Pope Francis considers the sameness and newness of God's coming at Pentecost
In his Wednesday catechesis series on the Acts of the Apostles, Pope Francis took up the account of Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles 50 days after Easter, in the Upper Room “that was by then their home and where the presence of Mary, Mother of the Lord, was the cohesive element.”
The Apostles were gathered there in prayer, the pope noted, pointing out that “prayer is the ‘lung’ that gives breath to disciples of all times. Without prayer it is not possible to be a disciple of Jesus, without prayer we cannot be Christians! Prayer is the air, it is the lung of Christian life.”
And in the midst of this prayer, the “irruption of God” surprises the Apostles.
The Holy Spirit came with wind and tongues of fire. Francis explained how this presence harkened back to the Old Testament revelations of God.
The Spirit “throws open the doors with the force of a wind that recalls the ruah, the primordial breath.”
The ruah is the “mighty wind” that was “sweeping over the waters” in the very first verses of Genesis, when God created the heavens and the earth.
The Acts of the Apostles describes how this “violent wind” came from heaven and “filled the whole house where they were sitting.”
The wind is then joined by fire.
This fire recalls the burning bush and Sinai, when God gave the 10 Commandments.
In the biblical tradition the fire accompanies the manifestation of God. In the fire, God delivers His living and energetic word (see Hebrews 4: 12) which opens up to the future; fire expresses symbolically His work of warming, illuminating, and infusing wisdom in hearts, His care in testing the resistance of human works, in purifying them and revitalizing them.
There is a key difference in this manifestation, though, the pope noted. In Sinai, it is the voice of God who speaks, but now, in Jerusalem on Pentecost, it is Peter, the rock, the first pope of Christ’s Church.
Though [Peter’s] word is weak and even capable of denying the Lord, when the fire of the Spirit passes through it, it gains strength, becomes capable of piercing hearts and moving to conversion. God in fact chooses what is weak in the world to confuse the strong.
Thus, the Holy Father said, the Church is born of this fire of love that breaks out, and “manifests the strength of the Word of the Risen One imbued with the Holy Spirit.”
The new and definitive Covenant is founded no longer on a law written on stone tablets, but on the action of the Spirit of God Who makes all things new and is engraved in hearts of flesh.