POPE FRANCIS ON THE PENTECOST 2020.
Homily and Regina caeli Address.
Sunday, 31 May 2020
“There are different kinds of spiritual gifts, but the same Spirit” (1 Cor 12:4), as the Apostle Paul writes to the Corinthians. He continues: “There are different forms of service, but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone” (vv. 5-6). Diversity and unity: Saint Paul puts together two words that seem contradictory. He wants to tell us that the Holy Spirit is the one who brings together the many; and that the Church was born this way: we are all different, yet united by the same Holy Spirit.
Let us go back to the origin of the Church, to the day of Pentecost. Let us look at the Apostles: some of them were fishermen, simple people accustomed to living by the work of their hands, but there were also others, like Matthew, who was an educated tax collector. They were from different backgrounds and social contexts, and they had Hebrew and Greek names. In terms of character, some were meek and others were excitable; they all had different ideas and sensibilities. They were all different. Jesus did not change them; he did not make them into a set of pre-packaged models. No. He left their differences and now he unites them by anointing them with the Holy Spirit. With the anointing comes their union – union in diversity. At Pentecost, the Apostles understand the unifying power of the Spirit. They see it with their own eyes when everyone, though speaking in different languages, comes together as one people: the people of God, shaped by the Spirit, who weaves unity from diversity and bestows harmony because in the Spirit there is harmony. He himself is harmony.
Let us now focus on ourselves, the Church of today. We can ask ourselves: “What is it that unites us, what is the basis of our unity?”. We too have our differences, for example: of opinions, choices, sensibilities. But the temptation is always fiercely to defend our ideas, believing them to be good for everybody and agreeing only with those who think as we do. This is a bad temptation that brings division. But this is a faith created in our own image; it is not what the Spirit wants. We might think that what unite us are our beliefs and our morality. But there is much more: our principle of unity is the Holy Spirit. He reminds us that first of all we are God’s beloved children; all equal, in this respect, and all different. The Spirit comes to us, in our differences and difficulties, to tell us that we have one Lord – Jesus – and one Father, and that for this reason we are brothers and sisters! Let us begin anew from here; let us look at the Church with the eyes of the Spirit and not as the world does. The world sees us only as on the right or left, with one ideology or the other; the Spirit sees us as sons and daughters of the Father and brothers and sisters of Jesus. The world sees conservatives and progressives; the Spirit sees children of God. A worldly gaze sees structures to be made more efficient; a spiritual gaze sees brothers and sisters pleading for mercy. The Spirit loves us and knows everyone’s place in the grand scheme of things: for him, we are not bits of confetti blown about by the wind, rather we are irreplaceable fragments in his mosaic.
If we go back to the day of Pentecost, we discover that the first task of the Church is proclamation. Yet we also see that the Apostles devised no strategy; when they were locked in there, in the Upper Room, they were not strategizing, no, they were not drafting any pastoral plan. They could have divided people into groups according to their roots, speaking first to those close by and then to those far away, in an orderly manner… They could have also waited a while before beginning their preaching in order to understand more deeply the teachings of Jesus, so as to avoid risks… No. The Spirit does not want the memory of the Master to be cultivated in small groups locked in upper rooms where it is easy to “nest”. This is a terrible disease that can also infect the Church: making her into a nest instead of a community, a family or a Mother. The Spirit himself opens doors and pushes us to press beyond what has already been said and done, beyond the precincts of a timid and wary faith. In the world, unless there is tight organization and a clear strategy, things fall apart. In the Church, however, the Spirit guarantees unity to those who proclaim the message. The Apostles set off: unprepared, yet putting their lives on the line. One thing kept them going: the desire to give what they received. The opening part of the First Letter of Saint John is beautiful: “that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you” (cf. 1:3).
Here we come to understand what the secret of unity is, the secret of the Spirit. The secret of unity in the Church, the secret of the Spirit is gift. For the Spirit himself is gift: he lives by giving himself and in this way he keeps us together, making us sharers in the same gift. It is important to believe that God is gift, that he acts not by taking away, but by giving. Why is this important? Because our way of being believers depends on how we understand God. If we have in mind a God who takes away and who imposes himself, we too will want to take away and impose ourselves: occupying spaces, demanding recognition, seeking power. But if we have in our hearts a God who is gift, everything changes. If we realize that what we are is his gift, free and unmerited, then we too will want to make our lives a gift. By loving humbly, serving freely and joyfully, we will offer to the world the true image of God. The Spirit, the living memory of the Church, reminds us that we are born from a gift and that we grow by giving: not by holding on but by giving of ourselves.
Dear brothers and sisters, let us look within and ask ourselves what prevents us from giving ourselves. There are, so to speak, three main enemies of the gift, always lurking at the door of our hearts: narcissism, victimhood and pessimism. Narcissism makes us idolize ourselves, to be concerned only with what is good for us. The narcissist thinks: “Life is good if I profit from it”. So he or she ends up saying: “Why should I give myself to others?”. In this time of pandemic, how wrong narcissism is: the tendency to think only of our own needs, to be indifferent to those of others, and not to admit our own frailties and mistakes. But the second enemy, victimhood, is equally dangerous. Victims complain every day about their neighbour: “No one understands me, no one helps me, no one loves me, everyone has it in for me!”. How many times have we not heard these complaints! The victim’s heart is closed, as he or she asks, “Why aren’t others concerned about me?”. In the crisis we are experiencing, how ugly victimhood is! Thinking that no one understands us and experiences what we experience. This is victimhood. Finally, there is pessimism. Here the unending complaint is: “Nothing is going well, society, politics, the Church…”. The pessimist gets angry with the world, but sits back and does nothing, thinking: “What good is giving? That is useless”. At this moment, in the great effort of beginning anew, how damaging is pessimism, the tendency to see everything in the worst light and to keep saying that nothing will return as before! When someone thinks this way, the one thing that certainly does not return is hope. In these three – the narcissist idol of the mirror, the mirror-god; the complaint-god: “I feel human only when I complain”; and the negativity-god: “everything is dark, the future is bleak” – we experience a famine of hope and we need to appreciate the gift of life, the gift that each of us is. We need the Holy Spirit, the gift of God who heals us of narcissism, victimhood and pessimism. He heals us from the mirror, complaints and darkness.
Brothers and sisters, let us pray to him: Holy Spirit, memory of God, revive in us the memory of the gift received. Free us from the paralysis of selfishness and awaken in us the desire to serve, to do good. Even worse than this crisis is the tragedy of squandering it by closing in on ourselves. Come, Holy Spirit: you are harmony; make us builders of unity. You always give yourself; grant us the courage to go out of ourselves, to love and help each other, in order to become one family. Amen.
REGINA CAELI ADDRESS 31.05.2020
Before the Regina Caeli
Dear brothers and sisters, good day!
Today that the square is open, we can return. It is a pleasure!
Today we celebrate the great Feast of Pentecost, in memory of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the first Christian community. Today’s Gospel (see Jn 20: 19-23) takes us back to the evening of Easter and shows us the risen Jesus who appears in the Upper Room, where the disciples took refuge. They were afraid. “He stood among them and said, ‘Peace be with you!’” (v. 19). These first words pronounced by the Risen One – “Peace be with you” – are to be considered more than a greeting: they express forgiveness, the forgiveness granted to the disciples who, to tell the truth, had abandoned Him. They are words of reconciliation and forgiveness. And we too, when we wish peace to others, are granting forgiveness, and asking for forgiveness as well. Jesus offers His peace precisely to these disciples who are afraid, who find it hard to believe what they have seen, that is, the empty tomb, and who underestimate the testimony of Mary of Magdalene and of the other women. Jesus forgives: He always forgives, and offers His peace to His friends. Do not forget: Jesus never tires of forgiving. We are the ones who tire of asking for forgiveness.
By forgiving and gathering His disciples around Him, Jesus makes them a Church, His Church, which is a community reconciled and ready for mission. Reconciled and ready for mission. When a community is not reconciled, it is not ready for the mission: it is ready for internal discussions and arguments. The encounter with the Risen Lord turns the lives of the Apostles upside down and transforms them into courageous witnesses. Indeed, immediately afterwards He says, “As the Father has sent me, I am sending you” (v. 21). These words make it clear that the Apostles are sent to prolong the same mission that the Father entrusted to Jesus. “I am sending you”: it is not time to stay locked up, nor to regret: to regret the “good times”, those times spent with the Master. The joy of the Resurrection is great, but it is an expansive joy, which should not keep to oneself: it is to be given. On the Sundays of the Easter Season we first heard this same episode, then the meeting with the disciples of Emmaus, then the Good Shepherd, the farewell discourses and the promise of the Holy Spirit: all this is guided towards strengthening the disciples’ faith – and ours as well – with a view to mission.
And precisely to inspire mission, Jesus gives the Apostles His Spirit. The Gospel says: “He breathed on them and said, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (v. 22). The Holy Spirit is fire that burns away sins and creates new men and women; He is the fire of love with which the disciples can “set the world on fire”, that tender love that favours the little ones, the poor, the excluded… In the sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation we have received the Holy Spirit with His gifts: wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety, fear of the Lord. This last gift – the fear of the Lord – is precisely the opposite of the fear that previously paralysed the disciples: it is love for the Lord, it is the certainty of His mercy and goodness, it is the trust that of being able to move in the direction He indicates, without ever lacking His presence and support.
The Feast of Pentecost renews the awareness that within us dwells the life-giving presence of the Holy Spirit. May He grant us, too, the courage to go outside the protective walls of our “Upper Rooms”, our little groups, without getting used to a quiet life or closing ourselves up in sterile habits. Let us now raise our thought to Mary: she was there, with the apostles, when the Holy Spirit came, protagonist of the first community who experienced the wonders of Pentecost, and let us pray that she obtain for the Church an ardent missionary spirit.
Pope Francis’ Homily on Pentecost 2019:
GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT, THE HARMONY WITHIN US AND AMONG US.
Pentecost arrived, for the disciples, after fifty days of uncertainty. True, Jesus had risen. Overjoyed, they had seen him, listened to his words and even shared a meal with him. Yet they had not overcome their doubts and fears: they met behind closed doors (cf. Jn 20:19.26), uncertain about the future and not ready to proclaim the risen Lord. Then the Holy Spirit comes and their worries disappear. Now the apostles show themselves fearless, even before those sent to arrest them. Previously, they had been worried about saving their lives; now they are unafraid of dying. Earlier, they had huddled in the Upper Room; now they go forth to preach to every nation. Before the ascension of Jesus, they waited for God’s kingdom to come to them (cf. Acts 1:6); now they are filled with zeal to travel to unknown lands. Before, they had almost never spoken in public, and when they did, they had often blundered, as when Peter denied Jesus; now they speak with parrhesia to everyone. The disciples’ journey seemed to have reached the end of the line when suddenly they were rejuvenated by the Spirit. Overwhelmed with uncertainty, when they thought everything was over, they were transformed by a joy that gave them a new birth. The Holy Spirit did this. The Spirit is far from being an abstract reality: he is the Person who is most concrete and close, the one who changes our lives. How does he do this? Let us consider the Apostles. The Holy Spirit did not make things easier for them, he didn’t work spectacular miracles, he didn’t take away their difficulties and their opponents. The Spirit brought into the lives of the disciples a harmony that had been lacking, his own harmony, for he is harmony.
Harmony within human beings. Deep down, in their hearts, the disciples needed to be changed. Their story teaches us that even seeing the Risen Lord is not enough unless we welcome him into our hearts. It is no use knowing that the Risen One is alive unless we too live as risen ones. It is the Spirit who makes Jesus live within us; he raises us up from within. That is why when Jesus appears to his disciples, he repeats the words, “Peace be with you!” (Jn 20:19.21), and bestows the Spirit. Peace is not a matter of resolving outward problems – God does not spare his disciples from tribulation and persecution. Peace is about receiving the Holy Spirit. The peace bestowed on the apostles, the peace that does not bring freedom from problems but in problems, is offered to each of us. Filled with his peace, our hearts are like a deep sea, which remains peaceful, even when its surface is swept by waves. It is a harmony so profound that it can even turn persecutions into blessings. Yet how often we choose to remain on the surface! Rather than seeking the Spirit, we try to keep afloat, thinking that everything will improve once this or that problem is over, once I no longer see that person, once things get better. But to do so is to stay on the surface: when one problem goes away, another arrives, and once more we grow anxious and ill at ease. Avoiding those who do not think as we do will not bring serenity. Resolving momentary problems will not bring peace. What makes a difference is the peace of Jesus, the harmony of the Spirit.
At today’s frenzied pace of life, harmony seems swept aside. Pulled in a thousand directions, we run the risk of nervous exhaustion and so we react badly to everything. Then we look for the quick fix, popping one pill after another to keep going, one thrill after another to feel alive. But more than anything else, we need the Spirit: he brings order to our frenzy. The Spirit is peace in the midst of restlessness, confidence in the midst of discouragement, joy in sadness, youth in aging, courage in the hour of trial. Amid the stormy currents of life, he lowers the anchor of hope. As Saint Paul tells us today, the Spirit keeps us from falling back into fear, for he makes us realize that we are beloved children (cf. Rom 8:15). He is the Consoler, who brings us the tender love of God. Without the Spirit, our Christian life unravels, lacking the love that brings everything together. Without the Spirit, Jesus remains a personage from the past; with the Spirit, he is a person alive in our own time. Without the Spirit, Scripture is a dead letter; with the Spirit, it is a word of life. A Christianity without the Spirit is joyless moralism; with the Spirit, it is life.
The Holy Spirit does not bring only harmony within us but also among us. He makes us Church, building different parts into one harmonious edifice. Saint Paul explains this well when, speaking of the Church, he often repeats a single word, “variety”: varieties of gifts, varieties of services, varieties of activities” (1 Cor 12:4-6). We differ in the variety of our qualities and gifts. The Holy Spirit distributes them creatively so that they are not all identical. On the basis of this variety, he builds unity. From the beginning of creation, he has done this. Because he is a specialist in changing chaos into cosmos, in creating harmony.
In today’s world, lack of harmony has led to stark divisions. There are those who have too much and those who have nothing, those who want to live to a hundred and those who cannot even be born. In the age of the computer, distances are increasing: the more we use social media, the less social we are becoming. We need the Spirit of unity to regenerate us as Church, as God’s People, and as a human family. There is always a temptation to build “nests”, to cling to our little group, to the things and people we like, to resist all contamination. It is only a small step from a nest to a sect: how many times do we define our identity in opposition to someone or something! The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, brings together those who were distant, unites those far off, brings home those who were scattered. He blends different tonalities in a single harmony because before all else he sees goodness. He looks at individuals before looking at their mistakes, at persons before their actions. The Spirit shapes the Church and the world as a place of sons and daughters, brothers and sisters. These nouns come before any adjectives. Nowadays it is fashionable to hurl adjectives and, sadly, even insults. Later we realize that this is harmful, to those insulted but also to those who insult. Repaying evil for evil, passing from victims to aggressors, is no way to go through life. Those who live by the Spirit, however, bring peace where there is discord, concord where there is conflict. Those who are spiritual repay evil with good. They respond to arrogance with meekness, to malice with goodness, to shouting with silence, to gossip with prayer, to defeatism with encouragement.
To be spiritual, to savor the harmony of the Spirit, we need to adopt his way of seeing things. Then everything changes: with the Spirit, the Church is the holy People of God, the mission is the spread of joy, as others become our brothers and sisters, all loved by the same Father. Without the Spirit, though, the Church becomes an organization, her mission becomes propaganda, her communion an exertion. The Spirit is the first and last need of the Church (cf. SAINT PAUL VI, General Audience, 29 November 1972). He “comes where he is loved, where he is invited, where he is expected” (SAINT BONAVENTURE, Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Easter). Let us daily implore the gift of the Spirit. Holy Spirit, harmony of God, you who turn fear into trust and self-centeredness into self-gift, come to us. Grant us the joy of the resurrection and perennially young hearts. Holy Spirit, our harmony, you who make of us one body, pour forth your peace upon the Church and our world. Make us artisans of concord, sowers of goodness, apostles of hope.[01024-EN.01] [Original text: Italian]
© Libreria Editrice Vatican. Formatting mine
POPE FRANCIS’ PENTECOST 2018 HOMILY: THE HOLY SPIRIT, SOUL OF THE CHURCH, CHANGES HEARTS AND SITUATIONS.
In the first reading of today’s Liturgy, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is compared to “the rush of a violent wind” (Acts 2:2). What does this image tell us? It makes us think of a powerful force that is not an end in itself, but effects change. Wind in fact brings change: warmth when it is cold, cool when it is hot, rain when the land is parched… this is way it brings change. The Holy Spirit, on a very different level, does the same. He is the divine force that changes the world. The Sequence reminded us of this: the Spirit is “in toil, comfort sweet; solace in the midst of woe”. And so we beseech him: “Heal our wounds, our strength renew; on our dryness pour your dew; wash the stains of guilt away”. The Spirit enters into situations and transforms them. He changes hearts and he changes situations.
The Holy Spirit changes hearts. Jesus had told his disciples: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be my witnesses” (Acts 1:8). That is exactly what happened. Those disciples, at first fearful, huddled behind closed doors even after the Master’s resurrection, are transformed by the Spirit and, as Jesus says in today’s Gospel, “they bear witness to him” (cf. Jn 15:27). No longer hesitant, they are courageous and starting from Jerusalem, they go forth to the ends of the earth. Timid while Jesus was still among them, they are bold when he is gone, because the Spirit changed their hearts.
The Spirit frees hearts chained by fear. He overcomes all resistance. To those content with half measures he inspires whole-hearted generosity. He opens hearts that are closed. He impels the comfortable to go out and serve. He drives the self-satisfied to set out in new directions. He makes the lukewarm thrill to new dreams. That is what it means to change hearts. Plenty of people promise change, new beginnings, prodigious renewals, but experience teaches us that no earthly attempt to change reality can ever completely satisfy the human heart. Yet the change that the Spirit brings is different. It does not revolutionize life around us, but changes our hearts. It does not free us from the weight of our problems, but liberates us within so that we can face them. It does not give us everything at once, but makes us press on confidently, never growing weary of life. The Spirit keeps our hearts young – a renewed youth. Youth, for all our attempts to prolong it, sooner or later fades away; the Spirit, instead, prevents the only kind of aging that is unhealthy: namely, growing old within. How does he do this? By renewing our hearts, by pardoning sinners. Here is the great change: from guilty he makes us righteous and thus changes everything. From slaves of sin we become free, from servants we become beloved children, from worthless worthy, from disillusioned filled with hope. By the working of the Holy Spirit, joy is reborn and peace blossoms in our hearts.
Today, then, let us learn what to do when we are in need of real change. And who among us does not need a change? Particularly when we are downcast, wearied by life’s burdens, oppressed by our own weakness, at those times when it is hard to keep going and loving seems impossible. In those moments, we need a powerful “jolt”: the Holy Spirit, the power of God. In the Creed we profess that he is the “giver of life”. How good it would be for us each day to feel this jolt of life! To say when we wake up each morning: “Come, Holy Spirit, come into my heart, come into my day”.
The Spirit does not only change hearts; he changes situations. Like the wind that blows everywhere, he penetrates to the most unimaginable situations. In the Acts of the Apostles – a book we need to pick up and read, whose main character is the Holy Spirit – we are caught up in an amazing series of events. When the disciples least expect it, the Holy Spirit sends them out to the pagans. He opens up new paths, as in the episode of the deacon Philip. The Spirit drives Philip to a desert road from Jerusalem to Gaza… (How heartrending that name sounds to us today! May the Spirit change hearts and situations and bring peace to the Holy Land!) Along the way, Philip preaches to an Ethiopian court official and baptizes him. Then the Spirit brings him to Azotus, and then on to Caesarea, in constantly new situations, to spread the newness of God. Then too, there is Paul, “compelled by the Spirit” (Acts 20:22), who travels far and wide, bringing the Gospel to peoples he had never seen. Where the Spirit is, something is always happening; where he blows, things are never calm.
When, in the life of our communities, we experience a certain “listlessness”, when we prefer peace and quiet to the newness of God, it is a bad sign. It means that we are trying to find shelter from the wind of the Spirit. When we live for self-preservation and keep close to home, it is not a good sign. The Spirit blows, but we lower our sails. And yet, how often have we seen him work wonders! Frequently, even in the bleakest of times, the Spirit has raised up the most outstanding holiness! Because he is the soul of the Church, who constantly enlivens her with renewed hope, fills her with joy, makes her fruitful, and causes new life to blossom. In a family, when a new baby is born, it upsets our schedules, it makes us lose sleep, but it also brings us a joy that renews our lives, driving us on, expanding us in love. So it is with the Spirit: he brings a “taste of childhood” to the Church. Time and time again he gives new birth. He revives our first love. The Spirit reminds the Church that, for all her centuries of history, she is always the youthful bride with whom the Lord is madly in love. Let us never tire of welcoming the Spirit into our lives, of invoking him before everything we do: “Come, Holy Spirit!”
He will bring his power of change, a unique power that is, so to say, both centripetal and centrifugal. It is centripetal, that is, it seeks the centre, because it works deep within our hearts. It brings unity amid division, peace amid affliction, strength amid temptations. Paul reminds us of this in the second reading, when he writes that the fruits of the Spirit are joy, peace, faithfulness and self-control (cf. Gal 5:22). The Spirit grants intimacy with God, the inner strength to keep going. Yet, at the same time, he is a centrifugal force, that is, one pushing outward. The one who centres us is also the one who drives us to the peripheries, to every human periphery. The one who reveals God also opens our hearts to our brothers and sisters. He sends us, he makes us witnesses, and so he pours out on us – again in the words of Paul – love, kindness, generosity and gentleness. Only in the Consoler Spirit do we speak words of life and truly encourage others. Those who live by the Spirit live in this constant spiritual tension: they find themselves pulled both towards God and towards the world.
Let us ask him to make us live in exactly that way. Holy Spirit, violent wind of God, blow upon us, blow into our hearts and make us breathe forth the tenderness of the Father! Blow upon the Church and impel her to the ends of the earth, so that, brought by you, she may bring nothing other than you. Blow upon our world the soothing warmth of peace and the refreshing cool of hope. Come Holy Spirit, change us within and renew the face of the earth. Amen.
[00801-EN.02] [Original text: Italian]
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