Homily of Archbishop Pizzaballa for Pentecost 2020 Available in the following languages:
Homily of Archbishop Pizzaballa for Pentecost 2020 Available in the following languages:
Jerusalem, Dormition Abbey , May 31, 2020
Acts 2: 1-11; 1Cor 12, 3-7.12-13; Jn 20, 19-23
Very Reverend Father Abbot,
Dear brothers and sisters,
the Lord give you peace!
I would have desired that on the occasion of Pentecost we could have celebrated the return to full normality of our ecclesial life. It seems, however, that we will have to accept the idea of a very gradual and uncertain recovery. It is however a beautiful sign and a joyful coincidence that exactly today, in all the territory of the diocese, all the churches have reopened. We will probably also have to ask ourselves what kind of normality we will have for the future. Will it still really be the same as before?
We will need a lot of wisdom and vision to understand what to do and how to live our church life in the next future. We are here also for this, not only to celebrate, a few meters away from the Holy Place that commemorates the event of Pentecost, but also to ask for the Spirit of Wisdom, so that it will guide us to the right understanding of this particular time for our Church in Jerusalem.
The passage of the Gospel just proclaimed, although brief, is full of suggestions for our prayer and reflection. I will present only a few, the ones that speak to me today.
The disciples are closed in the Upper Room, frightened. The evangelist clearly specifies that the doors were closed and the disciples were afraid. And we know that after the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the disciples truly become “Apostles”, that is, they open wide the doors and go out full of courage, to announce that Christ is the Lord. The sign of the closed doors penetrated by the Risen One, however, not only indicates the fear of the disciples, but at the same time it says that nothing can stop or hinder the power of the resurrected Christ. The closed doors and the fear of the disciples are nothing compared to the power of the Spirit who makes Christ rise, overcomes every barrier and breaks into the life of the disciples transforming them. The Risen One, through the Spirit that brings new life, in a certain sense also raises the disciples, whose fear had extinguished every spirit of life.
Everything in this passage speaks of life and joy. Even the marks of the passion, "his hands and his side", become a source of joy for the disciples (“he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord”, 20,20). They are no longer the signs of defeat and death but, on the contrary, become the seals of the victory of Christ, the Kyrios. The Risen One, as soon as he receives new life from the Father, immediately shares it with his disciples, because it is precisely for this reason that he came into the world.
And at the very moment in which the Risen One gives his Spirit to the disciples, he immediately sends them on a mission, enables them to be his witnesses. In the Acts of the Apostles we have seen that the first effect of the gift of the Holy Spirit on the disciples was the abandonment of their fears; to leave the Cenacle and immediately become witnesses of Christ's resurrection. So also in the Gospel of John, the first mandate of the Risen One to the disciples, is the “sending out”. In short, the Spirit and mission are one and also indicate what our mandate is. It is now the time of the Church, our time. Everything is summarized in a sentence and, even more, it is summarized with the expression: "as". "As the Father sent me, I also send you" (Jn 20:21).
The mission of the disciples must be as that of the Son, it must have its own attitudes, its own feelings, its same intentions, its own thought.
If the mission of the disciples must be as that of Christ, even the content should be the same: to forgive sins, of the limitless mercy, that God revealed on the cross for all. Because the only way to overcome evil is forgiveness. “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20,23).
The breath that Jesus breathes on the disciples and communicates the Spirit to them is like a new gesture of creation, like the one at the beginning of time God breathed into Adam (Cf Gen 2,7). In fact, the same expression is used, unique throughout the NT.
The Spirit that has given new life to Christ, gives new life to his disciples, the Church. And what does all this say to us now, Church of Christ, Church of Jerusalem?
For several weeks we too have been shut up in our homes, in our upper rooms. And fear has characterized our life for a long time, and perhaps we have not completely come out of it. It is a fact that many of our activities are still cancelled. And the confusion about what happened also characterizes our discourse, as also the fragile economic and social prospects of the near future.
The meeting of the disciples with the Risen One, however, did not bring the disciples back to their previous life, but plunge them into a completely new perspective. As Christ had received new life from the Father, so too the disciples received new life through the Spirit. Nothing was like before.
I believe that the Spirit also asks us today, the Church of Jerusalem, to enter a new perspective. Not to try to return to the same life as before, to our former selves, but to let ourselves be conquered by the newness of life that the Spirit continually gives. We are invited to scrutinize our hearts, to understand where it wants to guide us (Rom 8:27), to read the signs of the times, to listen to the demands that arise from our different realities of life, and to evaluate them with prayer and listening to the Word of God.
It is not a question of closing our eyes to the dramatic reality that we are now living and to lock ourselves in sophisticated devotionism, but of living this reality with the desire of those who have confidence in the power of the resurrection of Christ. And it is for this reason that we are willing to collaborate in building the Kingdom, overcoming every fear, every loneliness, and full of joy.
Again, today's Gospel tells us what and how to start: life, joy (v.20), mission (v.21), forgiveness (v. 23) and peace (vv.19; 21). These are the signs that accompany the gift of the Holy Spirit. Not first one and then the other, but all together. The believer who is full of the Holy Spirit is also full of life. He does not avoid the cross, which will always be with us, but he is also conquered by the forgiveness he has experienced. And forgiveness leads to new life, and especially to joy in every relationship, in the family, in the community. And from there also, peace is born. Not in any other way, not as the world gives it.
We have experienced in recent months, that we can live even without many of the pastoral and social activities that we believed were indispensable. Now, in resuming the activities, perhaps we understand better what is really essential: live in the spirit of the Risen One and witness it without fear. And the signs that will distinguish us are those that we have just highlighted: life, joy, mission, forgiveness and peace.
We are called to testify, in all possible ways, with works and with frank and free words, beyond all fear, the love for life in this our land where often, life has little value. We are invited to be joyful, without constantly complaining about everything. We don't want to be the church of lamentation, but the church of joy. And joy is also our mission. In fact, joy is always contagious and attractive. Not a momentary and artificial joy, but one which comes from the heart of those who are happy, because they are reconciled and redeemed. Forgiveness is the decisive testimony. But before it gets to politics, it has to start within our families and our communities. We will not be completely credible when we talk about dialogue, encounter, peace and reconciliation, if our communities continue to divide on everything; if we are not ready to lose a little of ourselves to welcome the other with his differences and also with his limits; until we sincerely strive in all contexts for unity, which is the fulfillment of the glory of Christ.
And we will not be the Church of Jerusalem if we do not have a sincere desire for peace in our hearts. If this is a mandate for the whole universal Church, it is in a particular way for our local Church, which was born just a few steps from here, in the Upper Room, where Jesus gave peace to his disciples. So, we have to always commit ourselves to building peace, never getting tired, never getting discouraged, never giving in to discouragement. It is not true that we will never see peace in this Land. The Spirit of the Risen One has given it to us and we already possess it. And nothing can stop us from the relentless and tenacious commitment to work for it, to wanting it for everyone, and building it in every context of our lives.
Let's ask for it then. Let us ask once again for the gift of the Spirit. We need this courage, this fire that warms hearts and inflames our communities with that love which can only save the world.