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Dove of the Holy Spirit

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Pentecost: the Gift of the Consoler

Lectio Divina, Feast of Pentecost

 

Roman Rite – Year C – May 15, 2016

Acts 2, 1-11; Ps 104; Rm 8.8 to 17; Jn 14, 15-16.23-26

 

Ambrosian Rite

Acts 2, 1-11; Ps 104; 1 Cor 12.1 to 11; Jn 14.15 to 20

Availability and gift of self to receive the Gift.

 

The liturgy today, Solemnity of Pentecost, proposes the reading of the verses 15-16.23-26 of the 14th chapter of St John’s Gospel, taken from the farewell discourses of Jesus. (Jn 13, 31 to 17)

The dominant theme of these great speeches is the exodus of Christ, that is the “going ” of Jesus: “Yet a little while I am with you, where I am going, you cannot come” (Jn 13, 33); “I came from the Father and have come into the world; now I leave the world and go to the Father “(Jn 16, 28); “But now I come to thee, O Father” (Jn 17, 13). The exodus, the going to the Father, of Jesus carries also the meaning of our going, our exodus, which is our journey of life and faith in this world. Following and listening to Christ along this journey, we learn to live with Him, for Him, in Him and like Him.

The four verses that are proposed in today’s Gospel are included in this context. In them Jesus speaks of the consoling Spirit. To comfort the disciples of then and now who are on this path of light through the Cross, Christ promises the Holy Spirit that is the “Consoler” or, said with the Greek word, the “Paraclete”  that means “the “defense attorney” because he defends us from Satan, the accuser. If we translate literally the word “Paraclete” we should write “called by” which means that the Spirit is called to stand by each disciple so that he or she can faithfully guard the Master’s memory and have a deep comprehension of His word and the tenacious courage to be its witness.

In the four verses of today’s Gospel, Jesus indicates the conditions to receive the Spirit: love for Him, listening to His word and obedience to the commandments. If these three conditions are missing there is no openness to the Spirit and to his action in us.

These three conditions can be summarized in one: the complete gift of self. Mother Teresa of Calcutta would say: total abandonment. Following the example of this saint and, above all, of the Virgin Mary, who became Mother putting herself to the action of the Spirit when she said: “Behold the handmaid of the Lord,” let’s say:” May happen to me according to your word.” Like Our Lady let us offer ourselves completely to God. To give oneself to Him is to give oneself to the Love that makes our life fruitful and happy.

The logic of the gift.

In response of the gift of ourselves to Him, the Father gives us the Consoler.

This gift is preceded by the act of love of the Father, who knows that we are in need of consolation: He, “the Lord, has probed me, knows me; he knows when I sit and stand; he understands my thoughts from afar. He sifts through my travels and my rest; with all my ways he is familiar... “(See Psalm 139: 1-4). He has seen our misery in foreign land and he heard my cry, He indeed knows my suffering and sees the oppressions that torment me (see Ex 3: 7-9); nothing escapes his infinite love for me. For all this, He gives us the Consoler. The Father is the Giver: everything comes from Him and from no one else.

Therefore, if we take as a starting point the second reading of the Mass which offers us a passage from the letter of Paul to the Romans (8: 8-17), we learn that the gift of God is the Spirit of freedom, because he frees us from the bondage of the flesh that is selfishness. The Spirit transforms the desires of man: no longer desires of selfishness, but of charity and of the gift of self. When we remain locked in our egoism (the flesh) we perceive the law of love (God’s law) as a burden and a bondage. The Spirit makes holy the “desire of the human being” so that then the law of charity becomes what he wants and what toward which he tends: life, truth and love. The Spirit frees us transforming us from the inside to the point that He even renews our relationship with God: no longer slaves, but children. This is great freedom. The fact that St. Paul speaks of “adopted” children, is not to belittle our being his children, reducing it to something external and legal, but to mention its gratuity. God is “an abyss of paternity” (Origen), which is expressed in an intense, infinite love full of solicitude and kindness, of tenderness and mercy. When the son rebels against this fatherhood, trying to deny it and to suppress this paternity, going away from home and wasting the wealth received as an advance of inheritance, the reaction of the heavenly Father is not of anger, but bears witness to a heart that is moved. God is a loving Father who welcomes and embraces his lost and repentant son (see Lk 15, 11), freely gives to those who ask (see Mt 18:19; Mk 11:24; Jn 16:23) and offers the bread of heaven and the living water that gives life forever (see Jn 6, 32.51.58). The fatherhood of God is infinite love.

 The gift of the Consoling Spirit.

With the Ascension, Christ left us neither alone nor orphans. With Pentecost, today we celebrate the fact that he keeps his promise to send his Spirit that enables us to love like him. If before He was with us and by us, from now on He will be in us. Those who are loved are home for the One who loves them: he carries them in his heart as his life. We have been forever in God, who loves us with an everlasting and paternal love. If we love Him, He lives in us as we are in Him. In fact, Jesus says: “If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him and we will come to him and make our abode with him. Who does not love me does not keep my words. And the word you hear is not mine but of the Father who sent me. Of these things I told you about abiding with you, but the Consoler, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of all the things I have said to you “(Jn 14, 23 – 26).

The translation of the Greek word “Paraclete” with the word “Consoler” (from the Latin cum-solo = with the only one) is beautiful and right because it indicates the Spirit as the One who “will be with us forever” (see Jn 14: 16). That is, the Holy Spirit is consoling because he does not leave us alone. Who loves and is loved is never alone, he is with the other who loves him.

After having said that this Consoler is with us always and forever, he tells us his name: Spirit of Truth. Spirit of Truth means true Spirit, true Life. What is true life? The life of God. What is the Life of God? The love between the Father and the Son.

This Consoler whom is given to us, is the very life of God. And the life of God is the love between the Father and the Son that is always with us.

In this regard, Pope Francis in a deep and existential way summarizes it: “The Holy Spirit is the inexhaustible source of God’s life in us. Men of all times and all places desire a life  full and beautiful, just and good, a life that is not threatened by death, but that can mature and grow to its fullness. Men are like a traveler who, through the deserts of life, thirsts for a water living, welling and fresh, and able to quench his deep desire for light, love, beauty and peace. We all feel this desire! Jesus gives us this living water: it is the Holy Spirit, who proceeds from the Father and whom Jesus pours into our hearts. “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly” (Jn 10:10) “.

In harmony with this teaching I propose the prayer of Mother Teresa of Calcutta: “Lord, you are the life I want to live, the light I want to reflect, the path that leads to the Father, the love that I want to love, the joy that I want share, the joy that I want to sow around me. Jesus, you are everything to me, without You I can do nothing. You are the Bread of Life that the Church gives me. It is for you, in you, with you I can live. “

The gift of the Spirit and consecrated virgins in the world.

The virginal consecration of the consecrated Virgins is a gift of the Holy Spirit. They, in the power of love, have managed to preserve their undivided heart to Christ. It is true that from Pentecost onwards, the way of life of Christ continued to be present in the way of life of the Apostles, as the book of Acts shows us. This form of life did not disappear even with the death of the last of the apostles: “Throughout the ages, there have always been people who, obedient to the call of the Father and to the prompting of the Spirit, have chosen this special way of following Christ, to dedicate themselves with an undivided heart “(see 1 Cor 7:34). They too have left everything behind, like the apostles, to be with him and, like him, in the service of God and the neighbor “(Vita Consecrata (VC) 1; see 14; 22).

The consecrated women, in fact, are called to live as virgins who, following the example of Mary, Virgin and Mother, bring Christ to the streets of the world: they become similar to Christ (VC 19), that is that they become the holy and pure icon. This is possible only by virtue of a particular gift of the Spirit (VC 14).  For this reason the person called to consecrated life “must open up the space of their lives to the Holy Spirit” (VC 65). Thanks to the power of the Spirit of Pentecost, the consecrated person becomes profoundly missionary preaching the Gospel with a life that-thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit – gradually  becomes configured to Christ (see. VC 19). They are missionaries of love because consecration makes them capable of loving with the heart of Christ. (VC 75) and, like him, in the service of mankind. As it stated in the Introduction to the Rite of Consecration of the Virgin Mary: “The virgins in the Church are those women who, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, make a vow of chastity in order to love more ardently Christ and serve with more free dedication their brothers and sisters”(n. 2). With their consecrated virginity they are witnesses of the “concreteness” of the invisible, spiritual world, and remind us all of the reality of the Kingdom of heaven.

Patristic Reading

Saint Augustine of Hippo (354 – 430)

Tractate LXXIV.

On Jn 14, 15-17.

 

  1. We have heard, brethren, while the Gospel was read, the Lord saying: “If ye love me, keep my commandments: and I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter [Paraclete], that He may abide with you forever; [even] the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye shall know Him; for He shall dwell with you, and shall be in you.”1 There are many points which might form the subject of inquiry in these few words of the Lord; but it were too much for us either to search into all that is here for the searching, or to find out all that we here search for. Nevertheless, as far as the Lord is pleased to grant us the power, and in proportion to our capacity and yours, attend to what we ought to say and you to hear, and receive, beloved, what we on our part are able to give, and apply to Him for that wherein we fail. It is the Spirit, the Comforter, that Christ has promised to His apostles; but let us notice the way in which He gave the promise. “If ye love me,” He says, “keep my commandments: and I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever: [even] the Spirit of truth.” We have here, at all events, the Holy Spirit in the Trinity, whom the catholic faith acknowledges to be consubstantial and co-eternal with Father and Son: He it is of whom the apostle says, “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is given unto us.”2 How, then, doth the Lord say, “If ye love me, keep my commandments: and I will ask the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter;” when He saith so of the Holy Spirit, without [having] whom we can neither love God nor keep His commandments? How can we love so as to receive Him, without whom we cannot love at all? or how shall we keep the commandments so as to receive Him, without whom we have no power to keep them? Or can it be that the love wherewith we love Christ has a prior place within us, so that, by thus loving Christ and keeping His commandments, we become worthy of receiving the Holy Spirit, in order that the love, not of Christ, which had already preceded, but of God the Father, may be shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, who is given unto us? Such a thought is altogether wrong. For he who believes that he loveth the Son, and loveth not the Father, certainly loveth not the Son, but some figment of his own imagination. And besides, this is the apostolic declaration, “No one saith, Lord Jesus,3 but in the Holy Spirit:4 and who is it that calleth Him Lord Jesus but he that loveth Him, if he so call Him in the way the apostle intended to be understood? For many call Him so with their lips, but deny Him in their hearts and works; just as He saith of such, “For they profess that they know God, but works they deny Him.”5 If it is by works He is denied, it is doubtless also by works that His name is truly invoked. “No one,” therefore, “saith, Lord Jesus,” in mind, in word, in deed, with the heart, the lips, the labor of the bands,-no one saith, Lord Jesus, but in the Holy Spirit; and no one calls Him so but he that loveth, And accordingly the apostles were already calling Him Lord Jesus: and if they called Him so, in no way that implied a feigned utterance, with the mouth confessing, in heart and works denying Him; if they called Him so in all. truthfulness of soul, there can be no doubt they loved. And how, then, did they love, but in the Holy Spirit? And yet they are i commanded to love Him and keep His commandments, previous and in order to their receiving the Holy Spirit: and yet, without having that Spirit, they certainly could not love Him and keep His commandments.

2. We are therefore to understand that he who loves has already the Holy Spirit, and by what he has becomes worthy of a fuller possession, that by having the more he may love the more. Already, therefore, had the disciples that Holy Spirit whom the Lord promised, for without Him they could not call Him Lord; but they had Him not as yet in the way promised by the Lord. Accordingly they both had, and had Him not, inasmuch as they had Him not as yet to the same extent as He was afterwards to be possessed. They had Him, therefore, in a more limited sense: He was yet to be given them in an ampler measure. They had Him in a hidden way, they were yet to receive Him in a way that was manifest; for this present possession had also a bearing on that fuller gift of the Holy Spirit, that they might come to a conscious knowledge of what they had. It is in speaking of this gift that the apostle says: “Now we have received, not the spirit of this world, but the spirit which is of God, that we may know the things that are freely given to us of God.”6 For that same manifest bestowal of the Holy Spirit the Lord made, not once, but on two separate occasions. For close on the back of His resurrection from the dead He breathed on them and said, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit.”7 And because He then gave [the Spirit], did He on that account fail in afterwards sending Him according to His promise? Or was it not the very same Spirit who was both then breathed upon them by Himself, and afterwards sent by Him from heaven?8 And so, why that same giving on His part which took place publicly, also took place twice, is another question: for it may be that this twofold bestowal of His in a public way took place because of the two Commandments of love, that is, to our neighbor and to God, in order that love might be impressively intimated as pertaining to the Holy Spirit, And if any other reason is to be sought for, we cannot at present allow our discourse to be improperly prolonged by such an inquiry: provided, however, it be admitted that, without the Holy Spirit, we can neither love Christ nor keep His commandments; while the less experience we have of His presence, the less also can we do so; and the fuller our experience, so much the greater our ability. Accordingly, the promise is no vain one, either to him who has not [the Holy Spirit], or to him who has. For it is made to him who has not, in order that he may have; and to him who has, that he may have moreabundantly. For were it not that He was possessed by some in smaller measure than byothers, St. Elisha would not have said to St. Elijah, “Let the spirit that is in thee be in a twofold measure in me.9

About Archbishop Francesco Follo

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