The Holy Father presided at Mass in the Vatican Basilica for the Solemnity of Pentecost. The liturgy was concelebrated by cardinals, archbishops and bishops present in Rome.
Pope Benedict XVI focused his homily on an essential aspect of the mystery of Pentecost which, he said, is particularly important in our own times. “Pentecost is the feast of union, of human understanding and communion. Yet it is evident to everyone that in our world, although are closer to one another than ever before thanks to the development of the communications media, … understanding and communion among people is often superficial and difficult. Imbalances remain and not infrequently lead to conflict; dialogue among generations is problematic; … we daily witness events which seem to show that mankind is becoming more aggressive and quarrelsome; understanding one another seems too arduous an undertaking, and we prefer to remain within ourselves and focus on our own our interests”.
“Thanks to scientific and technological progress we have acquired the power to dominate the forces of nature, to manipulate the elements, to fabricate living beings, almost going so far as to fabricate human beings. In such a situation praying to God seems outmoded and useless, because we ourselves can construct and achieve anything we want”. Yet “men are nursing a sense of diffidence, suspicion and reciprocal fear, to the extent that they have even become a danger to one another”. We have greater power to communicate but, paradoxically, we understand one another less.
Harmony and unity “can only come with the gift of God’s Spirit, which will give us a new heart and a new voice, a new ability to communicate. This is what happened at Pentecost. That morning … the Holy Spirit descended on the gathering of the disciples. It rested upon each of them and set the divine fire alight within them, a fire of love with the power to transform. Their fear disappeared, in their hearts they felt a new strength, their tongues were loosened and they began to speak frankly so that everyone could understand the announcement of Jesus Christ, Who died and rose again. At Pentecost division and estrangement gave way to unity and understanding”.
In today’s Gospel Jesus, “speaking of the Holy Spirit, tells us what the Church is and how she must live in order to be … a place of unity and communion in the Truth. He tells us that acting as Christians means not remaining closed in one’s own self but being open to all things; it means welcoming the entire Church into our own lives or, better still, allowing her to welcome us in our hearts. … Thus the Holt Spirit, the Spirit of unity and truth, can continue to resound in the hearts and minds of men, encouraging them to meet and accept one another”.
The Holy Spirit leads us to understand the truth, which is Jesus, “but only if we are able to listen and to share, only in the ‘us’ of the Church and with an attitude of profound inner humility. … When men wish to set themselves up as God, they only succeed in setting themselves against one other. On the other hand, when they abide in the truth of the Lord, they open themselves to the action of His spirit which sustains and unites them”.
St. Paul tells us that the life of man is marked by an inner conflict between the impulses of the flesh and those of the spirit. The former are “the sins of selfishness and violence, such as enmity, discord, jealousy and dissension. … They can lead us to lose our lives. However, the Holy Spirit guides us to the pinnacle of God so that, already in this life, we may experience the seed of divine live which is within us. St. Paul says, in fact, that ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy and peace'”.
In conclusion, the Pope exhorted the faithful to live “according to the Spirit of unity and truth. To this end we must pray that the Spirit may illuminate us, guiding us to overcome the lure of our own truths and to accept the truth of Christ, as transmitted by the Church”.