Saint Peter's Square
Wednesday, 22 May 2013
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
In the Creed, immediately after professing our faith in the Holy
Spirit, we say: “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church”. There
is a profound connection between these two realities of faith: indeed it is the
Holy Spirit who gives life to the Church, who guides her steps. Without the
constant presence and action of the Holy Spirit the Church could not live and
could not carry out the task that the Risen Jesus entrusted to her: to go and
make disciples of all nations (cf. Mt 28:19).
Evangelizing is the Church’s mission. It is not the mission of
only a few, but it is mine, yours and our mission. The Apostle Paul exclaimed:
“Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). We must all be
evangelizers, especially with our life!
stressed that “Evangelizing is... the grace and vocation proper to the Church,
her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize” (Apostolic Exhortation
Evangelii Nuntiandi, n. 14).
Who is the real driving force of evangelization in our life and
in the Church?
Paul VI wrote clearly: “it is the Holy Spirit who today, just as at the
beginning of the Church, acts in every evangelizer who allows himself to be
possessed and led by him. The Holy Spirit places on his lips the words which he
could not find by himself, and at the same time the Holy Spirit predisposes the
soul of the hearer to be open and receptive to the Good News and to the Kingdom
being proclaimed (ibid., n. 75). To evangelize, therefore, it is
necessary to open ourselves once again to the horizon of God’s Spirit, without
being afraid of what he asks us or of where he leads us. Let us entrust
ourselves to him! He will enable us to live out and bear witness to our faith,
and will illuminate the heart of those we meet.
This was the experience at Pentecost. “There appeared” to the
Apostles gathered in the Upper Room with Mary, “tongues as of fire, distributed
and resting on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit
and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts
2:3-4). In coming down upon the Apostles the Holy Spirit makes them leave the
room they had locked themselves into out of fear, he prompts them to step out of
themselves and transforms them into heralds and witnesses of the “mighty works
of God” (v. 11). Moreover this transformation brought about by the Holy Spirit
reverberated in the multitude that had arrived “from every nation under heaven”
(v. 5) for each one heard the Apostles’ words as if they had been “speaking in
his own language” (v. 6).
This is one of the first important effects of the action of the
Holy Spirit who guides and brings to life the proclamation of the Gospel: unity,
communion. It was in Babel, according to the Biblical account, that the
dispersion of people and the confusion of languages had begun, the results of
the act of pride and conceit of man who wanted to build with his efforts alone,
without God, “a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens” (Gen 11:4). At
Pentecost these divisions were overcome. There was no longer conceit with regard
to God, nor the closure of some people to others; instead, there was openness to
God, there was going out to proclaim his word: a new language, that of love
which the Holy Spirit pours out into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5); a language that
all can understand and that, once received, can be expressed in every life and
every culture. The language of the Spirit, the language of the Gospel, is the
language of communion which invites us to get the better of closedness and
indifference, division and antagonization.
We must all ask ourselves: how do I let myself be guided by the
Holy Spirit in such a way that my life and my witness of faith is both unity and
communion? Do I convey the word of reconciliation and of love, which is the
Gospel, to the milieus in which I live. At times it seems that we are repeating
today what happened at Babel: division, the incapacity to understand one
another, rivalry, envy, egoism. What do I do with my life? Do I create unity
around me? Or do I cause division, by gossip, criticism or envy? What do I do?
Let us think about this.
Spreading the Gospel means that we are the first to proclaim and
live the reconciliation, forgiveness, peace, unity and love which the Holy
Spirit gives us. Let us remember Jesus’ words: “by this all men will know that
you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” (Jn 13: 34-35).
A second element is the day of Pentecost. Peter, filled with the
Holy Spirit and standing “with the eleven”, “lifted up his voice” (Acts 2:14)
and “confidently” (v. 29), proclaimed the Good News of Jesus, who gave his life
for our salvation and who God raised from the dead. This is another effect of
the Holy Spirit’s action: the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel of
Jesus to all, confidently, (with parrhesia) in a loud voice, in every time and
in every place.
Today too this happens for the Church and for each one of us:
the fire of Pentecost, from the action of the Holy Spirit, releases an ever new
energy for mission, new ways in which to proclaim the message of salvation, new
courage for evangelizing. Let us never close ourselves to this action! Let us
live the Gospel humbly and courageously!
Let us witness to the newness, hope and joy that the Lord brings
to life. Let us feel within us “the delightful and comforting joy of
evangelizing” (Paul VI, Apostolic Exhortation,
Evangelii Nuntiandi, n, 80). Because evangelizing, proclaiming Jesus,
gives us joy. Instead, egoism makes us bitter, sad, and depresses us.
Evangelizing uplifts us.
I will only mention a third element, which, however, is
particularly important: a new evangelization, a Church which evangelizes, must
always start with prayer, with asking, like the Apostles in the Upper Room, for
the fire of the Holy Spirit. Only a faithful and intense relationship with God
makes it possible to get out of our own closedness and proclaim the Gospel with
parrhesia. Without prayer our acts are empty, and our proclamation has no soul,
it is not inspired by the Spirit.
Dear friends, as
said, today the Church “feels the wind of the Holy Spirit who helps us, who
shows us the right road; and so, we are on our way, it seems to me, with new
enthusiasm, and we thank the Lord” (Address
to the Ordinary Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, 27 October 2012). Let
us renew every day our trust in the Holy Spirit’s action, the trust that he acts
within us, that he is within us, that he gives us apostolic zeal, peace and joy.
Let us allow him to lead us. May we be men and women of prayer who witness to
the Gospel with courage, becoming in our world instruments of unity and of
communion with God. Thank you.
I invite all of you to pray with me for the victims, especially
the children, of the disaster in Oklahoma. May the Lord himself console
everyone, in particular parents who have lost a child in such a tragic way. I
offer a cordial welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors
present at today’s Audience, including those from England, Ireland, India,
Canada and the United States. My special greeting goes to the pilgrims from the
Archdiocese of Hartford and the Alumni Association of the Catholic University of
America. In these days when the Church celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit
at Pentecost, I invoke upon you and your families his gifts of wisdom and peace.
God bless you all.
Lastly, an affectionate thought to the young people, the
sick and the newlyweds. May the Virgin Mary, dear young people,
be a teacher of tenderness and love; may she support you, dear sick people,
especially the Italian thalassemics of Rome, in the moments of your harshest
loneliness and suffering; and may she be an example to you, dear newlyweds,
of how to live your conjugal relationship in unity and harmony.
Friday, 24 May, is the day dedicated to the liturgical Memorial
of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Help of Christians, venerated with deep devotion at
the Shrine of Sheshan in Shanghai.
I ask all the world’s Catholics to join in prayer with the
brothers and sisters who are in China, to implore from God the grace to proclaim
humbly and joyfully Christ who died and was raised, to be faithful to his Church
and to the Successor of Peter, and to live daily life in the service of their
country and their fellow citizens, in a manner consistent with the faith they
Making our own a few words of the prayer to Our Lady of Sheshan,
I would like to invoke Mary with you in this way: “Our Lady of Sheshan, support
the commitment of all those in China who among their daily labours continue to
believe, to hope and to love, so that they may never be afraid to talk to the
world about Jesus and about the world to Jesus”.
Mary, faithful Virgin, sustain Chinese Catholics, make their
challenging tasks ever more precious in the eyes of the Lord, and give growth to
the affection and participation of the Church which is in China on the journey
of the universal Church.