event. We invoke together the intercession of the Virgin Mary, so that days of such intense prayer and adoration of the Eucharistic Christ enkindle in the Church in Italy a renewed ardour of faith, hope and charity.

To Mary I would like also to entrust all children, adolescents and youth who are in this period of time making their first Communion or receiving the sacrament of Confirmation.

With this intention we recite now the Angelus, reliving with Mary the mystery of the Annunciation.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Sunday, 11 June 2006

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

On this Sunday that follows Pentecost, we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, who helps us understand Jesus’ words and guides us to the whole truth (see Jn 14: 26; 16: 13), believers can experience, so to speak, the intimacy of God himself, discovering that he is not infinite solitude but communion of light and love, life given and received in an eternal dialogue between the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit - Lover, Loved and Love, to echo St Augustine.

In this world no one can see God, but he has made himself known so that, with the Apostle John, we can affirm: “God is love” (I Jn 4: 8, 16), and “we have come to know and to believe in the love God has for us” (Encyclical Deus Caritas Est, no. 1; see I Jn 4: 16).

Those who encounter Christ and enter into a friendly relationship with him welcome into their hearts Trinitarian Communion itself, in accordance with Jesus’ promise to his disciples: “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (Jn 14: 23).

For those who have faith, the entire universe speaks of the Triune God. From the spaces between the stars to microscopic particles, all that exists refers to a Being who communicates himself in the multiplicity and variety of elements, as in an immense symphony.

All beings are ordered to a dynamic harmony that we can similarly call “love”. But only in the human person, who is free and can reason, does this dynamism become spiritual, does it become responsible love, in response to God and to one’s neighbour through a sincere gift of self. It is in this love that human beings find their truth and happiness.

Among the different analogies of the ineffable mystery of the Triune God that believers are able to discern, I would like to cite that of the family. It is called to be a community of love and life where differences must contribute to forming a “parable of communion”.

The Virgin Mary, among all creatures, is a masterpiece of the Most Holy Trinity. In her humble heart full of faith, God prepared a worthy dwelling place for himself in order to bring to completion the mystery of salvation. Divine Love found perfect correspondence in her, and in her womb the Only-begotten Son was made man.

Let us turn to Mary with filial trust, so that with her help we may progress in love and make our life a hymn of praise to the Father through the Son in the Holy Spirit.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Sunday, 3 June 2007

At the end of this celebration, I wish to extend some particular greetings to the numerous pilgrims present. I thank you for your patience! Water is a great good, and we are therefore also thankful for the rain!

I extend cordial greetings to all the English-speaking pilgrims here today on this Feast of the Most Holy Trinity, especially those who have come to Rome in such great numbers from Malta, Ireland and Great Britain to be present at today’s Canonization. May these new Saints accompany you with their prayers and inspire you by the example of their holy lives. May God bless you all!


EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION
FOR THE CANONIZATION OF FOUR BLESSEDS:

GEORGE PRECA,
SIMON OF LIPNICA,
CHARLES OF ST. ANDREW HOUBEN,
MARIE EUGENIE OF JESUS MILLERET

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

St Peter’s Square, Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Sunday, 3 June 2007

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Today, we are celebrating the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. After the Easter Season, after reliving the event of Pentecost which renews the Baptism of the Church in the Holy Spirit, we turn our gaze, so to speak, towards “the open Heavens”, to enter with the eyes of faith into the depths of the mystery of God, one in substance and three in Persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

While we allow this supreme mystery to envelop us, let us admire God’s glory which is reflected in the lives of the saints. Let us contemplate it above all in those whom I have just presented for the veneration of the universal Church: George Preca, Simon of Lipnica, Charles of St Andrew Houben, and Marie Eugenie of Jesus Milleret.

I address my cordial greeting to all the pilgrims gathered here to pay homage to these exemplary Gospel witnesses.

In particular, I greet the Cardinals, the Presidents of the Philippines, of Ireland, of Malta and of Poland, my venerable Brothers in the Episcopate, the Government Delegations and other Civil Authorities who are taking part in this celebration.

In the First Reading from the Book of Proverbs, Wisdom comes on the scene and stands beside God as his assistant, his “architect” (see 8: 30). The “panoramic view” of the cosmos, seen through the eyes of Wisdom, is stupendous.

Wisdom herself admits: “[I was] playing on the surface of his earth; and I found delight in the sons of men” (8: 31).

Wisdom likes to dwell in the midst of human beings, because in them she recognizes the image and likeness of the Creator. This preferential relationship of Wisdom with human beings calls to mind a famous passage from another of the wisdom books, the Book of Wisdom: We read: Wisdom “is a breath of the power of God.... Though she is but one, she can do all things, and while remaining in herself, she renews all things; in every generation she passes into holy souls and makes them friends of God, and prophets” (Wis 7: 25-27).

The last evocative expression is an invitation to consider the multiform and inexhaustible manifestation of holiness in the People of God down the centuries. God’s Wisdom is manifest in the cosmos in the variety and beauty of its elements, but his masterpieces, where his beauty and his greatness truly appear much more, are the saints.

In the passage of the Apostle Paul’s Letter to the Romans we find a similar image: that of God’s love “poured out into [the] hearts” of saints, that is, of the baptized, “through the Holy Spirit” who has been given to them (see Rom 5: 5).

The gift of the Spirit, “Person-Love” and “Person-Gift”, as the Servant of God John Paul II described him, passes through Christ (see Encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem, no. 10). The Spirit of God reaches us through Christ as the beginning of new and “holy” life. The Spirit instils God’s love in believers’ hearts in the concrete form it had in the man Jesus of Nazareth.

Thus, what St Paul said in his Letter to the Colossians came to pass: “Christ in you, the hope of glory” (1: 27). “Affliction” is not in contrast to this hope; rather, it helps bring it about through “endurance” and “proven character” (see Rom 5: 3-4): it is the way of Jesus, the way of the Cross.

In the same perspective, from the Wisdom of God incarnate in Christ and communicated by the Holy Spirit, the Gospel has suggested to us that God the Father continues to manifest his plan of love through the saints.

What we have already observed about Wisdom occurs here too: the Spirit of truth reveals God’s design in the multiplicity of cosmic elements - we are grateful for this visibility of God’s beauty and goodness in the elements of the cosmos -, and he does so above all through human people and especially through the saints where his light, his truth, his love appear with great power.

Indeed, “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1: 15) is, properly speaking, Jesus Christ alone, “the Holy and Righteous One” (Acts 3: 14).

He is Wisdom incarnate, the Creator Logos, who finds his joy in dwelling among the sons of man and pitches his tent in their midst (see Jn 1: 14).

God was pleased to place in him “all fullness” (see Col 1: 19); that is, as he himself says in today’s Gospel passage, “all that the Father has is mine” (Jn 16: 15). Every individual saint shares in the riches of Christ taken by the Father and communicated in due time.

Jesus’ holiness is always the same; it is always he, the “Holy One”, whom the Spirit models in “holy souls”, thereby forming friends of Jesus and witnesses of his holiness. And Jesus also wants to make us his friends.

Let us open our hearts precisely on this day so that friendship with Jesus also grows in our lives, thus enabling us to witness to his holiness, goodness and truth.

George Preca, born in La Valletta on the Island of Malta, was a friend of Jesus and a witness to the holiness that derives from him. He was a priest totally dedicated to evangelization: by his preaching, his writings, his spiritual direction and the administration of the sacraments and, first and foremost, by the example of his life.

The Johannine expression, “Verbum caro factum est” always directed his soul and his work and thus the Lord could make use of him to give life to a praiseworthy institution, the “Society of Christian Doctrine”, whose purpose is to guarantee parishes the qualified service of properly trained and generous catechists.

As a profoundly priestly and mystical soul, he poured himself out in effusions of love for God, Jesus, the Virgin Mary and the saints. He liked to repeat: “Lord God, how obliged to you I am! Thank you, Lord God, and forgive me, Lord God!”. This is a prayer that we can also repeat and make our own.

May St George Preca help the Church, in Malta and throughout the world, to be always a faithful echo of the voice of Christ, the Incarnate Word.

The new Saint, Simon of Lipnica, a great son of Poland, a witness of Christ and a follower of the spirituality of St Francis of Assisi, lived in a distant age but precisely today is held up to the Church as a timely model of a Christian who - enlivened by the spirit of the Gospel - was ready to dedicate his life to his brethren.

Thus, filled with the mercy he drew from the Eucharist, he did not hesitate to help the sick who were struck by the plague, and he himself contracted this disease which led to his death.

Today in particular, let us entrust to his protection those who are suffering from poverty, illness, loneliness and social injustice. Let us ask through his intercession for the grace of persevering and active love, for Christ and for our brothers and sisters.

“The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us”. Truly, in the case of the Passionist priest, Charles of Saint Andrew Houben, we see how that love overflowed in a life totally dedicated to the care of souls.

During his many years of priestly ministry in England and Ireland, the people flocked to him to seek out his wise counsel, his compassionate care and his healing touch.

In the sick and the suffering he recognized the face of the Crucified Christ, to whom he had a lifelong devotion. He drank deeply from the rivers of living water that poured forth from the side of the Pierced One, and in the power of the Spirit he bore witness before the world to the Father’s love.

At the funeral of this much-loved priest, affectionately known as Fr Charles of Mount Argus, his superior was moved to observe: “The people have already declared him a saint”.

Marie Eugenie Milleret reminds us first of all of the importance of the Eucharist in the Christian life and in spiritual growth. In fact, as she herself emphasizes, her First Holy Communion was an important moment, even if she was unaware of it at the time.

Christ, present in the depths of her heart, was working within her, giving her time to follow her own pace and to pursue her inner quest, which was to lead her to the point of giving herself totally to the Lord in the Religious life in response to the needs of her time.

In particular, she realized how important it was to pass on to the young generations, especially young girls, an intellectual, moral and spiritual training that would make them adults capable of taking charge of their family life and of making their contribution to the Church and society. Throughout her life she drew the strength for her mission from her life of prayer, ceaselessly combining contemplation and action.

May the example of St Marie Eugenie invite men and women today to pass on to young people values that will help them to become strong adults and joyful witnesses of the Risen One. May young people never be afraid to welcome these moral and spiritual values, living them patiently and faithfully. In this way, they will build their personality and prepare for their future.

Dear brothers and sisters, let us thank God for the wonders he has worked in the saints, in whom his glory shines. Let us be attracted by their example and allow ourselves to be guided by their teaching, so that the whole of our life may become, like theirs, a hymn of praise to the glory of the Most Holy Trinity.

May Mary, Queen of the Saints, and the intercession of these four new “older Brothers and Sister” whom we joyfully venerate today, obtain this for us. Amen.


PASTORAL VISIT
OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO SAVONA AND GENOA (LIGURIA)

ANGELUS

Piazza Matteotti, Genoa, Sunday, 18 May 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

In the middle of my Pastoral Visit to Genoa, we have come to the time of the usual Sunday appointment of the Angelus and the Shrine of Nostra Signora della Guardia, where I prayed this morning, is naturally in my mind. Pope Benedict XV, your illustrious fellow citizen, often went on pilgrimage to that mountain oasis. It was he who had a copy of the beloved image of the Madonna della Guardia set up in the Vatican Gardens. And, like my Venerable Predecessor John Paul II on his first Apostolic Pilgrimage to Genoa, I too would like to begin my Pastoral Visit with a tribute to the heavenly Mother of God who watches over the City and all its inhabitants from the summit of Mount Figogna.

Tradition claims that Benedetto Pareto, who was worried because he did not know how to respond to the invitation to build a chapel in that place so far from the City, Our Lady in her first apparition said: “Trust in me! You will not lack the means. With my help it will all be easy for you. Only be firm in your will”. “Trust in me!”. Today Mary repeats this to us. An ancient prayer, very dear to popular tradition, leads us to address to her these trusting words which today we make our own: “Remember, O Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to your protection, implored your help or sought your intercession was left unaided”. It is with this certainty that we invoke the maternal assistance of the Madonna della Guardia upon your Diocesan Community, its Pastors, its consecrated people and its lay faithful: the young, the families and the elderly. Let us ask her in particular to watch over the sick and all the suffering and to make fruitful the missionary initiatives that are under way in order to bring the proclamation of the Gospel to all. Let us entrust to Mary the whole of this City with its variegated population, its cultural, social and economic activities, the problems and challenges of our time and the dedication of all who cooperate for the common good.

My gaze now extends to the whole of Liguria, spangled with churches and Marian Shrines, set like a crown between the sea and the mountains. Together with you, I thank God for the robust, tenacious faith of the past generations that down the centuries wrote memorable pages of holiness and human civilization. In particular, Liguria and Genoa have always been an open land on the Mediterranean and on the whole world; how many missionaries set out from this port for the Americas and for other distant lands! How many people emigrated from here to other Countries, perhaps poor in material resources but rich in faith and the human and spiritual values which they subsequently transplanted to the places where they landed! May Mary, Star of the Sea, continue to shine upon Genoa; may Mary, Star of Hope, continue to guide the Genoese on their journey, especially the new generations so that, with her help, they may take the right route across the often stormy seas of life.


PASTORAL VISIT
OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI
TO SAVONA AND GENOA (LIGURIA)

EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Piazza della Vittoria, Genoa, Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Sunday, 18 May 2008

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

At the end of a full day spent in your City, we are gathered around the altar to celebrate the Eucharist on the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. From this central square, Piazza della Vittoria, which welcomes us for the communal service of praise and thanksgiving to God with which my Pastoral Visit concludes, I extend my most cordial greeting to the entire Civil and Ecclesial Community of Genoa. I first greet with affection the Archbishop, Cardinal Angelo Bagnasco, whom I thank for the courtesy with which he welcomed me and for his touching words at the beginning of Holy Mass. Then how can I omit greeting Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, my Secretary of State, former Pastor of this ancient and noble Church? My most cordial thanks to him for his spiritual closeness and his precious collaboration. I next greet Auxiliary Bishop Luigi Ernesto Palletti, the Bishops of Liguria and the other Prelates. I address my respectful thoughts to the Civil Authorities to whom I am grateful for their welcome and the effective support they have lent to the preparations for and execution of this Apostolic Pilgrimage. In particular, I greet Minister Claudio Scaiola, representing the new Government, who in these very days has assumed his full functions at the service of the beloved Italian Nation. I then address with deep gratitude the priests, men and women religious, the deacons, committed lay people, the seminarians and young people. My affectionate greeting to you all, dear brothers and sisters. I extend my thoughts to those who were unable to be present and especially to the sick, to the people who are alone and to all who are in difficulty. I entrust the City of Genoa and all its inhabitants to the Lord at this solemn Eucharistic concelebration which, as on every Sunday, invites us to take part as a community in the double table of the Word of Truth and the Bread of Eternal Life.

In the First Reading (Ex 34: 4b-6, 8-9) we heard a biblical text that presents to us the revelation of God’s Name. It is God himself, Eternal and Invisible, who proclaims it, passing before Moses in the cloud on Mount Sinai. And his Name is: “The Lord, a God merciful, and compassionate, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness”. In the New Testament St John sums up this sentence in a single word: “Love” (see I Jn 4: 8, 16). Today’s Gospel also testifies to this: “God so loved the world that he gave his Only Son” (Jn 3: 16). Consequently this Name clearly expresses that the God of the Bible is not some kind of monad closed in on itself and satisfied with his own self-sufficiency but he is life that wants to communicate itself, openness, relationship. Words like “merciful”, “compassionate”, “rich in grace” all speak to us of a relationship, in particular, of a vital Being who offers himself, who wants to fill every gap, every shortage, who wants to give and to forgive, who desires to establish a solid and lasting bond. Sacred Scripture knows no other God than the God of the Covenant who created the world in order to pour out his love upon all creatures (see Roman Missal, Eucharistic Prayer IV) and chose a people with which to make a nuptial pact, to make it become a blessing for all the nations and so to form a great family of the whole of humanity (see Gn 12: 1-3; Ex 19: 3-6). This revelation of God is fully delineated in the New Testament though the word of Christ. Jesus showed us the Face of God, one in Essence and Triune in Persons: God is Love, Father Love - Son Love - Holy Spirit Love. And it is precisely in this God’s Name that the Apostle Paul greets the Community of Corinth: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God [the Father] and the fellowship of the Holy Sprit be with you all” (II Cor 13: 14).

There is contained, therefore, in these Readings, a principal that regards God and in effect today’s Feast invites us to contemplate him, the Lord. It invites us in a certain sense to scale “the mountain” as Moses did. This seems at first sight to take us far from the world and its problems but in fact one discovers that it is precisely by coming to know God more intimately that one receives fundamental instructions for this our life: something like what happened to Moses who, climbing Sinai and remaining in God’s presence, received the law engraved on stone tablets from which the people drew the guidance to continue, to find freedom and to form themselves as a people in liberty and justice. Our history depends on God’s Name and our journey on the light of his Face. From this reality of God which he himself made known to us by revealing his “Name” to us comes a certain image of man, that is, the exact concept of the person. If God is a dialogical unity, a being in relation, the human creature made in his image and likeness reflects this constitution: thus he is called to fulfil himself in dialogue, in conversation, in encounter.

In particular, Jesus has revealed to us that man is essentially a “son”, a creature who lives in the relationship with God the Father, and in this way in relationship with all his brothers and sisters. Man is not fulfilled in an absolute autonomy, deceiving himself that he is God but, on the contrary, by recognizing himself as a child, an open creature, reaching out to God and to his brethren in whose faces he discovers the image of their common Father. One can easily see that this concept of God and man is at the base of a corresponding model of the human community, and therefore of society. It is a model that comes before any normative, juridical or institutional regulations but I would say even before cultural specifications. It is a model of the human family transversal to all civilizations, which we Christians express confirming that human beings are all children of God and therefore all brothers and sisters. This is a truth that has been behind us from the outset and at the same time is always before us, like a project to strive for in every social construction.

The Magisterium of the Church which has developed from this vision of God and of man is a very rich one. It suffices to run through the most important chapters of the Social Doctrine of the Church, to which my venerable Predecessors have made substantial contributions, especially in the past 120 years, making themselves authoritative interpreters and guides of the social movement of Christian inspiration. Here I would like to mention only a recent Pastoral Note of the Italian Episcopate: “Rigenerati per una speranza viva’: Testimoni del grande ‘si’ di Dio all’uomo” [Regenerated by a living hope: witnesses of God’s great “yes” to man] (29 June 2007). This Note proposes two priorities. First of all, the choice of the “primacy of God”: all the Church’s life and work depend on putting God in first place, not a generic God but rather the Lord with his Name and his Face, the God of the Covenant who brought the people out of slavery in Egypt, who raised Christ from the dead and who wants to lead humanity to freedom in peace and justice. The other choice is to put the person and the unity of his life at the centre, in the various contexts in which he is deployed: emotional life, work and celebration, in his own fragility, tradition and citizenship. The Triune God and the person in relationship: these are the two references that the Church has the duty to offer to every human generation as a service to build a free and supportive society. The Church certainly does so with her doctrine, but above all through her witness which, with reason, is the third fundamental choice of the Italian Episcopate: personal and community witness in which the spiritual life, pastoral mission and the cultural dimension converge.

In a society fraught between globalization and individualism, the Church is called to offer a witness of koinonìa, of communion. This reality does not come “from below” but is a mystery which, so to speak, “has its roots in Heaven”, in the Triune God himself. It is he, in himself, who is the eternal dialogue of love which was communicated to us in Jesus Christ and woven into the fabric of humanity and history to lead it to fullness. And here then is the great synthesis of the Second Vatican Council: the Church, mystery of communion, “in Christ is in the nature of sacrament - a sign and instrument, that is, of communion with God and of unity among all men” (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium, no. 1). Here too, in this great City, as well as in its territory with the variety of the respective human and social problems, the Ecclesial Community, today as yesterday, is first of all the sign, poor but true, of God Love whose Name is impressed in the depths of the being of every person and in every experience of authentic sociability and solidarity.

After these reflections, dear brothers and sisters, I leave you some special exhortations. Take care of spiritual and catechetical formation, a “substantial” formation that is more necessary than ever to live the Christian vocation well in today’s world. I say to adults and young people: foster a thought-out faith that can engage in profound dialogue with all, with our non-Catholic brethren, with non-Christians and with non-believers. Continue your generous sharing with the poor and the weak, in accordance with the Church’s original praxis, always drawing inspiration and strength from the Eucharist, the perennial source of charity. With special affection I encourage seminarians and young people involved in a vocational journey: do not be afraid; indeed, may you feel the attraction of definitive choices, of a serious and demanding formative process. The high standard of discipleship alone fascinates and gives joy. I urge all to grow in the missionary dimension which is co-essential to communion. Indeed, the Trinity is at the same time unity and mission: the more intense love is, the stronger is the urge to pour it out, to spread it, to communicate it. Church of Genoa, be united and missionary to proclaim to all the joy of faith and the beauty of being God’s Family. My thought extends to the entire City, to all the Genoese and to all who live and work in this territory. Dear friends, look to the future with confidence and seek to build it together, avoiding factiousness and particularism, putting the common good before your own specific legitimate interests.

I would like to conclude with a wish that I have taken from the stupendous prayer of Moses which we heard in the First Reading: let the Lord always walk in the midst of you and make you his heritage (see Ex 34: 9). May the intercession of Mary Most Holy, whom the Genoese, at home and throughout the world, invoke as the Madonna della Guardia obtain this for you. With her help and that of the Holy Patrons of your beloved City and Region, may your faith and works always be in praise and glory of the Most Holy Trinity. Following the example of the Saints of this earth, be a missionary community: listening to God and at the service of men and women! Amen.


BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 7 June 2009

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After the Easter Season which culminated in the Feast of Pentecost, the liturgy provides for these three Solemnities of the Lord: today, Trinity Sunday; next Thursday, Corpus Christi which in many countries, including Italy, will be celebrated next Sunday; and finally, on the following Friday, the Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. Each one of these liturgical events highlights a perspective by which the whole mystery of the Christian faith is embraced: and that is, respectively the reality of the Triune God, the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the divine and human centre of the Person of Christ. These are truly aspects of the one mystery of salvation which, in a certain sense, sum up the whole itinerary of the revelation of Jesus, from his Incarnation to his death and Resurrection and, finally, to his Ascension and the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Today we contemplate the Most Holy Trinity as Jesus introduced us to it. He revealed to us that God is love “not in the oneness of a single Person, but in the Trinity of one substance” (Preface). He is the Creator and merciful Father; he is the Only-Begotten Son, eternal Wisdom incarnate, who died and rose for us; he is the Holy Spirit who moves all things, cosmos and history, toward their final, full recapitulation. Three Persons who are one God because the Father is love, the Son is love, the Spirit is love. God is wholly and only love, the purest, infinite and eternal love. He does not live in splendid solitude but rather is an inexhaustible source of life that is ceaselessly given and communicated. To a certain extent we can perceive this by observing both the macro-universe: our earth, the planets, the stars, the galaxies; and the micro-universe: cells, atoms, elementary particles. The “name” of the Blessed Trinity is, in a certain sense, imprinted upon all things because all that exists, down to the last particle, is in relation; in this way we catch a glimpse of God as relationship and ultimately, Creator Love. All things derive from love, aspire to love and move impelled by love, though naturally with varying degrees of awareness and freedom. “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth!” (Ps 8: 1) the Psalmist exclaims. In speaking of the “name”, the Bible refers to God himself, his truest identity. It is an identity that shines upon the whole of Creation, in which all beings for the very fact that they exist and because of the “fabric” of which they are made point to a transcendent Principle, to eternal and infinite Life which is given, in a word, to Love. “In him we live and move and have our being”, St Paul said at the Areopagus of Athens (Acts 17: 28). The strongest proof that we are made in the image of the Trinity is this: love alone makes us happy because we live in a relationship, and we live to love and to be loved. Borrowing an analogy from biology, we could say that imprinted upon his “genome”, the human being bears a profound mark of the Trinity, of God as Love.

The Virgin Mary, in her docile humility, became the handmaid of divine Love: she accepted the Father’s will and conceived the Son by the power of the Holy Spirit. In her the Almighty built a temple worthy of him and made her the model and image of the Church, mystery and house of communion for all human beings. May Mary, mirror of the Blessed Trinity, help us to grow in faith in the Trinitarian mystery.


SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Saint Peter’s Square, Sunday, 30 May 2010

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

After the Easter Season that ended last Sunday with Pentecost, the Liturgy has returned to “Ordinary Time”. This does not mean, however, that Christians must be less any committed: indeed, having entered divine life through the sacraments, we are called daily to be open to the action of divine Grace, to progress in love of God and of neighbour. This Sunday of the Most Holy Trinity, in a certain sense sums up God’s revelation which was brought about through the Paschal Mysteries: Christ’s death and Resurrection, his Ascension to the right hand of the Father and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. The human mind and language are inadequate to explain the relationship that exists between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; yet the Fathers of the Church sought to illustrate the mystery of the Triune God by living it with deep faith in their own lives.

The divine Trinity takes up his abode in us on the day of our Baptism: “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. Every time we sign ourselves with the sign of the Cross we remember God’s name in which we were baptized. With regard to the sign of the Cross a theologian, Romano Guardini, remarked: “We do it before praying so that... we may put ourselves spiritually in order; focus thoughts, heart and will on God; after praying, so that what God has given us may remain within us.... It embraces the whole being, body and soul... and everything is consecrated in the name of the Triune God” (Lo spirito della liturgia. I santi segni, Brescia, 2000, pp. 125-126).

The sign of the Cross and the name of the living God therefore contain the proclamation that generates faith and inspires prayer. And just as in the Gospel Jesus promises the Apostles that: “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth” (Jn 16: 13), so it happens in the Sunday Liturgy, from week to week, when priests dispense the bread of the Word and of the Eucharist. The Holy Curé d’Ars also reminded his faithful of this. “Who welcomed your soul”, he asked, “at the beginning of your life? The priest. Who feeds your soul and gives it strength for its journey? The priest. Who will prepare it to appear before God, bathing it one last time in the blood of Jesus Christ? The priest, always the priest” (Letter inaugurating the Year for Priests).

Dear friends, let us make our own the prayer of St Hilary of Poitiers: “Keep uncontaminated this upright faith that is in me and, until my last breath, grant me likewise this voice of my conscience, that I may be ever faithful to what I professed in my regeneration when I was baptized in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (De Trinitate, XII, 57, CCL 62/A, 627). Invoking the Blessed Virgin Mary, the first creature to be fully inhabited by the Blessed Trinity, let us ask her protection and help to make good progress on our earthly pilgrimage.


PASTORAL VISIT TO THE DIOCESE OF SAN MARINO-MONTEFELTRO

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Olympic stadium of Serravalle - Republic of San Marino, Sunday, 19 June 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

While we are preparing to conclude our celebration the midday hour invites us to turn in prayer to the Virgin Mary. In this region too Our Most Holy Mother is venerated in various shrines, both old and new. To her I entrust all of you and the entire population of San Marino and Montefeltro and, in particular, those who are suffering in body and mind. I address a special thought of gratitude at this time to all who cooperated in the preparation and organization of this visit. My heartfelt thanks!

I am pleased to recall that Bl. Sr Marguerite Rutan, a Daughter of Charity, is being beatified today in Dax, France. In the second half of the 18th century she worked with deep dedication at the Hospital in Dax but in the tragic persecutions that followed the Revolution she was sentenced to death for her Catholic faith and her fidelity to the Church.

I am participating in spirit in the joy of the Daughters of Charity and of all the faithful in Dax who are taking part in the beatification of Sr Marguerite Rutan, a shining witness of Christ’s love for the poor.

Lastly, I would like to recall that tomorrow is the World Refugee Day. On this occasion, this year we are celebrating the 60th anniversary of the adoption of the international convention which protects all those who are persecuted and forced to flee their countries. I therefore ask the civil authorities and every person of goodwill to guarantee to refugees acceptance and dignified living conditions, while they wait to return in freedom and safety to their homeland.


PASTORAL VISIT TO THE DIOCESE OF SAN MARINO-MONTEFELTRO

EUCHARISTIC CONCELEBRATION

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Olympic stadium of Serravalle - Republic of San Marino, Sunday, 19 June 2011

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Great is my joy at being a able to break with you the bread of the Word of God and of the Eucharist and to address to you, dear people of San Marino, my most cordial greeting. My special thoughts go to the Captains Regent and to the other political and civil authorities present at this Eucharistic celebration. I greet with affection your pastor, Bishop Luigi Negri, whom I thank for his courteous words and, with him, I greet all the priests and faithful of the Diocese of San Marino-Montefeltro; I greet each one of you and express my heartfelt gratitude for the cordiality and affection with which you have welcomed me. I have come to share with you the joys and hopes, efforts and duties, ideals and aspirations of this diocesan community. I know that you are not without difficulties, problems and concerns here. I want to assure you all that I am close to you and remember you in prayer, and I encourage you to persevere in bearing witness to the human and Christian values that are so deeply rooted in the faith and history of this territory and its people, with its granitic faith of which the Bishop spoke.

Today we are celebrating the Feast of the Blessed Trinity, the Feast of God, of the centre of our faith: God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. When one thinks of the Trinity, one usually thinks of the aspect of the mystery: they are Three and they are One, one God in three Persons. Actually God in his greatness cannot be anything but a mystery for us, yet he revealed himself. We can know him in his Son and thus also know the Father and the Holy Spirit. Instead today’s Liturgy draws our attention not so much to this mystery as to the reality of love that is contained in this first and supreme mystery of our faith. The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are one because God is love and love is an absolute life-giving force; the unity created by love is a unity greater than a purely physical unity. The Father gives everything to the Son; the Son receives everything from the Father with gratitude; and the Holy Spirit is the fruit of this mutual love of the Father and the Son. The texts of today’s Mass speak of God and thus speak of love; they do not dwell so much on the three Persons, but rather on love which is the substance and, at the same time, the unity and trinity.

The first passage that we heard, taken from the Book of Exodus and which I dwelt on at a recent Wednesday catechesis [General Audience of 1 June 2011], is surprising because the revelation of God’s love comes after a very serious sin of the people. They had hardly concluded the oath of the Covenant which they took at Mount Sinai, and already the people were disloyal. In Moses’ prolonged absence, the people said: “but where has this Moses gone, where is his God?” and they asked Aaron to create a god who would be visible, accessible and controllable, within the reach of man instead of this mysterious, invisible and distant God. Aaron complied and made a golden calf. Coming down from Sinai, Moses saw what had happened and broke the tablets of the Covenant which was already broken, shattered, two stones on which were written the “Ten Words”, the concrete contents of the agreement with God. It looked as if all was lost, the friendship, immediately and from the outset, was broken. Yet, despite this most grievous sin of the people, through Moses’ intercession God chose to forgive them and invited Moses to climb the mountain once again to receive anew his law, the Ten Commandments, and to renew the pact. Moses then asked God to reveal himself, to allow him to see his face. However, God did not show his face, but rather revealed his being, full of goodness, with these words: “The Lord, the Lord, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (Ex 34:6). This is the Face of God. This self-definition of God expresses his merciful love: a love that triumphs over sin, covers it, eliminates it. We can always be sure of this goodness which does not abandon us. There can be no clearer revelation. We have a God who refuses to destroy sinners and wants to show his love in an even more profound and surprising way to sinners themselves, in order to always offer them the possibility of conversion and forgiveness.

The Gospel completes this revelation, we heard in the First Reading, because it indicates the point to which God has shown his mercy. John the Evangelist refers to these words of Jesus: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (3:16). In the world there is evil, there is selfishness, there is wickedness, and God could come to judge this world, to destroy evil, to punish those who work in darkness. Instead, he shows his love for the world and for men and women, despite their sin, and sends what is most precious to him: his Only-Begotten Son. Not only does God send him, but he gives him as a gift to the world. Jesus is the Son of God who was born for us, who lived for us, who healed the sick, forgave sins and welcomed everyone. Responding to the love that comes from the Father, the Son gave his own life for us: on the cross God’s merciful love reaches its highest expression. And it is on the cross that the Son of God obtains for us participation in eternal life that is communicated to us with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Thus, in the mystery of the cross, the three divine Persons are present: the Father, who gives his Only-Begotten Son for the salvation of the world; the Son, who totally fulfils the Father’s plan; the Holy Spirit — poured out by Jesus at the moment of his death — who comes to make us participants in divine life, to transform our existence so that it may be enlivened by divine love.

Dear brothers and sisters, faith in the Trinitarian God has characterized this Church of San Marino-Montefeltro, too, throughout the course of its ancient and glorious history. The evangelization of this land is attributed to the holy stonemasons Marinus and Leo who are said to have come to Rimini from Dalmatia in the middle of the third century. Because of the holiness of their lives they were ordained, respectively a priest and a deacon, by Bishop Gaudentius who sent them inland, one to Monte Feretro, later known as San Leo, and the other to Monte Titano, later known as San Marino. Over and above the historical issues — which it is not our task to examine — it is interesting to state that Marinus and Leo brought into the context of this local reality, with the faith in God revealed in Jesus Christ, new perspectives and values, determining the birth of a culture and a civilization centred on the human person, the image of God and therefore the bearer of rights that precede all human legislation. The variety of ethnic groups — Romans, Goths and later Lombards — who came into contact with each other, sometimes in very conflictual situations, found in their common reference to faith a powerful factor for ethical, cultural, social and, in a certain way, political, edification. It was obvious to them that they could not consider a project of civilization complete until all the members of the people had become a living and well-structured Christian community built on faith in the Trinitarian God. Therefore one can rightly say that the wealth of this people, your wealth, dear Sammarinesi, has been and still is faith, and that this faith has created a truly unique civilization. Alongside your faith, we must also recall your absolute fidelity to the Bishop of Rome, whom this Church has always viewed with devotion and affection; likewise the attention shown to the great tradition of the Eastern Church and a deep devotion to the Virgin Mary.

You are justly proud of and grateful for all that the Holy Spirit has done in your Church throughout the centuries. However, you also know that the best way to appreciate an inheritance is to cultivate and enrich it. You are called, in fact, to develop this precious deposit in one of the most crucial moments in history. Today your mission is facing profound and rapid cultural, social, economic and political transformations that have determined new directions and changed mentalities, customs and sensitivities. Here too, as elsewhere, there is no lack of difficulties and obstacles, due above all to hedonistic models that obscure minds and risk uprooting all morality. The temptation has crept in to believe that man’s true wealth is not faith, but personal and social power, his intellect, his culture and his capacity to manipulate scientific, technological and social reality. Thus, in these lands too, people have begun to replace faith and Christian values with presumed riches which ultimately prove to be inconsistent and unable to sustain the great promise of the true, the good, the beautiful and the just that for centuries your ancestors have identified with the experience of faith. Nor should we forget the crisis into which many families have been plunged, aggravated by the widespread psychological and spiritual fragility of couples, as well as the struggle experienced by many educators in offering formative continuity to young people, who are conditioned by various types of instability, and in the first place that of their social role and work opportunities.

Dear friends, I am well acquainted with the committed involvement of every member of this particular Church in fostering the various aspects of Christian life. I urge all the faithful to be like leaven in the world, showing that in both Montefeltro and San Marino there are enterprising and consistent Christians present. May priests and religious live in an ever more cordial and active ecclesial communion, helping and listening to the diocesan pastor. May you too feel the urgent need for a resurgence in priestly vocations and to those of special consecration: I appeal to families and to young people to open their hearts to a prompt response to the Lord’s call. No one ever regrets being generous to God! I urge you lay people to be actively involved in the community so that, in addition to your specific civic, political, social and cultural tasks, you may find the time and inclination for a life of faith, for pastoral life. Dear people of San Marino, stay firmly faithful to the heritage built over the centuries under the inspiration of your great patrons, Marinus and Leo. I invoke God’s blessing on your journey, today and in the future, and I commend you all to “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Cor 13:14). Amen!


PASTORAL VISIT TO THE ARCHDIOCESE OF MILAN
AND 7th WORLD MEETING OF FAMILIES
(1-3 JUNE 2012)

BENEDICT XVI

ANGELUS

Bresso Park, Sunday, 3 June 2012

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I find no words to thank you for this Feast of God, for this communion of God’s Family which we are. At the end of this celebration, a big “thank you” to God, who has given us this important ecclesial experience. For my part, I address my heartfelt gratitude to all those who have worked for this event, starting with Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family — thank you, Your Eminence! — and with Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan — Thank you! And also for this beautiful temple of God which he has given us. I thank all those responsible for the organization and all the volunteers. I am glad to announce that the next World Meeting of Families will take place in 2015 in Philadelphia, in the United States of America. I greet Archbishop Charles Chaput of Philadelphia and thank him from this moment for his willingness.

(In French) Today I am also sharing in spirit with the joy of the faithful of the Archdiocese of Besançon who have gathered for the Beatification of Fr Marie Jean-Joseph Lataste, a priest of the Order of Preachers, an apostle of mercy and “Apostle of Prisons”.

As we conclude this celebration by turning in prayer to the Virgin Mary, I wish to extend my gratitude to all who have contributed to the success of this World Meeting of Families, particularly to Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, to Cardinal Angelo Scola, to the Archdiocese and city of Milan, and to the many people from Italy and abroad who have prayed and worked so hard to make this Meeting a time of grace for all.

(In English) I now have the joy of announcing that the next World Meeting of Families will take place in 2015 in Philadelphia in the United States of America. I send my warm greetings to Archbishop Charles Chaput and to the Catholics of that great city, and look forward to meeting them there along with numerous families from all around the world. May God bless you all!

Dear families in Milan, Lombardy, Italy and worldwide. I greet you all with affection and thank you for your participation. I encourage you to always be supportive with the families in need, I am thinking of the economic and social crisis, I am thinking of the recent earthquake in Emilia. May the Virgin Mary accompany you and sustain you always. Thank you.


PASTORAL VISIT TO THE ARCHDIOCESE OF MILAN
AND 7th WORLD MEETING OF FAMILIES
(1-3 JUNE 2012)

EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS POPE BENEDICT XVI

Bresso Park, Sunday, 3 June 2012

Dear Brother Bishops,

Distinguished Authorities,

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

It is a time of great joy and communion that we are experiencing this morning, as we celebrate the eucharistic Sacrifice: a great gathering, in union with the Successor of Peter, consisting of faithful who have come from many different nations. It is an eloquent image of the Church, one and universal, founded by Christ and fruit of the mission entrusted by Jesus to his Apostles, as we heard in today’s Gospel: to go and make disciples of all nations, “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:18-19). With affection and gratitude I greet Cardinal Angelo Scola, Archbishop of Milan, and Cardinal Ennio Antonelli, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, the principal architects of this VII World Meeting of Families, together with their staff, the Auxiliary Bishops of Milan and all the other bishops. I am pleased to greet all the Authorities who are present today. And I extend a warm welcome especially to you, dear families! Thank you for your participation!

In today’s second reading, Saint Paul reminds us that in Baptism we received the Holy Spirit, who unites us to Christ as brothers and sisters and makes us children of the Father, so that we can cry out: “Abba, Father!” (see Rom 8:15,17). At that moment we were given a spark of new, divine life, which is destined to grow until it comes to its definitive fulfilment in the glory of heaven; we became members of the Church, God’s family, “sacrarium Trinitatis” as Saint Ambrose calls it, “a people made one by the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”, as the Second Vatican Council teaches (Lumen Gentium, no. 4). The liturgical Solemnity of the Holy Trinity that we are celebrating today invites us to contemplate this mystery, but it also urges us to commit ourselves to live our communion with God and with one another according to the model of Trinitarian communion. We are called to receive and to pass on the truths of faith in a spirit of harmony, to live our love for each other and for everyone, sharing joys and sufferings, learning to seek and to grant forgiveness, valuing the different charisms under the leadership of the bishops. In a word, we have been given the task of building church communities that are more and more like families, able to reflect the beauty of the Trinity and to evangelize not only by word, but I would say by “radiation”, in the strength of living love.

It is not only the Church that is called to be the image of One God in Three Persons, but also the family, based on marriage between man and woman. In the beginning, “God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. And God blessed them, and God said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply’” (Gen 1:27-28). God created us male and female, equal in dignity, but also with respective and complementary characteristics, so that the two might be a gift for each other, might value each other and might bring into being a community of love and life. It is love that makes the human person the authentic image of the Blessed Trinity, image of God. Dear married couples, in living out your marriage you are not giving each other any particular thing or activity, but your whole lives. And your love is fruitful first and foremost for yourselves, because you desire and accomplish one another’s good, you experience the joy of receiving and giving. It is also fruitful in your generous and responsible procreation of children, in your attentive care for them, and in their vigilant and wise education. And lastly, it is fruitful for society, because family life is the first and irreplaceable school of social virtues, such as respect for persons, gratuitousness, trust, responsibility, solidarity, cooperation. Dear married couples, watch over your children and, in a world dominated by technology, transmit to them, with serenity and trust, reasons for living, the strength of faith, pointing them towards high goals and supporting them in their fragility. And let me add a word to the children here: be sure that you always maintain a relationship of deep affection and attentive care for your parents, and see that your relationships with your brothers and sisters are opportunities to grow in love.

God’s plan for the human couple finds its fullness in Jesus Christ, who raised marriage to the level of a sacrament. Dear married couples, by means of a special gift of the Holy Spirit, Christ gives you a share in his spousal love, making you a sign of his faithful and all-embracing love for the Church. If you can receive this gift, renewing your “yes” each day by faith, with the strength that comes from the grace of the sacrament, then your family will grow in God’s love according to the model of the Holy Family of Nazareth. Dear families, pray often for the help of the Virgin Mary and Saint Joseph, that they may teach you to receive God’s love as they did. Your vocation is not easy to live, especially today, but the vocation to love is a wonderful thing, it is the only force that can truly transform the cosmos, the world. You have before you the witness of so many families who point out the paths for growing in love: by maintaining a constant relationship with God and participating in the life of the Church, by cultivating dialogue, respecting the other’s point of view, by being ready for service and patient with the failings of others, by being able to forgive and to seek forgiveness, by overcoming with intelligence and humility any conflicts that may arise, by agreeing on principles of upbringing, and by being open to other families, attentive towards the poor, and responsible within civil society. These are all elements that build up the family. Live them with courage, and be sure that, insofar as you live your love for each other and for all with the help of God’s grace, you become a living Gospel, a true domestic Church (see Familiaris Consortio, 49). I should also like to address a word to the faithful who, even though they agree with the Church’s teachings on the family, have had painful experiences of breakdown and separation. I want you to know that the Pope and the Church support you in your struggle. I encourage you to remain united to your communities, and I earnestly hope that your dioceses are developing suitable initiatives to welcome and accompany you.

In the Book of Genesis, God entrusts his creation to the human couple for them to guard it, cultivate it, and direct it according to his plan (see 1:27-28; 2:15). In this indication of Sacred Scripture we may recognize the task of man and woman to collaborate with God in the process of transforming the world through work, science and technology. Man and woman are also the image of God in this important work, which they are to carry out with the Creator’s own love. In modern economic theories, there is often a utilitarian concept of work, production and the market. Yet God’s plan, as well as experience, show that the one-sided logic of sheer utility and maximum profit are not conducive to harmonious development, to the good of the family or to building a just society, because it brings in its wake ferocious competition, strong inequalities, degradation of the environment, the race for consumer goods, family tensions. Indeed, the utilitarian mentality tends to take its toll on personal and family relationships, reducing them to a fragile convergence of individual interests and undermining the solidity of the social fabric.

One final point: man, as the image of God, is also called to rest and to celebrate. The account of creation concludes with these words: “And on the seventh day God finished his work which he had done, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had done. So God blessed the seventh day and hallowed it” (Gen 2:2-3). For us Christians, the feast day is Sunday, the Lord’s day, the weekly Easter. It is the day of the Church, the assembly convened by the Lord around the table of the word and of the eucharistic Sacrifice, just as we are doing today, in order to feed on him, to enter into his love and to live by his love. It is the day of man and his values: conviviality, friendship, solidarity, culture, closeness to nature, play, sport. It is the day of the family, on which to experience together a sense of celebration, encounter, sharing, not least through taking part in Mass. Dear families, despite the relentless rhythms of the modern world, do not lose a sense of the Lord’s Day! It is like an oasis in which to pause, so as to taste the joy of encounter and to quench our thirst for God.

Family, work, celebration: three of God’s gifts, three dimensions of our lives that must be brought into a harmonious balance. Harmonizing work schedules with family demands, professional life with fatherhood and motherhood, work with celebration, is important for building up a society with a human face. In this regard, always give priority to the logic of being over that of having: the first builds up, the second ends up destroying. We must learn to believe first of all in the family, in authentic love, the kind that comes from God and unites us to him, the kind that therefore “makes us a ‘we’ which transcends our divisions and makes us one, until in the end God is ‘all in all’ (1 Cor 15:28)” (Deus Caritas Est, no. 18). Amen. 



© Copyright 2013 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Monday, May 20, 2013

0279: Reflections on Pentecost Sunday by Pope Benedict XVI



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.


BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

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 Ordinandi,

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.

For Israel, 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, Israel 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 Jerusalem 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 Babel - the confusion of hearts, putting us one against the other - the Spirit opens borders.

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.

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).

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 Pentecost.

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 Israel.

In a certain way, Elijah must rekindle the flame of faith on God’s mountain and bring it back to Israel. He experiences, in that place, wind, earthquake and fire. But God is not present in all of this. He then perceives a sweet soft murmur; and God speaks to him in this soft breath (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 Rome is also your Bishop. All of us are inserted in the network of obedience to the Word of Christ, to the word of the One who gives us true freedom because he leads us in the free spaces and open horizons of the truth.

It is precisely in this common bond with the Lord that we can and must live the dynamism of the Spirit. As the Lord came from the Father and has given us light, life and love, so too the mission must continually set us in motion, make us restless, to bring the joy of Christ to those who suffer, those who are in doubt, as well as to the reluctant.

Lastly, there is the power of forgiveness. The Sacrament of Penance is one of the Church’s precious treasures, since authentic world renewal is accomplished only through forgiveness. Nothing can improve the world if evil is not overcome.

Evil can be overcome only by forgiveness. Certainly, it must be an effective forgiveness; but only the Lord can give us this forgiveness, a forgiveness that drives away evil not only with words but truly destroys it. Only suffering can bring this about and it has truly taken place with the suffering love of Christ, from whom we draw the power to forgive.

In closing, dear Ordinandi, I recommend that you love the Mother of the Lord. Do as St John did, welcoming her deeply into your own heart. Allow yourselves to be continually renewed by her maternal love. Learn from her how to love Christ. May the Lord bless your journey as priests!

Amen.


SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST 2006

BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

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 Israel 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.


BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

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 Rome 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

BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

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 Mount Sinai (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 world.

The Acts of the Apostles present Pentecost as the fulfilment of this promise and hence as the culmination of Jesus’ entire mission. After his Resurrection, he himself ordered the disciples to stay in Jerusalem, because, he said, “before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 1: 5); and he added: “You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1: 8). Thus Pentecost is in a special way the Baptism of the Church which carries out her universal mission starting from the roads of Jerusalem with the miraculous preaching in humanity’s different tongues. In this Baptism of the Holy Spirit the personal and community dimension, the “I” of the disciple and the “we” of the Church, are inseparable. The Holy Spirit consecrates the person and at the same time makes him or her a living member of the Mystical Body of Christ, sharing in the mission of witnessing to his love. And this takes place through the Sacraments of Christian initiation: Baptism and Confirmation. In my Message for the next World Youth Day 2008,  I have proposed to the young people that they rediscover the Holy Spirit’s presence in their lives and thus the importance of these Sacraments. Today I would like to extend the invitation to all: let us rediscover, dear brothers and sisters, the beauty of being baptized in the Holy Spirit; let us recover awareness of our Baptism and our Confirmation, ever timely sources of grace.

Let us ask the Virgin Mary to obtain also today a renewed Pentecost for the Church that will imbue in all, and especially in the young, the joy of living and witnessing to the Gospel.


BENEDICT XVI

GENERAL AUDIENCE

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 Armenian Apostolic Church and the Catholic Church. In 2000, soon after your election, you came to 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. Armenia’s 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.

* * *

Pentecost

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 Armenia. 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 United 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

Vatican Basilica, Sunday, 11 May 2008

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 Apostolic College, alludes to this “new Israel”. The group constitutes an authentic “qlhll”, an “assembly” in accordance with the model of the First Covenant, the community summoned to listen to the Lord’s voice and to walk in his ways. The Acts of the Apostles stresses that “[a]ll these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” (1: 14). Prayer, therefore, is the principle activity of the nascent Church through which she receives her unity from the Lord and lets herself be guided by his will, as shown by the decision to cast lots in order to elect the one who would take Judas’ place (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 Church of Jerusalem - but the universal Church, which speaks the languages of all peoples. From her other communities were to be born in every part of the world, particular Churches which are all and always actualizations of the one and only Church of Christ. The Catholic Church is therefore not a federation of Churches but a single reality: the universal Church has ontological priority. A community which was not catholic in this sense would not even be a Church.

In this regard, it is necessary to add another aspect: that of the theological vision of the Acts of the Apostles concerning the journey to Rome of the Church of Jerusalem. Among the peoples represented in Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost, Luke also mentions “visitors from Rome” (Acts 2: 10). At that time Rome was still distant, “foreign” to the newborn Church: it was a symbol of the pagan world in general. But the power of the Holy Spirit was to guide the footsteps of the witnesses “to the end of the earth” (Acts 1: 8), even to Rome. The Acts of the Apostles ends precisely when St Paul, through a providential plan, reaches the capital of the Empire and proclaims the Gospel there (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

BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

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).


EUCHARISTIC CELEBRATION

ON THE SOLEMNITY OF PENTECOST

HOMILY OF HIS HOLINESS BENEDICT XVI

Vatican Basilica, Sunday, 31 May 2009

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 Cross.

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 Cologne. 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 perennial warning.  

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[104]: 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

BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

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 Fatima. 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, Pompeii, Loreto 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 Babel, 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 in Babel 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.

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 Israel 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 barriers.

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

BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

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

Vatican Basilica, Sunday, 12 June 2011

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[103], 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[103]: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 love.

The Gospel passage then offers us a marvellous image to clarify the connection between Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the Father: the Holy Spirit is portrayed as the breath of the Risen Jesus Christ (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. “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 (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

BENEDICT XVI

REGINA CÆLI

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 Academy of Santa Cecilia and by 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.

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 Tower of Babel. But what is 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.

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 Babel. 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?

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 Jerusalem 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.

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 Babel is Babel 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.

The contrast between Babel 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”. St Paul 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 Babel contrasts with the unity of Pentecost.

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.

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. 



© Copyright 2013 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana