Pope Benedict XVI
by Jeff Ziegler
On June 17, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo expressed “grave concern over the FDA’s current process for approving the drug Ulipristal (with the proposed trade name of Ella) for use as an ‘emergency contraceptive.’ Ulipristal is a close analogue to the abortion drug RU-486, with the same biological effect — that is, it can disrupt an established pregnancy weeks after conception has taken place.”
Cardinal DiNardo expressed these concerns as chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, the latest in a line of responsibilities he has assumed in recent years. As recently as 1997, he was simply “Father Dan,” a 48-year-old Pittsburgh parish priest, before he was appointed coadjutor bishop of a small Iowa diocese. At the age of 54, he was appointed coadjutor bishop of Galveston-Houston, and at 58, Pope Benedict created him a cardinal — the first cardinal from a diocese in the South, and the youngest American cardinal since Cardinal Roger Mahony received his red hat in 1991.
Following the consistory of 2007, Pope Benedict appointed Cardinal DiNardo a member of the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (2008) and the Pontifical Council for Culture (2009). In the fall of 2009, he assumed the leadership of the U.S. bishops’ pro-life efforts. He will take part in any conclave that occurs before his eightieth birthday in 2029 and appears destined to be one of the leading American ecclesial figures of the next two decades.
Marian apparitions have always been a sign of God’s love. It truly is one of His greatest graces, which physically shows us the Blessed Mother along with her love, words of encouragement and warnings about the world in which we live. Sometimes the Church Militant heeds her call, but sadly often it doesn’t. This article will only cover a handful of Church approved apparitions (this can be a little tricky, more on this later,) but what it will show is that often the Blessed Mother appears in lands that have experienced great suffering with often more suffering to follow. Her message to bring the world closer to her Son and live according to Jesus’ teachings is one of God’s greatest graces, something that is often met with violent, evil attacks. The miraculous events surrounding her appearances often take place in the presense of great vistas; a window of sorts into God’s loving handiwork. The said could be said about Jesus at The Transfiguration and the Sermon on the Mount.
Something to keep in mind before we begin; during the early days of the Church investigative bodies were the last thing the Church was worried about at a time when the Church was trying to literally stay alive during an array of persecutions. Following the Protestant Reformation, a more detailed structure emerged for investigating appartions. They often took a long time to investigate in order to prevent any hoaxes. Most reported modern day apparitions are not approved. In the 20th Century only 8 of the 300+ reported apparitions were approved. This link from the University of Dayton, a Marianist institution, which houses the largest collection of Marian Apparitions, might be a helpful.
The year was 1300. Though parts of Spain remained under Islamic control, a liberated area, near the Guadalupe River would reveal an amazing find. A cow herder named Gil Cordero would be told by the Blessed Mother to dig, and there he would find holy treasure. Though laughed at by his fellow villagers, his faithful dig yielded a secret burial vault that would house many relics including that of a lifelike carving of the Blessed Mother. It was said to be carved by St Luke and transported to Spain in the sixth century by Bishop Leander, a relative of Pope Gregory the Great.
The vault had been placed there as Islamic armies were making their way to Spain. The lifelike carving, which still exists today, was said to have been processed through the streets of Rome around the year 590 AD, at the direction of Pope Gregory the Great. He had been given the famous carving while he was Papal Legate in Constantinople.
The famous pontiff had ordered this procession during a terrible plague and famine that had engulfed the city, some one hundred and fifty years after the Roman Empire had collapsed. As the procession ended, the assembled crowd saw the Archangel St Michael sheathing his sword, signifying that the famine and plague were over. (One can still see the statue of the Archangel St Michael atop the Castel Sant Angelo which commemorates this momentous event.) The carved statue of the Blessed Mother was then sent to Spain where it remains today, seemingly unscathed after spending years underground during the Muslim conquest.
Years later a young Italian navigator named Christopher Columbus would come to pray at this now famous shrine. He was at the end of his financial rope in seeking backing for a “new way to India.” Soon after his prayer, he was granted an audience with King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella and the rest is history. Few know about this religious side of Columbus. Even fewer know that when he first caught sight of what would be known as the Americas, he had minutes before ordered his crew to pray the Rosary. In gratitude, he named one of the islands he discovered for the site at which his prayers were answered back in Spain, the isle now known as Guadeloupe. Continue reading
If Liberals Lose Big In This Fall's Election, The Professional Left Will Mock The Religious Faithful
This fall all of the hopes and dreams of those who have detested Middle American values stands in the balance. Those values are best exemplified in religious beliefs shared by many faith traditions. However, Catholics, Evangelicals, Orthodox Christians and Orthodox Jews are those to which the angry Professional Left, to use Robert Gibbs (President Obama’s Press Secretary’s) term, will most turn their anger. Some may say this seems a little far-fetched, after all aren’t some of those people from the “Professional Left” religious themselves? Yes, some on the “Professional Left” are religious, but they often go to great pains to say they are not affiliated with any faith tradition. They often classify themselves as “spiritual.”
During the 2008 Presidential Campaign, then Senator Obama made by his own admission his biggest gaffe. The future President, speaking in San Francisco, called those middle Americans of western Pennsylvania, “bitter clingers.” In his own words, the future President described western Pennsylvania residents as hard working salt of the earth folks who clung to “their guns and religion,” presumably because they weren’t enlightened enough to understand the modern world.
Rank and File Conservatives & The Conservative Intelligentsia United In Outrage Over Mosque Near Ground Zero, Not So With Same-Sex Marriage
The proposed mosque set to be built near Ground Zero, site of the September 11, 2001 attacks has brought a sweeping condemnation from both rank and file conservatives and the Conservative Intelligentsia. Now that President Barack Obama has weighed in the matter, seemingly supporting the effort, one can only imagine how this will be used in the fall elections. However, a rift has appeared to have been opened concerning the views of the rank and file conservatives and the Conservative Intelligentsia following the ruling of Judge Vaughn Walker over same-sex marriage. Many of the conservative intelligentsia, along with the establishment wing of the Republican Party has either been silent or voiced the view that the wished the whole gay marriage issue would simply go away. This has led to bewilderment from some conservative voices.
The best Catholic tie in with the efforts to build a mosque on Ground Zero came from the famed conservative columnist Charles Krauthammer, who is Jewish. In his opposition to the mosque being built near Ground Zero, he correctly pointed out that Pope John Paul II ordered Carmelite nuns, who were living right next to Auschwitz, to move closer to a nearby town, since the site had become a rallying point for Jewish identity. Krauthammer correctly pointed out that Christians had been murdered there too and the nuns were doing the heroic deed of praying for the souls of those who were viciously murdered. However, Krauthammer pointed out that the late Polish pontiff felt that it created the wrong perception.
A few short years ago the mere suggestion that the Son of God, His Apostles and Saints would face arrest for hate speech would have seemed absolutely ludicrous. However, events have spiraled out of control across the western world. In his opinion that strikes down California’s recently voter approved marriage law, Judge Vaughn Walker wrote that those who speak in the name of religion to put across their views that same sex marriage is wrong are “harmful to gays and lesbians.”
Across Europe and Canada, faithful Christians speaking out for traditional marriage face the threat of being hauled off to court for citing the teachings of the Catholic Church and various Evangelical Churches. Where will this all end? Some see a great persecution coming against the Christian faithful. Though possible, one need remember that the Christian faith always grew when persecuted.
The Catholic Church has long taught that some individuals have an inclination toward same sex attraction; they are to be loved as all people are to be loved. The Church teaches that these feelings are not to be acted upon. The Church goes on to teach that all individuals are given a cross to carry in this world and for those who are same sex attracted; this is their cross. An organization exists for those who are same sex attracted called COURAGE. It has many chapters and members.
Recently a profile was done in The New York Times on same sex attracted Eve Tushnet, the Ivy League educated Catholic daughter of Harvard Law professors. She has chronicled her growth in Catholicism and the logic of the Church’s teachings on sexuality. For years the Catholic Church took some heat from some quarters of Christianity for not stating that anyone who is same sex attracted would be going to hell. The Church now is facing a maelstrom of vitriol from those who claim the Church hates homosexuals.
For the Church to change her teachings would be to deny not only what Christ said (Matthew 11:20-24,) but his Apostles, not to mention Saint Paul’s lengthy discourse on the subject (Romans 1:26-28, 1 Corinthians 6:9-10.) In addition to the Apostles and saints, there is a rich history of saints writing on the subject, particularly the Early Church Fathers like Saint Augustine, St Justin Martyr, St. Basil and St John Chrysostom as well as Church intellectuals like St Thomas Aquinas, Saint Albert the Great (the greatest scientist of his time,) along with mystics like St Catherine of Sienna to name but a few. To say that the greatest minds of their respective eras were all wrong is simply breathtaking.
Many who disagree with the Church tend to forget that homosexuality was much more common and approved of by the Roman government in the early Christian era than it is even in 2010. Many in the upper echelons of Greek and Roman culture experimented with all sorts of sexual practices. It would have been far easier for Jesus, the apostles, saints and popes to approve of this conduct than it would to disapprove of it. Christianity might have grown at a faster pace. However, there was a reason for this swimming against the tide, and the faithful accepted it.
As Europe emerged from the Dark Ages, a growing populace happy for good news and grateful for these positive turn of events in their lives openly and without apology made the Catholic faith the center of their lives. They believed in the Word of God, even if they couldn’t read or write. They hung on to every word of those who could read. Even during the workday, if at all possible those working in the fields would briefly slip into town to see the priest raise the Host during the Consecration at Mass. Though their lives were full of toil and often misery (they weren’t allowed the liberty of attending daily Mass) the people of this era used any opportunity they could to make religion a part of their daily life.
Fast forward a thousand years and we can certainly see that daily life has shifted some 180 degrees. Many of the elite often snicker or poke fun at those who are serious about their faith. Even those who are considered serious in their faith pursuit, often hide the true extent of their faith, for fear of being called a holy roller.
The secular talking heads tell us that we should be more like the modern world we are trying to help and change. Religion should be more like the popular culture they tell us. We should try to glean words of wisdom from thinkers like Voltaire, Marx, Freud and Alinsky and entertainers like Madonna, Lady Gaga or even Jimmy Buffet. Yet, have these secular talking heads ever taken their own advice? Have these leftists ever thought, “why was Pope John Paul II, Ronald Reagan or Margaret Thatcher so popular? What could we learned from them? “ (For more on this read my column, If You Like What The Political Left Has Done To Politics, Look At What The Religious Left Has Done To Religion (Left It In Tatters) along with my article, The Construct of Rebellion.
Some might say wasn’t Jesus somewhat of a cultural outcast, like modern day pop culture figures? Well Jesus certainly enjoyed some fun; otherwise he wouldn’t have been at the wedding feast performing his first miracle by turning water into wine no less. However, he was hardly the type of person that endorsed the “its Five o Clock somewhere lifestyle.” He forgave the woman caught in adultery, but told her to “sin no more.” Incidentally, she probably had more clothes on than some who show up at church on Sunday. However, that’s another story.
Our educated world makes excuses for the behavior of those pop stars like Lady Gaga who make edgy and sacrilegious videos and show up in public (at the New York Yankees club house) clad only in undergarments. Those illiterate peoples that lived in Europe one thousand years ago were smart enough to know that despite the corruption they knew existed in the Church, they were far better off listening to the Teachings of the Church than the whims of the world in which they lived. They and their forbearers had witnessed violent feudal warlords that had plunged Europe into centuries of horrific darkness; a darkness that we face today if we listen to the sirens of militant secularism who want us to return to the dying days of Rome.
We often forget it was in those dying days of Rome that many of the elites longed for the days of their elders, when Christianity was outlawed and orgies were commonplace at homes of the movers and shakers of Roman high society, and violent spectacles took place at the coliseum. Today their descendants are gaga over the likes of Lady Gaga, and treat abortion as if it were some sort of coming of age ritual. Continue reading
My co-blogger Tim recently highlighted the following statement from Pope Benedict’s latest social encyclical, Caritas in Veritate:
The global market has stimulated first and foremost, on the part of rich countries, a search for areas in which to outsource production at low cost with a view to reducing the prices of many goods, increasing purchasing power and thus accelerating the rate of development in terms of greater availability of consumer goods for the domestic market. Consequently, the market has prompted new forms of competition between States as they seek to attract foreign businesses to set up production centres, by means of a variety of instruments, including favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market. These processes have led to a downsizing of social security systems as the price to be paid for seeking greater competitive advantage in the global market, with consequent grave danger for the rights of workers, for fundamental human rights and for the solidarity associated with the traditional forms of the social State. Systems of social security can lose the capacity to carry out their task, both in emerging countries and in those that were among the earliest to develop, as well as in poor countries. Here budgetary policies, with cuts in social spending often made under pressure from international financial institutions, can leave citizens powerless in the face of old and new risks; such powerlessness is increased by the lack of effective protection on the part of workers’ associations.
Now in this passage, the Pope makes a number of factual and causal claims. First, he claims that the global market has led countries to “attempt to attract foreign businesses” by adopting “favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market.” Second, the Pope claims that these reforms (i.e. adopting “favourable fiscal regimes and deregulation of the labour market”) have led to “a downsizing of social security systems” and “cuts in social spending.”
Most of us are aware of the Christian exodus from the Middle East where the fundamental problem is Muslim intolerance towards non-Muslims.
Father Samir hopes to change all of that.
In this interview with Father Samir Khalil Samir done by Mirko Testa of Zenit, Father Samir explains the possibility of learning form Lebanon’s coexistence between Christians and Muslims:
The coexistence of Christians and Muslims is good for civil society because their mutual questioning of the other’s faith acts as a stimulus and leads to deeper understanding, says a Jesuit priest who is an expert in Islamic studies.
This is the opinion of Father Samir Khalil Samir, an Islamic scholar and Catholic theologian born in Egypt and based in the Middle East for more than 20 years.
He teaches Catholic theology and Islamic studies at St. Joseph University in Beirut, is founder of the CEDRAC research institute and is author of many articles and books, including “111 Questions on Islam.”
ZENIT spoke with Father Samir regarding the June 21-22 meeting in Lebanon of the Oasis International Foundation, which seeks to promote mutual knowledge among Christians and Muslims.
ZENIT: Why was the subject of education placed at the center of the Oasis meeting this year?
Father Samir: The problem we are experiencing both in the Church as well as in Islam is that we are not always able to transmit the faith easily to the new generation and the generations to come. The question we ask ourselves is: In what way should we rethink the faith for young people, but also in parishes or in mosques, in the talks that religious address to their faithful?
This is what we want: to make a study of the Christian experience in Lebanon, and the Muslim Sunni experience and the Muslim Shiite experience in this ambit. We want to compare, to identify even if it is only the common difficulties, to seek together an answer to them. I think this has been the main objective of our meeting in face of a dialogue of cultures in the Christian and the Muslim faith.
ZENIT: What effect would the disappearance of the Churches of the Middle East have on the Christian and Muslim world?
Father Samir: The disappearance of the Churches of the Middle East would be, first of all, a loss for Christianity, because, as John Paul II said, the Church, as every human being, lives with two lungs: the Eastern and the Western. Now, the Eastern Churches were born here in the land of Jesus, in the territories of the Middle East, where Christ lived. And if this experience, these millennia of tradition are lost, then the loss will be for the whole Church, both of the Christians of the East as well as the Christians of the West.
However, there is more to this: if Christian leave the Middle East, in other words, if the Muslims remain alone, an element of stimulation will be lacking — represented, in fact, by that element of diversity that Christians can contribute. Diversity of faith, because Muslims ask us every day: How is it that you say that God is One and Triune? This is contradictory. And we say: How is it that you say that Mohammed is a prophet? What are, for you, the criteria of prophecy? Does Mohammed answer to these criteria? And what does it mean that the Quran is from God? In what sense do you say that it descended on Mohammed? We say that the Bible is divine, but mediated through human authors, whereas Muslims want to remove Mohammed’s mediation.
These questions that they ask us and that we ask are a stimulus, not only for civilization, but also for civil society. It would be a great loss because the risk exists of wishing to found a society, a state based on the sharia, that is, on something that was established in the seventh century in the region of the Arabian Peninsula, even if for Muslims the sharia is generic and true for all centuries and all cultures.
And this is Islam’s great problem: how can Islam be re-thought today? The absence of Christians would make the problem even more acute.
Happy Independence Day, folks! — Here is a roundup of some choice reads as we commemorate the birth of our nation:
- Because it’s worth reading again: The Declaration of Independence – view high-resolution images of the original. (This is a part of the “Charters of Freedom”, an exhibit of the National Archives, on the documents that shaped our history.
- Catholic Sources and the Declaration of Independence by Rev. John C. Rager. The Catholic Mind XXVIII, no. 13 (July 8, 1930), looks at synergies between the thought of Aquinas and Bellarmine and that expressed in the Declaration, asking: “Did Jefferson know of Bellarmine?”? (In How Catholic is the Declaration of Independence?, Commonweal takes a look at the “Scholastic-roots-of-democracy theory”; and CatholicHistory.net provides a bibliography on Catholics and the American Founding).
- Learn about Charles Carroll — America’s Catholic Founding Father (Against The Grain).
- What do Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI think about the American Founding?.
- Discover the riches of The Federalist Papers – by way of a commentary by Paul Zummo (The Cranky Conservative), who maintains: “I absolutely believe that an understanding of the Federalist Papers is essential for understanding the U.S. Constitution and, therefore, understanding America.”
- Listen to Johnny Cash recite “I am the Nation”.
Following are two books which I heartily recommend for some engaging historical reading of the American Revolution and our founding fathers. Continue reading
Every four years the sporting world, especially Europe, Africa and Latin America is held in rapt attention by soccer’s World Cup. It can tell us many things about the state of the world, from politics to culture and even religion, and that’s even before we get to the sporting angle. Now for purposes of full disclosure, my favorite sports are college football and college basketball, though having a mother who grew up in Germany has helped me gain some soccer knowledge. Many a book or intellectual statesman from Henry Kissinger on down the line have mused about soccer’s effect on the world, which seems to change each and every World Cup to reflect the sign of the times.
Unlike a relativistic world where social engineering has taken hold, it appears that sports are the world’s last venue where sheer work ethic and determination hold sway. Perhaps this is why sports are so popular in the world, especially Europe’ s social democracies. One should keep in mind that as high as the Super Bowl ratings are for US television, World Cup TV ratings for nations in the championship game are even higher. Let’s look at this World Cup to see what it can tell us about the state of the world.
Some of the political developments from the last World Cup were the rise of the African nations in the soccer world, perhaps reflecting the rise of the continent itself on political and religious grounds. Keep in mind tiny Ghana won the 20 and under World Championship last year defeating Brazil, quite an accomplishment. Also of note in the last World Cup was Germany’s rising national spirit as seen in public displays of flag waving, which had been a post World War II no-no for Deutschland.
The most evil inspired man in the world, attorney Jeffrey Anderson, plans to “sue the sh-t out of [the Catholic Church] everywhere”. Because the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from the Vatican, a court case will move forward allowing for the Vatican to be sued.
“I have known for 25 years that all roads lead to Rome,” said Jeff Anderson, the Minnesota attorney who represents the plaintiff. “This is the beginning for us of a new journey, a uniquely difficult odyssey.”
Anderson, who has represented hundreds of abuse victims and has tried for years to sue the Vatican, said he hoped to persuade a judge that he should be allowed to depose Vatican officials.
Pope Benedict XVI is continuing to fulfill his goal of re-evangelizing the West, Europe and the Americas. His Holiness has opened a new office called the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization of the West.
Rome Reports has a short synopsis on this new office:
Papa Bene understands the rot and atrophy that is so apparent here in Europe and the America’s. When we have bishops pushing for universal healthcare yet remain silent on the genocide of millions of innocent unborn children, there is cause for concern as to what priorities our bishops have.
Pope Benedict on Monday announced the creation of a new Vatican department dedicated to rekindling the Catholic faith in rich, developed countries that are threatened with “the eclipse of a sense of God.”
Brent Bozell of NewsBusters documented Comedy Central’s attacks on the Catholic in a post this past Saturday that I’m reposting here.
It’s been two months since Comedy Central censored Mohammed out of their cartoon “South Park.” Even the utterance of the name was bleeped. The blog Revolution Muslim quoted the world’s most notorious terrorist as an inspirational figure. “As Osama bin Laden said with regard to the cartoons of Denmark, ‘If there is no check in the freedom of your words, then let your hearts be open to the freedom of our actions.’”
But there has been no ceasefire in Comedy Central’s war on Christianity. The attacks on Catholic Americans just keep coming. On “The Daily Show” on June 17, fake correspondent Samantha Bee interviewed two priests and two nuns who are watchdogging Goldman Sachs for a liberal interfaith group.
Jon Stewart started the Catholic-bashing in his introduction: “Sometimes it’s easy to spot the villain in a story. Sometimes it’s not.”
The Vatican released a working paper during Pope Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage to Cyprus to prepare the way for a crisis summit of Middle East bishops in Rome. What I take away from this- along with the Holy See’s call for lifting the blockade of Gaza- is something of a vindication for my more raw views urging for a sea change in American Catholic opinion and action regarding the overall situation in the Middle East, and in Israel-Palestine in particular.
It’s a long road to reunion with our fellow brothers in Christ the Orthodox, but it’s an important step nonetheless!
Homily given by Pope Benedict on Pentecost Sunday on May 15, 2005:
Dear Brothers in the Episcopate and in the Priesthood,
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
The First Reading and the Gospel of Pentecost Sunday offer us two great images of the mission of the Holy Spirit. The reading from the Acts of the Apostles speaks of how, on the day of Pentecost, under the signs of a strong wind and fire, the Holy Spirit sweeps into the community of the disciples of Jesus who are in prayer, thus bringing the Church into being.
For Israel, Pentecost – celebration of the harvest – had become the celebration marking the conclusion of the Covenant on Mt Sinai. In wind and fire, God made his presence known to the people and then gave them the gift of his Law, the Ten Commandments. In this singular way was the work of liberation, begun with the Exodus from Egypt, brought to fulfilment: human freedom is always a shared freedom, a “togetherness” of liberty. Common freedom lasts only in an ordered harmony of freedom that reveals to each person his or her limits.
In this way the gift of the Law on Mt Sinai was not a restriction nor an abolition of freedom, but the foundation of true liberty. And since a correct human ordering finds stability only if it comes from God and if it unites men and women in the perspective of God, the Commandments that God himself gives us cannot be lacking in a correct ordering of human freedom.
In this way, Israel fully became a people, through the Covenant with God on Mt Sinai. Israel’s encounter with God on Sinai could be considered to be the foundation and the guarantee of its existence as a people. The wind and fire, which enveloped the community of Christ’s disciples gathered in the Upper Room, becomes a further development of the event of Mt Sinai and gives it new fullness.
They were gathered in Jerusalem on that day, according to what is written in the Acts of the Apostles: “devout Jews of every nation under heaven” (Acts 2: 5). Here is made manifest the characteristic gift of the Holy Spirit: all understood the words of the Apostles: “each one heard these men speaking his own language” (Acts 2: 6). The Holy Spirit gives understanding.
Overcoming the “breach” begun in Babel – the confusion of hearts, putting us one against the other – the Spirit opens borders.
The People of God who found its first configuration on Mt Sinai, now becomes enlarged to the point of recognizing no limitations. The new People of God, the Church, is a people that derives from all peoples. The Church is catholic from her beginning and this is her deepest essence.
St Paul explains and underlines this in the Second Reading when he says: “It was in one Spirit that all of us, whether Jew or Greek, slave or free, were baptized into one body. All of us have been given to drink of the one Spirit” (I Cor 12: 13).
The Church must always become anew what she already is; she must open the borders between peoples and break down the barriers between class and race. In her, there cannot be those who are forgotten or looked down upon. In the Church there are only free brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ. The wind and fire of the Holy Spirit must continually break down those barriers that we men and women continue to build between us; we must continually pass from Babel – being closed in on ourselves – to Pentecost.
Thus, we must continually pray that the Holy Spirit opens us and gives us the grace of understanding, so that we become the People of God deriving from all peoples. St Paul tells us more along these lines: in Christ, who as the one Bread feeds all of us in the Eucharist and draws us to him in his Body wracked on the Cross, we must become only one body and one spirit.
The second image of the sending of the Spirit that we find in the Gospel is much more hidden. Exactly in this way, however, all of the greatness of the Pentecost event is perceived. The Risen Lord passes through the closed doors and enters the place where the disciples are, and greets them twice with the words: “Peace be with you”.
We continually close our doors; we continually want to feel secure and do not want to be disturbed by others and by God. And so, we can continually implore the Lord just for this, that he come to us, overcoming our closure, to bring us his greeting: “Peace be with you”.
This greeting of the Lord is a bridge that he builds between heaven and earth. He descends to this bridge, reaching us, and we can climb up on this bridge of peace to reach him. On this bridge, always together with him, we too must reach our neighbour, reach the one who needs us. It is in lowering ourselves, together with Christ, that we rise up to him and up to God. God is Love, and so the descent, the lowering that love demands of us, is at the same time the true ascent. Exactly in this way, lowering ourselves, coming out of ourselves, we reach the dignity of Jesus Christ, the human being’s true dignity.
The Lord’s greeting of peace is followed by two gestures that are decisive for Pentecost: the Lord wants the disciples to continue his mission: “As the Father has sent me, so I send you” (Jn 20: 21).
After this, he breathes on them and says: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive men’s sins, they are forgiven them; if you hold them bound, they are held bound” (Jn 20: 23). The Lord breathes on the disciples, giving them the Holy Spirit, his own Spirit. The breath of Jesus is the Holy Spirit.
We recognize here, in the first place, an allusion made to the story of creation in the Book of Genesis, where it is written: “The Lord God formed man out of the clay of the ground and blew into his nostrils the breath of life” (Gn 2: 7). Man is this mysterious creature who comes entirely from the earth, but in whom has been placed the breath of God. Jesus breathes on the Apostles and gives them the breath of God in a new and greater way.
In people, notwithstanding all of their limitations, there is now something absolutely new: the breath of God. The life of God lives in us. The breath of his love, of his truth and of his goodness. In this way we can see here too an allusion to Baptism and Confirmation, this new belonging to God that the Lord gives to us. The Gospel Reading invites us to this: to live always within the breath of Jesus Christ, receiving life from him, so that he may inspire in us authentic life, the life that no death may ever take away.
To his breath, to the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Lord joins the power of forgiveness. We heard earlier that the Holy Spirit unites, breaks down barriers, leads us one to the other. The strength that opens up and overcomes Babel is the strength of forgiveness.
Jesus can grant forgiveness and the power to forgive because he himself suffered the consequences of sin and dispelled them in the flame of his love. Forgiveness comes from the Cross; he transforms the world with the love that is offered. His heart opened on the Cross is the door through which the grace of forgiveness enters into the world. And this grace alone is able to transform the world and build peace.
If we compare the two events of Pentecost – the strong wind of the 50th day and the gentle breath of Jesus on the evening of Easter – we might think about this contrast between the two episodes that took place on Mt Sinai, spoken of in the Old Testament. Continue reading