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Pope at Mass: The Holy Spirit and historical memory
(Vatican Radio) The Holy Spirit helps Christians remember the history of our faith and the gifts we have received from God. Without this grace, we risk slipping into idolatry. That was Pope Francis’ message at morning Mass on Monday.
Monday’s first reading from the answer that Acts of the Apostles described Paul’s exchange with a group of disciples in and their surprising statement: “We have never even heard that there is a Holy Spirit.” Pope Francis began his homily commenting on these words and the amazement they produced by in Paul.
But he noted, with a certain realism, that the lack of awareness manifested by the Christians two thousand years ago was something confined to the first ages of the faith. “The Holy Spirit,” he said, “is always somewhat ‘the unknown’ of the faith.”
“Even now, many Christians do not know who the Holy Spirit is, what the Holy Spirit is. And you sometimes hear: ‘But I get on well enough with the Father and with Son, because I pray the Our Father to the Father, I have communion with the Son, but I do not know what to do with the Holy Spirit. . .' Or people say, ‘The Holy Spirit is the dove, the one that gives us the seven gifts.’ But in this way the poor Holy Spirit always comes last and finds no place in our lives.”
Pope Francis said that the Holy Spirit is “God active in us”, “God who helps us remember,” who “awakens our memory.” Jesus himself explains this to the Apostles before Pentecost: the Spirit that God will send in my name, “will remind you of everything I have said.”
The opposite, he said, would lead the Christian down a dangerous path:
"A Christian without memory is not a true Christian: he or she is a prisoner of circumstance, of the moment, a man or woman who has no history. He or she does have a history, but does not how to enter into history. It is the Spirit that teaches us how to enter into history. Historical memory ... When in the Letter to the Hebrews, the author says: ‘Remember your fathers in the faith’ – memory; ‘remember the early days of your faith, how you were courageous’ - memory. A memory of our life, of our history, a memory of the moment when we had the grace of meeting Jesus, the memory of all that Jesus has told us.”
“That memory that comes from the heart, that is a grace of the Holy Spirit,” Pope Francis vigorously repeated. He said remembering, “also means remembering one’s own misery, that which makes us slaves, and together with them, the grace of God that redeems us from our miseries”:
“And when a little vanity creeps in, when someone believes themselves to be a winner of the ‘Nobel Prize for Holiness,” then memory is also good for us: ‘But ... remember where I took you from, the very least of the flock. You were behind, in the flock.’ Memory is a great grace, and when a Christian has no memory – this is a hard thing, but it's true - he is not a Christian, he is an idolater. Because he is before a God that has no road, that does not know how to move forward on the road. Our God is moving forward on the road with us, He is among us, He walks with us. He saves us. He makes history with us. Be mindful of all that, and life becomes more fruitful, with the grace of memory.”
Pope Francis concluded with an invitation to Christians to ask the grace of memory, so that they will never be a people that forgets the paths that have been taken, “that they will not forget the graces of their lives; that they will not forget the forgiveness of their sins; that they will not forget that they were slaves and the Lord has saved them.”
Mass was attended by Vatican Radio technicians and staff and employees from the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants, led by head of the Congregation, Cardinal Antonio Maria Vegliò, with the secretary Msgr. Joseph Kalathiparambil, and the Undersecretary Father Gabriel Bentoglio, who concelebrated with the Pope.
After the Mass, Pope Francis wished Msgr Peter Wells, an Assessor for General Affairs at the Secretariat of State, a happy birthday thanking him for the all the good he has done in the service of the Church.