Homily by Archbishop Charles Jude Scicluna
The Gospel we have just heard from Chapter 20 of John, brings us back to the first day, to the day of the resurrection. Fifty days ago we celebrated Easter and this is the day of Pentecost, 50 days after Easter where the people of God, the Jewish people, made a great festival which was a harvest festival. But it was a festival that actually celebrated God’s creation and was also a festival of thanksgiving.
When you look at the fields around our countryside you realise that most of the grains and most of the crops are now being harvested because we are on the same sort of level as the level of Palestine where Jesus lived 2,000 years ago. And so we can understand why Pentecost is the festival of the harvest.
On the same day of Easter, on Easter Sunday, the Lord appears to his disciples and shows them his true identity when he shows them his hands and his side. His wounds convinced them that it is the Master. And the disciples are filled with joy when they see the Lord. And he repeats his greeting “Peace be with you” (Jn 20:21). He sends them forth, gives them a mission and then he does something which I would like to share with you in a more profound way.
He breathed on them and said: “Receive the Holy Spirit” (Jn 20:22). Now Jesus breathing on his disciples reminds us of the first book of the Bible, the Book of Genesis where the Lord in the act of creation of humankind, breathes into this image made out of clay and brings forth, creates Adam the first man. And Jesus repeats this gesture, this movement of breathing on his disciples. We are at a new beginning, we are at a new creation. He had said: “I will make everything new” and this is what we celebrate on this day, the feast of Pentecost.
The fact is that the Holy Spirit not only tells me where I am but also brings the remedy because the forgiveness of sins is also through the Spirit.
And a beautiful meditation on the eve of Pentecost 2010, Pope Benedict reflected on the beautiful title the Church uses to invoke and address the Holy Spirit as a creator spirit – Creator Spiritus. And Pope Benedict said that when we look at a beautiful landscape, when we enjoy the countryside, the beautiful view, we are actually looking at the creation that comes forth from the Spirit of God. And we realise that we are in good hands, we are in the hands of the Spirit of the Lord.
The Spirit of the Lord is a good friend of us, he stands by the Lord as our Paraclete, our advocate but only to stand by us I had the opportunity to share with you a couple of Sundays ago, but also to tell us the truth. A good friend will always speak the truth to you. And that is what the Spirit does. That is why Jesus calls him the Spirit of truth. He is not there to condemn you but he is there to be a guide and a counsellor, a good guide and a good counsellor will not give you fake news, he will tell you the truth.
And so that is why when Jesus breathes on his disciples, this great gift of the Holy Spirit, he talks about the forgiveness of sin. I realise that I am a sinner because somebody has actually loved me so much to tell me where I am not O.K. The fact is that the Holy Spirit not only tells me where I am but also brings the remedy because the forgiveness of sins is also through the Spirit. It is so important to realise as St John Paul II taught in his great document on the Holy Spirit Dominum et Vivificantem that Easter is actually the work of the Holy Spirit.
The Church in her prayer realises that Jesus Christ gave life to the world and that is what his breath on his disciples means: he is giving life, new life to the world by the work of the Holy Spirit.
I would like to share with you a prayer which we priests say in secret; you know we have some prayers where you see us, we are not mumbling really, but the rubrics – the indications of the Liturgy say that now the priest will pray silently. Usually it is a prayer where we recognise that we are sinners and that we really are indebted with the Lord’s mercy and this is what the priest, before receiving communion prays: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the living God, who by the will of the Father and the work of the Holy Spirit, through your death, gave life to the world”. What a beautiful prayer this is and I would like to share it with you. The Church in her prayer realises that Jesus Christ gave life to the world and that is what his breath on his disciples means: he is giving life, new life to the world by the work of the Holy Spirit.
And so we pray today that we bathe in the light, in the love of the Holy Spirit who wants to make of each one of us a new creation. “Come Holy Spirit and kindle our hearts with your truth and your love”.
✠ Charles Jude Scicluna
Archbishop of Malta
First Reading: Acts 2, 1-11
Psalm: 103 (104), 1ab.24aċ.29bċ-30.31.34
Second Reading: 1 Cor 12, 3b-7.12-13
Gospel: Jn 20, 19-23
More photos: ritratti.knisja.mt/