May 29, 2020

Christ the Cornerstone

Come, Holy Spirit, ignite our hearts with the fire of your love

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

The publication date for this column is on Friday, May 29, the Feast of Pope St. Paul VI.

Born in Italy in 1920, and named Giovanni Battista (John Baptist) Montini, this contemporary saint was elected pope in 1963 and took the name “Paul” after the great missionary disciple who brought Christ to the Gentiles. Pope Paul is best known for three things: 1) His work implementing the teaching of the Second Vatican Council, 2) his defense of human life in the encyclical “Humane Vitae,” and 3) his commitment to the evangelizing mission of the Church.

This year, the Feast of Pope

St. Paul VI comes just two days before the Solemnity of Pentecost, which we celebrate this Sunday. Pentecost, which is always observed 50 days after Easter, is the culmination of our observance of the joyous mystery of our redemption.

By sending the Holy Spirit, the risen Lord shares with the disciples (and with us) the new life that he gained as a result of his self-sacrificing death and his glorious resurrection. This is the love of God poured forth into our hearts, the fire ignited by the Holy Spirit dwelling within us.

The encyclical promulgated by Pope Paul VI on Dec. 8, 1975, “Evangelii Nuntiandi” (“Proclaiming the Gospel”), is a call to embrace the gifts of the Holy Spirit in carrying out the Church’s essential mission. “There is no doubt,” the Holy Father writes, “that the effort to proclaim the Gospel to the people of today, who are buoyed up by hope but at the same time often oppressed by fear and distress, is a service rendered to the Christian community and also to the whole of humanity” (“Evangelii Nuntiandi,” #1).

Evangelization is made possible only by the fire of divine love, which blazes in the hearts of women and men who follow Jesus Christ and who share with others the Good News that speaks directly to people “oppressed by fear and distress.”

In the second reading for the Solemnity of Pentecost (1 Cor 12: 3b-7, 12-13), St. Paul tells us that “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3). He goes on to say that “There are different kinds of spiritual gifts but the same Spirit; there are different forms of service but the same Lord; there are different workings but the same God who produces all of them in everyone” (1 Cor 12:4-6).

In other words, the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit takes different forms in each of us, but what we all have in common is the fire of God’s love which burns, either brightly or dimly, in our hearts.

As missionary disciples who have witnessed the Lord’s resurrection and experienced the joy of Easter, it’s our responsibility to call on the Holy Spirit, asking for renewed courage and enthusiasm in our efforts to proclaim the Gospel through our words and our actions.

Pope St. Paul VI was a strong advocate for the missionary zeal that comes to us as a gift of the Holy Spirit. In “Evangelii Nuntiandi,” he poses “three burning questions” (#4) which he says must be kept in mind as we go about the proclamation of the Gospel today:

  • In our day, what has happened to that hidden energy of the Good News, which is able to have a powerful effect on man’s conscience?
  • To what extent and in what way is that evangelical force capable of really transforming the people of this century?
  • What methods should be followed in order that the power of the Gospel may have its effect?

In this encyclical, Pope Paul teaches that “To reveal Jesus Christ and his Gospel to those who do not know them has been, ever since the morning of Pentecost, the fundamental program which the Church has taken on as received from her Founder.” Without the gift of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost, the Church would not be able to carry out her mission. “The whole of the New Testament, and in a special way the Acts of the Apostles, bears witness to a privileged and in a sense exemplary moment of this missionary effort which will subsequently leave its mark on the whole history of the Church” (#51).

Today, as we struggle to overcome the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we need the gift of the Holy Spirit more than ever.

Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit will fill our hearts with a new spirit of evangelization; that our hearts will be ignited by the fire of God’s love; and that we will be united as never before in unleashing the “hidden energy” of the Good News of Jesus Christ. †

Local site Links: