VATICAN CITY — The Holy Spirit made it possible for everyone to hear the apostles in their own language on Pentecost, uniting people who were divided, Pope Francis said May 22, calling on Christians to witness to the faith in a way that reconciles and is forgiving.
“We should all ask ourselves: ‘How do I let myself be guided by the Holy Spirit so that my witness of faith is one of unity and communion? Do I bring the message of reconciliation and love that is the Gospel to the places where I live?’” the Pope said in his Wednesday general audience.
The descent of the Holy Spirit undid “the dispersion of peoples and the confusion of tongues” that began with the Tower of Babel, the Pope noted, explaining that the men of the time acted with “arrogance and pride” in wanting to build the tower on their “own strength and without God.”
Pope Francis addressed the crowd of around 50,000 pilgrims in St. Peter’s Square. His talk was dedicated to examining the phrase from the Creed, “We believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” The talk was part of an ongoing series of reflections during the Year of Faith on the Creed that was started by Benedict XVI.
The Holy Father stated that the previous line of the Creed on the Holy Spirit has “a deep connection” to the mission and characteristics of the Church that he was dwelling on.
The Holy Spirit “gives life to the Church, guides her steps. Without the presence and the incessant action of the Holy Spirit, the Church could not live and could not accomplish the task that the risen Jesus has entrusted her: to go and make disciples of all nations,” the Pope explained.
For that reason, he focused his reflection on three ways that the anointing of the Holy Spirit changes people, marks the Church and prepares it to evangelize.
“Sometimes it seems that what happened at Babel is repeated today: divisions, the inability to understand each other, rivalry, envy, selfishness,” the Holy Father observed.
He asked the crowd to think about the questions, “What do I do with my life? Do I bring unity? Or do I divide with gossip and envy?”
“Bringing the Gospel means we in the first place must live reconciliation, forgiveness, peace, unity, love that the Holy Spirit gives us. Let us remember the words of Jesus: ‘By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another,’” the Pope said, quoting John 4.
The second way the Spirit prepares believers to share the Gospel is by instilling courage in them, he told the crowd.
“Here is another effect of the Holy Spirit: courage — the courage to proclaim the newness of the Gospel of Jesus to all, with self-confidence, in a loud voice, in every time and in every place,” he said.
“And this happens even today for the Church and for each of us,” Pope Francis insisted, urging people to “never be closed to this action!”
“Because evangelizing, announcing Jesus, evangelizing brings us joy! It energizes us. Being closed up within ourselves brings bitterness. Proclaiming the joy and hope that the Lord brings to the world lifts us up!” the Pope proclaimed.
But all of this is not possible without a “faithful and intense relationship with God,” the Pope said as he moved into his third point.
“I will only mention a third element, but it is particularly important: a New Evangelization. A Church that evangelizes must always start from prayer, from asking, like the apostles in the Upper Room, for the fire of the Holy Spirit. Without prayer, our actions become empty and our proclamation soulless; it is not animated by the Spirit,” he said.
Pope Francis encouraged Christians to entrust themselves to the Holy Spirit because he “enables us to live and bear witness to our faith and enlighten the hearts of those we meet.”
He finished his thoughts on the connection between the Church and the Holy Spirit by recalling Benedict XVI’s statement that the Church today “especially feels the wind of the Holy Spirit that helps us, shows us the right path, and so, with new enthusiasm, we are on our journey, and we thank the Lord.”
At the end of the audience, the Pope also offered a special message to the Catholics in China, who will celebrate the feast of Our Lady, Help of Christians on May 24.
The Pope said: May they proclaim Christ, “dead and risen, with humility and joy; be faithful to his Church and the Successor of Peter; and live their everyday lives in service to their country and their fellow citizens in a manner consistent with the faith they profess.”