Avoid becoming Christians of “the right or the left” urges Pope Francis during Pentecost Homily

During his incisive homily on Pentecost Sunday, Pope Francis stated that the Catholic Church is facing two “recurrent temptations” in the 21st century. The first “seeks diversity without unity,” while the second “seeks unity without diversity.” He explained that both are contrary to the Spirit of the Risen Jesus, who in the universal church makes “a new people” out of many nations and gives them “a new heart.”

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He celebrated Pentecost Mass in St. Peter’s Square, which was attended by 80,000 people from all around the world, including tens of thousands of members of the Catholic Charismatic movement. Yesterday, Pope Francis also celebrated the 50th anniversary of the group’s founding at the Circus Maximus.

The Holy Spirit is “the first gift of the Risen Lord.”

Wearing red vestments for today’s great festival, Francis explained that the church celebrates the feast of Pentecost 50 days after Jesus’ resurrection because on that day, some 2,000 years ago, the Holy Spirit, who is “the first gift of the Risen Lord,” came “down from heaven” to the disciples in the form of “divided tongues, as of fire” that ‘rested’ on each of the them” and they “began to speak in other languages.”

He reminded the pilgrims in the square—and a global audience of hundreds of millions that followed by television, radio or social media—that the Spirit “is the Creator Spirit, who constantly brings about new things.” Today’s Scripture readings highlight two of those new things, he said: The Spirit makes the disciples “a new people” and creates in them “a new heart”; he “brings all of them together in fellowship” and “gives a gift to each, and then gathers them all into unity.” In other words, he said, “the same Spirit creates diversity and unity,” and in this way “forms a new, diverse and unified people: the universal Church.”

Francis explained that in both “creative and unexpected” ways, the Holy Spirit creates diversity, and “in every age he causes new and varied charisms to blossom. Then he brings about unity: he joins together, gathers and restores harmony.” The Holy Spirit “does so in a way that effects true union, according to God’s will, a union that is not uniformity, but unity in difference.”

Throughout his pontificate, Francis has continually highlighted the Spirit’s role in the church and repeatedly warned church leaders—especially cardinals, bishops and priests in the Roman Curia and in dioceses across the world—against closing their eyes, ears and hearts to what the Spirit is saying to the church today. In his homily, he warned them again, as well as the leadership of the new movements (including those from the charismatic movement present in the square) “to avoid two recurrent temptations.”

He explained that the first temptation “seeks diversity without unity.” This happens, he said, “when we want to separate, when we take sides and form parties, when we adopt rigid and airtight positions, when we become locked into our own ideas and ways of doing things, perhaps even thinking that we are better than others, or always in the right.” It happens when “we choose the part over the whole, belonging to this or that group before belonging to the Church.” It happens when “we become avid supporters for one side, rather than brothers and sisters in the one Spirit. We become Christians of the ‘right’ or the ‘left,’ before being on the side of Jesus, unbending guardians of the past or the avant-garde of the future before being humble and grateful children of the Church. The result is diversity without unity.”

He urged believers to pray to the Holy Spirit “for the grace to receive his unity."

He described the second “recurrent temptation” as that of “seeking unity without diversity.” When this happens, “unity becomes uniformity, where everyone has to do everything together and in the same way, always thinking alike. Unity ends up being homogeneity and no longer freedom. But, as Saint Paul says, ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.’

He urged believers to pray to the Holy Spirit “for the grace to receive his unity” in a way that “leaves personal preferences aside, embraces and loves his Church, our Church.” This also means “to accept responsibility for unity among all, to wipe out the gossip that sows the darnel of discord and the poison of envy, since to be men and women of the Church means being men and women of communion.”

He encouraged them “to ask for a heart that feels that the Church is our Mother and our home, an open and welcoming home where the manifold joy of the Holy Spirit is shared.”

Having warned against these temptations and having recalled that the Spirit of Jesus wants both diversity and unity in the church, Francis emphasized that to achieve this goal the Spirit gives “a new heart.” He reminded believers that when Jesus first appeared to his disciples after his resurrection he said to them: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them.” Francis here underlined that “Jesus does not condemn them for having denied and abandoned him during his passion, but instead grants them the spirit of forgiveness.”

In his homily, he reminded both pastors and faithful alike that “the Spirit is the first gift of the risen Lord, and is given above all for the forgiveness of sins.” Throughout his four-year pontificate, Francis has emphasized the central importance of forgiveness, and he did so again today as he reminded believers that Jesus gave the Spirit “above all for the forgiveness of sin.” Here, he said, “we see the beginning of the Church” because forgiveness is “the glue that holds us together, the cement that binds the bricks of the house.” He described “forgiveness” as a “gift to the highest degree; it is the greatest love of all. It preserves unity despite everything, prevents collapse, and consolidates and strengthens. Forgiveness sets our hearts free and enables us to start afresh.”

He reminded believers that “forgiveness gives hope; without forgiveness, the Church is not built up. The spirit of forgiveness resolves everything in harmony, and leads us to reject every other way: the way of hasty judgement, the cul-de-sac of closing every door, the one-way street criticizing others. The Spirit bids us take the two-way street of forgiveness received and given.”

At the end of the Pentecost Mass, Francis prayed that the Holy Spirit “may sustain the mission of the church throughout the world and give strength to all men and women missionaries.”

He prayed, too, that the Spirit of the Risen Jesus “may give peace to the entire world, and heal the wounds of war and terrorism, which last night struck innocent civilians in London.” He asked everyone to pray for the victims and the families of this latest terrorist attack.

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Vincent Gaglione
5 months 3 weeks ago

Pope Francis is quite profound. He teaches all of us with this homily. Let us learn well; let us do well.

J Cosgrove
5 months 3 weeks ago

What does it mean to be a Christian of the "right" or of the "left"?

The terms have no meaning so why did the Pope use them?

i have two other questions, what is "diversity" and what does "unity" mean? They sound so vague and could mean anything.

Isn't there one truth? Isn't the religion which proclaims this, a religion for everyone? Is that what the Pope means?

Vincent Gaglione
5 months 3 weeks ago

The words have meaning, at least to those willing to use a dictionary. The concepts expressed in those words have meanings, at least to those willing to understand those meanings in currents cultural and political contexts. Pope Francis is explicit to those who wish to hear. He relies on the listeners to comprehend.

In contrast, like the situation the current USA president finds himself regarding a “travel ban”, context is everything to the meaning. Unfortunately the USA president and his administration are not equally as explicit as Pope Francis. But all the listeners understand their meaning.

J Cosgrove
5 months 3 weeks ago

But yet you provide no meaning. Are they supposed to be a Rorschach's test?

The origin of right/left was equality Vs hierarchical famial leadership that no longer exists in Western world. Now the terms usually mean equality/freedom which has no meaning with Catholicism.

So what the Pope says has no meaning within Catholicism. Maybe someone could provide a specific meaning if one exists. Similarly for "unity" and "diversity." They are so vague as to be meaningless.

Charles Erlinger
5 months 3 weeks ago

The Pope actually is continuing in a long and coherent teaching development tracing from the very beginning of the social encyclicals over 100 years ago, as can be seen from the work of Maciej Ziedba, OP in "Papal Economics." Here is an excerpt, in which he is summarizing a thought on the difference between truth and ideology from John Paul II, which, in turn was later developed further by Benedict XVI:

“‘Nor does the Church close her eyes to the danger of fanaticism or fundamentalism among those who, in the name of an ideology which purports to be scientific or religious, claim the right to impose on others their own concept of what is true and good. Christian truth is not of this kind. Since it is not an ideology, the Christian faith does not presume to imprison changing sociopolitical realities in a rigid schema, and it recognizes that human life is realized in history in conditions that are diverse and imperfect. Furthermore, in constantly reaffirming the transcendent dignity of the person, the Church's method is always that of respect for freedom.’8

“By the encyclical's account, ideology maintains a concept of truth and goodness that captures all of reality in a simple and solid schema, and its advocates believe that this concept can be imposed on other people.9 Christian truth, the pope observes, does not fulfill this second condition and therefore is not an ideology.

“The Christian attitude of humility toward truth is fundamental in this context. Ideologues and their followers claim not only that they have grasped the objective truth that clarifies the essence of reality also that they know this truth so well that they can impose their vision on the rest of society….”

Excerpt From: Maciej Zieba. “Papal Economics.” iBooks. https://itun.es/us/weJTY.l The footnotes 8 and 9 refer to passages in the encyclical "Centisimus Annus."

Bruce Snowden
5 months 3 weeks ago

I’m pleased to read about and pictorially see Pope Francis praying Charismatic Prayer, commemorating its founding fifty years ago at Circus Maximus, Rome. Having grown-up in a laity-quiet Church, with liturgy in Latin as in a foreign tongue, praying as it were, to an unknown God, the swing, sway and out-loud praying of Charismatics were grating and annoying at first, to say the least. But then I got it!

Returning from work one day, I hear our two toddlers, another came later, all three now grown men with families of their own, jumping up and down delightfully as soon as they heard the key opening the front door and entering I saw the kids dancing around saying, “Daddy! Daddy! Daddy!” pulling me to the floor for “horsey ride.” Jesus' words came to mind, "Unless you become as little children ...". Suddenly the experience took on a Charismatic feel, as with people at Church swinging their hands, exceedingly overjoyed to be with Daddy, “Daddy God!” From then on Charismatic Prayer began to infiltrate my prayer-life and I began attending Healing Masses.

Once at a Healing Mass the Celebrant cautioned the Congregation not to be alarmed at what may happen, a good thing he did as shortly into the Mass people began falling to the floor, “Resting in the Lord” its name. At that Mass I did not “Rest” by falling to the floor, but something “fell” on me, not a part of the Church thankfully, but as I worshipped the Eucharist at the Elevation, a bolt of what felt like an electrical charge went through me from head to feet, not in a frightening way, but in a calming and serene way. Something happened but to this day I do not know what. A grace given? Some bad memories erased? Nothing physical, maybe spiritual, or psychological. Just don’t know yet grateful for the experience.

Another time I decided to join the long line in Church to have the “laying on of hands” done. My turn came as hands were placed on me I felt myself being slowly pulled backwards, not by anyone behind me but mysteriously simply happening. I learned later that one must never resist the “pull of the Spirit,” but that’s exactly what I did because I didn’t want to look like a jerk falling to the floor! In effect I had committed the Sin of Human Respect, pretty wide-spread I’d say, through which one decides not to the right thing because of what people might say! So, one can sin even in the midst of doing something intrinsically holy! I will never let that happen again.

I am happy to see Holy Father Francis with eyes and arms lifted upwards praying to the Holy Spirit. With him I pray, Spirit of the Living God, fall afresh on me and on the whole Church!

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