Pope Francis reflects on the descent of the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles gathered with Mary in the Upper Room, and says the same Spirit continues to dwell in us.
At this week’s General Audience held in a sun-drenched St Peter’s Square, Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the Acts of the Apostles, focussing specifically on the day of Pentecost.
Prayer and breath
The Pope described the Apostles, gathered around Mary in the Upper Room, as being ‘in prayer’. Prayer is the ‘lung’, said the Pope, ‘that gives breath to disciples of all times; without prayer one cannot be a disciple of Jesus’. The descent of the Holy Spirit, he said, was ‘an event that exceeded their expectations’: they were ‘surprised’ by the ‘force of a wind that reminds us of the…primordial breath’.
Wind and fire
To the wind is then added the fire, continued Pope Francis. The fire reminds of us the burning bush because, in the biblical tradition, ‘fire accompanies the manifestation of God’. In the fire God delivers his living word, said the Pope, and the fire itself expresses God’s work of ‘warming, illuminating and testing hearts’. On Mount Sinai, we hear the voice of God. In Jerusalem, on the feast of Pentecost, it is the voice of Peter. Despite his own weakness, once filled with the fire of the Spirit, Peter’s words acquire strength, ‘capable of piercing hearts… For God chooses what is weak in the world to confuse the strong’, said Pope Francis.
Truth and love
‘The Church is born of the fire of love’, continued the Pope, a fire that ‘breaks out at Pentecost and manifests the power of the Word of the Risen One imbued with the Holy Spirit’. The words of the Apostles themselves become imbued with the same Spirit. They become ‘a new, different word, which can be understood, as if it were translated simultaneously into all languages’. This is the language of ‘truth and love, which is the universal language: even the illiterate can understand it’.
Communion and reconciliation
Pope Francis went on to describe the Holy Spirit as ‘the creator of communion, the artist of reconciliation who knows how to remove barriers between Jews and Greeks, slaves and freedmen’. The Holy Spirit ‘makes the Church grow by helping it to go beyond human limitations, sins and scandals’, said the Pope. ‘Only the Spirit of God has the power to humanize’ and to create connections, ‘beginning with those who receive Him’.