“Respect for creation is a requirement of our faith: the ‘garden’ in which we live is not entrusted to us to be exploited, but rather to be cultivated and tended with respect”, Pope Francis said in his Pentecost Sunday homily, in St Peter’s Basilica.
His remark would seem to offer an insight into his encyclical on ecology that is expected to be made public in the coming weeks. That magisterial document is likely to emphasize the moral imperative of caring for the creation and the environment, an obligation that will require courageous steps at various levels of society across the globe.
Standing at a lectern, wearing red vestments, Francis began his homily by recalling that the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles and Mary, the Mother of Jesus, almost 2000 years ago and said that event marked the beginning of the Church.
He recalled how the Apostles had been paralyzed by fear after the crucifixion of Jesus, but when the Holy Spirit came he enabled them understand that “the death of Jesus was not his defeat, but rather the ultimate expression of God’s love” and that the Risen Jesus is “the Living One” and “the Lord, the Redeemer of mankind, of history and of the world.”
The Holy Spirit gave them “a new strength so great that they were able to proclaim the Resurrection of Christ in different languages”, he said, and that transformation had an impact on the outside world.
Ever since that first Pentecost, Francis said, the Holy Spirit has continued “to guide, to renew and to bear fruit” through individuals and communities in the Church, right down to our own day.
He reminded his congregation, which included cardinals, bishops, priests, men and women religious and lay people from all continents, that “The Holy Spirit whom Christ sent from the Father, and the Creator Spirit who gives life to all things, are one and the same.” So, therefore, “respect for creation is a requirement of our faith: the “garden” in which we live is not entrusted to us to be exploited, but rather to be cultivated and tended with respect (cf. Gen 2:15).” But, he said, this respect is possible only if man “allows himself in turn to be renewed by the Holy Spirit”. In other words, it requires a profound transformation in the hearts of people to enable them “to live in harmony with creation.”
Looking at the 7,000 people in the basilica, including ambassadors from many countries, Francis told them, “The world needs men and women who are not closed in on themselves, but filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Indeed, he said, “closing oneself off from the Holy Spirit means not only a lack of freedom; it is a sin.” He explained that there are “many ways” by which “one can close oneself off to the Holy Spirit”. One can do so, for example, “by selfishness for one’s own gain; by rigid legalism – seen in the attitude of the doctors of the law to whom Jesus referred as “hypocrites”; by neglect of what Jesus taught; by living the Christian life not as service to others but in the pursuit of personal interests; and in so many other ways.”
Francis declared that today “the world needs the courage, hope, faith and perseverance of Christ’s followers. The world needs the fruits of the Holy Spirit: ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control’.”
He reminded those listening to him, and the wider Christian community, that “the gift of the Holy Spirit has been bestowed upon the Church and upon each one of us, so that we may live lives of genuine faith and active charity, that we may sow the seeds of reconciliation and peace.”
He concluded by praying that “strengthened by the Spirit who guides us and renews the Church, and by his many gifts, we may be able uncompromisingly to battle against sin and the corruption that is spreading day by day ever more, devoting ourselves with patient perseverance to the works of justice and peace.”
After mass, Pope Francis, spoke again about the Holy Spirit when, from the papal study window, he greeted the tens of thousands of pilgrims from many countries gathered in St Peter’s Square. He recalled that “the gift of the Holy Spirit re-established the harmony of tongues that was lost at Babel, and prefigured the universal dimension of the mission of the Apostles.”
In this way, Francis said, the Church “was born universal, one and catholic, with a precise but open identity, which embraces the whole world, without excluding anybody.” And departing from his text, he assured them: “The Church does not close its doors to anyone, to no one. The Church opens her doors to everyone because she is a mother.”
Next, he recalled the beatification on May 23 of Archbishop Romero “who was killed, out of hatred of the faith, as he celebrated the Eucharist”. He hailed him as “a zealous pastor that, (following) in the example of Jesus, chose to be in the midst of his people, especially the poor and oppressed, even at the cost of his life.”
He also told the large crowd in the square that an Italian sister of the Consolata Missionaries, Irene Stefani, was beatified in Kenya, also on May 23. “She had served the Kenyan people with joy, mercy and tender compassion”, he added.
Francis then went onto express his heartfelt concern at the plight of “the numerous migrants” adrift in boats on the Bay of Bengal and the Andaman Sea. He was referring to the some 3,000 Burmese and Bangladeshi migrants that some countries in the area, including Australia and Thailand, had refused to accept. He expressed his “appreciation” for the efforts made by other countries that expressed their willingness to accept these boat people – a reference to Malaysia and Indonesia, in particular, though he did not name them. He “encouraged” the international community “to provide them with the necessary humanitarian assistance”.
He also extending his good wishes to the members of the Salesian Order, gathered in Turin, Italy, for the 200th anniversary celebrations of the birth of their founder, St John Bosco.
He concluded by recalling that on this day, one hundred years ago, Italy had entered the First World War, that led to so many deaths. He invited all present to join him in praying earnestly for peace in the world today.
FULL TEXT of the Pope’s homily: http://www.news.va/en/news/the-popes-homily-on-pentecost-sunday