VATICAN CITY — Although sin separates us from God, Pope Francis stressed on Pentecost Sunday that we haven’t been left as orphans. Thanks to Jesus Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit, we can reconcile with the Lord and continue to live as his children.
“The central purpose of Jesus’ mission, which culminated in the gift of the Holy Spirit, was to renew our relationship with the Father, a relationship severed by sin, to take us from our state of being orphaned children and to restore us as his sons and daughters,” the Pope said May 15.
“We were made to be God’s children; it is in our DNA,” he said, explaining that “the Spirit is given to us by the Father and leads us back to the Father.”
Dressed in red vestments traditional for the Solemnity of Pentecost, which celebrates the descent of the Holy Spirit onto Mary and the apostles, Pope Francis made these remarks during Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Quoting St. Paul’s Letter to the Romans, he told those present that “all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship.”
Francis explained that the entire process of salvation has been one of “regeneration,” in which God’s fatherhood frees us from the state to which sin has caused us to fall: namely, that of being orphans.
Even today we see various signs of being orphans, including “the interior loneliness which we feel even when we are surrounded by people, a loneliness which can become an existential sadness,” he said.
We also see these signs “in the attempt to be free of God, even if accompanied by a desire for his presence; in the all-too-common spiritual illiteracy which renders us incapable of prayer; in the difficulty in grasping the truth and reality of eternal life as that fullness of communion which begins on earth and reaches full flower after death.”
Another sign, the Pope said, is the effort required to see others as brothers or sisters, “since we are children of the same Father.”
To be a child of God is our “primordial vocation” and contradicts all of these signs, he said, noting how this relationship was “ruined” by sin and restored by the sacrifice of God’s only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
From the “immense gift of love which is Jesus’ death on the cross,” the Holy Spirit has been poured out on humanity “like a vast torrent of grace,” he said, adding that “those who by faith are immersed into this mystery of regeneration are reborn to the fullness of filial life.”
Pope Francis pointed to Jesus’ assurance to the apostles that “I will not leave you orphans” and said that on Pentecost these words serve as a reminder of the maternal presence of Mary, who was in the Upper Room with the apostles when the Holy Spirit descended.
Mary, the Mother of Jesus, is with the community in prayer, he said, explaining that “she is the living remembrance of the Son and the living invocation of the Holy Spirit.”
“She is the Mother of the Church,” he said, and he entrusted all Christians, families and communities in need of the Holy Spirit to her intercession.
Francis closed his homily by noting how the Holy Spirit strengthens our relationship with Jesus and enables us “to enter into a new experience of fraternity” with him and with each other.
“By means of our universal Brother — Jesus — we can relate to one another in a new way; no longer as orphans, but as children of the same good and merciful Father.”
“This changes everything,” he said, explaining that “we can see each other as brothers and sisters whose differences can only increase our joy and wonder at sharing in this unique fatherhood and brotherhood.”
In his final Regina Caeli of the liturgical year, Pope Francis said the Holy Spirit, rather than giving a new message, brings Jesus’ timeless teachings to life and helps us to both understand and live it throughout our lives.
“The Holy Spirit exercises a role of teaching and memory. ... The Holy Spirit doesn’t bring a different teaching, but makes that of Jesus alive and active, so that the passage of time does not erase it or make it fade,” the Pope said May 15.
“He grafts this teaching into our hearts, helps us to interiorize it, making it become part of us, flesh of our flesh,” the Pope continued, adding that, at the same time, the Spirit “prepares the heart so that it is able to truly receive the words and example of the Lord.”
In his address, Francis told pilgrims that the day’s liturgy serves as a reminder to open our minds and hearts to the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus promised to send to his disciples and is “the first and primary gift he has obtained for us with his resurrection and ascension into heaven.”
Jesus himself prayed for the Holy Spirit during the Last Supper, when he told his disciples that “if you love me, keep my commandments; and I will pray to the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever.”
These words, the Pope said, remind us that both love for God and for other people “is not demonstrated with words, but with deeds.” He said that “to keep the commandments” ought to be understood in an existential sense, “so that one’s whole life is involved.”
To be a Christian, he said, “doesn’t primarily mean to belong to a certain culture or to adhere to a certain doctrine, but to bind one’s own life, in every aspect, to the Person of Jesus and, through him, to the Father.”
Thanks to the grace of the Holy Spirit, which is “the love that unites the Father and the Son and who proceeds from them, all of us can live the same life as Jesus,” he said, adding that the Holy Spirit teaches us “the only essential thing: to love as God loved.”
When promising the Holy Spirit, Jesus refers to him as “another Counselor,” Francis observed, explaining that Jesus himself is the first.
The Spirit, then, is Consoler, Advocate and Intercessor, who “assists us, defends us and is by our side on the path of life and in the fight for good and against evil.”
Francis closed his address by turning to Mary, asking her intercession in obtaining for all “the grace of being strongly animated by the Holy Spirit, in order to bear witness to Christ with evangelistic frankness and open ourselves increasingly to the fullness of his love.”
After his speech, the Pope drew attention to the 90th World Missionary Day, which will be celebrated Oct. 23, 2016, and prayed that the Holy Spirit would give strength to all missionaries and support the mission of the Church throughout the world.
His message for the event, published May 15, is titled “Missionary Church, Witness of Mercy.”