Rorate Caeli

Fontgombault Sermon - Pentecost: We must remain on the teaching of the Lord

Fontgombault Abbey in May

Sermon of the Right Reverend Dom Jean Pateau
Abbot of Our Lady of Fontgombault
(Fontgombault, May 24, 2015)

Replevit totam domum, ubi erant sedentes.
It filled the whole house where they were sitting. (Acts 2:2)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
My dearly beloved Sons,

The Book of the Acts of the Apostles tells of the first moments when the good news of the Gospel is proclaimed. It is a book full of action, as its title indicates, “Acts of the Apostles”.

Yet, in an astonishing way, this book does not begin with actions. Shortly before the Ascension of the Lord, the disciples had received a somewhat paradoxical order: “Not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait there for the promise of the Father” (Acts 1:4), the Holy Ghost that was to come upon them. Those who were called to teach all the nations and to make disciples of them, were first to withdraw from the world and receive the strength of the Holy Ghost. Only then could they be witnesses of the Lord in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the uttermost part of the earth (cf. Acts 1:8).

After the Ascension, the Apostles obeyed the commandment of their Master:

They went up into an upper room, where they were staying. […] All these were persevering with one mind in prayer with the women, and Mary the Mother of Jesus, and with His brethren. (Acts 1:13-14)

On the morning of Pentecost, the unity of the Apostles is emphasized by a redundancy:

They were all together in one place. Erant OMNES pariter in EODEM loco. (Acts 2:1)

The presence of the Apostles in Jerusalem, their unity, their prayer in one mind, all of these emerge as important elements that prepare each of the disciples to the outpouring of the Spirit, Which is going to fill the whole house where they were sitting.

The sequence of the Gospel of St. John that we have read this morning maintains this atmosphere of retreat, as it reads again the last words of the Lord to His disciples before His Passion. The Last words of the conclusion verse, “Arise, let us go hence”, have even been removed, so that we may remain on the teaching of the Lord.

What is the condition so that the Father and the Son can build a house in a heart to make it their abode?

If any one love me, he will keep my word. And my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and will make our abode with him. (Jn 14:23)

When He is about to leave them, the Lord gives His disciples His peace: not the peace that the world wishes or gives, but the peace that is the peace of God. The disciples are going to share this peace while they await the coming of the Holy Ghost.

Peace and unity in prayer are the necessary prerequisites to the gift of the Holy Ghost. The teaching that the Lord has delivered on Pentecost day is clear. The disciple must abandon himself to God’s design. He must be docile, and open himself to God’s action. He will then receive everything that is necessary so that he might carry out his task to serve God, the Church, and his brothers.

The gifts that the Lord promises, and which are noticeable in today’s liturgy, are not minor details. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches:

On that day, the Holy Trinity is fully revealed. Since that day, the Kingdom announced by Christ has been open to those who believe in Him: in the humility of the flesh and in faith, they already share in the communion of the Holy Trinity. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 732)

The Catechism proceeds:

The Holy Spirit is God’s gift. “God is Love” (1 Jn 4:8.16) and love is His first gift, containing all others. “God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.

Because we are dead, or at least wounded, through sin, the first effect of the gift of love is the forgiveness of our sins. The communion of the Holy Spirit (2 Cor 13:13) in the Church restores to the baptized the divine likeness lost through sin. […]

This love (the “charity” of 1 Cor 13) is the source of the new life in Christ, made possible because we have received “power” from the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8).

By this power of the Spirit, God’s children can bear much fruit. He Who has grafted us onto the true vine will make us bear “the fruit of the Spirit: …love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” (Gal 5:22-23) “We live by the Spirit”; the more we renounce ourselves (cf. Mt 16:24-26), the more we “walk by the Spirit” (Gal 5:25). (CCC, n. 733-736)

Within a few months, on next December 8, will open for all men the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy. The Holy Father says:

Mercy is the ultimate and supreme act by which God comes to meet us. Mercy is the fundamental law that dwells in the heart of every person who looks sincerely into the eyes of his brothers and sisters on the path of life. Mercy is the bridge that connects God and man, opening our hearts to the hope of being loved forever despite our sinfulness. (Pope Francis, Bull of Indiction of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, n. 2)

On this Pentecost day, let us ask for one another a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so that we might be clear-sighted as concerns our need of a merciful look of God upon our lives, as well as strong in the hope that the power of this boundless mercy wants but the resurrection of the sinner and that he should live.

May Our Lady, Temple of the Holy Ghost and Mother of Mercy, come along with us on these months of preparation to the great Jubilee. May she grant us to be obedient to the Spirit, by making us remain in the Cenacle with her, and by coming along with us unto the ends of the earth to bear witness to the wonders of God.

Amen, Alleluia.