Pope's Address to Pentecostal Community in Caserta

"The Holy Spirit creates 'diversity' in the Church"

Caserta, (Zenit.org) | 3301 hits

Below is a translation of Pope Francis' address Monday to the Pentecostal community known as the Evangelical Church of Reconciliation in Caserta, Italy. After visiting Caserta on Saturday, he returned Monday for a private visit.

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Good morning, Brothers and Sisters,

My brother, Pastor John, began by speaking of the center of our life: to be in the presence of Jesus. And then he said “to walk” in the presence of Jesus. And this was the First Commandment God gave to His people, to our Father Abraham: “Go, walk in my presence and be irreproachable.” And then the people walked: sometimes in the presence of the Lord, many times not in the Lord’s presence. They chose idols, gods … But the Lord has patience; He has patience with the people that walk. I don’t understand a Christian who is still! A Christian who doesn’t walk, I cannot understand! A Christian must walk! There are Christians that walk, but not in the presence of Jesus. It is necessary to pray for these brothers. Also for us, when at certain moments we don’t walk in Jesus’ presence, because we are all also sinners, all of us! If one of you isn’t a sinner, raise your hand … To walk in the presence of Jesus.

Christians who are still – this is harmful, because what is still, which doesn’t walk, is corrupted. Like still water, which is the first water to be corrupted, water that doesn’t run … There are Christians who confuse walking with “turning.” They are not “walkers,” they are errant and turn here and there in life. They are in a labyrinth, and wander, wander there … They are lacking the parrhesia, the audacity to go forward; they are lacking hope. Christians without hope turn in life; they are not capable of going forward. We are secure only when we walk in the presence of the Lord Jesus. He illumines us; He gives us his Spirit to walk well.

I think of Abraham’s grandson Jacob. He was tranquil, there, with his children. However, at a certain point famine arrived, and he said to his children, to his eleven children, ten of whom were guilty of betrayal, for having sold their brother: Go to Egypt , go there and buy food, because we have money but we don’t have food. Take the money and buy there, where it is said there is food.” And they began their journey, but instead of finding food, they found their brother! And this is very beautiful!

When one walks in God’s presence, there is this fraternity. When, instead, we are still, when we look too much to one another, there is another way … which is bad, bad!  -- the way of gossip. And we begin to say, “but you, don’t you know?” “No, no, I’m not for you. I’m for this and that …” “I am for Paul,” “I am for Appollos,” “I am for Peter.” And so we begin, and so from the first moment division began in the Church. And it isn’t the Holy Spirit who creates division! He does something that is quite similar to it, but not division. It’s not the Lord Jesus who creates division! He who creates division is in fact the Envious One, the king of envy, the father of envy: the sower of darnel, Satan. He interferes in communities and creates divisions, always! From the first moment, from the first moment of Christianity, this temptation was in the Christian community. “I belong to this one,” I belong to that one.” “No! I am the Church, you are a sect.” And so the one who wins over us is him, the father of division – not the Lord Jesus who prayed for unity (John 17(), he prayed!

What does the Holy Spirit do? I said he does something else, which perhaps one might think is division, but it isn’t. The Holy Spirit creates “diversity” in the Church. The First Letter to the Corinthians, chapter 12. He creates diversity! And this diversity is truly very rich, very beautiful. But then, the Holy Spirit himself creates unity, and so the Church is one in diversity. And, to use the word of an Evangelical whom I love very much, a “reconciled diversity” by the Holy Spirit. He creates both things: He creates the diversity of charisms and then He creates the harmony of charisms. Therefore, the early theologians of the Church, the early Fathers – I am speaking of the 3rdor 4thcentury – said: “The Holy Spirit is harmony,” because He creates this harmonious unity in diversity.

We are in the age of globalization, and we wonder what globalization is and what the unity of the Church would be: perhaps a sphere, where all points are equidistant from the center, all are equal? No! This is uniformity. And the Holy Spirit does not create uniformity! What figure can we find? We think of the polyhedron: the polyhedron is a unity, but with all different parts; each one has its peculiarity, its charism. This is unity in diversity. It is on this path that we, Christians, do what we call with the theological name of ecumenism. We try to have this diversity become more harmonized by the Holy Spirit and become unity. We seek to walk in the presence of God to be irreproachable. We seek to find the nourishment of which we are in need to find our brother. This is our way, this is our Christian beauty! I refer to what my beloved brother said at the beginning.

Then he spoke of something else, of the Lord’s Incarnation. The Apostle John is clear: “He who says that the Word did not become flesh, is not of God! He is of the devil.” He is not ours, he is an enemy! Because there was the first heresy – let’s say the word between us – and it was this, which the Apostle condemns: that the Word did not come in the flesh. No! The Incarnation of the Word is at the base: it is Jesus Christ! God and man, Son of God and Son of man, true God and true man. And this is how the first Christians understood him, and they had to struggle so much, so much to keep this truth: the Lord is God and man. The Lord Jesus is God made flesh. It is the mystery of the flesh of Christ: one does not understand love for one’s neighbor; one does not understand love for one’s brother, if one does not understand this mystery of the Incarnation. I love my brother because he too is Christ; he is the flesh of Christ. I love the poor, the widow, the slave, one who is in prison … Let us think of the “protocol” on which we will be judged: Matthew 25. I love all of them, because these persons who suffer are Christ’s flesh, and for us who are on this path of unity, it will do us good to touch the flesh of Christ. To go to the fringes where, in fact, there are so many needy, or – let us say it better – there are so many needy, so many needy … also needy of God, who are hungry – but not for bread, they have so much bread – but for God! And to go there, to express this truth: Jesus Christ is the Lord and He saves you. But go always to touch the flesh of Christ! A purely intellectual Gospel cannot be preached: the Gospel is truth but also love and it is also beauty! And this is the joy of the Gospel! This is in fact the joy of the Gospel.

On this path we have very often done the same thing as Joseph’s brothers, when jealousy and envy have divided us. Those who arrived first wanted to kill their brother – Ruben succeeded in saving him – and then sold him. Our brother John also spoke of this sad story. That sad story in which the Gospel was lived by some as a truth who did not realize that behind this attitude there were ugly things, things that were not of the Lord, a terrible temptation of division. That sad story, in which the same thing was done that Joseph’s brothers did: denunciation, the laws of these people: “it goes against the purity of the race …” And these laws were sanctioned by the baptized! Some of those who made these laws and some of those who persecuted, denounced their Pentecostal brothers because they were “enthusiasts,” almost “madmen “ who ruined the race, some were Catholics … I am the Pastor of Catholics: I ask forgiveness for this! I ask forgiveness or those Catholic brothers and sisters who did not understand and who were tempted by the devil and did the same thing that Joseph’s brothers did. I ask the Lord to He give us the grace to admit and forgive … Thank you!

Then brother John said something which I share totally: truth is an encounter, an encounter between persons. Truth is not made in a laboratory; it is made in life, seeking Jesus to find Him. However, the most beautiful greatest mystery is that, when we find Jesus we realize that He was seeking us first, that He found us first, because He arrives before us! In Spanish I like to say that the Lord firsts us {primerea]. It’s a Spanish word: He precedes us, and He always waits for us. He is first of us. And I believe that Isaiah or Jeremiah -- I have a doubt – says that the Lord is like the flower of the almond tree, which is the first to flower in spring. And the Lord waits for us! Is it Jeremiah? Yes! It is the first one that flowers in spring, it is always the first.

This encounter is beautiful. This encounter fills us with joy, with enthusiasm. We think of the encounter of the first disciples, Andrew and John. When the Baptist said: “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world.” And they followed Jesus, stayed with Him the whole afternoon. Then, when they left, when they went home, did they say: “We heard a Rabbi” … No! “We found the Messiah!” That encounter which transforms; everything comes from that encounter. This is the path of Christian holiness: to seek Jesus every day to find Him and every day to allow oneself to be sought by Jesus and to allow oneself to be encountered by Jesus.

We are on this path of unity between brothers. Some might be astonished: “But the Pope went to the Evangelicals.” He went to find brothers! Yes! Because – and what I will say is truth – because they were the ones who came first, in Buenos Aires, to find me. And there is a witness here: Jorge Himitian can tell the story about when they came, they approached us … And so this friendship began, this closeness between Pastors of Buenos Aires, and today here. Thank you so much. I ask you to pray for me, I am in need of it so that at least I won’t be so bad. Thank you!

[Original Text: Italian]

[Translation by ZENIT]