15 May 2024






Pope Francis ended his homily for Pentecost of 2022 by inviting us to go back to school in this way:

Brothers and sisters, let us sit at the school of the Holy Spirit so that he can teach us all things. Let us invoke him each day so that he can remind us to make God’s gaze upon us our starting point, to make decisions by listening to his voice, and to journey together as Church, docile to him and open to the world. Amen.

Our beloved Pope introduced the theme of ‘going to school’ in 2020 when he invited us to the School of the Virgin Mary. Her pedagogy is one of fellowship building, where all of us are brothers and sisters, and there is room for all those whom our societies discard.

Mary is a model of prayer as openness to discerning God’s will. She teaches us to pray by speaking little, listening a lot, and cherishing God’s presence in our hearts. In the school of Mary, we learn to be docile, which is to be open to learning from the docent, who is the Holy Spirit. Docility is not a very popular word in U.S. American culture. It conjures up images of being weak and submissive, easily managed and controlled. However, docility is the virtue of those who want to learn, be disciples, and someday be docents. Mary is the great docent of Christian life, thanks to her docility. She studied in the School of the Holy Spirit, and her doctoral thesis began with her fiat (let be it done) to God the Father; it was researched in being overshadowed by the Holy Spirit and written in the life of God the Son, her Son. As the mother of Christ, she was His docent; she taught him to walk, talk, play, and pray. As a docent, the Virgin Mary taught Jesus the ABCs of human life and relationships. It was in her School that He “advanced (in) wisdom and age and favor before God and people” (Lk 2:52)

Luke’s Gospel reveals a profound truth about Mary. She was not just the mother of Jesus but also his first and best disciple. She pondered the events of His life. She was there, praying with the Apostles and Disciples as they awaited the promise of Jesus to be fulfilled. This promise, the promise of the Spirit of Truth, is what we hear in today’s Gospel (Jn 15:26-27; 16:12-15). Jesus promised to send this Spirit to testify to Him and to make us His witnesses. Using the pedagogy of Truth, this Spirit teaches us how to be disciples of Christ, witnessing to what is His.

The etymology of “truth” is tied to being steadfast, establishing a covenant, building a relationship, or being engaged or betrothed. Truth is about relating to one another and being firmly planted in the decision to be there for each other, a decision I like to call love. The truth of Jesus is that we are His, and this memory becomes the lesson plan for the School of the Holy Spirit. Pope Francis insists that the “Holy Spirit is an active memory” that rekindles God’s love in us. When we falter and fall, the Holy Spirit reminds us that we are precious in God’s eyes no matter what; God knows our sins, worries and hurts, still God loves us, and wants the best for us, his betrothed.

In reminding us of God’s love for us and how God forgives us and wants to be reconciled, the Holy Spirit invites us to love and forgive each other. The Holy Spirit invites us to be reconciled with God and to be reconciled with each other. Thanks to the Holy Spirit, Jesus’s disciples (not just the apostles) are called to forgive sins (Jn 20:19-23). In this forgiveness, we build up the School of the Holy Spirit, the Church, by concentrating “on the here and now” of our cotidiano, everyday lives and relationships.

Pentecost makes me think of being in Rome for the High Holy Days of our faith. I lived in Rome for 15 years and lost count of the times I went to the Vatican for a papal audience or to celebrate the Eucharist with the Pope and thousands of brothers and sisters in the faith. It was always a powerful experience to see the many faces of the Church and to be a brother to men and women who are very different from me. Sitting in St. Peter’s Basilica or the Audience Hall, I would be surrounded by humankind’s diverse colors and faces. I would hear the many different languages and dialects of God’s children. I am still touched by a father lifting his son onto his shoulders so he could see the Pope. I cherish the memory of seeing young people assist older people to a place where they could also see our beloved brother, the Pope. Pope Francis comments that the Holy Spirit is the author of division, ruckus, and a certain disorder. This is my recollection of being at the Vatican. I could see the glorious division of God’s people causing a joyous ruckus and harmonious disorder as we celebrated our faith united in our diversity.

The School of the Holy Spirit does not fear a diverse student body or a division of gifts and responsibilities. Pope Francis reminds us that the Holy Spirit does not fill the Church with rules and regulations at Pentecost. Instead, the Advocate descends upon the Virgin Mary and all the disciples with “an abundance of differing gifts (that) could generate confusion, but, as in creation, the Holy Spirit loves to create harmony out of diversity.”

This Pentecost, we cherish the memory of the Holy Spirit overshadowing the Church as He once overshadowed the Virgin Mary to incarnate God’s Son in her. Learning from the School of the Virgin Mary let us, in turn, incarnate the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the diversity that makes us Church.


Prof. Gilberto Cavazos-González, OFM, STD