Bookmark and Share

Pentecost: People of God, a holy people

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 16 August 1989 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. On the day of Pentecost at Jerusalem, the apostles received the Holy Spirit, together with the first community of Christ's disciples, assembled in the upper room with Mary, the mother of the Lord. Thus the promise which Christ made to them when he left this world to return to the Father was fulfilled for them. On that day the Church, which had her origins in the Redeemer's death, was revealed to the world. I shall speak about this in the next catechesis.

Now I would like to show that the coming of the Holy Spirit, as the fulfillment of the new covenant in Christ's blood, gives rise to the new People of God. This is the community of those who have been "sanctified in Christ Jesus" (1 Cor 1:2); those from whom Christ has made "a kingdom of priests to his God and Father" (Rev 1:6; cf. 5:10; 1 Pet 2:9). All this happened by virtue of the Holy Spirit.

2. So as to grasp fully the significance of this truth, announced by the Apostles Peter and Paul and by the Book of Revelation, we must return for a moment to the establishing of the old covenant between the Lord God and Israel. It was represented by its leader, Moses, after the liberation from the slavery of Egypt. The texts which speak of it indicate clearly that the strict covenant was not reduced to a mere pact founded on bilateral duties. It was the Lord God who chose Israel as his people, so that the people became his property, while he himself would be their God from then onward.

Thus we read: "Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation" (Ex 19:5-6). The Book of Deuteronomy repeats and confirms what God proclaims in Exodus. "For you (Israel) are a people holy to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for his own possession, out of all the peoples that are on the face of the earth" (Dt 7:6; cf. 26:18). (Incidentally, we may note that the expression sequllah means "the king's personal treasure.")

3. Such a choice on God's part derives totally and exclusively from his love, a completely gratuitous love. We read: "It was not because you were more numerous than any other people that the Lord set his love upon you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples; but it is because the Lord loves you and is keeping the oath which he swore to your fathers, that the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage" (Dt 7:7-8). The Book of Exodus expresses the same thing in picturesque language: "You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself" (Ex 19:4).

God acts out of gratuitous love. This love binds Israel to the Lord God in a particular and exceptional way. Through it Israel became God's property. Yet such love requires a return, and therefore a response of love on Israel's part: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart" (Dt 6:5).

4. Thus in the covenant a new people, the People of God, came into being. Being the "property" of the Lord God means being consecrated to him, being a holy people. It is what the Lord God makes known to the entire community of the Israelites through Moses: "You shall be holy, for I, the Lord your God, am holy" (Lev 19:2). By that very choice God gave himself to his people in that which is most characteristic of him, holiness, and he asked it from Israel as a quality of life.

As a people consecrated to God, Israel is called to be a priestly people: "You shall be called the priests of the Lord; men shall speak of you as ministers of our God" (Is 61:6).

5. The new covenant, new and eternal, comes strictly "in Christ's blood" (cf. 1 Cor 11:25). By virtue of this sacrifice, the "new Counselor" (Parakletos) (cf. Jn 14:16)—the Holy Spirit—is given to those who are "sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints" (1 Cor 1:2). "To all God's beloved in Rome, who are called to be saints" (Rom 1:7), St. Paul addressed his letter to the Christians of Rome. He expressed himself similarly to the Corinthians: "To the Church of God which is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia" (2 Cor 1:1); to the Philippians: "To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are at Philippi" (Phil 1:1); to the Colossians: "To the saints and faithful brethren in Christ at Colossae" (Col 1:2); and to those of Ephesus: "To the saints who are at Ephesus" (Eph 1:1).

We find the same mode of expression in the Acts of the Apostles: "Peter...came down also to the saints that lived at Lydda" (Acts 9:32; cf. 9:41; also 9:13 "to your saints at Jerusalem").

All these cases refer to Christians, or to the faithful, that is, to the brethren who have received the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the direct builder of that holiness upon which, through participation in the holiness of God himself, the whole Christian life is built: "You were the Spirit of our God" (1 Cor 6:11; cf. 2 Thess 2:13; 1 Pet 1:2).

6. The same must be said of the consecration which, in virtue of the Holy Spirit, causes the baptized to become "a kingdom of priests to his God and Father" (cf. Rev 1:6; 5:10; 20:6). The First Letter of Peter fully develops this truth: "Like living stones be yourselves built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 2:5).

"You are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, that you may declare the wonderful deeds of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light" (1 Pet 2:9). We know that "it was revealed to them" with the voice of the Gospel "through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven" (1 Pet 1:12).

7. The Constitution Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council expressed this truth in the following words: "Christ the Lord, high priest taken from among men (cf. Heb 5:1-5), made the new people 'a kingdom of priests to God, his Father' (Rev 1:6; cf. 5:9-10). The baptized, by regeneration and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, are consecrated to be a spiritual house and a holy priesthood, that through all those works which are those of the Christian they may offer spiritual sacrifices and proclaim the power of him who has called them out of darkness into his marvelous light (cf. 1 Pet 2:4-10)" (n. 10).

Here we arrive at the very essence of the Church as People of God and community of saints, to which we shall return in the next catechesis. However, the texts quoted clarify already that the unction, that is, the power and action of the Holy Spirit, is expressed in the condition of holiness and consecration of the new people.


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

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

J’accueille avec joie les pèlerins de langue française et je les remercie d’être venus à cette audience.

IN PARTICULIER, je salue de tout cœur les membres des la Congrégation des Filles de Marie Immaculée, qui sont en session internationale d’étude en vue d’approfondir la spiritualité marianiste, et je leur offre mes vœux de fécond apostolat dans les nombreux pays du monde où elles contribuent à étendre la foi en Jésus-Christ.

* * *

JE SALUE CORDIALEMENT aussi les sœurs françaises, japonaises et canadiennes de l’Enfant Jésus de Chauffailles. Je leur souhaite, après un fructueux pèlerinage aux tombeaux des Apôtres Pierre et Paul, un apostolat toujours plus généreux auprès de enfants et des malades.

* * *

JE SUIS HEUREUX d’accueillir également un pèlerinage de Yaoundé. A travers vous, je voudrais dire à tous vos frères du Cameroun l’heureux souvenir que je garde de ma visite pastorale en 1985. Je forme des vœux fervents pour l’Eglise dans votre pays, ainsi que pour Bénédiction Apostolique.

A tous, je donne volontiers ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I WISH TO WELCOME the groups of pilgrims from Korea and Indonesia: Be assured of my prayers as I prepare for my Pastoral Visit to your countries in October. My cordial greeting also goes to the participants in the Across Trust pilgrimage from England. Finally I wish to welcome the Knights and Ladies of Marshall, who have come to Rome on pilgrimage from Ghana: I thank you for the many ways in which you have sacrificed to build up the Church in your homeland, and particularly for your generosity to young seminarians. And to all the English-speaking visitors here today I offer my heartfelt good wishes and willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

MIT DIESEN Gedanken wünsche ich Euch, den deutschsprachigen Pilgern und Besuchern frohe Tage der Erholung und geistigen Bereicherung und erteile Euch und Euren Familien von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Gelobt sei Jesus Christus!

Ai pellegrini ungheresi

Vorrei salutare in ungherese i pellegrini ungheresi presenti alla udienza odierna.

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola

ME ES GRATO saludar a los sacerdotes, religiosos y religiosas, así como a los peregrinos de América Latina y España presentes en esta Audiencia. De modo especial, mi cordial saludo se dirige a las Religiosas Franciscanas Misioneras de María. También saludo con afecto a la peregrinación mexicana de Tepa, a los profesores y a los alumnos del Centro Universitario de México, al Grupo de Folklore “Ciudad de Guadalajara”, así como a las jóvenes quinceañeras.

Como recuerdo de vuestra visita a la tumba del Apóstol Pedro, os animo a amar cada vez más a Jesús de Nazaret, el Hijo de Dios, nuestro Amigo por excelencia. El intercede constantemente por todos ante el Padre. ¡Amadlo de verdad y seguidlo con decisión!

A vosotros y a vuestras familias imparto complacido la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

SAÚDO CORDIALMENTE os ouvintes de língua portuguesa, hoje bem representados por Brasileiros, mormente pelo Senhor Comandante e pelos Oficiais, Cadetas e equipagem do navio-escola “Brasil”.

Desejo a todos felicidades; e que crescendo na fé e na consciência da vocação cristã, honrem sempre a dignidade a que os elevou o Baptismo: sois templos do Espírito Santo e novo Povo de Deus. E olhando para o grupo, onde prevalecem os jovens, digo-lhes: sede arautos de esperança! E, pela cultivada nobreza da vossa escolha de vida, sede homens construtores de fraternidade, paz e solidariedade, com todos, sem exceção, para um mundo e para um Brasil melhor! Com estes votos, vos abençôo,assim como às vossas famílias.

A un gruppo di pellegrini giapponesi

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

DILETTISSIMI MEMBRI della delegazione giapponese, che è venuta qui a Roma per ricordare il 400° anniversario della missione dei quattro giovani chiamati “Tensho-no shonen-shisetsudan”.

Auguro che anche voi, seguendo il loro esempio, possiate divenire ponte tra l’Oriente e l’Occidente.

Con questo auspicio vi imparto volentieri la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai pellegrini polacchi

WITAM WSZYSTKIE grupy pielgrzymów: w szczególności z Warszawy, z parafii św. Bonifacego, ojcowie bernardyni; młodziez z katedry w Katowicach; pielgrzymów z RyboikaNiewadomia, parafia Bożego Ciała i św. Barbary; z Bytomia - z parafii Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa i z parafii Wniebowzięcia Najświętszej Maryi Panny - diecezja katowicka; z parafii Świętego Ducha z Przeworska; z parafii Nawrócenia św. Pawła w Bełżycach; z parafii Świętych Apostołów Piotra i Pawła oraz pracowników przedsiębiorstw zagranicznych z Międzyrzeca Podlaskiego; pielgrzymkę, z bazyliki św. Jana Chrzciciela w Parczewie; duszpasterstwo akademickie z Białegostoku; nauczycieli z Gdańska; Klub Inteligencji Katolickiej z Gorzowa; pielgrzymkę, z parafii Wszystkich Świętych z Kórnika; młodzieżową pielgrzymkę rowerową Klubu Inteligencji Katolickiej z Poznania; współpracowników misyjnych księży pallotynów; parafię, polonijną św. Jacka z Chicago, księża zmartwychwstańcy; także drugą polonijną pielgrzymkę ze Stanów Zjednoczonych Ameryki; studencki Zespół Pieśni i Tańca “Połonina” z Politechniki w Rzeszowie; Zespół Piesni i Tańca AWF “Podlasie” - Biała Podlaska; grupę Logos-Tour z Olsztyna; pielgrzymkę nauczycieli z parafii św. Stanisława Kostki w Warszawie; pielgrzymów z parafii św. Jerzego z Elbląga; duszpasterstwo harcerzy z diecezji szczecińsko-kamieńskiej; klub żeglarski a Pagaj” z Libiąża; grupę Biura Turystycznego “Pielgrzym” z Warszawy; prócz tego uczestników grup turystycznych: PKS z Warszawy, Orbis z Kutna, PTTK z Częstochowy. (. . .) Wszystkim życzę błogosławieństwa Bożego, nie przestając się modlić wspólnie z pielgrzymami na Jasną Górę w intencjach naszej Ojczyzny w doniosłych dniach, które ta Ojczyzna nadal przeżywa.

Ai fedeli in lingua italiana

Mi è gradito rivolgere ora una cordiale parola di benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana e porgere un particolare saluto ai giovani, ai malati e agli sposi novelli, che partecipano a questa Udienza.

Carissimi, desidero oggi esortarvi ad amare Dio “a fatti e in verità” (cf. 1Gv 3,18). Il vivere la carità implica sempre una delicata, attenta sollecitudine nei confronti del prossimo, per far fiorire in tutti l’umanità nuova e vera portata dal Redentore.

Mentre vi auguro che la bontà misericordiosa di Dio ricolmi la vostra esistenza quotidiana di carità e pace, affido ciascuno di voi alla Vergine Maria perché vi sostenga nel sereno abbandono alla volontà divina, accentuando - come Ella ha fatto - tutto ciò che il Signore chiede per realizzare il suo disegno di bontà sul mondo.

A tutti giunga la mia confortatrice Benedizione Apostolica.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana