Reflection for the Vigil of Pentecost 2022

By: Pierbattista Pizzaballa - Published: June 04 Sat, 2022

Reflection for the Vigil of Pentecost 2022 Available in the following languages:

May the Lord give you peace!

This year, as we have seen, the Pentecost Vigil has been prepared by the various ecclesial movements and new communities in our diocese. It is the fruit of a journey that began a few months ago and brought these various communities together, to listen to one another, share their experiences of faith, pray together, and get to know each other.

I find this to be a positive fruit of the Synod, because perhaps for the first time it has succeeded in getting people to share together paths of faith that, perhaps, were not so easily encountered before. If you will, it was and still is a beautiful and small Pentecost. In a context, also ecclesial, of so many distinctions and struggles, we thank the Lord for this small but significant fruit of communion within the Church, which I hope will continue after Pentecost.

It was good to listen to the various testimonies, to meditate on the biblical passages proclaimed, to invoke the Spirit together. I add, therefore, only a brief reflection.

The biblical passages we heard have something in common, a kind of red thread that connects them: the descent and presence of the Spirit, who comes, brings radical change, overturns perspectives, raises newness. We learned it from the Pentecost account just proclaimed: there the disciples, at first intimidated, begin to proclaim Jesus' resurrection with parrhesia. We have it in the reading from the prophet Ezekiel, where the Spirit brings life even where death reigns supreme; in the encounter with Mary Magdalene, the Risen One opens to joy her grieving heart and reactivates the relationship with his disciples, dispersed by the Passover. Jesus also tells Nicodemus that to understand the dynamics of the Kingdom of God, it is necessary to be born again in the Spirit. St. Paul reminds us that only through the Spirit can we say that we are not slaves but children of God, and thus overcome all fear.

These readings, then, show us what the fruits of the Holy Spirit are in us: parrhesia, courage, unity, life, joy, proclamation, mission, rebirth, being children and not slaves. And what unifies all these different fruits is love. Receiving the Holy Spirit, in its essence, means receiving an infusion of love into our hearts, which makes all things new: “because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us” (Rom. 5,5). Indeed, only the encounter with God's love can give us the strength to live fully as Children of God. We have all seen at least once here that the desert, usually arid, dry and lifeless, in spring, with only a few drops of water, becomes a garden full of life and wonderf ul colors. Thus, the Holy Spirit, poured into our hearts, can bring forth in us a love stronger than death, and make us do what we previously thought unthinkable.

In the face of this great and wonderful mystery, I feel that we also need, like Nicodemus, a rebirth, in order to be able to see the Spirit’s works among us. For this to happen, first we need to rediscover a greater interiority.

If we turn, in fact, toward our ecclesial reality, we not always are able to look according to the eyes of the Spirit. Parrhesia, courage, unity, proclamation, joy, love... do not seem to be our main criteria for reading and do not seem to be very visible and real in our relationships. It seems to me sometimes that we run the risk of living on two levels. In our church meetings and assemblies, we talk about the Holy Spirit and its fruits. In real life, we activate dynamics of life that have other and more human criteria, making our ecclesial life, therefore, not very credible. We ask, moreover, so many questions about ourselves, about our Church, about orientations and directions to be taken. And behind these questions we sometimes perceive fear or uncertainty. But the Spirit is life. It does not guarantee good conditions of life, it does not exempt us from the fatigue and contradictions of life also present among us, but it is nevertheless really a fullness of life – a fullness not to be confused with a perfect life, which we will never have. All this is irreconcilable with fear, and we can understand it only if we know how to cultivate our interiority. The Spirit, in fact, is the intimacy of God in person, and is understood only by those who have an open and conscious interiority.

To our Church, then, which is in danger of getting lost in doing so many things, to our communities and to each of us, who sometimes get lost in superficial dynamics, the Spirit teaches interiority, which enables us to see in depth, and therefore also to participate in the beauty, the joy, the life that really flows among us. Only in this way can we reach that necessary unity between the life of faith and real life.

Moreover, the Spirit reminds us of the open relationship to God and others, the new language of communion beyond all division and discordance.

I feel that we need to grow more on this point. We are not and do not want to be a Church that prefers the reassuring walls of the Upper Room, the closed doors of convenience, of fear. I mean that in this fragmented, torn, divided, conflictual, sometimes even hostile society of ours, it can be reassuring to stay within the limits of our respective communities, to accept the logic of exclusion, to lock ourselves up within our environments. To feel better among the ones we know, to avoid the burden of often difficult and harsh relationships, to avoid experiencing continuously the painful divisions and wounds of this Holy Land of ours. All of this is humanly understandable. The Holy Spirit, however, pushes us out, to be ready to make our defense to anyone who demands from us an accounting for the hope that is in us (cf. 1Pet. 3:15), to become witnesses.

It means concretely to commit ourselves to unity. In our Church, first among the movements, among our different ecclesial realities, which are made up of different cultures, languages, and nationalities. In an increasingly individualistic world, the Spirit urges us to create a community, to feel that we share each other's lives, to become a gift for the other.

It means feeling a share in the life and destiny of every person in this society of ours, implementing ourselves in the right to life, to a full and beautiful life, to dignity for everyone. Respecting the other is not enough. The Spirit calls us to love the other, to take care of them, to feel them as a part of ourselves.

Here, we want to ask once again for the gift of the Holy Spirit, so that it may bring a radical change in our lives, overturn our often small and limited perspectives, awaken newness in our weary dynamics of life. We all need it.

But we are also here today to give thanks, to praise and celebrate together for what the Spirit has done in us, in this Church of ours, which is small, complex, but rich in gifts and charisms and which, despite its many limitations, still bears so many fruits of joy, commitment, fidelity, love and enthusiasm. We would not be here today if there had not been before us courageous people, capable of building communities with the commitment of their lives, with their passion and sacrifice, with a strong love that only the Holy Spirit can instill. And also today we thank those among us who continue to be witnesses of life, passion and love in our Church of the Holy Land and who, in this complicated society of ours, do not stop serving concretely the peoples of this Land.

Come Holy Spirit, our Advocate, bring to our Church and to all of us, your breath of life and joy, and make us all courageous witnesses of that love you poured into our hearts. Amen.