The Church celebrates today and continues to observe throughout the Octave, that day on which the Spirit of God under the form of tongues of fire, and with the sound of a mighty rushing wind, descended upon the disciples who were gathered in the Upper Room - Mary, the Holy Mother of the Lord, the Apostles, and other devout disciples, numbering in all about one hundred and twenty. And they began to speak in foreign tongues about the wonderful works of God (Acts 2:11).
The Holy Ghost is the Spirit of Truth Whom Jesus promised to send from the Father. He speaks not of Himself but of Jesus Christ and His teachings, as Christ foretold: "Many things I have to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. But when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will teach you all the truth. For He will not speak on His Own authority, but whatever He will hear He will speak, and the things that are to come He will declare to you. He will glorify Me, because He will receive of what is Mine and declare it to you" (John 16:12-14).
We recognize the Spirit of truth when He speaks of Jesus Christ and His message. But those who are "of the world" do not hear. St. John in his first letter explains: "They are of the world; therefore of the world they speak and the world listens to them. We are of God. He who knows God listens to us; he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error" (1 John 4:5,6).
Our Lord speaks clearly: "For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man from his good treasure brings forth good things; and the evil man from his evil treasure brings forth evil things. But I tell you, that of every idle word men speak, they shall give account on the day of judgment. For by thy words thou wilt be justified, and by thy words thou wilt be condemned" (Matthew 12:34b-37). And He advised: "But let your speech be, 'Yes, yes'; 'No, no'; and whatever is beyond these comes from the evil one" (Matthew 5:37).
We must characterize as "beyond these" the words of today's false ecumenism and interfaith dialogue, founded on the lie that those who do not believe in Jesus Christ and His Holy Catholic Church are "men of good will" who have the Holy Spirit and are on their way to Heaven, "all following different paths to the common Homeland."
It may seem strange to be upset about a trivial thing like a birthday greeting. Recently a party was held in Rome in celebration of the ninetieth birthday of Rabbi Elio Toaff, former chief rabbi of Rome, one of the few people John Paul II expressly mentioned in his will. Among those attending the rabbi's party were Cardinal Camillo Ruini, vicar for the Diocese of Rome; Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, retired president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace; and Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz, who was John Paul II's personal secretary. A birthday message from Benedict XVI was read by Cardinal Walter Kasper, president of the Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews:
"With a grateful spirit to God, I thank you for the good relations that have been interwoven with the Holy See, particularly during the pontificate of my deceased predecessor… Your birthday becomes an occasion to renew the commitment to continue the dialogue between us, looking with confidence to the future… I bless the eternal Father for the gift of the long and fruitful life he has granted you, during which the goodness of God has been manifested many times" (May 9, 2005, Zenit.org).
What does the "pontiff" mean by "a fruitful life," and "the goodness of God?" No doubt the rabbi is a fine human being, and we have no reason to accuse him of any wrongdoing. No doubt he has done many fine and generous deeds for which he deserves a reward - an earthly one. But why speak of temporal blessings when someone is on his way into eternal darkness? We should rather mourn for him. Why not speak the truth?
We can believe, in fact, that God blesses the rabbi in ways the birthday greeting fails to mention. God blesses him every day with longer life so that he may repent of his sins. God gives him the opportunity every day to believe in Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Every day God offers him the grace to seek Baptism and receive the Holy Spirit with His gifts outpoured in abundance. And every day the rabbi rejects these graces and remains in the darkness of sin and error, in solidarity with his ancestors, and with all who refuse to believe in Jesus Christ.
Why not on his birthday send the rabbi a kind and friendly greeting inviting him to be "born again of water and the Spirit?" (John 3:5). This would be what they call leveling with him, giving him the truth in love. Why not tell him that, because that's really all we have to give, and all we have to say? But this façade of false brotherhood and obsequious flattery is "of the world," which is why the world accepts it. "They are of the world; therefore of the world they speak and the world listens to them" (1 John 4:5).
Jesus Christ didn't flatter anyone. He always let them know exactly where they stood with regard to salvation - "Unless you repent you will all perish" (Luke 13:5), and "If you do not believe that I am He (the Messiah), you will die in your sin" (John 8:24). He sent no birthday greetings to Herod or Caiphas.
This is what the Holy Ghost teaches us: Jesus Christ is our only hope of salvation. To believe in Him is life; to reject Him is eternal death.
"In this we know that we are of the truth," says St. John, "and in His sight we set our hearts at rest. Because if our heart blames us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things. Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence towards God, and whatever we ask, we shall receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do those things that are pleasing in His sight. And this is His commandment, that we should believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, even as He gave us commandment. And he who keeps His commandments abides in God, and God in him. And in this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit Whom He has given us" (1 John 3:19-24).