In his Pentecost Letter, Minister General Michael Perry OFM writes that the gift of the Holy Spirit calls us to overcome systematic racism, classism, the caste system, and other kinds of exclusion.
The profound relationship that the Poverello of Assisi cultivated with the person of the Holy Spirit is deeply inspiring. This can be seen from the frequency with which the third person of the Holy Trinity is mentioned both in the Saint’s writings and in the hagiographical sources. Francis felt the outpouring and the presence of the Spirit so closely that he attributed the guidance and direction of the Order to the Holy Spirit, calling the Spirit the Minister of the Order.
As Thomas of Celano tells us: “’With God,’ [Francis] would say, ‘there is no partiality, and the Holy Spirit, the general minister of the religion, rests equally upon the poor and simple.’ He really wanted to put these words in the Rule, but the papal seal already given to the rule precluded it.” (2C 145).
I am particularly struck by this observation of the biographer because, in a certain sense, it provides a revealing link to the scene described in the Acts of the Apostles which is one of the prescribed texts for the Solemnity of Pentecost: “Then there appeared to them tongues as of fire, which parted and came to rest on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit.” (cf. Acts 2:2)
The word “all“, which appears six times, is key to our appreciation of the author’s intention to indicate an all-embracing experience: all of the house (v.2); all were filled with the Holy Spirit (v.4); all the nations (v.5); all those who are not Galileans (v.7); we heard them all speak (v.11); they were all amazed (v.12). Moreover, the word “each” is repeated three times, confirming this powerful idea of inclusion and the desire for the widest possible participation in the experience of the Spirit. Francis, on his part, considers the outpouring of the Spirit a blessing for all because… “with God there is no partiality.” (2 Cel 145)
The Feast of Pentecost that we celebrate today challenges us with radical demands. It calls us to “wake up” to the realities around and within us, to be more aware of those structures and events that express attitudes directly contrary to our human, Christian, and Franciscan vocation. The Spirit urges us to undergo a radical conversion of mind, heart, and action and to embrace God’s vision for all of humanity and the created universe.
Pentecost reminds us that all are welcome, all are respected, all are invited to offer their unique and distinct contributions, all share the same dignity and destiny. The gift of the Spirit is “a blessing to all because… with God there is no partiality!”
I believe, my dear brothers, that celebrating Pentecost should encourage us to have experiences that shake the foundations of our security and drive away any internal fears we may have about always reaching out to others. Pentecost should help open our eyes to appreciate the richness of diversity, to delight in the wonderful variety of forms, colours, ways, mentalities, approaches, opinions, and perspectives.
If we are still afraid of stepping out of our comfort zones, or of creating spaces where we can participate in different ways of seeing, of appreciating, and of judging, then now is the time to be open to “the Spirit of the Lord and Its holy activity”.
Read the full letter.