Pope Francis celebrated Mass in St Peter’s Basilica yesterday, the Solemnity of Pentecost. His homily focused on the ways in which the Holy Spirit is active in the life of every Christian and in the Church.
Later before the Regina Coeli, speaking to crowds gathered in St Peter's Square, Pope Francis said: “The event of Pentecost, marks the birth of the Church and the Church’s public manifestation: two things strike us: the Church is one that surprises us and stirs things up.”
After the prayer, the Holy Father looked ahead to the much-anticipated encounter of prayer for peace in the Vatican, with the participation of the Presidents of Israel and Palestine, as well as the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. “I wish to thank all those who, personally and in community, have prayed and are praying for this meeting, and who will be united spiritually to our supplication,” he said.
The Vatican English translation of Pope Francis' homily follows below:
“All were filled with the Spirit” (Acts 2:4).
Speaking to the Apostles at the Last Supper, Jesus said that, after his departure from this world, that he would send them the gift of the Father, that is, the Holy Spirit (cf. John 15:26). This promise is fulfilled with power on the day of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit descends upon the disciples gathered in the cenacle. That outpouring, while extraordinary, did not remain unique and limited to that moment, but is an event that is renewed and continues to be renewed. Christ glorified at the right hand of the Father continues to realize his promise, sending the Church the vivifying Spirit, who teaches us and reminds us and makes us speak.
The Holy Spirit teaches us: he is the interior Teacher. He guides us along the right path, through the situations of life. He teaches us the path, the way. In the early Church, Christianity was called “the Way” (Cf. Acts 9:2), and Jesus himself is the way. The Holy Spirit teaches us to follow him, to walk in his footsteps. More than a teacher of doctrine, the Holy Spirit is a teacher of life. Certainly knowing is a part of life but within the wider and harmonious horizon of Christian existence.
The Holy Spirit reminds us, he reminds us of everything that Jesus said. He is the living memory of the Church. And while he helps us to remember, he helps us understand the Lord’s words.
This remembering in the Spirit and thanks to the Spirit is not simply a mnemonic but an essential aspect of the presence of Christ in us and in his Church. The Spirit of truth and charity reminds us everything that Christ said, he makes us enter ever more deeply into the meaning of his words. We all have this experience: one moment, in any situation, there is an idea and then another links it with a passage of Scripture... It is the Holy Spirit that leads us down this road, the road of the living memory of the Church. And this solicits a response from us. The more generous our response, the more Jesus’ words become life in us, become attitudes, choices, deeds, witness. In substance, the Holy Spirit reminds us of the commandment of love and calls us to live it.
A Christian without memory is not a true Christian. He is only half Christian, he is a man or a woman who is a prisoner of the moment, who does not see his or her history as a treasure, does not know how to read it or live it as history of salvation. But with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can interpret the interior inspirations and events of life in the light of Jesus’ words. And, thus, there grows in us the wisdom of memory, the wisdom of the heart, which is a gift of the Spirit. May the Spirit revive the Christian memory in each us! And that day, with the Apostles, was the Woman of memory, she who from the beginning meditated on all those things in her heart. It was Mary, our Mother. May she help us along this road of memory. The Holy Spirit teaches us, reminds us, and – another thing – he makes us speak, with God and with men. We are not mute Christians, mute of soul; no, there is no room for this.
He makes us speak with God in prayer. Prayer is a gift that we gratuitously receive; it is a dialogue with God in the Holy Spirit, who prays in us and permits us to turn to God and call him Father, Papa, Abba (cf. Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:4); and this is not only a “manner of speaking,” but is reality, we really are sons of God. “In fact, all those who are guided by the Holy Spirit of God, they are the sons of God” (Romans 8:14).
He makes us speak in the act of faith. None of us can say “Jesus is Lord” – we hear this today – without the Holy Spirit. And the Spirit makes us speak with men in fraternal dialogue. He helps us to speak with others recognizing them as brothers and sisters; to speak in a friendly, tender way, understanding the anxieties and hopes, the sadness and joys of others.
But there is more: the Holy Spirit even makes us speak to men in prophecy, that is, he makes us humble and docile “channels” of the Word of God. Prophecy is made in boldness, to show the contradictions and injustices openly, but always with meekness and constructive intent. Penetrated by the Spirit of love, we can be signs and instruments of God who love, serve, and give our lives.
Summing up: the Holy Spirit teaches us life; he reminds us of the words of Jesus; he makes us pray and say “Father” to God, he makes us speak to men in fraternal dialogue and makes us speak in prophecy.
The day of Pentecost, when the disciples “were filled with the Holy Spirit,” was the baptism of the Church, which was born and “went out,” “departed” to proclaim to everyone the Good News. Mother Church who goes off to serve. Let us remember the other Mother, our Mother who departed promptly in order to serve. Mother Church and Mother Mary: both are virgins, both are mothers, both are women. Jesus was preemptory with the Apostles: they must not leave Jerusalem before receiving the power of the Holy Spirit from above (cf. Acts 1:4, 8). Without him there is no mission, there is no evangelization. For this reason, with the whole Church, our Mother the Catholic Church we call out: Come, Holy Spirit!