This the entire homily of Pope Francis on Pentecost, 23 May 2021, from the papal altar of Saint Peter’s. [with my comments] ///
“When the Paraclete comes, whom I will send to you from the Father…” (Jn 15:26). With these words, Jesus promises to send his disciples the Holy Spirit, the ultimate gift, the gift of gifts. He uses an unusual and mysterious word to describe the Spirit: Paraclete. Today let us reflect on this word, which is not easy to translate, for it has a number of meanings. Essentially, it means two things: Comforter and Advocate.
The Paraclete is the Comforter. All of us, particularly at times of difficulty like those we are presently experiencing due to the pandemic, look for consolation. Often, though, we turn only to earthly comforts, ephemeral comforts that quickly fade. Today, Jesus offers us heavenly comfort, the Holy Spirit, who is “of comforters the best” (Sequence). What is the difference? The comforts of the world are like a pain reliever: they can give momentary relief, but not cure the illness we carry deep within. They can soothe us, but not heal us at the core. They work on the surface, on the level of the senses, but hardly touch our hearts. Only someone who makes us feel loved for who we are can give peace to our hearts. The Holy Spirit, the love of God, does precisely that. He comes down within us; as the Spirit, he acts in our spirit. He comes down “within the heart”, as “the soul’s most welcome guest” (ibid). He is the very love of God, who does not abandon us; for being present to those who are alone is itself a source of comfort.
[And our comfort is to be formed by the Holy Spirit to be members of the Body of Christ, who is the unmanipulatable living eternal Word of the Father, Living Truth, whom the world cannot accept, who lays down our lives with His own. We rejoice to be untied with Christ Jesus even as He lays down His life for us, the Innocent for the guilty. Let’s see if we can come up with an image of that… Oh yes! The Comforter does this for us, wherein we begin to see the very glory of God being manifested in our lives as The Paraclete unites us with Jesus:]
Dear sister, dear brother, if you feel the darkness of solitude, if you feel that an obstacle within you blocks the way to hope, if your heart has a festering wound, if you can see no way out, then open your heart to the Holy Spirit. Saint Bonaventure tells us that, “where the trials are greater, he brings greater comfort, not like the world, which comforts and flatters us when things go well, but derides and condemns us when they do not” (Homily in the Octave of the Ascension). That is what the world does, that is especially what the hostile spirit, the devil, does. First, he flatters us and makes us feel invincible (for the blandishments of the devil feed our vanity); then he flings us down and makes us feel that we are failures. He toys with us. He does everything to cast us down, whereas the Spirit of the risen Lord wants to raise us up. Look at the apostles: they were alone that morning, alone and bewildered, cowering behind closed doors, living in fear and overwhelmed by their weaknesses, failings and their sins, for they had denied Christ. The years they had spent with Jesus had not changed them: they were no different than they had been. Then, they received the Spirit and everything changed: the problems and failings remained, yet they were no longer afraid of them, nor of any who would be hostile to them. They sensed comfort within and they wanted to overflow with the comfort of God. Before, they were fearful; now their only fear was that of not testifying to the love they had received. Jesus had foretold this: “[The Spirit] will testify on my behalf; you also are to testify” (Jn 15:26-27).
[All good! That’s all exactly right. Great preaching, Pope Francis!]
Let us go another step. We too are called to testify in the Holy Spirit, to become paracletes, comforters. The Spirit is asking us to embody the comfort he brings. How can we do this? Not by making great speeches [like this?], but by drawing near to others. [What about drawing others to Jesus to offer worship in spirit and truth?] Not with trite words [“trite words”], but with prayer and closeness. Let us remember that closeness, compassion and tenderness are God’s “trademark”, always. [Now THERE’s a “trite word for the faith: “trademark,” you know, reducing the faith to that which is sold, an ideology, reducing the Eternal Word to a mere human idea, smashing down being brought into the reality of the Eternal Word by presenting the mere fallen human idea of… what… dialectical materialism? Believers, instead, don’t have a “trademark”, but rather The Sign of Contradiction, the Cross, which shakes people up, lifts them up, you know, to the heights of the Cross, where you cannot trade in the faith, where you cannot serve both God and mammon. It is true “testifying” (the translation of the word martyrdom) that brings the comfort of the Cross, in which the Little Flock of Jesus rejoices.] The Paraclete is telling the Church that today is the time for comforting. [Yes, today is the time for be formed into Christ crucified, carrying about the death of Jesus within us, as Saint Paul has it, that His resurrection might be manifested through us, who, in this way, become tabernacles of the Holy Spirit. Yes, today is the time to be rid of “trademark” prostituting of the faith to the highest bidder. They are “trite” words which proclaim that…] It is more the time for joyfully proclaiming the Gospel than for combatting paganism. [Ooops! These are not mutually exclusive. Throwing the demonic pagan death-cult Pachamama into the Tiber river is entirely consonant with God’s life of grace that will not have us tolerate a fear of our own death in testifying that Pachamama is straight out of hell. Is it really no longer a time to call out the brood of vipers, the sons of Satan, who hate God and man? Why is that?] It is the time for bringing the joy of the Risen Lord, not for lamenting the drama of secularization. [Wait, wait, wait. Pope Francis, bringing the joy of the Risen Lord is in and of itself part and parcel of lamenting the drama of secularization embodied in, say, Pachamama, which you promote. What the hell are you talking about? This is the first time you’ve offered Holy Mass on this altar after enthroning Pachamama there quite a while back. Is this your bid to excuse yourself concerning Pachamama?] It is the time for pouring out love upon the world, yet not embracing worldliness. [God’s love IS truth, right?] It is more the time for testifying to mercy, than for inculcating rules and regulations. [Just say it, Pope Francis: THE TEN COMMANDMENTS? It is you who are juxtaposing mercy (and therefore forgiveness of sin, and rules and regulations) which in this context must mean such as the Ten Commandments.] It is the time of the Paraclete! It is the time of freedom of heart, in the Paraclete. [But the Holy Spirit will lead us into all truth, and lives lived morally, with integrity, honesty. Have you never read Saint Paul on these matters, like, ever?]
The Paraclete is also the Advocate. In Jesus’ day, advocates did not do what they do today: rather than speaking in the place of defendants, they simply stood next to them and suggested arguments they could use in their own defence. That is what the Paraclete does, for he is “the spirit of truth” (v. 26). He does not take our place, but defends us from the deceits of evil by inspiring thoughts and feelings. [Whoa, whoa, whoa: “feelings”? This is where Ignatius and Freud meet up, and where Ignatius is killed off with a discernment of spirits of fallen human feelings that do not follow reason and which are part of the cross we now carry after original sin. “Inspiring… feelings.” The feeling that I’m being inspired with right now is this: barf barf barf. In grace, we follow right reason to make an act of the will to do what is honest before God and man, often very much against any fallen “feelings.”] He does so discreetly, without forcing us: he proposes but does not impose. [Actually, the Holy Spirit quite forcefully puts us next to the Blessed Virgin Immaculate Mother of God so as to have us look upon the wounds of our Savior. That‘s what the Holy Spirit does. Sure, we can reject this, but this is what The Holy Spirit does. We don’t make existential decisions in the Holy Spirit apart from Christ Incarnate and Crucified.] The spirit of deceit, the evil one, does the opposite: he tries to force us; he wants to make us think that we must always yield to the allure and the promptings of vice. Let us try to accept three suggestions that are typical of the Paraclete, our Advocate. They are three fundamental antidotes to three temptations that today are so widespread.
The first advice offered by the Holy Spirit is, “Live in the present”. The present, not the past or the future. The Paraclete affirms the primacy of today, against the temptation to let ourselves be paralyzed by rancour or memories of the past, or by uncertainty or fear about the future. The Spirit reminds us of the grace of the present moment. There is no better time for us: now, here and now, is the one and only time to do good, to make our life a gift. Let us live in the present! [“The grace of the present moment”… What does that even mean? Mere advice? I’m waiting for Jesus here. We are to live in Him by the sanctifying of the Holy Spirit. God holds all of time in His hands as just another creation. We are with those of all time as we are all brought in that one hour before Christ Jesus on the Cross. We are all of us in all times in the present moment, and we are all in that present moment through all time inasmuch as we are in union with Christ as the members of the Body of Christ. Without Christ, this “live in the present” thing is mere existentialism. This is not what the great spiritual writers speak about. Instead, any present moment, say, with Jesus in Holy Communion, puts us right before all the members of the Body of Christ. Or am I being ideological, using “trite” words like “trademark”?]
The Spirit also tells us, “Look to the whole”. The whole, not the part. The Spirit does not mould isolated individuals, but shapes us into a Church in the wide variety of our charisms, into a unity that is never uniformity. The Paraclete affirms the primacy of the whole. There, in the whole, in the community, the Spirit prefers [“prefers”…] to work and to bring newness. [Because individuals who are redeemed and saved and made into tabernacles of the Holy Spirit, who carry about the death of the Lord in them, that most glorious death in all love, are nothing? It’s all about “The People”, “The Proletariat”, not about us individually being brought into the One Body of Christ? The Holy Spirit sanctifies individuals, all of them with free will and a conscience. Not a Body Politic.] Let us look at the apostles. They were all quite different. They included, for example, Matthew, a tax collector who collaborated with the Romans, and Simon called the zealot, who fought them. They had contrary political ideas, different visions of the world. Yet once they received the Spirit, they learned to give primacy not to their human viewpoints but to the “whole” that is God’s plan. [No, no. They didn’t keep their fallen human drama. They abandoned all to follow Christ. They didn’t carry secondary anti-Christ ideology but now were simply giving a bit more primacy to Christ. No.] Today, if we listen to the Spirit, we will not be concerned with conservatives and progressives, traditionalists and innovators, right and left. [Oh, yes we will. If any of those labels regards doctrine and morality – and they all do in our common parlance – we will reject all that lacks integrity and honesty. Yep.] When those become our criteria, then the Church has forgotten the Spirit. [No, no. I’ve remembered the Body of Christ, of which we are the members, you know: “What you have done to the least of these you have done to Me.” Therefore, no contraception, no abortion, no euthanasia, no homosexualist “civil unions” or “marriages” etc., etc., etc.] The Paraclete impels us to unity, to concord, to the harmony of diversity. He makes us see ourselves as parts of the same body, brothers and sisters of one another. [Again, what about the BODY OF CHRIST? You can’t say, can you? Try it: “BODY OF CHRIST.” That demands truth and morality that is identical. The Holy Spirit, as Cardinal Siri says, speaks univocally. Yep. Read Gethsemane.] Let us look to the whole! [We will all look together to Him whom we have all pierced through, men of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, to Him who is, who was and who is to come, the Almighty. Just say it.] The enemy wants diversity to become opposition and so he makes them become ideologies. Say no to ideologies, yes to the whole. [Say yes to the Body of Christ, for all else is ideology.]
The third advice of the Spirit is, “Put God before yourself”. This is the decisive step in the spiritual life, which is not the sum of our own merits and achievements, but a humble openness to God. The Spirit affirms the primacy of grace. [“Primacy”? Again. What does that mean? We can also have an anti-primacy?] Only by emptying ourselves, do we leave room for the Lord; only by giving ourselves to him, do we find ourselves; only by becoming poor in spirit, do we become rich in the Holy Spirit. This is also true of the Church. We save no one, not even ourselves, by our own efforts. If we give priority to our own projects, our structures, our plans for reform, we will be concerned only about effectiveness, efficiency, we will think only in horizontal terms and, as a result, we will bear no fruit. [Great, but I’m still wondering about the importance of the oft-repeated “primacy”.] An “-ism” is an ideology that divides and separates. The Church is human, but it is not merely a human organization, it is the temple of the Holy Spirit. [Whoa, whoa, whoa. The other way around, buddy. The Church is of divine origin, and is Christ Jesus and also us inasmuch as the Holy Spirit is forming us to be members of the Body of Christ. Is the Holy Spirit somehow just an afterthought?] Jesus brought the fire of the Spirit to the earth and the Church is reformed by the anointing of grace, the gratuity of the anointing of grace, the power of prayer, the joy of mission and the disarming beauty of poverty. Let us put God in first place! [Those phrases are psychologized, made into world-views, from a human perspective… Is that what saves us? Is the anointing of grace our perception of power, joy and being struck psychologically by the “disarming beauty of poverty”? So, what about Christ Jesus, really, what about Him and His love and His Truth and His Goodness and His kindness?]
Holy Spirit, Paraclete Spirit, comfort our hearts. Make us missionaries of your comfort, paracletes of your mercy before the world. [Is that inclusive of forgiveness of sin? Is it?] Our Advocate, sweet counsellor of the soul, make us witnesses of the “today” of God, prophets of unity for the Church and humanity, and apostles grounded in your grace, which creates and renews all things. Amen. [But in Christ, right? Otherwise, all this sweetener is cancerous saccharine. Dear Pope Francis, why not speak to us about the wounds of Christ, our being crucified with Him, our being crucified to ourselves and to the world. Why not take a Pachamama idol and throw it in the Tiber river? Without this, your words, ever so sweet, are an ideology. Without this, your words are trite. Without witness to the wounds of Christ, your words are a nice speech, but are a trademark by which the faith is traded in the world, prostituted to the world. This is not what the Holy Spirit does. The Holy Spirit forms us into the Body of Christ, with individual tabernacles of the Holy Spirit making up the whole, the church, called by God, whom we, because of that, call the Paraclete. Yes, He stands with us, to comfort us by having us taken so seriously that we find ourselves on Calvary with the spouse of the Holy Spirit, the Immaculate Virgin Mother of God, looking to our SAVIOR.]
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