Pope Francis urged Catholics to view the Church “with the eyes of the Spirit” as he celebrated Pentecost Sunday Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
In his homily May 31, he cautioned against seeing the Church in worldly terms.
He said: “The Spirit comes to us, in our differences and difficulties, to tell us that we have one Lord — Jesus — and one Father, and that for this reason we are brothers and sisters.”
“Let us begin anew from here; let us look at the Church with the eyes of the Spirit and not as the world does. The world sees us only as on the right or left, with this ideology, with the other; the Spirit sees us as sons and daughters of the Father and brothers and sisters of Jesus. The world sees conservatives and progressives; the Spirit sees children of God. A worldly gaze sees structures to be made more efficient; a spiritual gaze sees brothers and sisters pleading for mercy.”
Around 50 people attended the Mass in St. Peter’s. They sat spaced apart, with many wearing medical masks, to reduce the chance of spreading the coronavirus, which has claimed more than 369,000 lives worldwide as of May 31.
In his homily, the pope reflected on “the secret” of the Church’s unity. He noted that from its earliest days the Church had brought together people with different characters and backgrounds. The Apostles “all had different ideas and sensibilities,” but Jesus did not eliminate their differences. Instead, he anointed them all with the Holy Spirit.
“Let us now focus on ourselves, the Church of today,” the pope said. “We can ask ourselves: ‘What is it that unites us, what is the basis of our unity?’ We too have our differences, for example: of opinions, choices, sensibilities. The temptation is always fiercely to defend our ideas, believing them to be good for everybody and agreeing only with those who think as we do. And that’s a bad temptation that divides. But this is a faith created in our own image; it is not what the Spirit wants.”
The pope said that Catholics were united not only by beliefs and morality, but also by the Holy Spirit.
He noted that after the Holy Spirit descended on the Apostles in Jerusalem they immediately began proclaiming the Gospel. They did not wait to devise a pastoral plan, he said, or to make sure they had understood fully the teachings of Jesus.
“No, the Spirit does not want the memory of the Master to be cultivated in small groups locked in upper rooms where it is easy to ‘nest’ … He opens doors and pushes us to press beyond what has already been said and done, beyond the precincts of a timid and wary faith,” he said.
“In the world, unless there is tight organization and a clear strategy, things fall apart. In the Church, however, the Spirit guarantees unity to those who proclaim the message.”
“The Apostles set off: unprepared, yet putting their lives on the line. One thing kept them going: the desire to give what they received.”
Pope Francis said that this was the secret of the Church’s unity.
“It is gift. For the Spirit himself is gift: he lives by giving himself and in this way he keeps us together, making us sharers in the same gift. It is important to believe that God is gift, that he acts not by taking away, but by giving,” he said.
The pope explained that it was essential to believe this because how we understand God shapes our actions.
“If we realize that what we are is his gift, free and unmerited, then we too will want to make our lives a gift. By loving humbly, serving freely and joyfully, we will offer to the world the true image of God,” he said.
The pope then identified three “enemies of the gift:” narcissism, victimhood and pessimism.
He defined narcissism as the temptation to idolize ourselves and be concerned only with what is good for us. He said the pandemic showed clearly how wrong narcissism was.
Victimhood was just as dangerous, he said, because the victim is consumed with complaints about their neighbor.
The pessimist, meanwhile, is angry with the world but does nothing to change it for the better.
“At this moment, in the great effort of beginning anew, how damaging is pessimism, the tendency to see everything in the worst light and to keep saying that nothing will return as before,” the pope said.
He suggested that these three ways of thinking contributed to a “famine of hope.”
“Therefore we need the Holy Spirit, the gift of God who heals us of narcissism, victimhood and pessimism,” he said.
The pope concluded his homily with a prayer: “Holy Spirit, memory of God, revive in us the memory of the gift received. Free us from the paralysis of selfishness and awaken in us the desire to serve, to do good. Even worse than this crisis is the tragedy of squandering it by closing in on ourselves.”
“Come, Holy Spirit: you are harmony; make us builders of unity. You always give yourself; grant us the courage to go out of ourselves, to love and help each other, in order to become one family. Amen.”