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Pentecost: an outpouring of divine life

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Saturday 22 July 1989 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. The event of Pentecost in the upper room of Jerusalem was a special divine manifestation. We have already considered its principal external elements: "the sound of a mighty wind," the "tongues of fire" above those assembled in the upper room, and finally the "speaking in other languages." All these elements indicate not only the presence of the Holy Spirit, but also his special descent on those present, his "self-giving," which produced in them a visible transformation, as is evident from the text of the Acts of the Apostles (2:1-12). Pentecost closes the long cycle of divine manifestations in the Old Testament, among which the most important was that to Moses on Mount Sinai.

2. From the beginning of this series of pneumatological reflections, we have also mentioned the link between the Pentecost event and Christ's Pasch, especially under the aspect of his departure to the Father through his death on the cross, his resurrection and ascension. Pentecost is the fulfillment of Jesus' announcement to the apostles on the day before his passion, during his "farewell discourse" in the upper room of Jerusalem. On that occasion Jesus had spoken of the "new Paraclete": "I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Paraclete, to be with you forever, even the spirit of truth" (Jn 14:16). Jesus emphasized: "When I go, I will send him to you" (Jn 16:7).

Speaking of his departure through his redemptive death on the cross, Jesus had said: "Yet a little while and the world will see me no more, but you will see me; because I live also" (Jn 14, 19).

Here we have a new aspect of the link between the Pasch and Pentecost: "I live." Jesus was speaking of the resurrection. "You will live": the life, which will be manifested and confirmed in my resurrection, will become your life. The transmission of this life, manifested in the mystery of Christ's Pasch, is effected definitively at Pentecost. Indeed, Christ's words echo the concluding part of Ezekiel's prophecy in which God promised: "I shall put my Spirit within you, and you shall live" (37:14). Therefore Pentecost is linked organically to the Pasch. It pertains to Christ's paschal mystery: "I live and you will live."

3. By virtue of the coming of the Holy Spirit, Christ's prayer in the upper room is also fulfilled: "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you, since you have given him power over all flesh, to give eternal life to all whom you have given him" (Jn 17:1-2).

In the paschal mystery, Jesus Christ is the principle of this life. The Holy Spirit gives this life, drawing on the redemption effected by Christ: "He will take what is mine" (Jn 16:14). Jesus himself had said: "It is the Spirit that gives life" (Jn 6:63). Similarly St. Paul proclaims that "the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Cor 3:6). Pentecost radiates the truth professed by the Church in the words of the creed: "I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life."

Together with the Pasch, Pentecost is the climax of the divine Trinity's economy of salvation in human history.

4. The apostles were assembled on the day of Pentecost in the upper room of Jerusalem together with Mary, the mother of Jesus, and other "disciples" of the Lord, men and women. They were the first to experience the fruits of Christ's resurrection.

For them Pentecost was the day of resurrection, of new life in the Holy Spirit. It was a spiritual resurrection which we can discern in the transformation of the apostles in the course of all those days; from the Friday of Christ's passion, through Easter day, until the day of Pentecost. The capture of the Master and his death on the cross were a terrible blow for them, from which they found it difficult to recover. This explains their mistrust and doubts on receiving news of the resurrection, even when they met the risen one. The Gospels refer to it several times: "They would not believe" (Mk 16:11); "some doubted" (Mt 28:17). Jesus himself rebuked them gently: "Why are you troubled and why do questionings arise in your hearts?" (Lk 24:38). He tried to convince them about his identity, by showing them that he was not "a spirit" but had "flesh and bones." It was for this reason that he even ate a piece of broiled fish before them (cf. Lk 24:37-43).

The event of Pentecost definitively leads the disciples to overcome this attitude of mistrust: the truth of the resurrection fully pervades their minds and wins over their wills. Truly then "out of their hearts flow rivers of living water" (cf. Jn 7:38), as Jesus himself had foretold in a metaphorical sense when speaking of the Holy Spirit.

5. Through the work of the Paraclete, the apostles and the other disciples became an "Easter people," believers in and witnesses to Christ's resurrection. Without reserve, they made the truth of that decisive event their own. From the day of Pentecost they were the heralds of "the mighty works of God" (magnalia Dei) (Acts 2:11).

They were made capable of it from within. The Holy Spirit effected their interior transformation by virtue of the new life that derived from Christ in his resurrection and now infused by the new Paraclete into his followers. We can apply to this transformation what Isaiah prophesied metaphorically: "until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is deemed a forest" (Is 32:15). Truly on Pentecost the gospel truth is radiant with light: God "is not the God of the dead, but of the living" (Mt 22:32), "for all live to him" (Lk 20:38).

6. The theophany of Pentecost opens to all men the prospect of newness of life. That event is the beginning of God's new "self-giving" to humanity. The apostles are the sign and pledge not only of the "new Israel," but also of the "new creation" effected by the paschal mystery. As St. Paul writes: "One man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.... Where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Rom 5:18-20). This victory of life over death, of grace over sin, achieved by Christ, works in humanity by means of the Holy Spirit. Through him it brings to fruition in our hearts the mystery of redemption (cf. Rom 5:5; Gal 5:22).

Pentecost is the beginning of the process of spiritual renewal, which realizes the economy of salvation in its historical and eschatological dimension, casting itself over all creation.

7. In the Encyclical on the Holy Spirit, Dominum et Vivificantem, I wrote: "It is a new beginning in relation to the first original beginning of God's salvific self-giving, which is identified with the mystery of creation itself. Here is what we read in the very first words of the Book of Genesis: 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth...and the Spirit of God (ruah Elohim) was moving over the face of the waters' (1:1f.). This biblical concept of creation includes not only the call to existence of the very being of the cosmos, that is to say, the giving of existence, but also the presence of the Spirit of God in creation, that is to say, the beginning of God's salvific self-communication to the things he creates. This is true first of all concerning man, who has been created in the image and likeness of God" (n. 12). At Pentecost the "new beginning" of God's salvific self-giving is united to the paschal mystery, source of new life.


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

Ai fedeli di lingua francese 

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

J’ADRESSE UN SALUT particulier aux jeunes venus de Besançon et dont certains ont accompli ce pèlerinage à bicyclette. Je les félicite pour cette performance. A tous, mes vifs encouragements à persévérer dans la fidélité au Christ et à son Eglise!

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UN SALUT ÉGALEMENT aux enfants de ehœur de Montbrelloz et de Forel, au diocèse de Fribourg. Que le service liturgique accompli avec dignité et avec foi soit pour chacun de vous et pour les assemblées de vos paroisses une source vivifiante de foi et du bonheur de croire!

Je remercie tous les pèlerins d’expression française de leur visite réconfortante et, dans quelques instants, je leur donnerai de tout cœur la Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini e visitatori di espressione inglese 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I OFFER A SPECIAL greeting to a group of pilgrims from Hong Kong, and to a group from Auckland, New Zealand, connected with the diocesan monthly magazine.

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I LIKE WISE wish to welcome American Sisters working on the Missions in Guam, Japan, Central America and Africa. I pray that your visit to the Tombs of the Apostles will renew you in zeal and joy.

To all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors here today I impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Ad alcuni gruppi di lingua tedesca 

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

NACH DESEN KURZEN Überlegungen grüße ich sehr herzlich alle anwesenden deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher: die Gruppen und Familien und besonders die zahlreichen Jugendlichen unter euch. Namentlich grüße ich die große Jugendgruppe aus Vechta sowie die Eltern und Angehörigen von Alumnen des Bischöflichen Seminars in Graz. Euch und allen Anwesenden erbitte ich reiche Gaben des Heiligen Geistes. Ich wünsche euch geistig und körperlich erholsame Ferientage und begleite euch von Herzen mit meinem besonderen Segen.

Ai fedeli giunti dalla Spagna e dall’America Latina 

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

ME ES GRATO dirigir mi cordial saludo a los sacerdotes, religiosos y religiosas, así como a los peregrinos de América Latina y España presentes en esta Audiencia. En particular, deseo saludar a la peregrinación de la diócesis de Jaén (España), a los grupos llegados de Valencia y a la Asociación “Dante Alighieri”, de Sevilla.

Las vacaciones son una época ideal del año para descansar y descubrir más profundamente la presencia de Dios. Os invito, pues, a encontrar ese espacio de tiempo necesario para escuchar a Dios, especialmente a través de la lectura reposada y atenta de la Sagrada Escritura.

A vosotros y a vuestras familias imparto con afecto mi Bendición Apostólica. 

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese 

Caríssimos irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa,

SAÙDO CORDIALMENTE os presentes e quantos me escutam, desejandolhes todo o bem; em particular, os grupos de Brasileiros, vindos de São Paulo, Salvador e Rio de Janeiro: que Deus vos acompanhe sempre com seus favores! E que, pelo Espírito Santo que nos foi dado, caminheis em “vida nova”! Com a minha Bêncão Apostólica. 

Ad un gruppo ungherese 

VORREI SALUTARE adesso un gruppo di pellegrini ungheresi provenienti da Mezókövesd, diocesi di Eger. 

Ai fedeli polacchi 

SERDECZNIE WITAM wszystkich pielgrzymów, a szczególnie Księdza Kardynała z Wrocławia; Księży Biskupów, a w szczególności Księdza Biskupa z Białegostoku. Witam wszystkie grupy pielgrzymie: z parafii Zmartwychwstania Pańskiego z Bydgoszczy - księża misjonarze; z parafii Nawiedzenia Najświętszej Maryi Panny z Zaborowa; z parafii św. Józefa ze Świętochłowic; z parafii Wspomożenia Wiernych z Czechowic-Dziedzic; grupę, nauczycieli z Gorlic; z parafii Matki Bożej Bolesnej z Limanowej; duszpasterstwo akademickie “Wieczernik” z Rzeszowa; z parafii Matki Bożej Bolesnej w Jarosławiu - ojcowie dominikanie; witam pielgrzymów z diecezji warmińskiej i z diecezji chełmińskiej; duszpasterstwo akademickie z Wrocławia; z parafii św. Mikołaja i św. Jana Chrzciciela z Legnicy; Liceum Ogólnokształcące Urszulanek Unii Rzymskiej z Wrocławia; pielgrzymów z Polonii amerykańskiej i pielgrzymkę z polonijnej paraffi św. Józefa z Kanady; pielgrzymkę Związku Rezerwistów i Byłych Wojskowych z Francji - Okręg VII, Francja Wschodnia; grupę nauczycieli i uczniów VI Liceum Ogólnokształcącego im. Ignacego Paderewskiego; grupę Towarzystwa Przyjazni Polsko-Francuskiej ze Słupska; grupę górników z Sardynii; prócz tego uczestników grup turystycznych: PKS-u z Koszalina, Orbisu z Drohiczyna, Turysty z Radomia i Trampa z Warszawy . . .

Serdecznie pozdrawlam wszystkich obecnych tutaj pielgrzymów z Polski, a także z emigracji, i życze błogosławieństwa Bożego naszej Ojczyźnie na ten nowy okres - jak słyszymy - niełatwy, ale przecież w jakimś sensie obiecujący, który się w dziejach naszej O)czyzny otwiera. 

Ai gruppi italiani 

Porgo ora il mio saluto a tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana, ed in particolare al gruppo delle Suore Adoratrici del Sangue di Cristo, che stanno completando in Roma un corso di studio sulla spiritualità della loro Congregazione. Ad esse, ed alle loro consorelle, l’invito a testimoniare sempre con viva fede l’amore di Dio, manifestatosi nel sacrificio di Cristo crocifisso. 

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Il mio pensiero va poi ai giovani del Lions Club International, convenuti da ben diciannove Paesi, per partecipare ad un corso di studio per conoscere l’Italia. Ad essi auguro di conoscere in modo particolare le radici cristiane di questo Paese, della sua arte, della sua letteratura, delle sue tradizioni popolari. La presente circostanza sia, inoltre, un’occasione di fraterna amicizia e di dialogo.

A tutti la mia Benedizione Apostolica. 

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli 

Vada ora il mio cordiale saluto ai giovani, ai malati, agli sposi novelli, presenti a questa Udienza generale.

Carissimi, nel pensiero di quanti ci sono fratelli, e specialmente di coloro che soffrono e hanno bisogno del nostro aiuto, io vi esorto vivamente ad amare il prossimo come voi stessi, di più ancora, come Gesù ama ciascuno di noi. Solo con la carità verso gli altri, praticata per amore del Signore, si è in grado di affrontare serenamente l’avvenire, di superare la prova delle malattie, di fare della propria famiglia un nido di pace. La Madonna, che tutti ci ama con cuore di Madre, sempre vi assista e protegga.

A tutti la mia Benedizione!

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