On Pentecost Sunday, Pope Francis said that division doesn’t come from the Holy Spirit, who forms the universal Church with both unity and diversity – and we must pray to resist the temptation to encourage division.
The Holy Spirit creates diversity in unity, Pope Francis said June 4, because in every time and place he gives and nurtures different charisms and graces. And he does so in a way that “effects true union, according to God’s will, a union that is not uniformity, but unity in difference.”
But there are two temptations we must avoid in order to receive these graces, he warned. One is the temptation to seek diversity without unity, which is what happens when we take sides or get locked in our own way of doing things, perhaps even thinking that we are better than other people or always in the right.
“When this happens, we choose the part over the whole, belonging to this or that group before belonging to the Church,” he said. “We become avid supporters for one side, rather than brothers and sisters in the one Spirit. We become Christians of the ‘right’ or the ‘left,’ before being on the side of Jesus.”
Pope Francis spoke about the Holy Spirit during the celebration of Mass for around 60,000 people in St. Peter’s Square for the Solemnity of Pentecost, the birthday of the Church, which fell on June 4 this year.
He explained that another common temptation people can fall into is the opposite: to seek unity without diversity. This makes unity into uniformity: “everyone has to do everything together and in the same way, always thinking alike.”
This kind of unity takes away freedom, Francis said. “But, as Saint Paul says, ‘where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’ (2 Cor 3:17).”
“So the prayer we make to the Holy Spirit is for the grace to receive his unity, a glance that, leaving personal preferences aside, embraces and loves his Church, our Church,” he continued.
Making this prayer, then we can “accept responsibility for unity among all, to wipe out the gossip that sows the darnel of discord and the poison of envy, since to be men and women of the Church means being men and women of communion.”
We should also pray, he went on, “to ask for a heart that feels that the Church is our Mother and our home, an open and welcoming home where the manifold joy of the Holy Spirit is shared.”
Pope Francis explained how the Holy Spirit is a “Creator Spirit,” constantly bringing about new things. The readings for Mass, he said, show us two new things in particular that the Spirit creates.
“In the first reading, the Spirit makes of the disciples a new people; in the Gospel, he creates in the disciples a new heart.”
The first is a new people. “On the day of Pentecost, the Spirit came down from heaven, in the form of ‘divided tongues, as of fire… [that] rested on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit, and began to speak in other languages’ (Acts 2:3-4).”
“This is how the word of God describes the working of the Spirit: first he rests on each and then brings all of them together in fellowship. To each he gives a gift, and then gathers them all into unity,” the Pope said.
The second thing the Holy Spirit renews is the heart. The first gift of Jesus after his resurrection is the gift of the Holy Spirit. Above all, he gives the disciples the ability to forgive sins, saying to them: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them” (Jn 20:22-23).”
“Here we see the beginning of the Church,” he said, “the glue that holds us together, the cement that binds the bricks of the house: forgiveness.”
Forgiveness is “the greatest love of all,” Pope Francis said, saying that it preserves unity and prevents collapse. It consolidates and strengthens.
“Forgiveness sets our hearts free and enables us to start afresh. Forgiveness gives hope; without forgiveness, the Church is not built up.”
Embracing a spirit of forgiveness helps us to resolve problems with harmony, rejecting other ways, such as hasty judgment and criticism of others. Let us as ask for the grace to make Our Holy Mother Church more beautiful with a renewed spirit of forgiveness and self-correction, he said.
Only after we do this, he explained, will we “be able to correct others in charity.”
“The Holy Spirit is the fire of love burning in the Church and in our hearts, even though we often cover him with the ash of our sins,” the Pope concluded.
“Let us ask him: ‘Spirit of God, Lord, who dwell in my heart and in the heart of the Church, guiding and shaping her in diversity, come! Like water, we need you to live. Come down upon us anew, teach us unity, renew our hearts and teach us to love as you love us, to forgive as you forgive us. Amen.’”