In his daily homily Pope Francis recalled the conversion of the first pagans to Christianity, explaining that the Holy Spirit brings us beyond our natural limits, and we should not block him with our own plans.
“To use a word of St. John XXIII: it is the Holy Spirit that updates the Church: Really, he really updates it and keeps it going,” the Pope observed in his May 12 daily Mass.
Addressing those present in the Vatican’s Saint Martha guesthouse, the pontiff recounted the day’s first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, in which Peter baptizes a group of pagans and is criticized by the Christian community for doing so because they were “unclean.”
However, when Peter described the vision he had telling him to go to the pagans and how he saw the Holy Spirit descend on them as he did with the Apostles on Pentecost, the Christian community then rejoices that the Gentiles were saved, the Pope continued.
The Roman Pontiff then noted that the Holy Spirit goes where he wills, and that one of the greatest temptations of believers is to block his action by trying to force him to go in one direction or the other.
Drawing attention to how Peter first hesitated to go near the pagans, Pope Francis explained that when he baptized them it was an internal moment of crisis for the early Christian community, because to touch the “unclean” was something “unthinkable.”
“If – for example – tomorrow an expedition of Martians came, and some of them came to us, here ... Martians, right? Green, with that long nose and big ears, just like children paint them... And one says, ‘But I want to be baptized!’ What would happen?”
Continuing, the Bishop of Rome observed how Peter realized the truth through a vision, which is that whatever has been purified by God cannot be called “profane” by anyone else, and that by recounting this to them, his criticizers changed their attitude.
“If then God gave them the same gift he gave to us when we came to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to be able to hinder God?” he asked, quoting the scripture passage.
“When the Lord shows us the way, who are we to say, ‘No, Lord, it is not prudent! No, let’s do it this way,’” the Pope went on to say, adding that “Peter in that first diocese – the first diocese was Antioch – makes this decision: ‘Who am I to admit impediments?’”
This is a “nice word for bishops, for priests and for Christians. Who are we to close doors?” he questioned, pointing out that “In the early Church, even today, there is the ministry of the ostiary (usher).”
“And what did the ostiary do? He opened the door, received the people, allowed them to pass. But it was never the ministry of the closed door, never.”
Reiterating how God left the guidance of the Church “in the hands of the Holy Spirit,” the Roman Pontiff explained: “The Holy Spirit as Jesus said, will teach us everything” and “remind us what Jesus taught us.”
“The Holy Spirit is the living presence of God in the Church,” the Pope observed, and “he keeps the Church going, keeps the Church moving forward. More and more, beyond the limits, onwards.”
Drawing attention to how it is with his gifts that the Holy Spirit guides the Church, Pope Francis stated, “You cannot understand the Church of Jesus without this Paraclete, whom the Lord sends us for this very reason. And he makes unthinkable choices, but unimaginable!”
Concluding his reflections, the Bishop of Rome encouraged participants to “ask the Lord for the grace of docility to the Holy Spirit.”
“Docility in this Spirit, who speaks to us in our heart, who speaks to us in all of life’s circumstances, who speaks to us in the Church's life, in Christian communities, who is always speaking to us.”