Veni, Sancte Spiritus
To the bishops, 15 April 2008...
There is a need for all of us to move beyond sterile divisions, disagreements and preconceptions, and to listen together to the voice of the Spirit who is guiding the Church into a future of hope.At Nationals' Park, 16 April 2008...
In the exercise of my ministry as the Successor of Peter, I have come to America to confirm you, my brothers and sisters, in the faith of the Apostles (cf. Lk 22:32). I have come to proclaim anew, as Peter proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, that Jesus Christ is Lord and Messiah, risen from the dead, seated in glory at the right hand of the Father, and established as judge of the living and the dead (cf. Acts 2:14ff.). I have come to repeat the Apostle’s urgent call to conversion and the forgiveness of sins, and to implore from the Lord a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the Church in this country. As we have heard throughout this Easter season, the Church was born of the Spirit’s gift of repentance and faith in the risen Lord. In every age she is impelled by the same Spirit to bring to men and women of every race, language and people (cf. Rev 5:9) the good news of our reconciliation with God in Christ....And in St Patrick's Cathedral, 19 April 2008....
In every time and place, the Church is called to grow in unity through constant conversion to Christ, whose saving work is proclaimed by the Successors of the Apostles and celebrated in the sacraments. This unity, in turn, gives rise to an unceasing missionary outreach, as the Spirit spurs believers to proclaim “the great works of God” and to invite all people to enter the community of those saved by the blood of Christ and granted new life in his Spirit....
“Lord, send out your Spirit, and renew the face of the earth!” (cf. Ps 104:30). The words of today’s Responsorial Psalm are a prayer which rises up from the heart of the Church in every time and place. They remind us that the Holy Spirit has been poured out as the first fruits of a new creation, “new heavens and a new earth” (cf. 2 Pet 3:13; Rev 21:1), in which God’s peace will reign and the human family will be reconciled in justice and love. We have heard Saint Paul tell us that all creation is even now “groaning” in expectation of that true freedom which is God’s gift to his children (Rom 8:21-22), a freedom which enables us to live in conformity to his will. Today let us pray fervently that the Church in America will be renewed in that same Spirit, and sustained in her mission of proclaiming the Gospel to a world that longs for genuine freedom (cf. Jn 8:32), authentic happiness, and the fulfillment of its deepest aspirations!
Gathered as we are in this historic cathedral, how can we not think of the countless men and women who have gone before us, who labored for the growth of the Church in the United States, and left us a lasting legacy of faith and good works? [I]n the power of the Holy Spirit, the Apostles went forth from the Upper Room to proclaim God’s mighty works to people of every nation and tongue. In this country, the Church’s mission has always involved drawing people “from every nation under heaven” (cf. Acts 2:5) into spiritual unity, and enriching the Body of Christ by the variety of their gifts. As we give thanks for these precious past blessings, and look to the challenges of the future, let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in America. May tongues of fire, combining burning love of God and neighbor with zeal for the spread of Christ’s Kingdom, descend on all present!
Saint Paul reminds us that spiritual unity – the unity which reconciles and enriches diversity – has its origin and supreme model in the life of the triune God. As a communion of pure love and infinite freedom, the Blessed Trinity constantly brings forth new life in the work of creation and redemption. The Church, as “a people made one by the unity of the Father, the Son and the Spirit,” is called to proclaim the gift of life, to serve life, and to promote a culture of life.... The proclamation of life, life in abundance, must be the heart of the new evangelization. For true life – our salvation – can only be found in the reconciliation, freedom and love which are God’s gracious gift.
This is the message of hope we are called to proclaim and embody in a world where self-centeredness, greed, violence, and cynicism so often seem to choke the fragile growth of grace in people’s hearts. Saint Irenaeus, with great insight, understood that the command which Moses enjoined upon the people of Israel: “Choose life!” (Dt 30:19) was the ultimate reason for our obedience to all God’s commandments. Perhaps we have lost sight of this: in a society where the Church seems legalistic and “institutional” to many people, our most urgent challenge is to communicate the joy born of faith and the experience of God’s love.
Two years later -- and with the first Stateside ad limina of this pontificate not all that far away -- these words remain the measuring-stick of the mission, the success, the effectiveness of the church on these shores.
Luckily, there's at least one instance of the seed taking root: the Nats are second in the East. Further afield, though, it seems fair to say that, by and large, the vision of a "new Pentecost" among us remains to be realized... and as a result, the question begs itself:
Those who know Joseph Ratzinger know the seriousness with which he takes the role of the Spirit in the life of the church; until his election, the run-up to Pentecost was invariably the time of his annual retreat. Along these lines, on his first 50th Day as Pope, Benedict offered the notable reflection that "Without the Holy Spirit, the church would be reduced to merely a human organization, weighed down by its own structures... precisely for this, Christ, who established the Church on the foundation of the Apostles closely around Peter, has also given it the gift of his Spirit, so that throughout the centuries he would be the comfort and the guide to the entire truth.
"May the Ecclesial Community remain always open and docile to the action of the Holy Spirit," he prayed, "to be among men and women a credible sign and effective instrument of God's action!"
Our kind can show no shortage of seriousness about no shortage of things... but amid a scene where the weight of structures has proven crushing to some in this body, signs of life are found lacking among its parts, and many folks with many gifts to offer feel unwelcome or brushed aside, the order of our time is a return to the Spirit: a renewed seeking and appreciation of his gifts, a fresh sense of what it means to be a people of many minds and talents, but one heart; a process that begins with prayer for that "new outpouring" and, above all, giving him the space he needs to do his work.
Especially over these last years, God knows how many calls have gone out to "change the church"... and, well, here we are... and what else is new?
Sure, the calls are good for a quick flash and bit of ink. But the only thing that changes the church for the better never comes by calling for it -- it only ever comes by working toward it... and if it's ever gonna happen, it only ever starts with the person in the mirror, with the choice to strive to become a better reflection of Christ's light and the Spirit's fire -- never so much to "reform" (a political word that, where it counts, changes little) but truly renew the face of the earth, and let the rest just fall into place.
This is all a long way of saying that the Pentecost Novena -- the nine-day countdown to the birthday of our lot -- begins today. As ever -- maybe even more than usual, given the backdrop -- it's a good time to ponder things, pray over 'em, and come up with New Year's resolutions (at least, of sorts)....
The critics and complainers we'll always have with us... but all they've ever built is temples of heat, never light. But when it comes to actually building the future and laying the groundwork for a better day ahead, suffice it to say, gang, "Doers wanted"... and for those of us who might be a bit rough around the edges, there's literally no time to begin again than this.
So, well, let's do it.
Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your people and kindle in us the fire of your love. Send forth your Spirit and they shall be created and you shall renew the face of the earth.