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The Spirit: active agent in Jesus' work

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 19 September 1990 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. In the New Testament the Holy Spirit reveals himself as a Person subsisting with the Father and the Son in the unity of the Trinity, through the actions attributed to him by the inspired authors. One cannot always move from an action to a "property" of a Person in a strict theological sense. But in terms of our catechesis that process is sufficient for discovering what the Holy Spirit is within the divine reality through the deeds which he authors. Besides, this is the path followed by the Fathers and Doctors of the Church [1] .

2. In this catechesis we will limit ourselves to several Synoptic texts. Afterward we will refer also to other books in the New Testament.

We have seen that in the annunciation narrative the Holy Spirit manifested himself as the one who is acting: "He will come upon you," the angel said to Mary, "and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (Lk 1:35). Therefore we can recognize that the Holy Spirit is the principle of action, especially in the Incarnation. Precisely because he is Eternal Love (a property of the third Person), the power of acting, a power of love, is attributed to him.

The first chapters of Luke's Gospel speak several times of the Holy Spirit's action in the people closely connected to the mystery of the Incarnation. Thus it is with Elizabeth, who during Mary's visit was filled with the Holy Spirit. Under divine inspiration she greets her blessed relative (cf. Lk 1:41-45). Thus it is even more so with the elderly holy man Simeon to whom the Holy Spirit manifested himself in a personal way, announcing to him in advance that he would see the "Lord's Messiah" before he died (cf. Lk 2:26). Under the inspiration and movement of the Holy Spirit he took the child in his arms and spoke those prophetic words which encompass in a very full and emotion-laden synthesis the entire redemptive mission of the Son of Mary (cf. Lk 2:27 ff.). More than any other person the Virgin Mary was under the influence of the Holy Spirit (cf. Lk 1:35). The Spirit certainly gave her insight into the mystery and prompted her soul to accept her mission and to sing exultantly as she contemplated the providential plan of salvation (cf. Lk 1:26 ff.).

3. In these holy people a paradigm is sketched of the action of the Holy Spirit, who is almighty Love and gives light, strength, consolation and active encouragement. But the paradigm is even clearer in the life of Jesus himself. It was lived entirely under the Spirit's impulse and direction, by bringing about within himself Isaiah's prophecy about the Messiah's mission: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord" (cf. Lk 4:18; cf. Is 61:1). We know that Jesus read these prophetic words aloud in the Nazareth synagogue and stated that from that moment on these words were to be fulfilled in him (cf. Lk 4:21).

The words and deeds of Jesus were the unfolding of his messianic mission in which the Lord's Spirit was at work, according to the prophet's announcement. The Holy Spirit's action was hidden in the unfolding of this whole mission, carried out by Jesus in a visible, public and historical way. Thus it gave witness to and revealed the work and the person of the Holy Spirit as well, according to the statement of Jesus to which the evangelists and other sacred authors refer.

4. At times the evangelists stress that active presence of the Holy Spirit in Christ in a special way, as when they speak about the fasting and temptation of Christ in the desert: "Jesus was led by the Spirit into the desert to be tempted by the devil" (Mt 4:1; cf. Mk 1:12). The expression used by the evangelist presents the Spirit as a Person who leads another to something. This aspect which the evangelists give to the Holy Spirit's activity in Christ signifies that his messianic mission, carried out to conquer evil, includes from the start a struggle with him who is the "liar and the father of lies" (Jn 8:44): the spirit of rejection of God's kingdom. Christ's victory over Satan at the start of his messianic activity is the prelude and announcement of his final victory in the cross and resurrection.

Jesus himself attributed this victory to the Holy Spirit at every stop in his messianic mission. He stated that "I cast out demons by the Spirit of God" (Mt 12:28). In Christ's struggle and victory the power of the Holy Spirit is manifest. That power is the inner champion and untiring producer of that victory. That is why Jesus is so strong in admonishing his listeners about the sin which he himself calls "the blasphemy against the Holy Spirit" (Mt 12:31-32; cf. Mk 3:29; Lk 12:10). Here too the expressions used by the evangelist present the Spirit as a Person. A parallel is set up between anyone who speaks against the person of the Son of Man and the one who speaks against the person of the Holy Spirit (cf. Mt 12:32; Lk 12:10). The offense to the Holy Spirit is stated to be more serious. "To sin against the Holy Spirit" means to place oneself on the side of the spirit of darkness, with the result that a person closes himself or herself off to the sanctifying action of God's Spirit. This is why Jesus stated that this type of sin cannot be forgiven "either in this world or in the world to come" (Mt 12:32). The inner rejection of the Holy Spirit is the rejection of the very source of life and holiness. Man thus excludes himself freely and by his own initiative from the sphere of God's saving actions.

Jesus' warning about the sin against the Holy Spirit includes at least implicitly an additional revelation of the Person and sanctifying activity of that Person of the Trinity. He is the protagonist in the struggle against the spirit of evil and in the victory of good.

5. Still according to the synoptics, the Holy Spirit's action is the source of the deepest inner joy. Jesus himself experienced this special "exultation in the Holy Spirit" when he spoke these words: "I give you thanks, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike. Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will" (Lk 10:21; cf. Mt 11:25-26). In the texts written by Luke and Matthew this is followed by the words of Jesus about the Son's knowledge of the Father and the Father's knowledge of the Son. This knowledge is communicated by the Son himself to these "little ones." Therefore, it is the Holy Spirit who also gives Jesus' disciples not only the power of victory over evil, over the "evil spirits" (Lk 10:17), but also the supernatural joy of discovering God and life in him through his Son.

6. The revelation of the Holy Spirit through the force of the action which fills the whole mission of Christ will also accompany the apostles and the disciples in the work which they carry out by divine mandate. Jesus himself tells them that: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you will be my the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8). Even when in the course of this witness they meet with persecution, imprisonment and court interrogations, Jesus assures them: "You will be given at that moment what you are to say. For it will not be you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you" (Mt 10:19-20; cf. Mk 13:11). Only persons can speak. Impersonal forces can move, push and destroy, but they cannot speak. But the Spirit speaks. He is the inspirer and the consoler of the apostles and the Church in difficult moments. That is another characteristic of his action, another ray of light shed upon the mystery of his Person.

7. Therefore we can state that in the synoptics the Holy Spirit manifests himself as a Person who works within the whole mission of Christ. In the lives and history of Christ's followers he frees them from evil, gives them strength in the struggle with the spirit of darkness, and increases the supernatural joy of knowing God and witnessing to him even in trying times. The Spirit is a Person who works with divine strength above all within the messianic mission of Jesus, and afterward in the work of drawing people to Christ and of guiding those who are called to take part in his saving mission.

[1]   cf. St. Thomas, Summa Theol., I, q. 30, aa. 7-8"

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung grüße ich alle Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache sehr herzlich. Mein besonderer Grugilt den Teilnehmern an der von der Kirchenzeitung für das Erzbistum Köln organisierten Pilgerfahrt, der Besuchergruppe des Turnund Sportvereins Pressath sowie den zahlreichen Schülergruppen, darunter Schülerinnen des Clara-Fey-Gymnasiums aus Bad Godesberg und der Realschule der Armen Schulschwestern aus Regensburg. Euch allen und Euren lieben Angehörigen in der Heimat sowie den mit uns über Radio Vatikan verbundenen Hörerinnen und Hörern erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai numerosi fedeli polacchi

Kiedy wszystkie światła nad ziemią naszą zagasły, pozostała Jasna Góra i Czarna Madonna”. W tym jasnogórskim cyklu powracamy poprzez minione pięćdziesięciolecie do września.

Przypominamy daty: 1 września, 17 września . . . A potem daty się piętrzą i rozsypują szeroko: wiele, wiele dat, wiele rocznic bolesnych, które wpisały się w dzieje synów i córek naszej ziemi. W dzieje rodzin i wspólnot, w dzieje wsi i miast. W dzieje całego narodu. Te daty piętrzą się i rozsypują po szlakach wojny, z Polski na Wschód, na Północ, po Narwik i na Południe, na Zachód, aż po Monte Cassino.

Czas próby. Czas straszliwej próby. Pismo mówi o złocie, które próbuje się w ogniu.  Wspominamy z czcią tych, którzy próbę tę przeszli zwycięsko. Oddajemy Miłosierdziu Boga samego wszystkich, którzy próbie nie sprostali. A wreszcie - myślimy o tych, którzy tę straszną próbę zawinili. Wszystkich którzy decydowali, torturowali, deptali, skazywali na śmierć w bunkrach głodu, zabijali wystrzalem w tyl glowy.

Oświęcim, Dachau, Ravensbrück . . . Treblinka, tajgi Sybiru, Katyń! . . . ileż miejsc, ileż mogił, ile ofiar bez mogiły i krzyża.

Minęło pięćdziesiąt lat od tamtego września. Czy wolno wciąż patrzeć w przeszłość? Człowiek jest skazany na przyszłość. I narody i Europa.

Pani Jasnagórska, Ty jesteś Matką Chrystusa - Matką Boga, który pozostał wierny Przymierzu aż do Krzyża na Golgocie. Do kogóż pójdziemy? Krzyże naszej przeszłości On jeden ogarnia. Pomóż nam w Nim odczytywać naszą przyszłość.

Ai pellegrini di espressione inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a warm welcome to the new students of the Pontifical North American College and the Pontifical Irish College. Dear young men: As you begin your studies for the priesthood in Rome, I pray that you will always sense "the breadth and length and height and depth of Christ’s love"  as it has been revealed in the Church’s long pilgrimage through history and is evidenced in the many shrines of the Apostles, martyrs and saints that grace this City. To the members of the Mission Congregation of the Servants of the Holy Spirit I offer the assurance of my prayers for the successful outcome of your General Chapter. May your testimony of religious consecration shine ever more clearly in the Church.

I greet all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims, especially the groups from Norway, Sweden, South Africa, India, Korea, Taiwan and New Zealand. To all of you I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Deseo ahora saludar muy cordialmente a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española.

En particular, al grupo de sacerdotes del Pontificio Colegio Pío Latino Americano, que se disponen a realizar sus estudios de especialización en las Universidades romanas. Os aliento vivamente a dedicar todo vuestro empeño en la profundización de las ciencias sagradas para así mejor servir a la Iglesia en el amado continente de la esperanza.

Igualmente, saludo a las Religiosas Esclavas del Sagrado Corazón de Jesús y a las Hermanas de Nuestra Señora de la Consolación, que realizan un curso de formación. A todas os exhorto a una generosa entrega a Dios y a vuestra vocación de personas consagradas.

Mi cordial bienvenida a las peregrinaciones procedentes de México y de Plasencia (EspañaA todos bendigo de corazón.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Amadíssimos irmãos e irmãs,

Aos peregrinos vindos do Brasil e de Portugal, como penhor de abundantes dons divinos, concedo de bom grado minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai numerosi gruppi italiani

Saluto ora i numerosi pellegrini di lingua italiana, e in particolare il gruppo degli anziani della diocesi di Novara, espressione del “Club dei triventenni” e di altri gruppi di amicizia, sorti nelle diverse parrocchie della città. So che la loro preghiera mi accompagna con affetto nei miei viaggi pastorali e nelle mie cure per la Chiesa. Di questo ringrazio sinceramente, e benedico il loro impegno e le persone a loro care.

Il mio pensiero va poi ai fedeli della parrocchia di San Remigio a Colleverde, qui accompagnati dal parroco per restituire la visita che ho compiuto alla loro Comunità. Sono riconoscente per questo gesto di cortesia e rinnovo a tutti l’espressione del mio affetto e del mio apprezzamento.

Il mio pensiero va anche ai fedeli della parrocchia del Salvatore in Arsoli (Roma), che celebrano uno speciale anno mariano, dedicato alla Madonna di Guadalupe. Vi auguro che codesta iniziativa valga a ridestare nei vostri cuori una devozione sempre più tenera verso la Madre di Dio e la Madre nostra, che non cessa di intercedere per tutto il popolo di Dio.

Un particolare saluto esprimo ai componenti della Banda Musicale del Villaggio dei ragazzi di Maddaloni.

Ho pure la gioia di salutare e di esprimere le mie felicitazioni e i miei auguri cordiali ai Sacerdoti Novelli dell’Arcidiocesi di Bologna, presenti a questa Udienza con i loro familiari. Invoco la continua protezione del Signore su di voi e sul vostro ministero pastorale.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Ed ora, come di consueto, desidero rivolgere il mio saluto ai giovani, agli ammalati ed agli sposi novelli qui presenti.

Carissimi giovani, siate consapevoli che dopo questi mesi estivi, durante i quali avete potuto corroborare le vostre forze spirituali e fisiche con il necessario riposo e svago e con esperienze di vario tipo, ora vi attende la ripresa delle attività scolastiche o di avviamento professionale con il conseguente impegno di mettervi al servizio dei fratelli, per realizzare con coerenza gli ideali evangelici. So che tra voi ci sono i giovani della parrocchia di San Zeno a Cambiago, in diocesi di Milano, venuti per far accendere la fiaccola, in occasione dell’anno pastorale dedicato alla formazione della gioventù. Vi ringrazio per la vostra presenza, augurando buon esito al vostro impegno.

E voi, carissimi ammalati, sappiate testimoniare a tutti che il vivere come veri discepoli di Cristo in ogni situazione di vita ed in particolar modo nei momenti della sofferenza è fonte di profonda serenità e stimolo per una speranza autenticamente cristiana.

Infine, auguro a voi, cari sposi novelli, di sapervi sempre amare alla luce della Grazia sacramentale ricevuta con il Rito Nuziale, in modo tale che la vostra incipiente vita coniugale abbia sempre il suo principale riferimento nell’amore con cui Cristo ama la sua Chiesa, e sia allietata da frutti di fedeltà, di gioia e di buona volontà.

A voi tutti la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

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