Fr. Francesco Pesce
The Cenacle, where the Apostles had witnessed of the Supper of the Lord, where on many occasions they had gathered together to listen to His Word, becomes now a refuge, a bolt-hole, “for fear of the Jews” – as the Evangelist John recalls. And as the Acts tells us: “ When the time for Pentecost was fulfilled, they were all in one place together” (Acts 2,1).
It is worth remembering that in Jerusalem, the Apostoles did not have many friends, they had challenged the religious and political power, they were considered by most as fanatics followers of one of the many messianic sects in existence in those days. They risked their own lives purely for preaching that Jesus was the Son of God who had truly died and resurrected. Indeed, the Acts soon recount of the first martyr, Stephen, stoned to death.
So what are today’s fears which shut in our groups? Leaving aside the Church of martyrs, which we well know exits and resists to date in many parts of the world, we notice that in the Church and among many Christians is strong the temptation to withdraw in an elitarian faith, often even sectarian, pushing out the world, which is considered as evil, as the enemy to be scared of and to judge rather than love. It sometimes happens that our faith, our Christian community, our ecclesial group, rather than being a place of friendship and announcement of the Gospel, transforms itself into an unbeatable fortress, where those inside judge those outside keeping them out. A “Church that goes forth” according to the teaching of Pope Francis means not to be afraid and not to judge, but quite the contrary be strong in faith and widen the borders of brotherhood.
It is precisely in this climate of fear and closure that the Spirit breaks in. “And suddenly there came from the sky a noise like a strong driving wind, 2 and it filled the entire house in which they were” (Acts 2,2) In that closed cenacle room filled with fear, the Spirit breaks in, acts and transforms it, changes the heart of those disillusioned men, and creates a new brotherhood as far out as to the edge of the earth. That is why everybody was able to hear others speak in their own native language – the Acts reminds us.
Even today the Spirit calls us to look forward, open the boundaries of our heart and listen to the Word. The Gospel is not a script to copy and the Church is not a museum to protect. In its origin, the Cristian community had the courage to welcome in its bosom the non-circumcised, by being inspired by the Holy Spirit. That Church also had the audacity to write down the Good News and had been a pilgrimage to the end of the known World. It is up to ourselves today to pass on in the same way “the Gospel we have received”, without fear, without shame, and everywhere we go in this globalised world. “The Advocate, the holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name – he will teach you everything and remind you of all that (I) told you” (John 14,26).
It is not an easy task to bear witness to the Church of the Pentecost as it is the Church of joy (as the blessed Pope Paul VI reminded us) but also the Church of martyrdom. Do not be fooled in thinking you will not have to pay a price, even personal. Quite the opposite, living the Gospel of the “sacred gestures” locked in the sacristy or hidden behind the smoke of incense is undoubtedly easier. The Spirit instead calls us to embark onto the paths of life, and walk along the way (odos) as the Gospel is called in the Acts of the Apostles. The most difficult language will be that spoken by those we come across with, those we are dealing with, those who are against us, perhaps in the belief they are acting for the good. The Spirit will teach us also this language.