· The Pope's Mass at Santa Marta ·
Offered for Benedict XVI on his birthday
“Today is Benedict XVI's birthday. We offer the Mass for him, that the Lord may be with him, comfort him and give him much consolation”. At the beginning of the Eucharistic Celebration, Tuesday 16 April, in the chapel of the Domus Sanctae Marthae , Pope Francis' first thought was of his predecessor on the day of his 86th birthday, while the homily gave occasion to admonish those who allow themselves to be enticed by the temptation to resist the Holy Spirit. “The Spirit is not to be subdued!” the Pontiff emphasized with a gentle firmness.
It was not by chance that the Holy Father referred to Vatican Council II, which — he said — “was a beautiful work of the Holy Spirit. Think of Pope John: he seemed a good parish priest and he was obedient to the Holy Spirit”, realizing what the Spirit willed. “But after 50 years”, he asked himself, “have we done everything which the Holy Spirit told us in the council, in that continuity in the Church's growth, which was the council?”
“No” was his answer. He explained: “We celebrate its anniversary”, as if erecting “a monument” to the council, we are preoccupied above all “lest it be a nuisance. We do not wish to change”. On the contrary, there “is something more: there are voices which would have us go backwards. This is called 'to be stiff-necked', this we call wishing 'to subdue the Holy Spirit', this means becoming 'foolish and slow of heart'”
The Pope found inspiration in the first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles (7:51- 8:1a ). “Stephan's words are strong”, he began: 'You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did not your fathers persecute? And they killed those who announced beforehand the coming of the Righteous One, whom you have now betrayed and murdered”. The prophets, “you killed them”, then you made for them a pretty tomb, a monument, right? I am not sure if you would put it exactly like that – and then you venerated them – after having killed them. See there, that is a manifestation of resistance to the Holy Spirit. Even Jesus himself, somewhat more gently, he says it, with more mildness, to the disciples of Emmaus: “O foolish men, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!”
Even among us, the Pontiff added, we see manifestations of this resistance to the Holy Spirit. Actually, “to say it clearly, the Holy Spirit annoys us. Because he moves us”, he explained, “he makes us journey, he pushes the Church to go forward. And we are like Peter at the Transfiguration: 'Oh, how wonderful it is for us to be here, all together!' But let it not inconvenience us. We would like the Holy Spirit to doze off. We want to subdue the Holy Spirit. And that just will not work. For he is God and he is that wind that comes and goes, and you do not know from where. He is the strength of God; it is he who gives us consolation and strengthen to continue forward. But to go forward! And this is bothersome. Convenience is nicer. You all could say: 'But Father, that happened in those times. Now we are all content with the Holy Spirit'. No, that is not true! This is still today's temptation”, as experience with the reception of Vatican Council II shows clearly.
“Even in our personal life, in our private lives”, continued the Pope, “the same thing happens: the Spirit pushes us to take a more evangelical path, and we [say]: 'But no, it goes like this, Lord...'”. Hence the final exhortation: “Do not oppose the Holy Spirit”. For “it is the Spirit who makes us free, with that freedom from Jesus, by that freedom of the sons of God! Do not put up resistance to the Holy Spirit: this is the grace for which I wish we would all ask the Lord; docility to the Holy Spirit, to that Spirit that comes to us and makes us go forward on the path of holiness, that holiness of the Church which is so beautiful. The grace of docility to the Holy Spirit”.
The members of the administration and of the various central offices of the Governorate of Vatican City State — led by Cardinal President Giuseppe Bertello and by Secretary General, Bishop Giuseppe Sciacca, who concelebrated — were among those who participated, together with the direction of the State Accounting Department, accompanied by director Antonio Chiminiello. The Patriarch of Jerusalem for Latins, Fouad Twal, whom the Pontiff received yesterday in audience, also concelebrated.
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