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Pope Francis on Pentecost: 'Christian life unravels' without the Holy Spirit

Rose petals shower from the ceiling of the Pantheon, a Pentecost tradition in Rome symbolizing the descent of the Holy Spirit (Marina Testino/CNA)

'A Christianity without the Spirit is joyless moralism,' the Pope said

Without the gifts of the Holy Spirit, Christians lack that which animates them and gives them internal life and harmony, Pope Francis said on Pentecost.

“Without the Spirit, our Christian life unravels, lacking the love that brings everything together,” Pope Francis said at Mass in St Peter’s Square on June 9.

“Without the Spirit, Jesus remains a personage from the past; with the Spirit, he is a person alive in our own time. Without the Spirit, Scripture is a dead letter; with the Spirit it is a word of life,” he continued. “A Christianity without the Spirit is joyless moralism; with the Spirit, it is life.”

At Mass for Pentecost, one of the most important feast days of the year, Pope Francis spoke about the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit, which he said is “far from being an abstract reality,” but is the “most concrete and close, the, the one who changes our lives.”

Pentecost is the celebration of the person of the Holy Spirit coming upon the Apostles, Mary, and the first followers of Jesus, who were gathered together in the Upper Room. Pentecost marks the conclusion of the Easter season and celebrates the beginning of the Church.

How does the Holy Spirit change people’s lives? the pope asked. “Let us look at the Apostles. The Holy Spirit did not make things easier for them, he didn’t work spectacular miracles, he didn’t take away their difficulties and their opponents.”

Pope Francis said what the Holy Spirit brought was harmony: something deeply needed also in “today’s frenzied pace of life.” – “Pulled in a thousand directions, we run the risk of nervous exhaustion,” so we look for quick fixes like pills and thrill-seeking “to feel alive.”

“But more than anything else, we need the Spirit: he brings order to our frenzy. The Spirit is peace in the midst of restlessness, confidence in the midst of discouragement, joy in sadness, youth in aging, courage in the hour of trial. Amid the stormy currents of life, he lowers the anchor of hope,” he stated.

According to the pope, a lack of harmony is what has caused the many stark divisions seen in today’s world: People with too much and people with nothing, people striving after longevity and those who “cannot even be born.”

More social media use, he said, has made people less social. “We need the Spirit of unity to regenerate us as Church, as God’s People and as a human family.”

“Let us daily implore the gift of the Spirit,” Pope Francis urged, explaining that it is easy to stay at surface levels; that “rather than seeking the Spirit, we try to keep afloat, thinking that everything will improve once this or that problem is over, once I no longer see that person, once things get better.”

He said this is superficial because there will always be more problems, and “resolving momentary problems will not bring peace. What makes a difference is the peace of Jesus, the harmony of the Spirit.”

“Peace is about receiving the Holy Spirit. The peace bestowed on the apostles, the peace that does not bring freedom from problems but in problems, is offered to each of us,” he said, explaining that: “Filled with his peace, our hearts are like a deep sea, which remains peaceful, even when its surface is swept by waves.”

Francis also criticized the tendency to “hurl adjectives” and insults at others, stating that it is harmful not only to those insulted but also to those who insult.

Those who live by the Spirit, by contrast, “bring peace where there is discord, concord where there is conflict. Those who are spiritual repay evil with good. They respond to arrogance with meekness, to malice with goodness, to shouting with silence, to gossip with prayer, to defeatism with encouragement.”

It is important to recognize, he said, that just like for the Apostles, seeing the Risen Lord is not enough, “unless we welcome him into our hearts.” Quoting St. Bonaventure, the pope said the Holy Spirit “comes where he is loved, where he is invited, where he is expected.”

“Holy Spirit, harmony of God, you who turn fear into trust and self-centeredness into self-gift, come to us,” Pope Francis prayed. “Grant us the joy of the resurrection and perennially young hearts.”

“Holy Spirit, our harmony, you who make of us one body, pour forth your peace upon the Church and our world. Make us artisans of concord, sowers of goodness, apostles of hope.”

After Mass, Pope Francis led Catholics in praying the Regina Coeli, the traditional Marian prayer for Eastertime. He asked for prayers for the people of Sudan, “so that the violence ceases and the common good is sought in dialogue.”

“The news coming from Sudan is giving rise to pain and concern,” he said.

Protestors in Sudan have called for civil disobedience and work strikes from Sunday, after a military crackdown in Sudan’s capital of Khartoum June 6 resulted in dozens of deaths.

The country has seen months of protests which led to the military’s overthrowing of authoritarian President Omar al-Bashir in April. A work strike is being called for by protest leaders until a civil government takes over from the military.