It was precisely this that Jesus promised his disciples in the last days of his earthly mission, as we have just heard in the Gospel passage: he assured them of the help of the Holy Spirit that he would send to continue to make them aware of his presence (cf. Jn 14: 16-17). This promise became reality when, after the Resurrection, Jesus entered the Upper Room, greeted the disciples with the words, "Peace be with you", and breathing on them said: "Receive the Holy Spirit" (Jn 20: 22). He authorized them to forgive sins. Here, therefore, the Holy Spirit, appears as a power for the forgiveness of sins, for renewing our hearts and our lives; and thus he renews the earth and creates unity where there was division. Furthermore, on the Feast of Pentecost the Holy Spirit showed himself in other signs: in the sign of a mighty wind, tongues of fire, and the Apostles' ability to speak all languages. This was a sign that the Babylonian dispersion, the result of pride that separates men and women, had been overcome in the Spirit who is love and gives unity in diversity. Since the very first moment of her existence the Church has spoken in all languages - thanks to the power of the Holy Spirit and the tongues of fire - and has lived in all cultures, she does not destroy any of the various gifts, of the different charisms, but draws all of them together in a great, new unity that reconciles: unity and multiformity.
The Holy Spirit, who is eternal charity, the bond of unity in the Trinity, with his power of divine charity unites scattered humanity thereby creating the vast multiform community of the Church throughout the world. In the days following the Ascension of the Lord until Pentecost Sunday, the disciples, with Mary, were gathered in the Upper Room to pray. They knew that they themselves could not create or organize the Church: the Church had to be born and organized by divine initiative; she is not created by us, she is a gift of God. And this is likewise the only way in which she creates unity, a unity that must grow. The Church in every time - and particularly in these nine days between the Ascension and Pentecost - is spiritually united in the Upper Room with the Apostles and Mary to ceaselessly implore the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Driven onwards by his mighty wind she will thus be able to proclaim the Gospel to the very ends of the earth.
This is why even in the face of difficulties and divisions, Christians cannot be resigned nor yield to discouragement. The Lord asks this of us: to persevere in prayer in order to keep alive the flame of faith, love and hope which nourishes the desire for full unity. "Ut unum sint!", says the Lord. May Christ's invitation always resound in our hearts, an invitation I was able to relaunch on my recent Apostolic Journey in the United States of America, when I referred to the centrality of prayer in the ecumenical movement. In this epoch of globalization and at the same time of fragmentation, "without [prayer], ecumenical structures, institutions and programs would be deprived of their heart and soul" (Ecumenical Prayer Service and Meeting, St Joseph's Church, New York, 18 April 2008). Let us give thanks to the Lord for the goals reached in ecumenical dialogue thanks to the Holy Spirit's action; let us be docile, listening to his voice so that our hearts, filled with hope, may continuously seek the path that leads to the full communion of all Christ's disciples.
In his Letter to the Galatians, St Paul recalls that "the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Gal 5: 22-23). These are the gifts of the Holy Spirit that we also implore today for all Christians, so that in the common and generous service to the Gospel, they may be a sign of God's love for humanity in the world. Let us turn our gaze confidently to Mary, the Shrine of the Holy Spirit and through her pray: "Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in them the fire of your love". Amen.
St Peter's Square
Wednesday, 7 May 2008