Pope Francis said Mass on Tuesday morning in the chapel of the Santa Marta residence in the Vatican. Speaking to the congregation following the readings of the day, the Holy Father focused on the pilgrim journey of the Church through history under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Reflecting on the preaching of the Gospel to all nations, narrated in the Acts of the Apostles, the Pope pointed to the need – even and especially today – for Apostolic courage, in order that Christian life not become a “museum of memories.” He noted how many at the time of the events narrated in the book of Acts were troubled to hear the gospel was preached to non-Jews, though Barnabas in Antioch – the reading tells us – is happy to see and understand that the conversions of Pagans there are the work of God.
Do not be afraid of the God of surprises
Pope Francis went on to say how the preaching of salvation to all nations was something prophesied in chapter 60 of Isaiah, though many did not understand the saying:
“They did not understand. They did not understand that God is the God of all things new: ‘I make everything new,’ Our Lord tells us – he tells us that the Holy Spirit has come for this, to renew [all things] – and continually does this work of renewal. This makes some people afraid. In the history of the Church from [Apostolic times] down to the present, how many fears there have been in the face of the Holy Spirit’s surprises. He is the God of surprises.”
Pope Francis went on to discuss the proper attitude and way of distinguishing those novelties, which are of God, from those, which are not. Using the cases of Barnabas and Peter, of whom it is said that both were full of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Father said, “In both of them it is the Holy Spirit who makes us see the truth: on our own we simply cannot; with our intelligence, we cannot.” He went on to say, “We can study the whole history of salvation, we can study the whole of Theology, but without the Spirit we cannot understand. It is the Spirit that makes us realize the truth or – in the words of Our Lord – it is the Spirit that makes us know the voice of Jesus.” Jesus, the Good Pastor, says, “My sheep hear my voice, and I know them and they follow me.”
The Church moves forward with the newness of the Holy Spirit
“The progress of the Church,” said Pope Francis, “is the work of the Holy Spirit,” which makes us listen to the voice of the Lord. “How can I make sure that voice I hear is the voice of Jesus,” asked Pope Francis, “that what I feel I have to do is done by the Holy Spirit?” The answer is by praying:
“Without prayer, there is no place for the Spirit. Ask God to send us this gift: ‘Lord, give us the Holy Spirit so that we may discern at all times what we have to do,’ which is not always one and the same thing. The message is the same: the Church goes on, the Church goes ahead with these surprises, with these changes of the Holy Spirit. We must discern, and to discern must pray, we must ask this grace. Barnabas was full of the Holy Spirit and he knew right away. Peter saw it and said, ‘But who am I to deny Baptism here?’ The Holy Spirit does not lead us into error. ‘But, Father, why make things so complicated? Let us do things the way we have always done, that way we are safer ...’”
The Christian life is not a museum of memories
Pope Francis went on to urge that doing things the way we’ve always done them, simply because “that’s the way we’ve always done them,” is a deadly attitude. He encouraged the faithful, “To risk, with prayer, and then, with the humility to accept what the Spirit,” asks us to change. “This is the way,” he said:
“The Lord told us that if we eat his body and drink his blood, we will have life. Now we continue this celebration, with this word: ‘Lord, You who are here with us in the Eucharist, You, who shall be within us, give us the grace of the Holy Spirit. Give us the grace not to be afraid when the Spirit, with surety, tells me to take a step forward.’ In this Mass, ask this courage, this apostolic courage to bring life and not make of our Christian life a museum of memories.”