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Pentecost 2007

Homily

This morning, we are gathered together by the Holy Spirit, here in Jerusalem, very close to the Cenacle where the Pentecost event took place, in order to pray, to give thanks, and to offer our petitions for our Churches, our faithful, and for all the inhabitants of this holy city, including those of all religions and nationalities.  For all of them, we pray that the Holy Spirit, sent by Jesus to his apostles, will fill our hearts and guide our difficult relations in this city.

We are also gathered here to confer the Sacrament of Confirmation on nine of our young people who, together with the entire Church of Jerusalem, will also become bearers of the Holy Spirit in this city.

As a matter of fact, we too are of different languages and nationalities, of different Churches and different religions, and we have trouble seeing each other as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters of the same God, Creator and Father of all.  As for our small community, the Spirit of God wants us here in Jerusalem, on this day and every day, to say to everyone, regardless of the Church and religion to which they belong: we are and we can be brothers and sisters.  In situations of death, hate, and escalating extremism which separate, hate, and kill, we say: God has given us life and has called us, regardless of the Church, religion or nationality to which we belong, to be brothers and sisters:  it is therefore something that can be realized. 

On the day of Pentecost, “There were,” according to the Acts of the Apostles, “devout people from every nation under heaven staying in Jerusalem (Acts 2).  Today also, here in Jerusalem, there are devout people from every nation and from all religions.  They are sincere people but whose voice is stifled by those who think that death is the only road to life.

The Spirit of God which descended upon the apostles on the day of Pentecost is still present among us today.  This Spirit is present not only in the believers gathered here this morning, but also in this holy city with all of its inhabitants, and in all actions that promote the life and dignity of the human person.  The Spirit of God is not limited to those who receive it, for this Spirit is what gives life to everyone and renews the face of the earth.  Everyone, believers and unbelievers alike, remain the recipients of the new life brought by the Spirit of Jesus.

St. Irenaeus, in the second reading of today’s Office, speaks of the Spirit which “gives men and women new life.”  He compares the Spirit to “a dew from God, a dew which we need if we are not to be scorched and made unfruitful” by our hate and our deadly choices (St Irenaeus, 2nd reading of Pentecost).     

“They were all filled with the Holy Spirit,” says the Book of Acts, “and they began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”  To speak in different tongues is the characteristic of universality and the ability to communicate and to welcome others, something which the Holy Spirit gives to those who accept His gift.  This universality allows us to face both favorable and unfavorable situations, and to welcome and love every human being, believer or non-believer, of my religion or of some other religion.

Our Churches are in need of the new life given by the Holy Spirit in order to bear witness, first of all here in Jerusalem, and, from Jerusalem, to the ends of the earth, to Jesus who wanted us to be here after the departure of the apostles.  The vocation of the Church of Jerusalem, and therefore of each of us who are called to live here, is precisely to make Pentecost an event that renews the lives of each of us on a daily basis.  Our vocation, just as difficult as was that of Jesus, is to say to our small number of faithful that the Spirit of God does not count on numbers but on our willingness to receive the Spirit.  Our vocation is to love one another, as did the first community in this holy city, and by this love, to remain open to receiving the Spirit.  All of our country needs the Spirit and the new life He offers us, which is one of justice, peace and security.  That is the service which the Churches must offer to the country.

The context in which we live and which is provided by our political leaders is made up of perplexity and weakness.  This prolongs situations of injustice and provokes a situation of violence which is deteriorating day by day and which works only to the advantage of the extremists.  Our political leaders are alone, without God, in the city of God, placing the salvation of their peoples in their own strengths and criteria, and counting on numbers, armies, hate, and extremism.  The devout faithful of Jerusalem, the people of all faiths in Jerusalem, can humbly and silently make present the Spirit of God.  They can free their leaders of their perplexities and weaknesses by showing them the paths of life for the peoples of this Holy Land and of the region.

We need courageous leaders who can sacrifice their seats and maybe their lives so that the people who elected them can live.  Only this type of courage will provide solutions to the Gordian knot of this long conflict between the inhabitants of this land.  It is the land of God and the land of the Spirit, not just the land of human beings.

Saint Paul reminds us of that in the second reading taken from his letter to the Romans (Rom 8, 8-17) where he says: “The Spirit of God is alive in you.”  This is also true of us.  And he adds: “Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God.  For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, Abba, Father.” This Spirit frees us and gives us life.

Also, at all times in our history, we can count on the prayer of Jesus who is always with us: “I will ask the Father and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you always: the Spirit of truth” (Jn 14, 16-17).

Brothers and Sisters, we are welcoming today into our community a group of young people who are also receiving the Holy Spirit and who are becoming bearers of this Spirit in their families, in their schools, and among their comrades and friends, but also in the Holy Land.  They are also the new bearers of the Spirit of freedom, of truth, and of new strength based on love, all of which is needed in this land.  Let us pray for them so that they might remain faithful to the Spirit of Life which they are receiving today.  Let us pray for their parents that they might be able to guide them and help them preserve the Spirit of God within themselves.  Let us pray for the entire city of Jerusalem, for everyone in this Holy Land, Israelis, Palestinians, Jews, Christians, and Muslims, so that all might come to know and follow the Spirit of God in this holy city.  Amen.

† Michel Sabbah, Patriarch

Jerusalem, Pentecost, May 27th, 2007

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