Dearest Father Bernard,
Dearest brothers and sisters,
may the Lord give you peace!
We have come to the conclusion of the Easter season. As per tradition, we should have gathered at the Benedictine Dormition Monastery to celebrate the birth of the Church in Jerusalem. This year however we have the novelty of a new temporary, but no less beautiful, location. We thank the Sisters of St. Vincent de Paul for their cooperation. Also joining us are some communities of Filipino workers. Today, in short, we too are having a bit of the experience described in the first reading from the Acts of the Apostles. We are local believers, foreigners, of different languages and nationalities, yet united in celebrating the wonders of the Lord. The Spirit has brought us together from different parts of the world to make us one family united in the name of Jesus.
Truly our Church continues to experience Pentecost even today: all Christian communities are here, physically present, and all together form the Body of Christ, the Church. And, as much as the wounds of our divisions are still painful, we are still all gathered here as a Christian community to celebrate, each according to his tradition and in his own language, the same Paschal mystery of death and resurrection, the same gift of the Spirit.
With Pentecost we have a kind of new Epiphany. It is the Epiphany of the power of love, of agape: at Easter we experience agape through the physical body of Christ, given on the cross and transfigured in the resurrection. At Pentecost we experience agape through His ecclesial body: the time of the Church begins, the time when the Lord is present among us in a new way. We see this in the Gospel just proclaimed, "Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them, "Peace be with you!" (John 20:19). He stood. It does not say “appeared” but “stood”. It is the verb of stability. It is a new way of being amid His disciples.
And it is in the Eucharist that Easter and Pentecost meet. The Eucharist celebrates the love that is given on the cross, the death and resurrection of Christ. At the same time, the Eucharist is the celebration of the Holy Spirit who makes that love visible and concrete in the Church today.
That is why the disciples, upon seeing Jesus' hands and side, rejoiced (20). For from that moment on, those signs no longer indicate defeat, but the triumph of God's love over every creature. Indeed, by blowing His Spirit on the disciples (22), Jesus makes them new creatures, a kind of new creation. It is the Spirit that shapes the Church, unites us to the body of Christ, and thus gives us access to God.
Love, joy, forgiveness, peace. The Gospel of Pentecost clearly says what the program of those who are new creations in the Spirit is.
I would like at this time to address a special thought to our Church, the Church of Jerusalem. At Pentecost the Church is born, and it is born here, in Jerusalem, in our city. All the Churches scattered around the world originated from the "Yes" to Christ, said right here in Jerusalem by a few fishermen and some of their friends. They were few, frightened, unprepared, with profoundly different ideas about Christ, His mission and consequently their own. They were also persecuted and misunderstood by most.
Yet, if we are here today, it is because of that "yes", said by these people who humanly-mindedly could not have done anything striking.
This sounds like a description of our Church of Jerusalem today: we are few and without any human power, divided into many different churches, with profoundly different ideas about the mission of the Church, politics, and many other things. We are not persecuted, but we certainly cannot say we are loved either. We do not have a great missionary impetus of proclamation. Sometimes we seem more like the disciples still locked up in the cenacle out of fear than Peter who with parrhesia proclaims to all that Christ is Lord.
We then really need the Spirit, that power that can only come from above (cf. Lk 24:49), to enable us to become Christians again, builders of a new way of life.
We need Jesus to blow His Spirit upon us again and make us new creatures, capable of rejoicing, of forgiving, of turning ourselves into a community united in the love of Christ, of living and witnessing to peace among ourselves, even before we ask for it for others.
I believe that this is the witness we are asked to bear today: to return to being witnesses to the love of God, which here was manifested in the person of Christ, and which today is manifested in the Church, in our community, called to be a place of encounter between heaven and earth, between God and humanity.
We are not asked to do great things. The fishermen of Galilee, having become apostles, did not do great things. But having experienced joy, peace, forgiveness and above all love, they attracted a multitude of people to themselves, and created communities of believers around them. We are asked to bear the same witness today. Even before we engage in projects, strategies, paths and physical or other constructions, we are called to say with our lives that Jesus is the Lord, the Kyrios, and that we have encountered him.
In this social and political context of ours that is so torn and fragile, in a general context where the logic of possession and exclusion seems to prevail, where the dominant thought seems to be "I and no one else" (Is 47:8, 10), the Church is called to proclaim the power of "we," of unity, of a love that gives itself freely, of a forgiveness that knows how to recreate broken relationships, of a peace that is not of this world, but that can bring true joy into it.
It is not impossible. These are not catch phrases, not utopian speeches impossible to achieve. Pentecost is not that. It is to discover that we have in us a strength that is not only ours, but that is given to us; the love of God, manifested in the cross of Christ. It still reaches us today in the Church, and it can make the impossible possible.
Let us ask for the gift of this Spirit, may he make us a new creation and infuse our weary and tired hearts with the joy of forgiveness, sincere love and true peace, and may our communities become by the power of the Spirit truly a place of encounter between heaven and earth.