Pope Francis is calling for peace in the Middle East, and especially in the Holy Lands, by inviting Israeli and Palestinians to pray together with him at the Vatican. And how marvelous that it is taking place on Pentecost! Have you seen the Scripture readings that the global church will be proclaiming and praying over this weekend? I think the Holy Spirit did a very fine job of bringing these leaders together on such a day. There’s nothing coincidental about this event in my mind. Our job here is to pray, pray, pray.
At Pentecost, our Sunday readings bring us the Pentecost account from Acts of the Apostles in the first reading, and the Gospel for Pentecost, recalls Jesus bestowing the gift of peace and the Spirit in a powerful post-resurrection display.
On the evening of that first day of the week,
when the doors were locked, where the disciples were,
for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst
and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side.
The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord.
Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you.
As the Father has sent me, so I send you.”
And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them,
“Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them,
and whose sins you retain are retained.”
During his recent Holy Land pilgrimage, Pope Francis invited Israel’s President Shimon Peres, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to come to the Vatican to pray for peace. They have accepted his invitation and will be with the Holy Father tomorrow on Pentecost. Also in attendance will be Orthodox Patriarch Bartholomew I of Constantinople.
The program outline from the Vatican:
May the Lord give you peace!
We have gathered here, Israelis and Palestinians, Jews, Christians and Muslims, so that each of us can offer his or her own that each of us can express his or her desire for peace for the Holy Land and for all who dwell there.
Together with Pope Francis, who greatly desired this moment, Patriarch Bartholomaios of Constantinople and all those present, Presidents Shimon Peres and Mahmoud Abbas will join in this calling, voicing the desire of their respective peoples to invoke to God the common longing for peace.
This evening’s meeting will consist of three parts, followed by a conclusion.
Each part will be devoted to an invocation by one of the three religious communities, in chronological order: Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
Each part will itself unfold in three moments. The first moment will consist of an expression of praise to God for his gift of creation, and for his having created us as members of the human family.
In the second moment, we will ask pardon from God for the times we have failed to act as brothers and sisters, and for our sins against him and against our fellow men and women.
In the third moment, we will ask God to grant the gift of peace to the Holy Land and to enable us to be peacemakers.
Each of these three moments will be framed by a brief musical interlude. A musical meditation will conclude each of the three main parts.
Be sure to read the prayers and watch the proceeding if you can.
May the Holy Spirit fall anew on each of these leaders and their people. May God bring about something new. From the Sequence from Pentecost Sunday:
O most blessed Light divine,
Shine within these hearts of yours,
And our inmost being fill!
Where you are not, we have naught,
Nothing good in deed or thought,
Nothing free from taint of ill.
Heal our wounds, our strength renew;
On our dryness pour your dew;
Wash the stains of guilt away:
Bend the stubborn heart and will;
Melt the frozen, warm the chill;
Guide the steps that go astray.
On the faithful, who adore
And confess you, evermore
In your sevenfold gift descend;
Give them virtue’s sure reward;
Give them your salvation, Lord;
Give them joys that never end. Amen.
Come, Holy Spirit!