Pope at Pentecost Mass: Let us sit at the school of the Holy Spirit
By Linda Bordoni
Pentecost is the day that commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles. It concludes the Easter season and celebrates the beginning of the Church’s mission to the world. Thus, Pope Francis’ homily during Mass in St. Peter's Basilica was an invitation to keep listening to the Holy Spirit who teaches us where to begin, shows us what paths to take, rekindles God’s love in our hearts and directs us on our journey. The Mass was presided over by Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re, Dean of the College of Cardinals.
Taking his cue for the Gospel according to John (Jn 14:26) in which Jesus tells His disciples: “The Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you everything, and remind you of all I have said to you,” the Pope explained that “The Spirit makes us see everything in a new way, with the eyes of Jesus.”
In the great journey of life, the Spirit teaches us where to begin, what paths to take, and how to walk.
Where to begin
The Spirit, Pope Francis said, points out to us the starting point of the spiritual life, reminding us to love Jesus is not just a matter of keeping our fidelity and our devotion.
“Without love as our basis, all the rest is in vain. And that love comes not so much from our abilities, but as his gift,” he said.
The Spirit of love pours love into our hearts, he makes us feel loved and he teaches us how to love. He is the “motor” of our spiritual lives.
The memory of God
Pope Francis went on to explain that the Spirit is the memory of God, the one who brings to our minds all that Jesus has said, constantly rekindling the love of God in our hearts.
Ne noted the experience of his presence “in the forgiveness of our sins, in moments when we are filled with his peace, his freedom and his consolation.”
When our lives seem full of failures and disappointments, the Pope explained the Holy Spirit reminds us that we are a son or daughter of God.
He is also the “Consoler”, the Holy Father continued “who can transform the hurts burning within you,” teaching us “not to harbour the memory of all those people and situations that have hurt us, but to let him purify those memories by his presence.”
That is what he did with the apostles and their failures: “Left to themselves, they had no way out,” but the Spirit, he added heals memories by putting at the top of the list the thing that really matters: the memory of God’s love, his loving gaze.
What paths to take
Pope Francis explained that in addition to reminding us where to begin, the Spirit teaches us what paths to take.
He referred to the second liturgical reading, where Saint Paul explains that those “led by the Spirit of God” (Rom 8:14) “walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”.
“The Spirit, at every crossroads in our lives, suggests to us the best path to follow. It is important, then, to be able to distinguish his voice from the voice of the spirit of evil,” he said.
The Pope went on to elaborate on this concept explaining that “The Holy Spirit will never tell you that on your journey everything is going just fine. No, he corrects you; he makes you weep for your sins; he pushes you to change, to fight against your lies and deceptions, even when that calls for hard work, interior struggle and sacrifice.”
To the contrary, he continued, the evil spirit “pushes you to do always what you think and you find pleasing. He makes you think that you have the right to use your freedom any way you want. Then, once you are left feeling empty inside, he blames you and throws you down.”
The Holy Spirit is not an idealist
Noting the practical character of the Holy Spirit's action, the Pope said “He wants us to concentrate on the here and now, because the time and place in which we find ourselves are themselves grace-filled.”
“The Spirit leads us to love, here and now, not an ideal world or an ideal Church, but the real ones, as they are, seen in the broad light of day, with transparency and simplicity,” he said
The Spirit teaches the Church how to walk
The third and final aspect, Pope Francis focused on, it the fact that the Holy Spirit teaches the Church how to walk.
“The disciples were cowering in the Upper Room; the Spirit then came down and made them go forth. Without the Spirit, they were alone, by themselves, huddled together. With the Spirit, they were open to all,” he explained.
In every age, said Pope Francis, the Spirit overturns our preconceived notions and opens us to his newness.”
He constantly teaches the Church the vital importance of going forth, impelled to proclaim the Gospel.
The Pope reiterated his call for the Church not to be “a secure sheepfold, but an open pasture where all can graze on God’s beauty.”
It is contrary to the worldly spirit that drives us “to concentrate on our own problems and interests, on our need to appear relevant, on our strenuous defense of the nation or group to which we belong,” he said.
“That is not the way of the Holy Spirit. He invites us to forget ourselves and to open our hearts to all. In that way, he makes the Church grow young. We need to remember this: the Spirit rejuvenates the Church,” he said.
And in this, the Pope continued the Church cannot be “programmed” nor are efforts at “modernization” enough: “The Spirit liberates us from obsession with emergencies. He beckons us to walk his paths, ever ancient and ever new, the paths of witness, poverty and mission, and in this way, he sets us free from ourselves and sends us forth into the world.”