Saturday, 19 May 2018

May 20th 2018, Pentecost Sunday
GOSPEL  John 15:26-27; 16:12-15
Translated from a homily by Don Fabio Rosini, broadcast on Vatican Radio

Don Fabio’s reflection follows the Gospel reading . . .

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GOSPEL  John 15:26-27; 16:12-15
Jesus said to his disciples:
"When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father,
the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father,
he will testify to me.
And you also testify,
because you have been with me from the beginning.
"I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.
But when he comes, the Spirit of truth,
he will guide you to all truth.
He will not speak on his own,
but he will speak what he hears,
and will declare to you the things that are coming.
He will glorify me,
because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.
Everything that the Father has is mine;
for this reason I told you that he will take from what is mine
and declare it to you."
The Gospel of the LordPraise to you Lord Jesus Christ

Kieran’s summary . . . The Gospel passage for this Pentecost Sunday tells us that the Holy Spirit will lead us to the fullness of truth. He does this, we are told, because he does not speak about himself but rather relates what he has heard from the Father and the Son. But, hold on a minute. Surely the Holy Spirit leads us to the truth because he knows the truth, not because he refuses to speak about himself? The Holy Spirit is love, and love never speaks about itself! The Holy Spirit is wholly oriented towards the other. If we are to have authentic marriages or friendships, then we too must be oriented towards the other. This message is not easy for us. We want to retain control over our own lives. We make ourselves and our own interests the fulcrum of our existence. That is why Jesus says that his message is too hard for us to bear all at once. Only the Holy Spirit can lead us to the kind of self-emptying love that is the foundation of real joy. Sometimes marriages start off well but run into difficulty because the spouses seek to base their relationship on their own qualities. But our own qualities are not an enduring fuel for true communion. True relationships are fuelled by the Holy Spirit, and he can only operate when we cease to rely on ourselves. Sometimes we try to mimic a Christian society by basing it on our own efforts at civility. Only the self-forgetting impulse of the Holy Spirit can provide the foundation for authentic communion.

The Holy Spirit is the one who is utterly oriented to the other, not to himself
On this Sunday of Pentecost we hear passages from St John’s Gospel which announce the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, the Advocate, the one who comes close to us and speaks to our hearts, the “Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father”. When he comes he will guide us to the fullness of truth, Jesus tells us, because he does not speak about himself. Rather he will relate what he himself has heard and will tell us of things to come in the future. This might sound a little strange. Surely he will guide us to the truth because he knows the truth, and not because he refuses to speak about himself? We tend to think of the truth as being a precise thing, a matter of content. But the truth is not simply a matter of content. The Holy Spirit is the one who does not speak about himself, but speaks what he has heard, what he has received from Jesus, and everything that is possessed by the Father is also possessed by Jesus. In other words, the Holy Spirit is love. Love does not talk about itself. It is not centred on one’s ego. Love speaks of the one who is loved. It speaks of God. The Holy Spirit speaks of the Father and of the son and of their relationship. It is hard to express this mystery because love is not something that can be put in a certain category. Rather it is communion. Love is much more than just a sentiment. It is not simply some sort of perfectionistic act. If someone approaches us and speaks to us with love, their words can sometimes be hard and challenging, yet we recognize that they are speaking for us, for our good.

It is frightening for us to lose control over everything. The Holy Spirit leads us down that path
The Holy Spirit says little about himself. He is not self-affirmative because he is love. This attitude can be a little bit scary for us. To be obedient to the Holy Spirit signifies to loosen one’s control over everything. The things that are ours only attain their meaning as a function of love. The things that Jesus has to relate to us of the Spirit are things that we can receive only gradually. For the moment, Jesus tells us, these things are too heavy for us to bear. We are incapable of living them and they would appear to us as a moralistic burden. It is only the Holy Spirit that can teach us to lose ourselves and no longer be at the centre of our own lives. We have a dark terror of no longer being at the centre of reality. In the first reading, the disciples attain the capacity to go out and lose themselves, speaking to and for others. This is an art that is not learned in one day, but the result of a long process of self-emptying.

We only mimic a truly Christian society if we do not build it on the Holy Spirit and the art of emptying oneself
Matrimony is a continuous adventure of progressive growth. Sometimes marriages that begin well go more and more wrong afterwards, often because the Holy Spirit has not been allowed to do his work. These are people who are as good and decent as anyone else, but they have sought the wrong kind of fuel for their marriage: they have tried to rely on their own strength. It is only when we lose ourselves that we make space for the love of God. Marriage is a process of ever greater emptying of oneself, a process of falling deeper and deeper in love. Such marriages are not just a theory or an ideal: they exist in the Church. They occur when two people recognize matrimony as a vocation, as a call that only the Lord can bring to completion. When we cease to be the centre of everything, then everything we do becomes a place where we lose ourselves and enter into the greatness of communion, the greatness of collaboration, of being together with others, of taking care of others. This is authentic family, authentic friendship, true society. A Christian society can only be constructed upon people who have been emptied of themselves. We can only mimic such a civil society if communion and the Holy Spirit are not placed at the centre.

Let us abandon ourselves to God and allow him to control our lives
This Pentecost let us have courage! To receive the Holy Spirit means to lose oneself and to place others at the centre of everything. Only God can do this. We are too fearful and lack the strength to bear this burden of completely losing our self-referential control over things. I wish everyone, and myself first of all, the grace to permit ourselves to lose this “battle” with God, to allow him to win within our souls.

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