By Vatican News staff writer
In his homily for the Pentecost Sunday Mass, Pope Francis reflected on the meaning of the mysterious word, difficult to translate, that Jesus used to describe the Holy Spirit: Paraclete. He said two essential meanings are present: Comforter and Advocate.
Paraclete as Comforter
In difficult times we look for consolation, the Pope observed, but often we only look for earthly remedies, which do not last, working only like a temporary “pain reliever” in which “they can sooth us, but not heal us”. Instead, someone “who makes us feel loved for who we are” can offer peace to our hearts, not just our senses, and here the “Holy Spirit, the love of God” is the solution. The Spirit, the Pope noted, acts in our spirit, accompanies us and is our “source of comfort”.
He encouraged everyone to “open your heart to the Holy Spirit” as a way to confront the darkness, pain and solitude in our lives. Instead, the Pope noted, the world offers us praise when things go well, but condemns us when things do not, just what the hostile spirit, the devil, does. But the experience of Apostles should give us hope, he observed: despite their fears, weaknesses and failings, everything changed when they receive the Spirit. While their weakness and problems did not disappear, “they were no longer afraid of them or of those who were hostile to them”, he said. They felt God’s comfort, consolation and support within and wanted only to share it and testify to this love they had received.
The Pope said today we are also “called to testify in the Holy Spirit, to become paracletes, comforters” in our world, “to embody the comfort” the Spirit brings. We can do this by “drawing near to others”, through “prayer and closeness” and not just through nice words. He also said we need to be positive and not just call out what is wrong, but joyfully proclaim the Gospel, bringing God’s love to the world, and testifying to mercy.
Paraclete as Advocate
In his second core point in his homily, the Pope looked at the meaning of Paraclete as the Advocate. As “the spirit of truth”, the Holy Spirit “defends us from the deceits of evil by inspiring thoughts and feelings”. The Spirit, “proposes but does not impose”, he noted; while the spirit of deceit, the evil one, instead entices us to give in to temptation.
We have three “antidotes” here, the Pope said. The first is that the Holy Spirit advises us to “live in the present”, to not be chained by our past mistakes or frozen with fear for the future. There is no better time than now, he observed, “the one and only time to do good, to make our life a gift”.
The Spirit also calls on us to “look to the whole”, to think beyond ourselves, to think as a Church with its wide range of charisms and to look into “a unity that is never uniformity”. The Spirit works and brings newness in the community, he noted, as with the apostles who are all very different people with varying ideas, visions and gifts. Yet once they received the Spirt, they gave primacy to the “whole” that is God’s plan. If we listen to the Spirit, we can look beyond our differences and accept the call “to unity, to concord, to the harmony of diversity”.
Finally, the Spirit calls us to a humble openness to God, to “put God before yourself”, the Pope said, since “the Spirit affirms the primacy of grace”. We must empty ourselves in order to “leave room for the Lord”. Only by doing so will we truly “find ourselves” and “become rich in the Holy Spirit”. The Pope said this is also true for the Church: we should not become lost in our own plans and projects, but always remember to look up and remember that “the Church is not a human organization; it is the temple of the Holy Spirit”.
In conclusion, the Pope prayed that “our Advocate, sweet counsellor of the soul, make us witnesses of the 'today' of God, prophets of unity for the Church and humanity” as apostles grounded God’s grace, “which creates and renews all things”.