(Vatican News) At his weekly general audience, Pope Francis says that a Church which does not invoke the Holy Spirit “closes in on itself in sterile and exhausting debates” .
At his weekly general audience this Wednesday, Pope Francis continued with his series of catecheses on the “passion for evangelising”, stressing the centrality of the Holy Spirit to evangelism.
The Holy Father’s catechesis took the form of a meditation on a single line from the Gospel of Matthew: “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19).
The Spirit as “engine of evangelisation”
The Pope began by reflecting on the first word of the passage, “Go”.
When Jesus says this to his disciples – and also to us – he is “not just communicating a word”, the Pope said, but also “communicating the Holy Spirit at the same time.” This, he explained, is because “it is only thanks to Him, thanks to the Spirit, that one can receive Christ’s mission and carry it out” – the Spirit is thus “the engine of evangelisation.”
And what is this task of evangelisation, which the Spirit empowers us to perform? Pope Francis stressed that we are called “not to indoctrinate, not to make proselytes, but to make disciples, that is, to give everyone the opportunity to come into contact with Jesus, to freely know and love Him.”
The Spirit in the early Church
The Pope then turned to consider the role of the Holy Spirit in the first years of the Church, as narrated in the Acts of the Apostles. The protagonist of this book of the Bible, he said, is “not Peter, Paul, Stephen, or Philip, but the Holy Spirit.”
He went on to describe the role played by the Spirit in resolving a famous dispute in the early Church. Christians at the time, the Pope noted, were divided between those who wanted pagan converts to the faith to follow Jewish law, and those who did not.
“How to resolve the dilemma?”, Pope Francis asked. “They might have sought a good compromise between tradition and innovation: some rules are observed, others are left out. Yet the Apostles do not follow this human wisdom, searching for a diplomatic compromise, but adapted to the work of the Spirit.”
“Together, without being divided, despite having different sensitivities and opinions, they listened to the Spirit.”
Calling on the Holy Spirit
Pope Francis brought his catechesis to an end by calling on the Church to invoke the Spirit.
He warned that “as Church, we can have well-defined times and spaces, well-organised communities, institutes and movements, but without the Spirit, everything remains soulless.”
If the Church does not pray to and invoke the Spirit, he continued, it “closes in on itself, in sterile and exhausting debates, in wearisome polarisations, while the flame of mission is extinguished.”
“Dear brothers and sisters,” he concluded, “let us start, and start anew, as Church, from the Holy Spirit … I leave you with this question: do I pray to the Spirit? Do I let myself be guided by Him?"