Bookmark and Share

Pentecost: the law of the Spirit

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 9 August 1989 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. The descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost was the definitive completion of the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ. It was the full realization of the announcements of the Old Testament, especially those of the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, concerning a new, future covenant which God would establish with man in Christ and an "outpouring" of God's Spirit "on all mankind" (Joel 3:1). However, this also means a new inscription of God's law in the depths of man's being, or, as the prophet says in the "heart" (cf. Jer 31:33). Thus we have a new law, or a law of the spirit, which we must now consider for a more complete understanding of the mystery of the Paraclete.

2. We have already highlighted the fact that the old covenant between God and the people of Israel, established by means of the theophany of Sinai, was based on the law. At its center we find the Decalogue. The Lord exhorted his people to observe the commandments: "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 9:5-6).

Since that covenant had not been faithfully kept, God announced through the prophets that he would establish a new covenant: "This is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts." These words of Jeremiah, already quoted in the previous catechesis, are joined to the promise: "and I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jer 31:33).

3. Therefore the new (future) covenant announced by the prophets was to be established by means of a radical change in man's relationship with God's law. Instead of being an external rule, written on tablets of stone, the law was to become, thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit on the human heart, an interior guideline established "in the depths of man's being."

According to the Gospel, this law is summarized in the commandment of love for God and neighbor. When Jesus stated that "on these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets" (Mt 22:40), he made it clear that they were already contained in the Old Testament (cf. Dt 6:5; Lev 19:18). Love for God is "the great and first commandment"; love for our neighbor is "the second (which) is like the first" (Mt 22:37-39). It is also a condition for observing the first: "for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law" (Rom 13:8).

4. The commandment of love for God and neighbor is the essence of the new law established by Christ by word and example (even to giving "his life for his friends": cf. Jn 15:13). It is written in our hearts by the Holy Spirit. For this reason it becomes the "law of the Spirit."

As the Apostle writes to the Corinthians: "You show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts" (2 Cor 3:3). Therefore the law of the Spirit is man's interior imperative. Rather, it is the same Holy Spirit who thus becomes man's teacher and guide in the depths of his heart.

5. A law thus understood is far removed from every form of external constraint to which man may be subjected in his actions. The law of the Gospel, contained in the word and confirmed by the life and death of Christ, consists in a divine revelation which includes the fullness of the truth about the good of human actions. At the same time it heals and perfects man's inner freedom, as St. Paul writes: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death" (Rom 8:2). According to the Apostle, the Holy Spirit who gives life, because through him the human spirit shares in God's life, becomes at the same time the new principle and source of human activity: "in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit" (Rom 8:4).

In this teaching St. Paul would have been able to appeal to Jesus himself, who in the Sermon on the Mount had pointed out: "Do not think that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Mt 5:17). This fulfillment of God's law by Jesus Christ through word and example constitutes the model of walking according to the Spirit. In this sense, the law of the spirit, written by him on tablets of human hearts, exists and operates in those who believe in Christ and share in his Spirit.

6. As we see from the Acts of the Apostles, the whole life of the primitive Church was a demonstration of the truth expressed by St. Paul. According to him, "God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Spirit who has been given to us" (Rom 5:5). In spite of the limitations and defects of its members, the community of Jerusalem shared in the new life which "is given by the Spirit"; it lived out of God's love. We also have received this life as a gift from the Holy Spirit, who fills us with love—love for God and neighbor—the essential content of the greatest commandment. Thus the new law, stamped in human hearts by love as a gift of the Holy Spirit, is the law of the Spirit within them. It is the law which gives freedom, as St. Paul writes: "The law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death" (Rom 8:2).

7. For this reason, insofar as it is "the pouring into our hearts" of God's love (cf. Rom 5:5), Pentecost marks the beginning of a new human morality based on the law of the Spirit. This morality is more than mere observance of the law dictated by reason or by revelation itself. It derives from and at the same time reaches something more profound. It derives from the Holy Spirit and makes it possible to live in a love which comes from God. It becomes a reality in our lives by means of the Holy Spirit who "has been poured into our hearts."

The Apostle Paul was the greatest proclaimer of this higher morality, rooted in the law of the spirit. He who had been a zealous Pharisee, an expert, a meticulous observer and a fanatical defender of the letter of the old law, and who later became an apostle of Christ, could write about himself: "God...has qualified us to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit: for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Cor 3:6).


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

Ai pellegrini di espressione linguistica francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

JE SUIS HEUREUX de saluer les pèlerins de langue française présents aujourd’hui.

Parmi eux, le voudrais dire mon amicale sympathie aux membres de l’Association des Paralysés de France venus de Versailles: je vous souhaite, chers amis, de trouver dans votre pèlerinage à Rome de nouveaux motifs d’espérance et de courage pour faire face à votre handicap en partageant le mieux possible la vie et l’activité de tous.

* * *

JE SALUE ÉGALEMENT très cordialement les groupes venus de Brazzaville au Congo et d’Abidjan en Côte d’Ivoire: que votre pèlerinage auprès des tombeaux de Pierre et Paul soit pour vous une expérience de foi et de communion avec l’Eglise universelle; à votre retour, soyez des témoins toujours plus ardents de l’Evangile!

A tous, je donne volontiers ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I WISH TO GREET the various groups of pilgrims, especially those from Hong Kong, Taiwan and the United States. I am pleased to welcome my brothers and sisters from the Church of Sweden, who have come to Rome from Jönköping. And I extend a particular greeting to all those who are here from South Korea, assuring you of my prayers as I prepare to visit Korea in October, for the conclusion of the International Eucharistic Congress. To all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s audience I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Ai fedeli giapponesi

ESATTAMENTE 44 ANNI FA, la infausta bomba atomica scoppiava sulla città di Nagasaki causando la morte di tanti giapponesi.

E 6 giorni dopo, proprio nella ricorrenza della festa della B.M.V. Assunta in cielo, si concludeva per il Giappone la disastrosa guerra.

Non dimentichiamo mai quel sacrificio e il suo insegnamento; e preghiamo la Regina del cielo e della terra per la pace del mondo.

Con questo auspicio vi benedico di cuore.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai pellegrini di espressione tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

MIT DIESEN KURZEN Ausführungen grüße ich alle Pilger und Besucher aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache. Ein Besonderer Gruß gilt der Gruppe junger Ehepaare und einem Silberpaar aus Eggenfelden-Altenburg. Wir wollen vertrauen, daß uns der Heilige Geist Kraft und Mut gibt, und lernen, seinen Wegen immer gelehrig zu folgen. Laßt uns immer aufgeschlossener werden für seine Anregungen zu unserem Handeln und bereit sein, um seinen göttlichen Beistand zu beten.

Hierfür und für Gottes steten Schutz und Beistand auf Eurem Lebensweg erteile ich Euch allen, Euren Angehörigen in der Heimat sowie den mit uns über Radio Vatikan verbundenen Hörerinnen und Hörern von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Gelobt sei Jesus Christus!

Ai numerosi pellegrini di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

DESEO SALUDAR ahora a los numerosos peregrinos de España y de América Latina. Entre ellos quiero nombrar a los grupos de diversas diócesis: León, Barcelona, Cuenca, así como a la agrupación de fieles catalanes que, de modo especial, honran a San Pedro.

* * *

SALUDO IGUALMENTE a los Amigos de las misiones dominicanas del Paraguay, así como a los miembros de diversas Hermandades y Cofradías de Sevilla, Valladolid y México.

* * *

ASIMISMO ME COMPLACE saludar a los jóvenes de la Parroquia San Francisco, de Tenerife, así como a los numerosos grupos juveniles procedentes de México, Venezuela, Chile y de la arquidiócesis argentina de Córdoba. Que vuestra peregrinación de Roma a Santiago de Compostela esté iluminada por la fe, revestida con el espíritu de sacrificio y abierta al amor de Dios, que debéis testimoniar ante los demás. ¡En Santiago nos encontraremos de nuevo!

* * *

ME ES GRATO saludar de modo particular a un grupo de profesionales de los medios de comunicación social de Asturias. Dentro de pocos días estaré presente en vuestra querida tierra para celebrar la Santa Eucaristía con el pueblo fiel y, sobre todo, para orar a los pies de la “Santina”. A ella encomiendo con toda confianza, ya desde aquí, este viaje apostólico.

A través de los medios impresos y radiofónicos que representáis, deseo enviar mi más cordial saludo a todos los hijos a hijas del Principado de Asturias. ¡Hasta pronto!

Al agradecer a todos vuestra presencia aquí, os imparto cordialmente mi Bendición Apostólica, que extiendo complacido a vuestras familias.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Caríssimos irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa,

SAÙDO CORDIALMENTE quantos me escutam, em particular os visitantes e peregrinos Brasileiros, de Brasília, Recife, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador e São Paulo. Com a minha Bênção, desejo a todos felicidades, graça e paz em Jesus Cristo, com a liberdade de quem vive, segundo a lei do Espírito, o amor de Deus e do próximo.

Ai fedeli ungheresi

SONO PRESENTI all’udienza odierna due gruppi ungheresi: cento pellegrini di Koszeg (Köseg), diocesi di Szombathely (Sombathely), e cinquanta ragazzi della scuola media dei Padri Scolopi di Budapest, i quali sono arrivati in bicicletta.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

WITAM WSZYSTKIE grupy pielgrzymów: z parafii św. Józefa z Krakowa; z duszpasterstwa akademickiego parafii św. Szczepana z Krakowa; z parafii Świętych Apostołów Piotra i Pawła z Trzehmi; harcerzy “Luzarczycy”ˇ z parafii Nawiedzenia Najświętszej Maryi Panny ze Skomielnej Czarnej; z paraffi Matki Bożej Królowej Polski w Tęczynie - ojcowie kapucyni; z parafii Bożego Narodzenia z Rudy Słąskiej-Halemby; pielgrzymkę harcerzy, instruktorów Związku Harcerstwa Rzeczypospolitej (ZHR) z Bytomia; pielgrzymkę katedralną z Tarnowa; pielgrzymkę z parafii Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa z Ostrowca Świętokrzyskiego; z parafii św. Jana Chrzciciela z Radzikowa, diecezja siedlecka; pielgrzymkę młodzieży z diecezji warmińskiej, prowadzoną przez siostry nazaretanki; harcerzy z paraffi Bożego Ciała z Gdańska - Moreny; z parafii Wniebowzięcia Najświętszej Maryi Panny z Gdańska-Żabianki; z parafii Opatrzności Bożej z Gdańska-Zaspy; z parafii Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa z Gdyni; z paraffi św. Stanisława Kostki w Szczecinie; z parafii św. Klemensa w Głogowie - ojcowie redemptoryści; z parafii i dekanatu św. Stanisława biskupa i męczennika z Ostrowa Wielkopolskiego; z paraffi Świętej Rodziny we Wrocławiu; z parafii i dekanatu Podwyższenia Krzyża z Sulikowa; z duszpasterstwa akademickiego parafü św. Michała, Gliwice; pielgrzymkę młodzieży “Wieczernik” - duszpasterstwo pallotynów; prócz tego pielgrzymkę, z parafii św. Kazimierza ze Szczecina; grupę, pracowników CPN z Warszawy; grupę, Towarzystwa Przyjaźni PolskoWłoskiej w Łodzi oraz grupę, z Poznania; pozdrawiam Zespół Pieśni i Tańca Uniwersytetu Śląskiego z Katowic; harcerzy ze Związku Harcerstwa Polskiego z Pniew koło Radomia; prócz tego uczestników grup turystycznych Orbisu, Turysty, PKS z Warszawy; grupy z Oświecimia i Wartenbergu; załogę, jachtu “Barlovento II” z Katowic oraz grupę “Pielgrzym” Biura Turystyki Zagranicznej z Warszawy.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Mi è gradito rivolgere il mio saluto cordiale ai giovani, ai malati e agli sposi novelli, che partecipano a questa Udienza.

Carissimi, domani celebreremo la festa del santo Martire Lorenzo, la cui memoria è venerata in modo speciale nella sua vetusta Basilica al Campo Verano. Vi invito ad imitare l’amore a Dio e la pietà verso il prossimo, soprattutto quello più povero e sofferente, che caratterizzò l’esistenza di questo Santo diacono della Chiesa di Roma. Per lui il martirio fu la conseguenza della sua fedeltà al Redentore e dell’autenticità della sua missione.

Anche voi, giovani, come il giovane Lorenzo, siete chiamati ad essere testimoni di Cristo: rispondetegli crescendo nella consapevolezza di ciò che Egli è per voi e di ciò che voi siete per lui: fratelli per i quali non ha esitato a donare la vita.

Voi, malati, guardate alla fortezza d’animo che Lorenzo ebbe nell’affrontare il martirio e prendete da Lui coraggio nei momenti difficili della vostra vita.

Voi, sposi novelli, siate testimoni della carità divina; nel costruire il vostro nucleo familiare abbiate sempre la costanza e la fermezza d’animo che caratterizzarono il Santo diacono, per vivere il vostro matrimonio nella fedeltà e nella gioia cristiana.

Saluto, infine, le Superiore dell’Istituto delle Figlie della Carità Canossiane, giunte a Roma per un Seminario internazionale di Formazione Permanente, e le Religiose delle Figlie di Nostra Signora del Sacro Cuore, convenute a Roma per il Capitolo Generale.

Care sorelle, vi auguro che la vita consacrata, a cui avete aderito, accresca in voi e favorisca nelle vostre Congregazioni una piena donazione a Cristo, così che la sua volontà sia sempre la legge del vostro vivere e del vostro operare per la sua Chiesa.

Con la mia affettuosa Benedizione.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana