The older theologians used to say that the soul is a kind of sailboat, the Holy Spirit is the wind which fills its sails and drives it forward, and the gusts of wind are the gifts of the Spirit. Lacking his impulse and his grace, we do not go forward.
The Holy Spirit draws us into the mystery of the living God and saves us from the threat of a Church which is gnostic and self-referential, closed in on herself; he impels us to open the doors and go forth to proclaim and bear witness to the good news of the Gospel, to communicate the joy of faith, the encounter with Christ. The Holy Spirit is the soul of mission.
The events that took place in Jerusalem almost two thousand years ago are not something far removed from us; they are events which affect us and become a lived experience in each of us. The Pentecost of the Upper Room in Jerusalem is the beginning, a beginning which endures. The Holy Spirit is the supreme gift of the risen Christ to his apostles, yet he wants that gift to reach everyone.
As we heard in the Gospel, Jesus says: “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to remain with you forever” (Jn 14:16). It is the Paraclete Spirit, the “Comforter”, who grants us the courage to take to the streets of the world, bringing the Gospel! The Holy Spirit makes us look to the horizon and drive us to the very outskirts of existence in order to proclaim life in Jesus Christ. Let us ask ourselves: do we tend to stay closed in on ourselves, on our group, or do we let the Holy Spirit open us to mission? Today let us remember these three words: newness, harmony and mission.
Pope Francis, Homily, Pentecost Sunday, May 19, 2013
Reflection – Well, here we have it once again. This has been the consistent call of Pope Francis to the Church virtually from day one of his pontificate, now a mere two months old (is it just me, or does it seem like much, much longer?).
Go out! Don’t be self-referential! Go to the outskirts! Be missionary! This has been the constant message of this man to the whole Church, and one that we all have to take very seriously.
My own personal version of this word, which (if I can be somewhat personal) the Lord has been saying to my heart long before Pope Francis’ election has been a very simple one: More! The Lord always asks ‘more’ of us. More what? Well, your mileage may vary. More love, for sure. More generosity, absolutely. Something more, something added, something on top of what we already are doing/being in our lives.
It is not really a matter, often, of ‘doing’ more. Rather, it is a matter first of letting the Holy Spirit expand our hearts to ‘be’ more. But it seems to me that it is essential in being a vibrant, living Christian that we accept the fact that God never lets us stay still for too long: there is always the great divine ‘More’ beckoning us onward. ‘Being a Christian’ and ‘being comfortable’ do not have a great Venn diagram-style overlap.
This can feel burdensome and heavy to some, I realize. But actually it is liberating and energizing. When we are not growing, we are dying. And when we are dying, our energies all go to self-preservation and self-protection. This is that self-enclosed Christianity the pope is talking about. Feeling ourselves to be a beleaguered frail fading aging minority, we retreat into our parishes or ecclesial and personal fortresses, and husband all our remaining energies, which are less every year, into keeping them going ‘just they way they always have.’
It is the Holy Spirit who is the Lord and giver of life who breaks us out of these fortresses. The ‘more’ of God is not just more work and more projects, but more life, more love, more joy, more enthusiasm, more grace. More!
You know, it is funny. I have now typed the word ‘more’ about twenty times in this post. Every time my mind has made a bilingual pun – in Greek the word more is foolish – Erasmus of Rotterdam dedicated his sublime In Praise of Folly to his good friend Thomas More in one of the great historical literary puns.