Last updated on May 28, 2021
In his first Pentecost homily for the Third Millenium, Pope John Paul II reflects on the “fruitful tension between the upper room and the world.” That tension between the necessary silence of prayer and entering the world carrying Good News for all continues today.
“When the Advocate comes whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth that proceeds from the Father, he will testify to me. And you also testify, because you have been with me from the beginning.
These are the words that the Evangelist John received from Christ’s lips in the Upper Room, during the Last Supper on the eve of his Passion. Today they resound with remarkable intensity for us on Pentecost of this Jubilee Year, whose deepest meaning they reveal.
To understand this essential message, one must remain in the Upper Room, as the disciples did. This is why the Church, through a fitting selection of liturgical texts, has remained in the Upper Room throughout the Easter season. This evening St Peter’s Square is transformed into a vast Upper Room in which our community has gathered to pray for and to receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.
The first reading, from the Acts of the Apostles, reminded us of what happened in Jerusalem 50 days after Easter. Before ascending into heaven Christ had entrusted a great task to the Apostles: “Go … and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit … teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28: 19-20). He had also promised that after his departure they would receive “another Counselor”, who would teach them all things (cf. Jn 14: 16, 26).
This promise was fulfilled on the day of Pentecost: the Spirit, descending upon the Apostles, gave them the necessary light and strength to teach the nations and to proclaim Christ’s Gospel to them all. In this way, the Church was born and lives in the fruitful tension between the Upper Room and the world, between prayer and proclamation…
As happened in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost, in every age Christ’s witnesses, filled with the Holy Spirit, have felt impelled to reach out to others in order to express in various languages the marvels God has accomplished. This continues to happen in our time as well, and is the emphasis of this Jubilee Day dedicated to “reflection on the duties of Catholics towards others: the proclamation of Christ, witness and dialogue”.
The reflection we are invited to make cannot fail to dwell above all on the work which the Holy Spirit carries out in individuals and in communities. It is the Holy Spirit who scatters the “seeds of the Word” in the various customs and cultures, preparing the peoples of the most varied regions to accept the Gospel message. This awareness cannot fail to instil in Christ’s disciples an attitude of openness and dialogue towards those with different religious convictions. Indeed, it is only right to listen to what the Spirit can also suggest to “others”. They can offer useful hints for reaching a deeper understanding of what the Christian already possesses in the “revealed deposit“. Dialogue can thus open the way to a proclamation that is better suited to the personal conditions of the listener.
However, if the proclamation is to be effective, a lived witness remains crucial. Only the believer who lives what he professes with his lips has any hope of being heard. One must bear in mind that circumstances at times do not permit an explicit proclamation of Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour of all. It is then that the witness of a life that is respectful, chaste, detached from riches and free from the powers of this world, in a word, the witness of holiness, can reveal all its convincing power, even if offered in silence.