Bookmark and Share

Solemnity of Pentecost 2012

Pope Benedict XVI's Homily at Mass
St Peter's Basilica, Sunday 27 May 2012 - in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
I am pleased to celebrate with you this Holy Mass, animated today by the Choir and Youth Orchestra of the Academy of Santa Cecilia - whom I thank - on the Solemnity of Pentecost. This mystery constitutes the baptism of the Church, it is an event which gave her, so to speak, her initial form and the thrust for her mission. And this “form” and this “thrust” are always valid, always present, and they are renewed in a particular way through liturgical actions. This morning I would like to dwell on an essential aspect of the mystery of Pentecost, which is for us still as important. Pentecost is the feast of union, of understanding and of human communion. We can all note that in our world, even if we are ever nearer to each other with the development of the means of communication, and geographical distances seem to disappear, understanding and communion between persons is often superficial and difficult. Inequalities remain which often lead to conflict; dialogue between generations becomes difficult and sometimes opposition prevails; we see daily events where it seems that men are becoming more aggressive and more mistrusting; to understand one another seems too demanding and we prefer to remain in our own I, in our own interests. In this situation, can we truly find and live this unity that we so need?

The narration of Pentecost in the Acts of the Apostles, which we heard in the first reading (cf Acts 2, 1-11), contains in its background one of the last great frescos that we find at the beginning of the Old Testament: the ancient story of the construction of the Tower of Babel (cf Gen 11, 1-9). But what is Babel? It is the description of a kingdom in which men have accumulated so much power that they think they no longer need to refer to a distant God and that they are strong enough to be able to build on their own a way to get to heaven, to open its gates and put themselves in God’s place. But precisely in this situation something strange and singular happens. While the men were working together to build the tower, they suddenly realized that they were in the process of building one against another. While they attempted to be like God, they ran the risk of no longer even being men, because they had lost a fundamental element of being human persons: the capacity to agree, to understand and to work together.

This biblical account contains a perennial truth; we can see it throughout history, but in our world too. With the progress of science and technology we have acquired the power to dominate the forces of nature, to manipulate the elements, to fabricate living beings, reaching almost to the human being itself. In this situation, praying to God seems something outdated, useless, because we ourselves can construct and realise everything we want. But we do not perceive that we are reliving the very experience of Babel. It is true, we have multiplied the possibilities of communicating, of having information, of transmitting news, but can we say that the capacity to understand each other has grown or perhaps, paradoxically, do we understand each other less and less? Does it not seem that a feeling of diffidence, of suspicion, of mutual fear snaked its way among men, ending with men themselves becoming dangerous to each other? So to return to the initial question: Can there truly be unity, concord? And how?

We find the answer in Sacred Scripture: unity can only exist with the gift of God’s Spirit, who will give us a new heart and a new language, a new capacity to communicate. And this is what happened at Pentecost. On that morning, 50 days after Easter, a tempestuous wind blew upon Jerusalem and the flame of the Holy Spirit descended upon the reunited disciples, rested upon each and lighted in them divine fire, a fire of love capable of transforming. Fear vanished, their hearts felt a new force, their tongues were loosened and began to speak with boldness, in such a way that everyone was able to understand the proclamation of Jesus Christ dead and risen. At Pentecost, where there was division and estrangement, were born unity and understanding.

But let us look at today’s Gospel, in which Jesus affirms: “When he comes, the Spirit of truth, he will guide you to the whole truth” (Jn 16, 13). Here Jesus, speaking of the Holy Spirit, explains to us what the Church is and how she must live so as to be herself, to be the place of unity and of communion in the Truth; he tells us that acting as Christians means not being enclosed in our own “I”, but being turned towards the whole; it means welcoming the whole Church into us or, better still, letting ourselves be interiorly welcomed by her. Hence, when I speak, think, act as a Christian, I do not do this enclosing myself in my I, but I do it always in the whole and starting from the whole: thus the Holy Spirit, Spirit of unity and of truth, can continue to resonate in our hearts and in the minds of men and push them to encounter and welcome each other. It is precisely in acting thus, that the Spirit introduces us into the whole truth, which is Jesus, that he guides us into its depths, so as to understand: we do not grow in knowledge by enclosing ourselves in our I, but only by becoming capable of listening and sharing, only in the “we” of the Church, with an attitude of profound interior humility. And thus it becomes clearer why Babel is Babel and Pentecost is Pentecost. There where men want to make themselves God, they can only put themselves against each other. There where instead they place themselves in the truth of the Lord, they open themselves to the action of his Spirit which sustains and unites them.

The contrast between Babel and Pentecost is also evoked in the second reading, in which the Apostle says: “Walk according to the Spirit and do not gratify the desire of the flesh” (Gal 5, 16). St Paul explains to us that our personal life is marked by an interior conflict, by a division, between the impulses that come from the flesh and those that come from the Spirit; and we cannot follow them all. We cannot, in fact, be at the same time egoistic and generous, follow the tendency to dominate others and experience the joy of disinterested service. We must always choose which impulse to follow and we can only do it in an authentic way with the help of the Spirit of Christ. St Paul lists – as we have heard – the works of the flesh, they are the sins of egoism and violence, such as enmity, discord, jealousy, dissension; they are the thoughts and actions that do not make us live in a truly human and Christian way, in love. It is a direction that leads to the loss of one’s life. Instead the Holy Spirit guides us towards the heights of God, so that we can live already on this earth from the germ of divine life that is in us. St Paul, in fact, affirms: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace” (Gal 5, 22). And note that the Apostle uses the plural to describe the works of the flesh, that provoke the dispersion of the human being, while he uses the singular to define the action of the Spirit, he speaks of “fruit”, just as the dispersion of Babel contrasts the unity of Pentecost.

Dear friends, we must live according to the Spirit of unity and of truth, and for this we must pray so that the Spirit may enlighten us and guide us to conquer the fascination of following our own truths, and to welcome the truth of Christ transmitted in the Church. The account by Luke of Pentecost tells us that Jesus, before ascending into heaven, asks the Apostles to remain together to prepare themselves to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And they gathered in prayer with Mary, at the Cenacle, in expectation of the promised event (cf Acts 1, 14). Collected together with Mary, as at her birth, the Church also prays today: “Veni Sancte Spiritus!” –“Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of all the faithful and enkindle in them the fire of your love!” Amen."

Papa Benedetto's words at the Regina Caeli
- in Croatian, English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"Dear Brothers and Sisters, Today we celebrate the great Feast of Pentecost, which brings the Easter Season to a close, 50 days after the Sunday of the Resurrection. This Solemnity makes us remember and relive the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Apostles and the other disciples gathered in prayer with the Virgin Mary in the Upper Room (cf Acts 2:1-11). Jesus, risen and ascended into Heaven, sent his Spirit to the Church so that every Christian might participate in his own divine life and become his valid witness in the world. The Holy Spirit, breaking into history, defeats aridity, opens hearts to hope, stimulates and fosters in us an interior maturity in our relationship with God and with our neighbour.

The Spirit, who “has spoken through the prophets”, with the gifts of wisdom and knowledge continues to inspire women and men who engage in the pursuit of truth, offering original ways of understanding and of delving into the mystery of God, of man and of the world. In this context, I am delighted to announce that on 7 October, at the start of the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, I will proclaim St John of Avila and St Hildegard of Bingen Doctors of the universal Church. These two great witnesses of the faith lived in two very different historical periods and cultural environments. Hildegard was a Benedictine nun in the heart of medieval Germany, an authentic teacher of theology and a profound scholar of natural science and music. John, a diocesan priest in the years of the Spanish Renaissance, shared in the travail of the cultural and religious renewal of the Church and of all society at the dawn of modern times. But the sanctity of their life and the profundity of their doctrine render them perennially relevant: the grace of the Holy Spirit, in fact, projected them into the experience of penetrating understanding of divine revelation and intelligent dialogue with that world which constitutes the eternal horizon of the life and action of the Church.

Especially in light of the project for a new evangelization, to which the Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, mentioned above, will be dedicated on the eve of the Year of Faith, these two Saints and Doctors are of considerable and timely importance. Even today, through their teaching, the Spirit of the Risen Lord continues to resonate his voice and illuminate the way which leads to the Truth that alone can set us free and give full meaning to our lives.

Praying the Regina Caeli together — for the last time this year — let us invoke the intercession of the Virgin Mary that the Church may be powerfully animated by the Holy Spirit, in order to witness to Christ’s Gospel with evangelical honesty and to open herself ever more to the fullness of truth."

After the Regina Caeli:

[In Italian] "Stamani a Vannes, in Francia, è stata proclamata Beata Mère Saint-Louis, al secolo Louise-Élisabeth Molé, fondatrice delle Suore della Carità di San Luigi, vissuta tra il XVIII e il XIX secolo. Rendiamo grazie a Dio per questa esemplare testimone dell’amore per Dio e per il prossimo.

Ricordo inoltre che venerdì prossimo, 1° giugno, mi recherò a Milano, dove avrà luogo il VII Incontro Mondiale delle Famiglie. Invito tutti a seguire questo evento e a pregare per la sua buona riuscita.


[In French] "En ce jour de la fête de la Pentecôte, je suis heureux de vous accueillir chers pèlerins francophones. Aujourd’hui, je participe aussi spirituellement à la joie des fidèles du diocèse de Vannes rassemblés pour la célébration de la Béatification de Louise-Élisabeth Molé, Mère Saint-Louis. Fondatrice des Sœurs de la Charité de Saint-Louis, elle nous apprend comment, avec l’aide de l’Esprit-Saint, nous pouvons ouvrir notre cœur avec douceur pour rejoindre les autres dans leur différence, leur fragilité et leur pauvreté. Laissons nous guider nous aussi par l’Esprit pour annoncer au monde les merveilles de Dieu ! Que la Vierge Marie nous aide à être des témoins de l’Esprit de vérité et de liberté ! Bonne fête de la Pentecôte à tous !"

[In English] "I offer a warm welcome to the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this Regina Caeli on the Solemnity of Pentecost. Next Friday, I will go to Milan to be with families from all over the world celebrating the Seventh World Meeting of Families. I ask you to join me in praying for the success of this important event, and that families may be filled with the Holy Spirit, rediscover the joy of their vocation in the Church and the world, and bear loving witness to the faith. Upon all of you, I invoke God’s abundant blessings!"

[In German] "Einen frohen Pfingstgruß richte ich an alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher. Die liturgischen Texte dieses Hochfestes sagen uns, wie der Heilige Geist wirkt: Der Heilige Geist schafft Gemeinschaft und Verständnis unter Menschen verschiedener Herkunft. Er macht die Jünger Jesu zu mutigen Zeugen, die das Erlösungswerk Christi in allen Sprachen verkünden. Er führt in die ganze Wahrheit ein und ist Tröster in Leid und Not. Erbitten wir sein Wirken auch in unseren Tagen, damit das Angesicht der Erde aus dem innersten Geheimnis Gottes heraus erneuert werde. Euch allen wünsche ich ein gesegnetes Pfingstfest!"

[In Spanish] "Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos de lengua española presentes en esta oración mariana. Hoy, día de Pentecostés, la liturgia alaba al Espíritu Santo por haber congregado a su Iglesia en la confesión de una misma fe, infundiéndole el conocimiento de Dios. Pidamos que el Espíritu de la Verdad, que procede del Padre, nos siga enseñando y dando la fuerza necesaria para ser testigos ante el mundo de Cristo Redentor, y en todo el orbe se ensalce e invoque al tres veces Santo. Feliz domingo."

[In Czech] "Srdečně zdravím poutníky z České republiky, kteří v těchto dnech zde v Římě zahajují jubilejní rok svatého Cyrila a Metoděje. Pokoj vám!"

[In Slovenian] "Lepo pozdravljam romarje iz Grosuplja in drugih krajev Slovenije! Ob današnjem prazniku binkošti se kristjani še posebej obračamo na Svetega Duha. Naj On napolnjuje vaša srca in vodi vaše misli, da se ne boste ravnali po tem svetu, ampak boste deležni sadov Kristusovega vstajenja. Naj bo z vami moj blagoslov!"

[In Polish] "Pozdrawiam wszystkich Polaków. Myślą obejmuję pielgrzymów, którzy gromadzą się u stóp Maryi w Piekarach Śląskich. W uroczystość Zesłania Ducha Świętego otwieramy serca i umysły na Jego działanie i prosimy, aby nieustannie rozpalał naszą wiarę, nadzieję i miłość ogniem Bożej łaski. Niech żywe doświadczenie obecności Ducha Parakleta napełnia was pokojem."

[In Italian] "Rivolgo infine un cordiale saluto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare all’Associazione Italiana Sclerosi Multipla e alla Fondazione “Gigi Ghirotti”, alle quali esprimo apprezzamento per l’impegno di dare sostegno e speranza a tante persone nella sofferenza. Saluto la Misericordia di Santa Croce sull’Arno e la Federazione Italiana di Tiro con l’Arco. Un saluto speciale va alla rappresentanza della Polizia di Stato, a 160 anni dalla fondazione. A tutti auguro una buona festa, una buona domenica. Buona festa!"

© Copyright 2012 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana