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Gerard O’ConnellMay 19, 2024
Pope Francis accepts the offertory gifts during Pentecost Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on May 19, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)Pope Francis accepts the offertory gifts during Pentecost Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican on May 19, 2023. (CNS photo/Lola Gomez)

In his homily on Pentecost Sunday, Pope Francis said the Holy Spirit gives Christians “the energy born of fidelity to the truth” to “tirelessly proclaim peace to those who desire war, forgiveness to those who seek revenge.”

Francis explained how the Holy Spirit empowers Christians to live and act in today’s world, where “all of us are in great need of hope and the ability to lift our gaze to horizons of peace, fraternity, justice and solidarity.”

He presided at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica on May 19, the feast of Pentecost, which he concelebrated with 22 cardinals, 16 bishops, 220 priests and some 7,000 faithful. The Mass was also transmitted by television and radio.

The Argentine pope devoted his entire homily to describing how the Holy Spirit is “working in the church” and in the lives of individual Christians “with power and gentleness,” helping us carry out our mission of proclaiming the Gospel in a world being torn apart by wars, hatred, other forms of violence, polarization and individualism. Later at his midday address, the pope mentioned the ongoing wars in “martyred Ukraine” and in Palestine and Israel, and he emphasized the need to work for harmony and peace in the home and in society.

“The Spirit’s work in us is powerful,” the pope said, and he recalled that in the Bible it is often “symbolized by the signs of wind and fire.” He emphasized that “without such power we would never be able to defeat evil on our own, nor overcome the “desires of the flesh” that St. Paul refers to in today’s first reading—namely, “impurity, idolatry, dissension and envy” (Gal 5:19-21).

“These powerful drives spoil our relationships with others and divide our communities!” Francis said, but “with the Spirit they can be overcome. He enters our heart and heals all.” He added, “Jesus too shows us this when, prompted by the Spirit, he withdraws for 40 days and is tempted in the desert [Mt. 4:1-11]. During that time his humanity also grows, is strengthened and prepared for mission.”

The Jesuit pope underlined that The Holy Spirit works in us in a “strong but also gentle” way. Indeed, in St Luke’s account, “The wind and the fire do not destroy or reduce to ashes whatever they touch: The one fills the house where the disciples are, and the other rests gently, in the form of flames, on the head of each. This gentleness, too, is a feature of God’s way of acting, one that we frequently encounter in the Scriptures.”

The pope said that the Holy Spirit “first breaks up the clods of our passions, then gently, after planting the seeds of virtue, ‘waters’ them and ‘tends’ them,” as the hymn to the Holy Spirit says. “He lovingly protects these virtues, so that they can grow stronger and so that, after the toil of combating evil, we may taste the sweetness of mercy and communion with God and with our brothers and sisters.”

Pope Francis then recalled that on the day of Pentecost, “The Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples and remained at their side as the ‘Paraclete’ who transformed their hearts and instilled in them [quoting St. John Paul II] ‘a serene courage which impelled them to pass on to others their experience of Jesus and the hope which motivated them.’”

He said the same is also true of us “who received the Holy Spirit in baptism and confirmation.” Like the Apostles, he said, “we too are being sent forth to proclaim the Gospel to all. We are sent into the world [again quoting St. John Paul II] ‘not only geographically but also beyond the frontiers of race and religion, for a truly universal mission.’” Thanks to the Spirit, he said, “we can and must do this with his same power and gentleness.”

Pope Francis said that Christians are called to carry out “our mission” in today’s world, “not with arrogance and impositions, nor with calculation and cunning, but with the energy born of fidelity to the truth that the Spirit teaches us in our hearts and causes to grow within us.”

Because we are empowered by the Holy Spirit, he said:

We tirelessly proclaim peace to those who desire war, forgiveness to those who seek revenge, welcome and solidarity to those who bar their doors and erect barriers, life to those who choose death, respect to those who love to humiliate, insult and reject, fidelity to those who would sever every bond, thereby confusing freedom with a bleak and empty individualism. Nor are we intimidated by hardship, derision or opposition, which, today as always, are never lacking in the apostolate [Acts 4:1-31].
At the same time that we act with this power, our proclamation seeks to be gentle, welcoming to everyone. Let us not forget this: everyone, everyone, everyone. Let us not forget the parable of those who were invited to the feast but did not want to go: “Go therefore to the streets and bring everyone, everyone, everyone, both the bad and the good, everyone” [Mt 22:9-10]. The Spirit grants us the power to go forth and call everyone with gentleness, he grants us the gentleness to welcome everyone.

Just as he had done at World Youth Day in Lisbon in 2023 with his famous “Todos! Todos! Todos!”, today the pope repeated that we must be welcoming “to everyone, everyone.”

The 87-year-old pope—who yesterday traveled by helicopter to the city of Verona, 300 miles north of Rome, to participate in a rally for peace with some 200 Italian Catholic associations, and to have lunch with 500 women and men detainees in the city’s prison—had this message for those in St. Peter’s Basilica this morning, and for his global audience:

All of us, brothers and sisters, We need hope. Hope is depicted as an anchor, there at the shore, and in clinging to its rope, we move toward hope. We need hope, we need to lift our gaze to horizons of peace, fraternity, justice and solidarity. This alone is the way of life, there is no other. Naturally, it is not always easy; indeed, there are times that the path is winding and uphill. Yet we know that we are not alone, we have the certainty that, by the help of the Holy Spirit and by his gifts, we can walk together and make that path more and more inviting for others as well.

Francis concluded his homily with this invitation: “Let us now renew our faith in the presence of the Comforter, who is at our side, and let us continue to pray: ‘Come, Creator Spirit, enlighten our minds, fill our hearts with your grace, guide our steps, grant your peace to our world. Amen.’”

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