“Come, Holy Spirit, come!
And from your celestial home
Shed a ray of light divine!”
As we gather together today on this great Feast of Pentecost through this video, we ask the Holy Spirit to inspire our words, our thoughts, our listening.
As you know, Pentecost means 50 days - 50 days after Easter. This Sunday we celebrate the feast of the Gift of the Spirit on the apostles, which is also the feast of the birth of the Church.
This story of Pentecost tries to express something of a profound experience that in fact goes beyond any words. But what we know is that, without the event of Pentecost, which led the apostles out of the Upper Room to announce the Good News of the Risen Christ to the Jewish pilgrims gathered in Jerusalem, we would not have received the Gospel. We would not be here today celebrating this great feast of Pentecost in our parishes, communities, and families.
If we are Christians today, if we are meditating on these readings given to us by the liturgy, it is because we ourselves, like the first apostles, have experienced inner Pentecost which has brought us out of the cenacle of our fears and confinement to gather as Church, a communion-in-mission. We are connected today because we have welcomed in our lives an experience of the Spirit that made us feel the gift of faith, the strength of God's love, the peace of heart when we turn to Him, the missionary impulse to go out to meet others and announce to all the hope that life is always stronger than death. Yes, if the Church still exists today, it is because so many baptized have experienced and recognized these true fruits of the Spirit which are joy, love, peace, goodness, faithfulness, forbearance…
I therefore invite you to remember those inner Pentecosts in which you were able to experience, like the apostles, these gifts of the Spirit. Maybe some moments when you received a burning of the heart that makes love, charity, and hope grow; or you felt an inexpressible joy that can only be shared. Maybe you will remember a gentle light that makes it possible to grasp and name what you were experiencing, or the smooth sound of a wind that moved you inwardly and gave you the ability to recognize and speak the language of others. Yes, let us take the time to give thanks to the Lord for these experiences of the Spirit that have marked our lives in the daily life of our relationships or in more extraordinary events. Let us thank the Lord who has given us the opportunity to become more and more Pentecostal pilgrims, missionaries of the Risen Lord walking together to be in this broken world the Church of Christ called to be sign and instrument of the unity of the human family.
For my part, several blessed experiences of the presence of the Spirit come to mind. I will always remember the closing Mass of the Synod on youth in October 2018. All of us, participants in the synod including lay observers and experts, had been invited to take part to the entrance procession. As we walked into the Basilica we could suddenly see in front of us this huge representation of the Holy Spirit and around us this crowd of people from all nations singing together. I was moved to tears, feeling an unspeakable joy and having the impression of living a historic moment after this one-month assembly in which we had experienced the great breath of the Spirit that made us discern missionary synodality as the way to be the Church today with the young people.
I could also mention more recently the experience we had at the General Secretariat of the Synod with a group of experts to prepare the Instrument Laboris (Working Document) for the next October assembly. It was a week of prayer, reading, working, and discerning together using the synodal method of spiritual conversation. We contemplated the fruits of the synodal process in the diversity of the local Churches and listened carefully to the Holy Spirit speaking through the Final Documents of the 7 continental ecclesial assemblies. We had a very collaborative work that gave us the Pentecostal touch that unity can be given in listening and dialogue at the service of a process that moves the Church to retrieve the missionary impetus of the first apostles. Seeking to put into words what the Spirit is saying through the voices of the continental assemblies, in order to discern the points to be taken into account for the next step of the synod made us breathe the breath of Pentecost.
For synodality is a process of nomination; it is a question of putting words to an experience of the Church which, like in the event of the Pentecost, constitutes itself as a missionary-community by an act of language. That is to say an act of speech to communicate to others in a way that fosters communion what has been listened to and received from Christ. The Spirit, always new, is the same one who, as at Pentecost, still today summons us to a synod, puts us together like the apostles "all in one place together" in a relational dynamic that makes each one feel reached in his or her own language. The Pentecost style is the synodal style of a welcoming Church that enlarges the space of its tent to listen to everyone.
We can give thanks for the initial audacity of the apostles, inhabited by the fire of the Spirit, transformed by the presence of God, who, by going out to meet the crowd of Jews from all nations, gave birth to a Church as People of God on the way we can be part of.
Today again, through this synod 2021-2024 convoked for all by Pope Francis to embrace the path of synodality that has been discerned as God's call for the Church of the 3rd millennium, we have received the promise of living a new Pentecost. We are together on this journey led by the Spirit towards a new birth of the Church in the process of coming into being. It is a long journey of engendering, not without the labors of childbirth, to get out of the ruts of the clerical Church. It is not easy; we may go through ups and downs, but we know this new birth will not take place without us. As members of the People of God clothed with the same baptismal dignity and inhabited by the Spirit, we all are to be protagonists of this New Pentecost. If we are open to the Spirit of Pentecost, like the first apostles we will open a path to build a “culture of encounter” in this fragmented world and to witness the plural unity of the human family, image of the triune God.
Sr. Nathalie Becquart, xmcj
Sr. Nathalie Becquart, xmcj
Nathalie Becquart is a Xaviere sister, Missionary of Christ-Jesus, a French Ignatian-inspired order. She graduated from the HEC School of Management, Paris in 1992, with a Master's in Entrepreneurship, and she obtained a double canonical Baccalaureate degree in Philosophy and Theology in 2006 from the “Centre Sèvres-Facultés Jésuites de Paris,” supplemented by training in Sociology at the EHESS (2004-2006). In 2019-2020 she specialized in Ecclesiology, doing research on Synodality at the Boston College School of Theology and Ministry. For 25 years, she was involved in youth ministry and served as Director of the National Service for the Evangelization of Youth and Vocations of the French Bishops' Conference from 2012 to 2018. She took part in the Synod on Youth as an observer in 2018, and became consultor to the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops in May 2019. On February 6, 2021, she was appointed by Pope Francis as Undersecretary of the Synod of Bishops as well as a member of the Dicastery for Communication in December 2021. A renowned lecturer and speaker, she is the author of numerous publications on synodality and synods, young people and youth ministry, vocations and religious life, the Church and mission. She was named one of the 100 most influential and inspiring women of 2022 by BBC Radio and Television and one of the 50 over 50 list published by Forbes for Europ, Middle East and Africa 2023.