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Pentecost: God's gift of divine adoption

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 26 July 1989 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. We have analyzed the external elements recorded in the Acts of the Apostles of the divine manifestation in the theophany of Pentecost in Jerusalem, namely, "the sound of a mighty wind," "the tongues of fire" above those assembled in the upper room, and finally that psychological-vocal phenomenon whereby the apostles are understood even by those who speak "other languages." We have also seen that among all those external manifestations the important and essential element is the interior transformation of the apostles. It is precisely this transformation that expresses the presence and action of the Spirit-Paraclete, whose coming had been promised to the apostles by Christ at the time of his return to the Father.

The descent of the Holy Spirit is closely connected with the paschal mystery, which is effected in the redemptive sacrifice of the cross and in Christ's resurrection which generates new life. On the day of Pentecost the apostles—by the work of the Holy Spirit—fully partake in this life, and thus there matures within them the power of the witness which they will bear to the risen Lord.

2. At Pentecost the Holy Spirit is manifested as the giver of life. This is what we profess in the creed when we proclaim him "the Lord, the giver of life." This completes the economy of God's self-communication which began when he gave himself to man, created in his image and likeness. This divine gift of self—which originally constituted the mystery of the creation of man and of his elevation to supernatural dignity, after sin is projected in history as a promise of salvation. It is fulfilled in the mystery of the redemption effected by Christ, the God-Man, through his sacrifice. Linked to Christ's paschal mystery, "God's self-giving" is fulfilled in Pentecost. The theophany of Jerusalem signifies the new beginning of God's self-giving in the Holy Spirit. The apostles and all those present on that day with Mary, the mother of Christ, in the upper room, were the first to experience this new outpouring of divine life which - in them and through them, and therefore in the Church and through the Church - has been made available to everyone. It is universal, just as redemption is universal.

3. The beginning of the new life is acquired through the gift of divine adoption. This is obtained for all by Christ through the redemption and extended to all by the Holy Spirit. By grace, the Spirit remakes and as it were recreates man in the likeness of the only-begotten Son of the Father. In this way the incarnate Word renews and reinforces God's "gift of self," by offering man through the redemption that "participation in the divine nature" mentioned in the Second Letter of Peter (cf. 2 Pet 1:4). St. Paul also, in the Letter to the Romans, speaks of Jesus Christ as "designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead" (cf 2 Pet 1, 4).

The fruit of the resurrection, which realizes the fullness of the power of Christ, Son of God, is therefore shared with those who are open to the action of the Spirit as a new gift of divine adoption. After having spoken of the Word made flesh, St. John says in the prologue of his Gospel that "to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God" (1:12).

The two apostles John and Paul understood the concept of divine adoption as a gift to man of this new life, effected by Christ through the Holy Spirit.

The adoption is a gift coming from the Father, as we read in the First Letter of John: "See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are" (1 Jn 3:1). In the Letter to the Romans Paul expounds the same truth in the light of God's eternal design: "For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the first-born among many brethren" (8:29). The same apostle in the Letter to the Ephesians speaks of a sonship due to divine adoption, since God has predestined us "to be his adopted sons through Jesus Christ" (1:5).

4. Moreover, in the Letter to the Galatians Paul speaks of the eternal design conceived by God in the depth of his trinitarian life. It was accomplished in the "fullness of time" with the coming of the Son in the Incarnation to make us his adopted sons: "God sent forth his Son, born of a that we might receive adoption as sons" (Gal 4:4-5). According to the Apostle, the mission of the Holy Spirit is closely connected with the Son's "mission" (missio) in the trinitarian economy. He adds: "And because we are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, 'Abba! Father!'" (Gal 4:6).

Here we touch the goal of the mystery expressed in Pentecost: the Holy Spirit descends "into our hearts" as the Spirit of the Son. Precisely because he is the Spirit of the Son, he enables us to cry out to God together with Christ: "Abba, Father."

5. This cry expresses the fact that not only are we called to be sons of God, "but we are so indeed," as the Apostle John emphasizes in his First Letter (3:1). Because of this gift, we truly share in the sonship proper to the Son of God, Jesus Christ. This is the supernatural truth of our relationship with Christ, a truth that can be known only by those who "have known the Father" (cf. 1 Jn 2:13).

This knowledge is possible only by virtue of the Holy Spirit, through the witness which he gives from within to the human spirit. There, he is present as the principle of truth and life. The Apostle Paul tells us: "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ" (Rom 8:16-17). "You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship whereby we cry, 'Abba! Father!'" (Rom 8:15).

6. The Spirit reproduces in man the image of the Son, thus establishing the intimate fraternal bond with Christ which leads us to "cry out with him, 'Abba! Father!'" Hence the Apostle writes that "all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God" (Rom 8:14). The Holy Spirit "breathes" in the hearts of believers as the Spirit of the Son, establishing in man the divine sonship in the likeness of Christ and in union with Christ. The Holy Spirit forms the human spirit from within according to the divine exemplar which is Christ. Thus, through the Spirit, the Christ known in the pages of the Gospel becomes the "life of the soul." In thinking, loving, judging, acting and even in feeling, man is conformed to Christ, and becomes "Christlike."

This work of the Holy Spirit has its new beginning at Pentecost in Jerusalem, at the apex of the paschal mystery. From then onward Christ is with us and works in us through the Holy Spirit, putting into effect the eternal design of the Father, who has predestined us "to be his adopted sons through Jesus Christ" (Eph 1:5). Let us never tire of repeating and meditating on this marvelous truth of our faith.


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

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

JE SUIS HEUREUX d’accueillir les pèlerins et visiteurs de langue française. Je salue les groupes de religieuses, notamment les Sœurs de l’Enfant-Jésus de Saint-Maur, et les Sœurs de Saint-Joseph de l’Apparition dont le chapitre vient d’élire la nouvelle Supérieure générale. A toutes, je sonhaite de vivre en union profonde avec le Christ, et je prie pour la fécondité de leur participation à la mission de l’Eglise.

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UN SALUT CORDIAL aux pèlerins de Rouyn-Noranda au Canada, venus à l’occasion du quinzième anniversaire de l’érection de leur diocèse, qui coïncide avec les quinze ans d’épiscopat de leur Evêque, Monseigneur Jean-Guy Hamelin, auquel j’offre mes meilleurs vœux, en souhaitant que cette heureuse circostance stimule la vitalité de sa communauté diocésaine.

* * *

JE SOUHAlTE la bienvenue à Monseigneur Hardy, Evêque de Beauvais, et aux représentants de sa nombreuse famille. Enfin, je salue les jeunes catéchistes de Damas, que je bénis de grand cœur ainsi que vous touts ici presents.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I WISH TO WELCOME the group of Coptic pilgrims accompanied by Bishop Amba Tadros: I pray that Almighty God will bless your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul. May the theological dialogue taking place between the Churches of Rome and Alexandria help to bring about that full communion which we all seek.

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MY GREETINGS also go to the pilgrim groups from Malta, Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. I welcome the Religious Sisters from the Academy of Our Lady of Lourdes in Nogales, Arizona, and the Benedictine Nuns and their benefactors who are celebrating the Centennial of Saint Martin’s Convent in Rapid City, South Dakota. Upon all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims here today I invoke God’s blessings of peace and joy.

Ad un gruppo di lingua giapponese

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

SI SA CHE il vostro Paese gode attualmente di una considerevole prosperità materiale. In questa situazione io vi esorto, carissimi pellegrini, ad essere voi in mezzo al vostro popolo fermento evangelico come granelli di senape ed efficaci testimoni della ricchezza spirituale.

Con questo auspicio vi imparto volentieri la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai pellegrini di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

MIT DIESER KURZEN Betrachtung grüße ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher und erteile euch allen sowie euren lieben Angehörigen in der Heimat von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

ME COMPLACE saludar ahora a los peregrinos de España y de América Latina. De modo particular saludo a los venidos de la diócesis española de León; así como a los grupos parroquiales de Madrid, Sant Boi del Llobregat (Barcelona), Villahermosa de Ciudad Real y a los de la parroquia San Juan María Vianney de Guatemala. Que vuestra visita a la tumba de San Pedro afiance vuestra fe y os aliente a dar mejor testimonio de vida cristiana en la propia sociedad.

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EL PRÓXIMO DÍA 19 de agosto tendré la immensa dicha de participar en la IV Jornada Mundial de la Juventud que se celebra esta vez en la ciudad de Santiago de Compostela.

Numerosos jóvenes de todo el mundo se darán cita en Santiago para meditar sobre las palabras de Cristo: “Yo soy el Camino, la Verdad y la Vida”.  A tal efecto grupos de participantes recorrerán la ruta jacobea, como la hacían los peregrinos de épocas pasadas.

Me es grato bendecir y entregar la Cruz que unos jóvenes españoles desean llevar por los caminos de España hasta el mismo lugar del Encuentro.

¡Que el Señor y la Virgen del Camino os guien y protejan a lo largo de vuestra peregrinación!

A vosotros y a todos los presentes imparto con afecto mi Bendición Apostólica, que extiendo complacido a vuestras familias.

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

Amadíssimos irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa,

SAÚDO CORDIALMENTE os que me ouvem, com votos de graça e paz no Senhor. Em particular, sejam bem-vindos

- os Juristas Brasileiros, participantes num congresso sobre os direitos de família; e os três grupos de Portugal:

- os portuenses do curso de preparação para o Matrimónio, a peregrinação da Sociedade Missionária Portuguesa e os “Cursistas” da freguesia da Silveira -Patriarcado de Lisboa.

A todos desejo que, com a vinda a Roma, cresçam na fé; e a todos exorto à fidelidade, na missão que têm na vida, como homens e cristãos: no respeito e ao serviço dos valores da família segundo Deus; Ele é nosso Pai, e a todos nos quer bons filhos, em Jesus Cristo, vendo em cada homem um irmão. Com a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai numerosi fedeli polacchi

POZDRAWIAM W SZCZEGÓLNOŚCI pielgrzymów z paraffi katedralnej w Tarnowie; z parafii Matki Boskiej Bolesnej z Jarosławia - ojcowie dominikanie; ze Słupska z parafii św. Jacka; prócz tego harcerzy z archidiecezji wrocławskiej; współpracowników misyjoych księży pallotynów z całej Polski, polskich harcerzy z Anglii; grupę Polonii amerykańskiej; grupę “Hartur” z Bielska-Białej; pielgrzymów z diecezji chełmińskiej; prócz tego uczestników grup turystycznych PKS z Warszawy, Orbisu, Turysty i Polskikego Związku Motorowego z Sosnowca.

Ad alcuni gruppi provenienti dall’Italia

Rivolgo ora uno speciale saluto a due gruppi di Suore presenti a questa Udienza: le Suore Teatine dell’Immacolata, convenute per il Capitolo Generale Elettivo, e le Religiose che frequentano un corso di formazione permanente presso la casa di preghiera “Mater Ecclesiae” delle Dorotee di Cemmo.

A tutte imparto una particolare benedizione con l’auspicio che queste occasioni ritemprino in esse ogni buon proposito di spirituale rinnovamento e di sempre più generoso servizio nella Chiesa secondo il carisma specifico di ciascuna Famiglia religiosa.

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Il mio pensiero va poi ai partecipanti del corso di formazione per animatori e animatrici vocazionali organizzato dal Centro di Spiritualità “Rogate”, di Morlupo.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Infine saluto i numerosi ragazzi e giovani, i cari malati e quanti generosamente li seguono ed accompagnano, e le coppie di sposi novelli.

Carissimi, vi addito oggi, come modelli i Santi Gioacchino e Anna, genitori della Vergine Santissima, dei quali fa memoria la liturgia odierna:
- a voi giovani, perché poniate alla base dei progetti per il vostro avvenire una grande, illimitata fiducia nel Signore;
- a voi ammalati, perché sappiate accettare sempre la volontà del Signore il quale, permettendo la sofferenza, vi chiama ad una collaborazione privilegiata nell’impegno della costruzione del suo Regno e della redenzione del mondo;
- e soprattutto a voi, sposi novelli, perché sappiate fondare la vostra unione di coppia sulla preghiera quotidiana, condizione per un impegno operoso a divenire testimoni e cooperatori della fecondità della Chiesa.

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