Pope Francis celebrated the Solemnity of Pentecost with a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica, with a limited number of the faithful in attendance, as health protocols of the Covid-19 pandemic are still in place in Italy and the Vatican.
During the May 31 Mass, he urged the Holy Spirit to make Christians builders of unity. “Grant us the courage to go out of ourselves, to love and help each other, in order to become one family,” he prayed.
Pentecost, which commemorates the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Virgin Mary and the Apostles in Jerusalem, as narrated in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 2:1-22), is regarded as the birth of the Church.
Unity in diversity
Pope Francis delivered a homily pointing out that despite the diversity of backgrounds and ethnicities among Christ’s followers in the early Church, the Holy Spirit brings about unity by making them realize that they are primarily the children of God.
Saint Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians attests to this fact when he says, “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit.”
Coming to our times, Pope Francis said that we too have our differences, such as opinions, choices, sensibilities. But the temptation to fiercely defend our ideas as good for everybody, the Pope warned, is “a faith created in our own image”, “not what the Spirit wants”.
Unity as God’s beloved children
Much more than our beliefs and our morality, the Pope said, the Spirit unites us as “God’s beloved children,” and “that we have one Lord – Jesus – and one Father, and that for this reason we are brothers and sisters!”
The Spirit loves us and knows everyone’s place in the grand scheme of things, the Pope said. “We are not bits of confetti blown about by the wind, rather we are irreplaceable fragments in His mosaic.”
Gift of self and proclamation
Taking a closer look at the day of Pentecost, Pope Francis said that the first task of the Church is proclamation. The Spirit does not want the Apostles to be locked in upper rooms where it is easy to “nest”. Rather, He “opens doors and pushes us to press beyond what has already been said and done, beyond the precincts of a timid and wary faith.”
After Pentecost, one thing that kept the Apostles going, the Pope said, was “the desire to give what they received”. In the Church, the Pope said, the Spirit guarantees unity to those who proclaim the message.
The “secret of unity” of the Holy Spirit, the Pope pointed out, is a gift, as He Himself is gift. Hence, it is important to believe that “God is gift”, that He acts not by taking away, but by giving.
If we realize that what we are is due to His free and unmerited gift, then “we too will want to make our lives a gift”. “By loving humbly, serving freely and joyfully, we will offer to the world the true image of God.”
Three enemies of self-giving
However, in this gift of self, the Pope noted there are three enemies: narcissism, victimhood and pessimism.
Narcissism, the Pope said, makes us concerned only with how we can profit from it. In this time of the pandemic, the Pope lamented the tendency to think only of our own needs, to be indifferent to those of others.
Victimhood, he said, is equally dangerous. Victims complain every day about their neighbours – that no one understands them, no one experiences what they experience and everyone is against them. In the present crisis, he noted, we are experiencing how ugly victimhood is.
Pessimism is an unending complaint that “nothing is going well in society, politics, the Church…”. A pessimist gets angry with the world, but sits back and does nothing. In the current crisis, the Pope said it is damaging to “see everything in the worst light and to keep saying that nothing will return as before”.
Famine of hope
“When someone thinks this way,” the Pope observed, “the one thing that certainly does not return is hope.” “We are experiencing a famine of hope,” he said, “and we need to appreciate the gift of life, the gift that each of us is.” “We need the Holy Spirit, the gift of God who heals us of narcissism, victimhood and pessimism.”