Be open to the surprises of the Holy Spirit, Pope Francis advises

Pope Francis says Mass at the chapel of Santa Marta house in the Vatican, April 11, 2016. Credit: L'Osservatore Romano.
Pope Francis says Mass at the chapel of Santa Marta house in the Vatican, April 11, 2016. Credit: L'Osservatore Romano.

.- In his homily Thursday Pope Francis stressed the need to be open to the novelty of the Holy Spirit, by discerning new movements and directions without being immediately closed off from them.

Francis asked Mass-goers at the Santa Marta chapel April 28 how the Church responds when faced with something new, and perhaps never done before, clarifying that this is “not worldly newness, like fashions and clothes, but the newness and surprises of the Spirit, because the Spirit always surprises us.”

The answer, he said, is “by meeting, listening, discussing and praying before the final decision.”

This is the same method the Church has used since the beginning, and is how she answers resistance based on assertions such as “it was never done this way,” or “you must do it like this.”

This process of gathering to speak and pray about an issue is “the so-called synodality of the Church, in which the communion of the Church is expressed,” Francis observed, noting that it is the Holy Spirit who creates this communion.

“What does the Lord ask of us? Docility to the Spirit. What does the Lord ask us? Not to be afraid, when we see that it’s the Spirit who calls us,” he said.

He focused his homily on the passage from the day’s first reading in Acts 15, which recounts the Council of Jerusalem. It was the first meeting in which the disciples discussed whether or not the Church ought to impose Mosaic Law, including circumcision, on pagan converts.

In his homily, the Pope said that it was the Holy Spirit who was “the protagonist” from the beginning. “It’s the Spirit who does everything, who carries the Church forward, (even) with her problems” and when persecution breaks out, he added.

The Holy Spirit is also the one who gives believers strength to remain in the faith, even in times “of resistance and fury from the doctors of the law.”

Francis noted that in the case of the Council of Jerusalem, there was a double resistance to the Spirit’s work: that of those who believed that “Jesus came only for the chosen people” and that of those who wanted to impose the Mosaic Law on pagan converts.

“There was a great confusion over this,” he said, explaining that the Holy Spirit put their hearts “on a new path: they were surprised by the Spirit.”

Suddenly the apostles “found themselves in situations that they would have never believed … the Spirit brought a certain novelty, certain things that were never done. Never. Neither were they imagined. That the pagans would receive the Holy Spirit, for example.”

“(They) had a hot potato in their hands and they didn’t know what to do,” Francis continued, noting how the apostles were able to resolve the issue by gathering to discuss it.

He pointed to how at one point the entire assembly fell silent in order to listen to the testimony of Paul and Barnabas, who recounted the signs and works God had done in and among the nations.

Francis stressed the importance of listening, explaining that when a person is afraid to listen, “they do not have the Spirit in their heart.”

It’s also important to listen “with humility,” the Pope added, noting how it was only after they listened to Paul and Barnabas that the Church decided the pagan converts weren’t obliged to undergo circumcision.

This decision was communicated though a letter, but “the protagonist is the Holy Spirit,” he said.

Just as he did for St. Paul and Barnabas, the Spirit stops us and redirects our path, giving us the patience and courage to walk along the path of Jesus and to be strong in the face of martyrdom, he said.

Pope Francis concluded his homily by for the grace to understand how the Church moves forward, to be open to “the surprises of the Spirit,” and for each person “to have the grace of docility to the Spirit, to go along the path that the Lord Jesus wants for each one of us and for the entire Church.”

Tags: Catholic News, Pope Francis, Holy Spirit, Pope Francis homilies, Discernment