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The Holy Spirit: light of the soul

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 24 April 1991 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. The spiritual life needs enlightenment and guidance. For this reason, in establishing the Church and sending the apostles into the world, Jesus entrusted to them the task of teaching all nations, as we read in the Gospel according to Matthew (cf. 28:19-20), and also of "proclaiming the Gospel to every creature," as the canonical text of Mark's Gospel says (16:15). St. Paul, too, speaks of the apostolate as an "enlightenment of all" (Eph 3:9).

But the Church's work of evangelizing and teaching belongs to the ministry of the apostles and their successors, and in a different way, to all the members of the Church. It is to continue for all time the work of Christ, the "one Teacher" (Mt 23:8), who has brought to humanity the fullness of God's revelation. There is still the need for an interior teacher who penetrates the human heart and spirit with Jesus' teaching. This is the Holy Spirit, whom Jesus himself calls the "Spirit of truth," and whom he promises as the one who will guide them to all truth (cf. Jn 14:17; 16:13). If Jesus has said to himself: "I am the truth" (Jn 14:6), the Holy Spirit makes this truth of Christ known and spreads it: "He will not speak on his own, but he will speak what he hears...he will take from what is mine and declare it to you" (Jn 16:13-14). The Spirit is the light of the soul: Lumen cordium, as we call him in the sequence of Pentecost.

2. The Holy Spirit was a light and interior teacher for the apostles, who had to know Christ in depth to be able to fulfill their task as his evangelizers. He was and is the same for the Church, and in the Church, for believers of every generation, and in a particular way, for theologians and spiritual directors, for catechists and those responsible for Christian communities. He was and is the same for all inside or outside the visible boundaries of the Church who want to follow the ways of God with a sincere heart and, without fault of their own, do not find someone to help them solve the riddle of life and discover revealed truth. May the Lord grant all our brothers and sisters - millions and even billions of men and women - the grace of acceptance and docility to the Holy Spirit in what can be the decisive moments of their life.

For us Christians, the interior teaching of the Holy Spirit is a joyous certitude. It is founded on the word of Christ about the coming of "another Advocate," whom he said "the Father will send in my name - he will teach you everything and remind you of all that I told you" (Jn 14:26). "He will guide you to all truth" (Jn 16:13).

3. One can conclude from this text that Jesus did not entrust his word only to the memory of his listeners. This memory would be assisted by the Holy Spirit, who would continually revive in the apostles a recollection of the events and the meaning of the Gospel mysteries.

The Holy Spirit has guided the Apostles in handing on the word and life of Jesus. The Spirit inspired both their oral preaching and their writings, as well as the editing of the Gospels, as we have seen in the catechesis on the Holy Spirit and revelation.

He also helps the readers of Scripture to understand the divine meaning within the text, of which he is the inspiration and the principal author. He alone enables one to know "the depths of God" (1 Cor 2:10) which are contained in the sacred text. It was he who was sent to instruct the disciples in the teachings of their Master (cf. Jn 16:13).

4. The Apostles themselves, the first to hand on the word of Christ, speak of this interior teaching of the Holy Spirit. St. John writes: "But you have the anointing that comes from the Holy One [Christ], and you all have knowledge. I write to you not because you do not know the truth but because you do, and because every lie is alien to the truth" (1 Jn 2:20-21). According to the Fathers of the Church and the majority of contemporary exegetes, this "anointing" (chrisma) signifies the Holy Spirit. St. John even states that those who live according to the Spirit do not need other teachers: "As for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, so that you do not need anyone to teach you. But his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false; just as it taught you, remain in him" (1 Jn 2:27).

Even the Apostle Paul speaks of an understanding according to the Spirit which is not the fruit of human wisdom, but of divine enlightenment: "Now the natural person (psychikòs), however, can judge everything but is not subject to judgment by anyone" (1 Cor 2:14-15).

Thus Christians, having received the Holy Spirit, the anointing of Christ, possess in themselves a source of knowledge of the truth, and the Holy Spirit is the sovereign teacher who enlightens and guides them.

5. If they are docile and faithful to his divine teaching, the Holy Spirit preserves them from error by giving them victory in the continual struggle between the "spirit of truth" and the "spirit of deceit" (cf. 1 Jn 4:6). The spirit of deceit which does not acknowledge Christ (cf. 1 Jn 4:3) is spread by the "false prophets" who are always present in the world, even among Christian people, with an activity that is sometimes open and even sensational, or sometimes underhanded and sly. Like Satan, they too sometimes masquerade as "angels of light" (cf. 2 Cor 11:14) and present themselves with apparent charisms of prophetic and apocalyptic inspiration. This already occurred in apostolic times. For this reason, St. John warns: "Do not trust every spirit but test the spirits to see whether they belong to God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world" (1 Jn 4:1). The Holy Spirit, as Vatican II recalls (cf. LG 12), protects the Christian from error by enabling him to discern what is genuine from what is false. The Christian will always need good criteria to discern the things he hears or reads in matters of religion, Sacred Scripture, manifestations of the supernatural, etc. These criteria are conformity to the Gospel, harmony with the teaching of the Church established and set by Christ to preach his truth, the moral conduct of the person speaking or writing and the fruits of holiness which result from what is presented or proposed.

6. The Holy Spirit teaches the Christian the truth as a principle of life. He shows the concrete application of Jesus' words in each one's life. He enables one to discover the contemporary value of the Gospel for all human situations. He adapts the understanding of the truth to every circumstance, so that this truth does not remain merely abstract and speculative, but frees the Christian from the dangers of duplicity and hypocrisy.

To this end, the Holy Spirit enlightens each one personally, to guide him in his conduct, by showing him the way to go and by giving him just a glimpse of the Father's plan for his life. St. Paul seeks this great grace of light for the Colossians: "the spiritual understanding" which can enable them to understand the divine will. In fact, he assures them: "We do not cease praying for you and asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his [God's] will through all wisdom and spiritual understanding, to live in a manner worthy of the Lord, so as to be fully pleasing, in every good work bearing fruit..." (Col 1:9-10). For all of us this grace of light is necessary to have a good knowledge of God's will for us and to be able to live our personal vocation fully.

Problems are never lacking and they sometimes seem insoluble. But the Holy Spirit helps us in our difficulties and gives us light. He can reveal the divine solution, as he did at the time of the annunciation in regard to the problem of reconciling motherhood with the desire for preserving one's virginity. Even when it is a question of a unique mystery such as the role of Mary in the Incarnation of the Word, the Holy Spirit can be said to possess an infinite creativity, proper to the divine mind, which knows how to loosen the knots of human affairs, even the most complex and inscrutable.

7. All of this is given and accomplished in the soul by the Holy Spirit through his gifts, the graces which one can carefully discern, not according to the criteria of human wisdom, which is foolishness in God's sight, but with that divine wisdom which can seem foolishness in the eyes of men (cf. 1 Cor 1:18-25). Only the Holy Spirit "scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God" (1 Cor 2:10-11). And if there is opposition between the spirit of the world and the Spirit of God, Paul reminds Christians: "We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit that is from God, so that we may understand the things freely given us by God" (1 Cor 2:12). Unlike the "natural person," the "spiritual person" (pneumatikòs) is sincerely open to the Holy Spirit, docile and faithful to his inspirations (cf. 1 Cor 2:14-16). Thus, he habitually possesses the ability to make right judgments under the guidance of divine wisdom.

8. A sign that our discernment is in real contact with the Holy Spirit is and will always be adherence to revealed truth as it is proposed by the Church's Magisterium. The interior teacher does not inspire dissent, disobedience or even merely an unjustified resistance to the pastors and teachers established by him in the Church (cf. Acts 20:29). It belongs to the Church's authority, as the Council said in the Constitution Lumen Gentium (n. 12), to "not quench the Spirit, but to test everything and retain what is good" (cf. 1 Thess 5:12; 19-21). This is the direction of ecclesial and pastoral wisdom which also comes from the Holy Spirit.

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

Ai pellegrini di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung grüße ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher sehr herzlich.

Mein besonderer Gruß gilt den zahlreichen Pilgern der Marianischen Bürgersodalität Trier unter Leitung von Herrn Weihbischof Jakoby, und den Pilgergruppen des Militärordinariats Wien sowie der Salesianer und ihrer Mitarbeiter aus München; ferner begrüße ich die Pilger der Pfarrgemeinden aus Fürstenwalde an der Spree, aus Schwarzenberg und aus Beuren.

Euch allen, Euren lieben Angehörigen in der Heimat sowie den mit uns über Rundfunk und Fernsehen verbundenen Gläubigen erteile ich für reiche österliche Gnaden aus der Kraft des Aufer standenen von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai suoi connazionali polacchi

Czytanie na uroczystość św. Wojciecha Patrona Polski: “Tylko sprawujcie się w sposób godny Ewangelii Chrystusowej, abym ja - czy to gdy przybędę i ujrzę was, czy też będąc z daleka - mógł usłyszeć o was, że trwacie mocno w jednym duchu, jednym sercem walcząc wspólnie o wiarę w Ewangelię, i niczym nie dajecie się zastraszyć przeciwnikom”.

Tymi słowami Apostoła Narodów przemawia do nas Męczennik-Biskup św. Wojciech poprzez prawie całe już tysiąclecie. W r. 1997 minie 1000 lat od jego męczeńskiej śmierci nad Bałtykiem.

Bogarodzico Dziewico, Bogiem sławiena Maryjo! Dziękujemy Ci za tego Świętego Patrona, który stanął na naszej ziemi u początku dziejów Ojczyzny. Dziękujemy wespół z naszymi braćmi z południa. Wojciech, biskup Pragi w Czechach, stał się wielkim apostołem swojego narodu, a także po swym wygnaniu, narodów sąsiednich, w szczególności Węgrów i Polaków. Na dworze Bolesława Chrobrego znalazł gościnę. Stąd też wyruszył nad Bałtyk. Znad Bałtyku polski władca wykupił męczeńskie ciało i z czcią sprowadził do Gniezna.

Dzisiaj, kiedy mówi się tyle o potrzebie budowania jedności narodów w Europie, trudno nie przywoływać na pamięć tego zjazdu, jaki miał miejsce w Gnieźnie, przy relikwiach Męczennika Wojciecha w r. 1000.

Cesarz Otto III, wysłańcy papieża Sylwestra II i nasz król Bolesław Chrobry czerpali z misji Wojciechowej wspólne natchnienie. Powstała wówczas pierwsza polska metropolia w Gnieźnie i rzucono podwaliny pod przyszłe współżycie narodów w świetle Ewangelii.

Ziarno pszeniczne, które padło w ziemię i obumarło nad Bałtykiem, przynosi plon wielkanocnej odnowy.

W uroczystość św. Wojciecha łączymy się z Kościołem w Pradze, skąd poszło wezwanie do wspólnego przygotowania na tysiąclecie śmierci Świętego Męczennika.

Na ziemi polskiej zaś prosimy, ażeby “jednym sercem walcząc wspólnie o wiarę w Ewangelię, nie dać się niczemu zastraszyć”!

Tak uczy Apostoł Jezusa Chrystusa, św. Paweł.

Tak uczy apostoł, Biskup-Męczennik, św. Wojciech, Patron naszej Ojczyzny.

Agli alunni e agli insegnanti delle scuole elementari italiane

Saluto anzitutto gli Alunni e gli Insegnanti delle Scuole Elementari provenienti da ogni parte d’Italia.

Carissimi scolari, siate benvenuti a questo incontro nella cornice della splendida Basilica Vaticana! Vi ringrazio per la vostra gradita visita e vi esprimo tutto il mio affetto. Come sapete, io conto molto sulle vostre preghiere e sui vostri atti di bontà per il bene della Chiesa e per la conversione del mondo.

Vi esorto ad essere obbedienti ai vostri genitori e ai vostri insegnanti che vi vogliono bene e desiderano che voi cresciate, come il bambino Gesù, in età, in sapienza e in grazia.

Oltre alle materie scolastiche, impegnatevi a conoscere sempre meglio la figura di Gesù, amico dei ragazzi, le sue opere e il suo Vangelo. L’amicizia con lui vi procurerà certamente una grande gioia, perché egli non delude, è sempre fedele, mantiene le promesse e non vi abbandona mai. Cercate, perciò, di avere con lui un rapporto intimo mediante la preghiera e la partecipazione alla Santa Messa; sforzatevi di non far nulla che possa dargli dispiacere. Con questi pensieri benedico voi, i vostri genitori e i vostri insegnanti.

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Puisse cette évocation de l’Esprit Saint, le Maître intérieur, porter des fruits dans la vie des pèlerins francophones venus à cette audience! Parmi vous, je salue les Sœurs Franciscaines Missionnaires de Marie qui, précisément, sont en session de ressourcement spirituel: que l’Esprit soit votre lumière et votre force! J’accueille avec plaisir les pèlerins de la Maison de l’Europe, à Paris, accompagnés de Monseigneur Brunon, ainsi que le groupe de Bordeaux. En vous remerciant tous de votre présence, je vous accorde de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini di espressione linguistica inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I offer a warm welcome to the Sisters of Mercy who are celebrating their Golden Jubilee of Religious Profession. As you give thanks to God our Father, for his many blessings; may you be strengthened in joyful service of Christ and the Church. My cordial greetings go also to the group of musicians from Sri Lanka. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ad un gruppo giapponese proveniente da Tokyo

Ringrazio gli illustrissimi sacerdoti del Tempio Meiji (a Tokyo) e tutte le altre persone che hanno voluto farmi questa visita.

Nel mondo d’oggi mancano la giustizia e la pace, perché molti ancora non conoscono Dio. Lavoriamo incessantemente affinché l’umanità riconosca il vero Dio.

Con questo auspicio e con questa preghiera vi saluto di cuore. Inoltre saluto i pellegrini della parrocchia Ofuna e vi benedico.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Deseo ahora saludar muy cordialmente a los peregrinos y visitantes procedentes de los diversos Países de América Latina y de España.

En particular, al grupo de Religiosos franciscanos, especialmente de Mallorca, a quienes aliento a continuar tras las huellas del Santo de Asís, modelo de entrega a Dios y amor a los hermanos.

Mientras doy mi cordial bienvenida a los grupos juveniles y parroquiales aquí presentes, imparto a todos con afecto la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

Amados irmãos e irmãs, Augurando-vos um crescimento cada vez maior na fidelidade à vocação a que Deus vos chama, concedo-vos de todo o coração a Bênção Apostólica.

Ai numerosi gruppi italiani

Nel salutare tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana, desidero oggi rivolgere un particolare pensiero ai ragazzi e ai rispettivi genitori della Missione Cattolica Italiana di Klingnau, nella Svizzera di lingua tedesca. A tutti loro vada il mio benvenuto cordiale, riconoscente per l’affetto che hanno voluto dimostrare al Papa partecipando a questa Udienza. Auspico che la visita alla città di Roma, centro del Cristianesimo, confermi la loro fede cattolica e li renda testimoni sempre più fervidi del Cristo risorto.

Saluto anche i ragazzi della squadra di calcio dell’Oratorio di San Pietro, che si sono distinti nell’attività agonistica. Invito ragazzi ed educatori a perseverare nel proposito di diffondere un vero spirito sportivo, facendo delle gare un’occasione per esprimere rispetto, lealtà, fraterna amicizia.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Carissimi, vi invito ad accogliere e a far fruttificare in voi la grazia del Risorto, per giungere alla maturità cristiana e ad un perseverante impegno nel servire la causa del suo Vangelo.

Pertanto, tutti voi, sia che vi troviate nell’età giovanile o che siate provati dalla sofferenza, o abbiate di recente santificato il vostro reciproco amore col Sacramento nuziale, fate della vostra esistenza un’offerta gradita a Dio.

Imploro per ciascuno di voi una fede salda e serena e vi auguro che la gioia cristiana sia radicata nei vostri cuori.

A tutti la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

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