Homily for Pentecost, May 28, 2023, at the Mass of Thanksgiving for the founding of the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary.
Today we celebrate the feast of Pentecost, which was like the baptism of the Church. And it is the day on which we also celebrate the anniversary of the birth of the Disciples of the Hearts of Jesus and Mary, as our baptism. Baptism is exactly the theme that we want to propose to you to delve deeper during the next year. Baptism generates the new man, in the midst of this crisis of the human that we are going through. Indeed, as we read in the Gospel of John, Jesus breathes into our faces the Spirit of life and thereby associates our destiny with his own destiny. In baptism we are restored to the image and likeness of God, not only as our primary dignity, but also as the plan that God is carrying out in us.
In fact, as Disciples we have been given two feasts that have to do with the generation of the human. We were approved for the first time on the feast of St. Mary, Mother of God in 1987, and we received our definitive approval on Pentecost of 2002. We have been given, therefore, a Mother and a Spirit. In reality, the Spirit was upon the Mother from the beginning, for it was under His shadow that she conceived Jesus. And the Mother was there later, in the Upper room, when the Spirit was poured out, as if welcoming him back into her womb to generate us. It is as if the Lord wanted to leave us this parallel between the generation of Jesus and the generation of every believer as a constant inspiration.
1. What is the birth of the water and the Spirit like? When a child is born it has instincts that help it to survive. Thanks to this instinct, it moves towards the breast to suckle, and also seeks the face and eyes of the mother. The first effect of the Spirit in the baptized person is to sow in him a constant attraction, which we can call a new instinct. It is an instinct towards God. As with every instinct, it is a force that precedes us, that pushes us towards a destiny that we have not chosen beforehand, but that is entrusted to us.
One trace of this instinct is in our desire for beauty, which all travel agencies know well with their advertising: we travel for beauty! And another trace is in how we love the truth, even if we want to deceive, because we do not want to be deceived. Let us also think of when the things we long for do not fulfill us and we say “this is not it!”, “this is not it!” God’s instinct is at work.
During the sexual revolution of the 1960s, we were invited to liberate the sex instinct. Puritan society was accused of having repressed the libido and it was thought that man would be happy when he gave it free rein. We know today that the recipe did not work and that desire actually became weaker when it was separated from stable love and fertility.
Well, today we live in a society that is repressing the desire for God. Instead of looking upwards, man is invited to bend his gaze towards his mobile, or is urged to seek transcendence in the metauniverses, and not in the contemplation of the good and the beautiful. Should it not be said that, after failing to liberate other instincts, it would be worthwhile to liberate this instinct of God, if only for the sake of equal opportunities? Perhaps this instinct is different and its liberation of fullness to all other desires!
Pentecost is the liberation of this instinct, which has been repressed since sin. And it is, in fact, an instinct different from the others. For the other instincts must be enlightened and guided by reason. But this instinct, being divine, is superior to our reason, and is not blind but full of freedom and light. We remember the verse of the poet Luis Rosales, to which music has been set in Taizé: “At night we will go, at night, / without moon we will go, without moon, / for, to go up to the spring, / only thirst illuminates us.” Thirst can enlighten because it is thirst for God, thirst for truth and justice and beauty, thirst that is born when he shows us his face and enlightens us.
In baptism, moreover, the Spirit not only awakens our instinct for God, but transforms it into an instinct for Christ. The Spirit opens our eyes to recognize that this deep instinct for God is fulfilled in Jesus. We know King David’s reaction to Nathan when he heard the story of the rich man who wanted to sacrifice the poor man’s ewe lamb. “That man is you!” It is a moment of grace in recognizing himself guilty. Well, this same phrase can be said by the baptized person every time he reads the Gospel. He reads the call of the Disciples and recognizes himself in Peter and John: “That man is you!” He reads the forgiveness of the sinner and recognizes himself in the misery of the woman and in the hypocrisy of the Pharisee: “That man is you!” But not only. Above all, the baptized person recognizes himself in Jesus. He sees him praying to the Father, he sees him announcing the Kingdom, he sees him rejoicing and weeping for people, he sees him giving his life…. And the baptized person understands: “This man is you! That is to say, that is what you are called to be, that is where your deepest instinct goes. We can conclude: the Spirit invites us to take the step from confessing “Jesus lives,” as we celebrate Easter, to saying “Jesus is my life,” today at Pentecost.
2. And how do we come to live this life of Christ in us? The way is possible in the Spirit, and consists in recognizing and accepting God’s gifts, in order to bear fruit with them. This is what the gifts of the Holy Spirit refer to. Through them we understand that our actions, which make us mature and assimilate ourselves to Christ, are also a gift.
To see this, it helps us to remember that Pentecost was the feast that recalled the covenant of the people at Sinai. There too there was a manifestation of God with noisy thunder, fire and wind. Just as at Sinai the People of Israel was born, at Pentecost the Church was born. At Sinai the Israelites were given the Law, which is Torah, that is, instruction to act according to God’s will. And Pentecost, for its part, inaugurated the new Law of the Spirit.
Why is this Law new? It is not that, when the Spirit arrives, the commandments are no longer useful. Rather, the Spirit convinces us that the commandments, far from being a burden, are placed at the service of God’s gifts, to welcome them and be fruitful with them. To be baptized means that we can embrace the commandments because we recognize in them the way for the realization of the instinct of God that we carry engraved in us.
In this church of Stella Maris School we see the mystery of Sinai represented. Moses holds in his hand the tablets of the Law. In the center is painted the fourth commandment: “Thou shalt honor thy father and thy mother”. Why is this so? The tablet wants to underline that all the commandments follow a gift logic, which begins with the gift of life, which precedes us. In this the fourth commandment is similar to the third, which also recognizes the precedence of God whom we thank by sanctifying the feasts. These are the two commandments that are formulated in the positive, because they manifest the “yes” that is in the gift, as opposed to the “no’s” that guard the integrity of that gift. This is why the fourth commandment acts as a bridge between the commandments that refer to God and those that refer to our neighbor.
From here we see the logic of the gift in the whole table of the Law. First of all, there should be a “zero commandment”. It is what God says before pronouncing the Law: “I am the Lord, your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt”. Thus, the “thou art beloved” precedes our “thou shalt love” and makes it possible. This logic of gift then continues from the first to the last commandment. God must be above all things, because to appreciate the gift we cannot forget the giver. The opposite is idolatry: a multitude of gifts without the unity of the one who gave them to us because he loves us. And we cannot name the donor in vain, that is to say: the gift is only accepted if we are grateful for it, and the first use of language is gratitude to the Creator. The same is true of the commandments referring to our neighbor. “Thou shalt not kill”, because the brother is also a gift that comes from the same original source of gifts, and that is entrusted to you. “Thou shalt not steal”, because the gifts increase if they are lived in common, as happened after Pentecost in the Church. “Thou shalt not commit impure acts”, because the primary place for acceptance and personal gift is one’s own body.
The Spirit, in teaching us the Law of the gift, teaches us to live a new communion, made “one heart and one soul”. We said that at Pentecost we move from “Jesus lives” to “Jesus is my life” and now we add that we also move to “Jesus is our life”, because without Jesus there is no life together, there is no common life.
If this instinct of God is the instinct of the gift that originated it, at the same time the gift, which is fruitful, leads us to the fruit. Let us remember that the feast of Pentecost is the feast of the first fruits, when the first fruit of the harvest is offered. Along with the gifts of the Spirit, we have, enumerated by St. Paul, the twelve fruits of the Spirit. The fruit symbolizes the overabundance full of sweetness that the Spirit brings us. The fruit of the Spirit is opposed by St. Paul to the works of the flesh, because he who works in isolation produces nothing beyond himself.
We are happy to enumerate these fruits: charity, joy, peace, patience, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, gentleness, meekness, faithfulness, modesty, continence, chastity. These fruits do not refer to our feelings of joy or peace, nor to our character, joyful or peaceful, but to our works. They are, so to speak, in the hands and fingers: hands of love, joyful hands, peaceful hands… in building up love.
From this overabundance, the mission of the Church opens up. It is a “more” that propels us towards all people. Now we see that it is not enough to say, “Jesus is alive,” it is not enough to say, “Jesus is my life,” nor is it enough to say, “Jesus is our life.” It is necessary to proclaim, in the Spirit: “Jesus is life,” life in absolute, the whole life of each man, and of all men. From here the universal mission is born, to bring Christ to all human beings.
The Apostles were overflowing with this superabundance when, as today’s first reading tells us, they spoke in every language of the wonders of God. And so this first word of the Church reminds us of Mary’s first word to men after conceiving Jesus: the Magnificat. It is the work of the Spirit: to move us to sing the wonders of the Lord and his greatness. Today, as Disciples, with all of you, we sing our Magnificat as we see the work of God during these thirty-six years. And in the Spirit we say: “In Mary, Christ. Through Christ, to the Father.