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The Spirit: life-giving source of new love

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 22 May 1991 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. In the Christian's soul there is a new love by which he shares in God's own love: "The love of God," says St. Paul, "has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Rom 5:5). This love is divine in nature, and so it is higher than the connatural abilities of the human soul. In theological terminology it is called charity. This supernatural love plays a fundamental role in Christian life, as St. Thomas shows when he clearly emphasizes that charity is not only "the noblest of all the virtues" (excellentissima omnium virtutum), but is also "the form of all the virtues, because through charity their acts are ordered to their right and ultimate end" [1] .

Therefore, charity is the central value of the new person, "created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth" (Eph 4:24; cf. Gal 3:27; Rom 13:14). If the Christian life is compared to a building under construction, it is easy to see that faith is the foundation of all the virtues that comprise it. The Council of Trent teaches that "faith is the beginning of human salvation, the foundation and source of all justification" (cf. DS 2532). But union with God through faith has as its goal union with him in the love of charity, a divine love in which the human soul shares as an active and unifying force.

2. In communicating this vital energy to the soul, the Holy Spirit makes it capable in virtue of supernatural charity, of observing the twofold commandment of love, given by Jesus Christ: love for God and for one's neighbor.

"You shall love the lord your God with all your heart..." (Mk 12:30; cf. Dt 6:4-5). The Holy Spirit enables the soul to share in Jesus' filial love for the Father, so that, as St. Paul says: "Those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God" (Rom 8:14). He enables the Father to be loved as the Son has loved him, i.e., with the filial love which is shown in the cry of "Abba" (cf. Gal 4:6; Rom 8:15), but it pervades the entire activity of those who, in the Spirit, are children of God. Under the Spirit's influence their whole life becomes an offering to the Father, filled with reverence and filial love.

3. The capacity to observe the other commandment, love of neighbor, comes from the Holy Spirit, too. "Love one another as I have loved you," Jesus commands his apostles and all his followers. With these words, "as I have loved you," the new value of supernatural love is present, which is a sharing in Christ's love for human beings, and therefore, is a sharing in the eternal charity which is the very beginning of the virtue of charity. As St. Thomas writes: "The divine essence in itself is love, as it is wisdom and goodness. Therefore, just as one can say that we are good because of the goodness which is God, and wise because of the wisdom which is God, because the goodness which makes us formally good is the goodness of God, and the wisdom which makes us formally wise is a participation in the divine wisdom; so the charity by which we formally love our neighbor is a participation in divine charity" [2] . This participation is activated by the Holy Spirit who thus makes us able to love not only God, but also our neighbor, as Jesus Christ loved him. Yes, we can love even our neighbor because, given that the love of God has been poured into our hearts, with that love we can love other persons and even in some way, irrational creatures [3] as God loves them.

4. Historical experience tells us how difficult the concrete practice of this precept is. Nevertheless, it is at the center of Christian ethics, as a gift which comes from the Spirit and for which we must ask him. St. Paul confirms this in the Letter to the Galatians in which he exhorts them to live in the freedom they have received by the new law of love: "But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh; rather, serve one another through love" (Gal 5:13). "For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (Gal 5:14). After he recommends: "I say, then: live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh" (Gal 5:16), he identifies the love of charity (agape) as the first "fruit of the Holy Spirit" (Gal 5:22). Thus, it is the Holy Spirit who enables us to walk in love and to overcome all obstacles to charity.

5. In the First Letter to the Corinthians St. Paul purposely seems to linger over the list and description of the characteristics of charity for one's neighbor. Indeed, after recommending that one aspire to the "greatest spiritual gifts" (1 Cor 12:31), he praises charity as a good higher than all the extraordinary gifts which the Holy Spirit can give and as something more basic to the Christian life. The hymn to charity springs from his speech and his soul and can be considered a hymn to the influence of the Holy Spirit on human behavior. In this context charity assumes an ethical dimension with practical application: "Love is patient, love is kind. It is does not envy or boast, it is not conceited, it is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things" (1 Cor 13:4-7).

In listing the "fruits of the Spirit" (Gal 5:22), it could be said that St. Paul, in a parallel with the hymn, wishes to indicate some essential attitudes belonging to charity. Among these are:

1) Patience, first of all: "Love is patient" (1 Cor 13:4). One could remark that the Spirit himself gives the example of patience toward sinners and their wrongful conduct, as we read in the Gospels about Jesus, who was called "a friend of tax collectors and sinners" (Mt 11:19; cf. Lk 7:34). It is a reflection of the very love of God, St. Thomas observes, "who shows mercy with love, because he loves us as something belonging to himself" [4] .

2) Kindness is a fruit of the Spirit: "Love is kind" (1 Cor 13:4). It is also a reflection of the divine kindness toward others, regarded and treated with sympathy and understanding.

3) There is also goodness: "It does not seek its own interests" (1 Cor 13:5). This love is ready to give generously, as the love of the Holy Spirit increases his gifts and shares the Father's love with believers.

4) Finally, there is gentleness: "It is not quick-tempered" (1 Cor 13:5). The Holy Spirit helps Christians to reproduce in themselves Christ's "meek and humble heart" and to practice the beatitude of meekness which he preached (cf. Mt 5:5).

6. In enumerating the "works of the flesh" (cf. Gal 5:19-21), St. Paul clarifies the demands of charity, from which flow concrete duties, in opposition to the tendencies of the homo animalis, i.e., the victim of his passions. In particular, this means to avoid jealousies and rivalries, to want one's neighbor's good, to avoid enmities, dissension, division, quarrels, and to promote everything which brings unity. There is an allusion to this in the verse of the Pauline hymn which says that charity "does not brood over injuries" (1 Cor 13:5). The Holy Spirit inspires generous forgiveness for injuries received and losses suffered and, as Spirit of light and love, enables the faithful to do this as he reveals to them the unlimited demands of charity.

7. History confirms the truth of what we have just explained. Charity shines in the lives of the saints and the Church, from the day of Pentecost to today. All the saints and every age of the Church's history bear the marks of charity and the Holy Spirit. It could be said that in some historical periods, under the inspiration and guidance of the Spirit, charity assumed forms especially characterized by activity which organized help and support for those suffering hunger, illness and epidemics both ancient and new. Thus, there were many "saints of charity," as they were especially called in the 1800's and in our own century. They are bishops, priests, men and women religious and lay Christians. All of them are "servants" of charity. Many have been glorified by the Church, and others by biographers and historians who are able to see with their eyes or discover in documents the true greatness of those followers of Christ and servants of God. Nevertheless, the majority remain anonymous in that charity which continuously and effectively fills the world with good. Glory be to these unknown soldiers, to these silent witnesses of charity! God knows them; God truly glorifies them! We must be grateful to them because they are the historical proof of the "love of God poured out into human hearts" by the Holy Spirit, the first craftsman and vital principle of Christian love.

[1]   Summa Theol., II-II, q. 23, aa. 6 and 8
[2]   Summa Theol., II-II, q. 23, a. 2, ad 1
[3]   cf. Summa Theol., II-II, q. 25, a. 3
[4]   Summa Theol., II-II, q. 30, a. 2, ad 1

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

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers frères et sœurs,

J’accueille avec joie les pèlerins et visiteurs de langue française venus á cette audience. En particulier, je salue cordialement les membres du Collège de la Défense nationale du Canada: je souhaite que leur visite à Rome les aide à toujours mieux saisir l’influence profonde des motivations d’ordre spirituel et religieux dans la vie internationale. A tous, jeunes et adultes, je donne de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini di espressione inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a warm welcome to the Nottingham BBC Radio ecumenical group and to the members of the Ecton House pilgrimage from the Anglican Diocese of Peterborough: May your visit deepen your love for the mystery of Christ and your commitment to work for the unity of all his followers. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors I cordially invoke the abundant blessings of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Ai fedeli di espressione tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung grüße ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher sehr herzlich. Ein besonderer Willkommensgruß gilt der Pilgergruppe der Katholischen Arbeitnehmerbewegung Pressath, den Ministranten aus der Diözese Eichstätt, der Pilgergruppe der Pfarrei Kirchenlaibach sowie den Teilnehmern an der Dankpilgerreise für den Frieden und die neu gewonnene Freiheit in den neuen Ländern der Bundesrepublik Deutschland.

Euch allen, Euren lieben Angehörigen daheim wie auch den uns über Radio und Fernsehen verbundenen Gläubigen erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini della parrocchia di Mihara,
della Diocesi di Hiroshima

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Carissimi pellegrini della parrocchia di Mihara, della diocesi di Hiroshima, meditando la vita della Madonna, ci si accorge che la caratteristica della Madonna è la sollecitudine verso i bisognosi.

Carissimi, imitateLa poiché nel mondo ci sono tante persone bisognose.

Incoraggiandovi e affidandovi alla Madonna, vi benedico di cuore.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai numerosi fedeli di espressione spagnola

Deseo ahora dirigir mi más cordial saludo de bienvenida a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española.

En particular, a los integrantes del Movimiento Neocatecumenal de México y a la peregrinación de la parroquia San Antonio María Claret, de Madrid.

A todas las personas, familias, y grupos procedentes de los diversos Países de América Latina y de España imparto con afecto la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Amadíssimos irmãos e irmãs, Desejando a quantos me ouvis, uma vivência sempre mais plena no espírito desta caridade que nos une, invoco sobre todos os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, especialmente os que aqui se encontram do Rio de Janeiro e de São Paulo, a Bênção de Deus Nosso Senhor.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Drodzy bracia i siostry, pielgrzymi z Polski,

1. W przededniu swej krzyżowej ofiary mówił Chrystus do apostołów w wieczerniku: “Pożyteczne jest dla was moje odejście. Bo jeżeli nie odejdę, Pocieszyciel nie przyjdzie do was. A jeżeli odejdę, poślę Go do was. On zaś, gdy przyjdzie, przekona świat o grzechu, o sprawiedliwości i o sądzie”.

Matko, która byłaś obecna wraz z apostołami w jerozolimskim wieczerniku w dzień Pięćdziesiątnicy! Matko, która jesteś obecna na Jasnej Górze w tym szczególnym wieczerniku naszych dziejów! Prosimy Cię, aby Duch Święty przychodził do nas wszystkich, synów i córek polskiej ziemi. Aby przychodził zwłaszcza w naszej epoce jako Parakletos - Pocieszyciel. Ażeby przekonywał nas o grzechu, o sprawiedliwości i o sądzie.

2. Duch Święty przekonuje o grzechu nie po to, aby człowieka oskarżyć i potępić, ale po to, by go nawrócić, oczyścić, duchowo podźwignąć i wyzwolić. Potrzeba nam takiego zbawczego przekonania. Potrzeba każdemu i wszystkim. Całe społeczeństwo potrzebuje odnowy ducha, odnowy moralnej.

Wskazują też na to słowa wybrane przez biskupów polskich jako myśl przewodnia papieskiej pielgrzymki do Ojczyzny: “Bogu dziękujcie . . . ducha nie gaście”. Aby nie zakorzenił się w nas ów grzech najgroźniejszy, którym jest wedle własnych słów Chrystusa “grzech przeciwko Duchowi Świętemu”.

3. Prosimy Cię więc, Bogarodzico Dziewico, obecna w jasnogórskim wieczerniku naszych dziejów i na tylu miejscach ojczystej ziemi, abyśmy “pozwolili się prowadzić Duchowi”, abyśmy z Nim zjednoczeni przezwyciężali owe uczynki, jakie “rodzą się z ciała”, jak uczy Apostoł, wymieniając wśród nich nie tylko “nierząd, nieczystość czy wyuzdanie ”, ale także “ nienawiść, niezgodę, rozłamy, zazdrość, pijaństwo . . . i tym podobne”.

“Owocem zaś Ducha jest: miłość, radość, pokój, cierpliwość, uprzejmość, dobroć, wierność, łagodność, opanowanie”.

Niech temu służy nasza wolność! “Ku wolności wyswobodził nas Chrystus. A zatem trwajcie w niej i nie poddawajcie się na nowo pod jarzmo niewoli!”.

Ad alcuni gruppi di lingua italiana

Saluto ora i vari gruppi di pellegrini di lingua italiana.

In particolare rivolgo il mio pensiero ai Militari del 91 Battaglione Fanteria “Lucania” di Potenza che prendono parte ad un pellegrinaggio a Lourdes.

Sono, poi, lieto di accogliere il Direttivo del Movimento per la Vita Italiano che tra alcuni giorni, terrà a Rimini l’annuale Assemblea Generale. Il vostro impegno, carissimi Fratelli e Sorelle, a difesa e a promozione della vita sia sempre deciso e coraggioso, e la vostra azione si diffonda dappertutto nella società di oggi. Mi compiaccio per le vostre opportune iniziative, alle quali auspico ogni successo.

Porgo, inoltre, con gioia il mio caloroso benvenuto ai numerosi partecipanti al pellegrinaggio promosso dalla “Società Divine Vocazioni” in occasione del centenario della nascita del loro Fondatore, Don Giustino Maria Russolillo. Fedeli al carisma del vostro Padre e Maestro, per il quale le vocazioni furono “il tormento ed il grande amore”, voi, suoi figli e figlie spirituali, consacrate la vostra esistenza alla cura precipua delle vocazioni. Il Signore vi sostenga, e guidi il vostro Istituto nel rispondere a tale specifico apostolato vocazionale che oggi assume il valore di un qualificato e pressante servizio nella santa Chiesa.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Infine, mi rivolgo a voi, amati giovani, diletti ammalati, cari sposi novelli: lo Spirito Santo, del quale abbiamo appena celebrato la solennità liturgica e che sempre sostiene la Chiesa, vi renda capaci di annunciare Gesù ad ogni uomo con l’universale linguaggio dell’amore. Siatene testimoni con l’entusiasmo delle vostre energie giovanili, con l’offerta del vostro dolore santificante, con l’unione sponsale disponibile al dono reciproco dell’amore cristiano e di vite nuove.

In pegno di tali auspici imparto di cuore a tutti la mia benedizione apostolica.

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