Solemnity of Pentecost – 20 May
HOMILY BY POPE FRANCIS – 20 MAY 2018
In the first reading of today’s liturgy, the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost is likened to “a wind that strikes itself impetuously” ( Acts 2 : 2). What does this image tell us? The impetuous wind makes one think of a great force, but not an end in itself: it is a force that changes reality. In fact, the wind brings change: hot currents when it’s cold, fresh when it’s hot, rain when it’s dry … so it does. Even the Holy Spirit, on another level, does this: He is the divine force that changes, which changes the world . The Sequence reminded us: the Spirit is “in toil, rest; in tears, comfort »; and so we beg him: “Wash what is sordid, wet what is dry, heal what is bleeding”. He enters the situations and transforms them; change hearts and changes the events .
Change hearts . Jesus had said to his Apostles: “You will receive strength from the Holy Spirit […] and you will be my witnesses” ( Acts 1 : 8). And so it happened: those disciples, first fearful, holed up behind closed doors even after the resurrection of the Master, are transformed by the Spirit and, as Jesus announces in today’s Gospel, “bear witness” (cf. Jn 15 : 27). From hesitant they become brave and, starting from Jerusalem, they push themselves to the borders of the world. Fearful when Jesus was among them, they are bold without him, because the Spirit has changed their hearts.
The Spirit unlocks souls sealed by fear. Resistance wins. For those who are satisfied with half measures, they are proposing leaps of donation. Dilate narrow hearts. It pushes those who are reclining in comfort into service. It makes walking those who feel arrived. It makes those who are suffering from lukewarm dreaming. Here is the change of heart. Many promise seasons of change, new beginnings, portentous renewals, but experience teaches that no earthly attempt to change things fully satisfies the human heart. The change of the Spirit is different: it does not revolutionize life around us, but it changes our heart; it does not free us from problems, but it frees us insideto face them; it does not give us everything at once, but it makes us walk confidently, without ever making us weary of life. The Spirit keeps the heart young – that renewed youth. Youth, despite all attempts to prolong it, sooner or later passes; instead it is the Spirit that prevents the only unhealthy aging, the inner one. How does? Renewing the heart, turning it from a sinner into a forgiven one. This is the great change: from the guilty it makes us righteous and so everything changes, because from slaves of sin we become free, from servants children, from discarded precious, from disappointed hope. Thus the Holy Spirit brings joy back to life, thus making peace flourish in the heart.
Today, therefore, we learn what to do when we need real change. Who of us does not need it? Especially when we are on the ground, when we struggle under the weight of life, when our weaknesses oppress us, when going on is difficult and loving seems impossible. Then we need a strong “reconstituent”: it is He, the strength of God. It is He who, as we profess in the “Creed”, “gives life”. How good it would be to take this restorative of life every day! To say, when you wake up: “Come, Holy Spirit, come into my heart, come in my day”.
After the hearts, the Spirit changes the events . As the wind blows everywhere, so He also reaches the most unexpected situations. In the Acts of the Apostles – which is a book to be discovered, where the Spirit is the protagonist – we witness a continuous dynamism, full of surprises. When the disciples do not expect it, the Spirit sends them to the pagans. He opens new ways, as in the episode of the deacon Filippo. The Spirit pushes him on a deserted road, from Jerusalem to Gaza – how this name is so painful today! The Spirit changes hearts and events and brings peace to the Holy Land -. On that road Filippo preaches to the Ethiopian official and baptizes him; then the Spirit takes him to Nitrogen, then to Caesarea: always in new situations, because it spreads the newness of God. Then there is Paul, who “forced by the Spirit” (Ac 20,22) travels to the ends, bringing the Gospel to populations that he had never seen before. When there is the Spirit something always happens, when He blows there is never calm, never.
When the life of our communities goes through periods of “sluggishness”, where domestic peace is preferred to God’s newness, it is a bad sign. It means that one seeks shelter from the wind of the Spirit. When you live for self-preservation and you do not go far, it’s not a good sign. The Spirit is blowing, but we lower the sails. Yet many times we have seen it work wonders. Often, precisely in the darkest periods, the Spirit has aroused the brightest holiness! Because He is the soul of the Church, always revives it with hope, fills it with joy, makes it fruitful with novelty, gives it life sprouts. Like when, in a family, a child is born: it messes up the schedules, makes you lose sleep, but brings a joy that renews life, pushing it forward, dilating it in love. Behold, the Spirit brings a “taste of childhood” in the Church. Work continuous rebirths. Revive the love of the beginnings. The Spirit reminds the Church that, despite its centuries of history, it is always a twenty year old, the young Bride of whom the Lord is hopelessly in love. Let us not grow tired of inviting the Spirit into our environments, invoking it before our activities: “Come, Holy Spirit!”.
He will bring his force of change, a unique force that is, so to speak, at the same time centripetal and centrifugal . It is centripetal, that is, it pushes towards the center, because it acts within the heart. Bring unity in fragmentariness, peace in afflictions, strength in temptation. Paul remembers him in the second reading, writing that the fruit of the Spirit is joy, peace, fidelity, self-control (cf. Gal5:22). The Spirit gives intimacy with God, the inner strength to move forward. But at the same time He is centrifugal force, that is, he pushes outwards. The one who leads to the center is the same one that sends to the periphery, to every human periphery; The one who reveals God to us pushes us towards our brothers. Send, makes witnesses and for this infuses – Paolo still writes – love, benevolence, goodness, meekness. Only in the Consoling Spirit we say words of life and we truly encourage others. Those who live according to the Spirit are in this spiritual tension: they are reaching out together towards God and the world .
Let’s ask him to be like this. Holy Spirit, the impetuous wind of God, blows on us. Blow in our hearts and let us breathe the tenderness of the Father. Blow on the Church and push it to the farthest boundaries because, brought by you, bring nothing but you. The delicate warmth of peace and the fresh refreshment of hope are blowing on the world. Come, Holy Spirit, change in and renew the face of the earth. Amen.