3. St Paul writes in the Letter to the Romans, proclaimed a few moments ago: “All who are led by the Spirit of God are Sons of God” (Romans 8:14).
These words suggest a further way of understanding the wonderful action of the Spirit in our life as believers. They open the way for us to reach the human heart: the Holy Spirit, whom the Church calls upon to give “light to the senses”, visits man inwardly and directly touches the depths of his being.
The Apostle continues: “But you are not in the flesh, you are in the Spirit, if the Spirit of God really dwells in you.... For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (cf. Romans 8:9, 14). Contemplating then the mysterious action of the Paraclete, he adds with deep feeling: “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery ... but you have received the spirit of son-ship. When we cry ‘Abba, Father!’, it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Romans 8:15-16). Here we are at the centre of the mystery! It is in the meeting between the Holy Spirit and the human spirit that we find the very heart of what the Apostles experienced at Pentecost. This extraordinary experience is present in the Church born of that event and accompanies her down the centuries.
Under the Holy Spirit’s action, man fully discovers that his spiritual nature is not veiled by corporeity but, on the contrary, it is his spirit which gives true meaning to his body. Indeed, by living according to the Spirit, he fully manifests the gift of his adoption as a son of God.
It is in this context that we find the fundamental question of the relationship between life and death, which Paul touches on when he says: “If you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live” (Romans 8:13). It is exactly so: docility to the Spirit gives man continuous opportunities for life.
4. Dear brothers and sisters, it is a great joy for me to greet all of you who have wished to join me in thanking the Lord for the gift of the Spirit. This totally missionary celebration extends our gaze to the whole world, with a particular thought for the many missionary priests, religious and laypeople who spend their lives spreading the truth of the Gospel, often in the most difficult conditions.
I greet those of you here present: the Cardinals, my Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood, the numerous members of the various institutes of consecrated life and apostolic life, the young people, the sick and especially all who have come from so far away for this solemn occasion.
I would especially like to mention the movements and the new communities, which had their meeting yesterday and which I see present today in large numbers. Not so large as yesterday, but still large. I extend a special greeting to the How can we not give thanks to God for the wonders the Spirit has never ceased to accomplish? Pentecost has continued to bear its marvellous fruits, instilling apostolic zeal, a desire for contemplation, the commitment to live and serve God and our brothers and sisters with complete dedication. young people who are about to receive the sacraments of Confirmation and the Eucharist.
What exciting prospects the Apostle’s words offer to each of you, dear friends! Through the actions and words of the sacrament of Confirmation, you will be given the Holy Spirit, who will complete your conformity to Christ, already begun in Baptism, to make you adults in the faith and authentic and courageous witnesses to the Risen One. With Confirmation, the Paraclete opens before you a path of continual rediscovery of the grace of adoption as children of God, which will make you joyful seekers of the Truth.
The Eucharist, the food of immortal life, which in a few moments you will taste for the first time, will make you ready to love and serve your brothers and sisters, capable of offering opportunities for life and hope, free from the domination of the “flesh” and of fear. By letting yourselves be guided by Jesus, you will be able to experience concretely the marvellous action of his Spirit, which the Apostle Paul speaks of in the eighth chapter of his Letter to the Romans. This text, whose message is particularly timely in this year dedicated to the Holy Spirit, will be read today with greater attention, as a tribute to what Christ’s Spirit accomplishes in each of us.
5. Veni, Sancte Spiritus!
The magnificent sequence, which contains a rich theology of the Holy Spirit, would also be worthy of meditation, stanza by stanza. Here we will reflect only on the first word: Veni, come! It recalls the waiting of the Apostles after Christ’s Ascension into heaven.
In the Acts of the Apostles, Luke presents them to us gathered in the Upper Room in prayer with the Mother of Jesus (cf. Acts 1:14). What better words than these could express their prayer: “Veni, Sancte Spiritus” — the invocation, that is, of the one who moved over the face of the waters at the beginning of the world (cf. Genesis 1:2), whom Jesus had promised them as the Paraclete?
The hearts of Mary and the Apostles at those moments were longing for his coming, alternating between ardent faith and the confession of human inadequacy. The Church’s piety has interpreted and passed on this sentiment in the hymn “Veni, Sancte Spiritus”. The Apostles know that the work Christ has entrusted to them is arduous, but decisive for the history of humanity’s salvation. Will they be able to complete it? The Lord reassures their hearts. At every step of the mission that will lead them to proclaim and witness to the Gospel to the furthest corners of the globe, they will be able to count on the Spirit promised by Christ. The Apostles, recalling Christ’s promise on the days between the Ascension and Pentecost, will focus their every thought and sentiment on that veni — come!
6. Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Thus beginning her invocation to the Holy Spirit, the Church makes her own the substance of the Apostles' prayer as they gathered with Mary in the Upper Room; indeed, she extends it in history and makes it ever timely.
Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Thus she says over and over in every corner of the earth, her fervour unchanged, firmly aware that she must remain in the Upper Room, always awaiting the Spirit. At the same time, she knows that she must leave the Upper Room and travel the world's roads, with the ever new task of bearing witness to the mystery of the Spirit.
Veni, Sancte Spiritus! So we pray with Mary, sanctuary of the Holy Spirit, a most precious dwelling-place of Christ among us, so that she may help us to be living temples of the Spirit and tireless witnesses of the Gospel.
Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Veni, Sancte Spiritus! Amen!
Acknowledgment: We thank the Vatican Publisher for allowing us to publish the Homily of Blessed Pope John Paul II, so that it could be accessed by more people all over the world; as a source of God’s encouragements to all of us.
MASS OF PENTECOST
HOMILY OF JOHN PAUL II
Sunday, 3 June 2001
By a happy coincidence, in our solemnity today we have the joy of hosting, beside the altar, the venerated relics of Bl. John XXIII, whom God formed with his Spirit making him a wonderful witness of his love. My venerable predecessor passed to the better life on 3 June 1963, 38 years ago, while in St Peter's Square a great crowd of the faithful were praying for him, spiritually gathered around him as he lay on his death bed. Our present celebration rejoins that prayer and, while we commemorate the Blessed Pope, we give praise to God who gave him to the Church and to the world.
As Priest, Bishop and Pope, Bl. Angelo Roncalli was docile to the action of the Holy Spirit who guided him on the way of holiness. And so with the living communion of saints, I want to celebrate the Solemnity of Pentecost, particularly attuned to him, and guided by some of his spiritual reflections.
2. "The light of the Holy Spirit breaks forth from the first words of the Book of the Acts of the Apostles.... The intense movement of the divine Spirit precedes and accompagnies the evangelizers and breaks into the souls of those who listen, while extending the confines of the Catholic Church to the ends of the earth, allowing her to traverse all the centuries of history" (Discorsi Messaggi Colloqui del S. Padre Giovanni XXIII, II, p. 398).
With these words, spoken on Pentecost 1960, Pope John helped us to grasp the unlimited missionary impulse proper to the mystery we celebrate on this solemnity. The Church is born as missionary, because she is born of the Father who sent Christ into the world, she is born of the Son who, dead and risen, sent the Apostles to all nations, and she is born of the Holy Spirit, who pours out on them the necessary light and force to accomplish their mission.
Even in her distinctive missionary dimension, the Church is the icon of the Holy Trinity: for she reflects in history the superabundant fruitfulness proper to God himself, the subsisting fount of love who generates life and communion.
With her presence and action in the world, the Church propagates among men this mysterious dynamism, spreading the kingdom of God that "is justice, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit" (Romans 14,17).
3. The Second Vatican Council, announced, summoned and opened by Pope John XXIII, was aware of the missionary vocation of the Church.
We can say that the Holy Spirit was the protagonist of the Council, from the time the Pope convoked it, declaring that he had received the idea as an interior voice from on high that resounded in his spirit (cf. Apostolic Constitution Humanae salutis, 25 December 1961, n. 6). That "light breeze" became a "strong wind" and the conciliar event took the form of a renewed Pentecost. "It is in the doctrine and spirit of Pentecost", Pope John affirmed, "that the great event of the Ecumenical Council takes its substance and life" (Discorsi Messaggi Colloqui, cit., p. 398).
4. In particular, within the present celebration, which associates with Pentecost a solemn act of veneration, I wish to emphasize that the most precious gift that Pope John left to the People of God was himself, his witness of holiness.
What he affirmed of the saints also applies to him, "each of them is a masterpiece of the Holy Spirit", (ibid., p. 400). And thinking of the saints and martyrs buried in St Peter's, he added a comment that it is moving to think of today: "Sometimes the relics of their bodies are reduced to a few bones; but their memory and prayer continue to palpitate in them" (ibid., p. 400). He exclaimed: "Oh, the saints, the saints of the Lord, who everywhere delight us, encourage us and bless us" (ibid., p. 401).
These expressions of Pope John, reinforced by the luminous example of his life, reveal the importance of the aspiration to holiness as the privileged way of the Church at the beginning of the new millennium (cf. Novo Millennio ineunte nn. 30-31). The generous will to collaborate with the Spirit in one's own sanctification and that of one's brothers is in fact a preliminary and indispensable condition for the new evangelization.