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The Spirit: pledge of eschatological hope

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 3 July 1991 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. Among the greatest gifts, which St. Paul indicated to the Corinthians as being permanent, is hope (cf. 1 Cor 12:31). It has a fundamental role in Christian life, as do faith and charity, although "the greatest of these is love" (1 Cor 13:13). It is clear that hope is not to be understood in its limited meaning as a particular, extraordinary gift granted to some people for the good of the community, but rather as a gift of the Holy Spirit offered to each person who is open to Christ in faith. Special attention should be given to this gift, especially in our day. Today many people, including quite a few Christians, are floundering in the illusion and myth of an unlimited capacity for self-redemption and self-fulfillment, and the temptation to pessimism from the experience of frequent disappointment and defeat.

Although it includes the psychological motivation of the soul which strives toward the more difficult good, Christian hope is found on the supernatural level of the virtues. It derives from grace (cf. Summa Theol., III, q. 7, a. 2), as a gift which God makes to believers in the order of eternal life. It is a virtue which is typical of homo viator, of the person on pilgrimage who, although he knows God and his eternal vocation through faith, has not yet arrived at the vision of God. In a certain sense, hope makes him reach "into the interior, beyond the veil," as the Letter to the Hebrews says (cf. Heb 6:19).

2. The eschatological dimension, however, is essential to this virtue. On Pentecost the Holy Spirit came to fulfill the promises included in the proclamation of salvation, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles: "Exalted at the right hand of God, [Jesus] received the promise of the Holy Spirit from the Father and poured it forth" (Acts 2:33). However, this fulfillment of the promise is projected upon the whole of history, even to the last days. For those who possess faith in the word of God which resounds in Christ and was preached by the apostles, eschatology has begun to be fulfilled, or we could say rather that it is already fulfilled in its fundamental aspect: the presence of the Holy Spirit in human history, which from the Pentecost event takes its meaning and vital impulse on the plane of the divine goal of every person and all humanity. The hope of the Old Testament has as its foundation the promise of God's lasting presence and providence, which would be manifested in the Messiah. In the New Testament, hope already gives us an anticipation of future glory through the grace of the Holy Spirit which is its origin.

In this perspective St. Paul affirms that the gift of the Holy Spirit is like a pledge of future happiness. To the Ephesians he writes: "You were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God's possession, to the praise of his glory" (Eph 1:13-14; cf. 4:30; 2 Cor 1:22).

We could say that in Christian life on earth, it is like an initiation into full participation in the glory of God. The Holy Spirit constitutes the guarantee for achieving the fullness of eternal life when, by means of the effects of the redemption, all the other effects of sin will also be overcome, such as suffering and death. Thus Christian hope is not only a guarantee, but also an anticipation of the future reality.

3. The hope which the Holy Spirit enkindles in the Christian also has a dimension which could be called cosmic, including heaven and earth, that which can be experienced, and that which is beyond our reach, the known and the unknown. "Creation itself," St. Paul writes, "awaits with eager expectation the revelation of the children of God. Creation was made subject to futility, not of its own choice but because of the one who subjected it, in hope that creation itself would be set free from slavery to corruption and share in the glorious freedom of God's children. We know that all creation groans and is in labor even until now; and not only that, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, we also groan within ourselves as we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies" (Rom 8:19-23). Conscious of man's vocation and the destiny of the universe, the Christian understands the meaning of this universal gestation and learns that it is a question of divine adoption for all people, who are called to participate in the glory of God which is reflected in all creation. The Christian knows that he already possesses the first fruits of this adoption in the Holy Spirit, and therefore looks with confident hope to the destiny of the world, even amid the tribulations of time.

Illuminated by faith, he understands the meaning and almost experiences the truth of the subsequent passage from the Letter to the Romans where the Apostle assures us that "the Spirit comes to help us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes with inexpressible groanings. He who searches hearts knows the intention of the Spirit, because he intercedes for the holy ones according to God's will" (Rom 8:26-28).

4. As you see, it is in the depths of the soul that the Holy Spirit lives, prays and works. He makes us enter more and more fully into the perspective of the ultimate end, God, conforming our whole lives to his saving plan. Therefore he himself helps us pray, praying in us, with the sentiments and words of God's children (cf. Rom 8:15, 26-27; Gal 4:6; Eph 6:18), in intimate spiritual and eschatological relationship with Christ who sits at the right hand of God, where he intercedes for us (cf. Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25; 1 Jn 2:1). Thus he saves us from illusion and from false paths of salvation. While moving hearts toward the authentic purpose of life, he frees us from pessimism and nihilism. These temptations are especially insidious for those who do not begin with the premise of faith, or at least with the sincere desire to search for God.

We must add that the body is also involved in this dimension of hope which the Holy Spirit gives to the human being. St. Paul also tells us so: "If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also, through his Spirit dwelling in you" (Rom 8:11; cf. 2 Cor 5:5). Let us be content for now with having considered this aspect of hope in its personal anthropological dimension as well as in its cosmic and eschatological plane. We shall return to it in the catecheses which, God willing, we shall dedicate to these fascinating, basic articles of the Christian creed: the resurrection of the body and the eternal life of the whole person, body and soul.

5. One further point should be made: life's earthly journey has an end which, if a person reaches it in friendship with God, coincides with the first moment of eternal bliss. Even, if in that passage to heaven, the soul must undergo the purification of its last impurities through purgatory, it is already filled with light, certitude and joy, because the person knows that he or she belongs forever to God. At this culminating moment the soul is led by the Holy Spirit, the author and giver not only of the justifying "first grace" and of sanctifying grace throughout one's earthly life, but also of the glorifying grace in the hour of death. It is the grace of final perseverance, according to the teaching of the Council of Orange (cf. DS 183, 199) and the Council of Trent (cf. DS 806, 809, 832). This is founded upon the teaching of the Apostle, according to which it is up to God "to desire and to work" good (Phil 2:13), and the person must pray in order to obtain the grace to do good until the end (cf. Rom 14:4; 1 Cor 10:12; Mt 10:22; 24:13).

6. The words of the Apostle Paul teach us to see in the gift of the third divine Person the guarantee of the fulfillment of our hope of salvation: "Hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Rom 5:5). And therefore, "What will separate us from the love of Christ?" The response is a decisive one: nothing "will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:35, 39). Therefore Paul's wish is that we may have an abundance of "hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom 15:13). This is the source of Christian optimism, an optimism about the world's destiny, the possibility of salvation at all times, even in the hardest, most difficult moments in the development of history toward the perfect glorification of Christ ("He will glorify me": Jn 16:14) and the believer's full participation in the glory of the children of God.

With this perspective the Christian can hold his head high and join in the invocation which, according to the Book of Revelation, is the deepest cry which the Holy Spirit raises up throughout history: "The Spirit and the Bride say, Come!" (Rev 22:17). Now listen to the final invitation of the Book of Revelation and of the whole New Testament: "Let the hearer say, Come! Let the one who thirsts come forward, and the one who wants it receive the gift of life-giving water.... Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev 22:17, 20).

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

Ai fedeli provenienti dalla Germania e dall’Austria

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung heiße ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher herzlich willkommen. Ein besonderer Gruß gilt den Kirchenchören aus dem Dekanat Troisdorf, den Schülerinnen und Schülern der 11. Klasse des Gymnasiums in Eschenbach sowie der Pilgergruppe aus Zalaegerszeg in der Diözese Steinamanger.

Euch allen, Euren lieben Angehörigen daheim sowie den uns über Radio und Fernsehen verbundenen Gläubigen erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

J’accueille avec joie les pèlerins de langue française. J’adresse mes encouragements cordiaux aux Pères Blancs en session de théologie, aux Frères du Sacré-Cœur en période de reprise spirituelle, aux Sœurs de Notre-Dame des Apôtres qui célèbrent leurs 25 années de vie religieuse, aux Religieuses de Notre-Dame de Sion en période sabbatique. Et je salue amicalement la paroisse haïtienne de Paris, ainsi que les jeunes rassemblés au Centre Elis pour un stage culturel et sportif.

Je souhaite à tous de savoir accueillir le don de l’espérance et d’entendre l’appel de l’Esprit qui invite celui qui a soif à boire l’eau de la vie.

Que la Bénédiction de Dieu demeure avec vous!

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers,

I extend a warm welcome to the School Sisters of Notre Dame who are celebrating their Twenty-fifth Anniversary of Profession, and to the Franciscan Friars, Sisters and Laity on a pilgrimage to the Franciscan Shrines in Italy. May this period of spiritual renewal help you to deepen your consecration and bear ever more generous witness to the teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ.

I also greet the large group of pilgrims from the Philippines. And upon all the English-speaking visitors I invoke an abundance of divine blessings.

Ai numerosi fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Deseo saludar ahora a los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española, procedentes de España y de América Latina. De modo particular, saludo a la numerosa peregrinación organizada por el Consejo Superior de Hermandades y Cofradías de Sevilla. Que en vuestra vida se refleje el amor misericordioso de Cristo en el misterio de la Redención, que os lleve a realizar obras de solidaridad fraterna en el campo social, dando así un buen testimonio cristiano en la sociedad española.

Saludo igualmente a los sacerdotes de Cuenca (España), que celebran el 25 aniversario de su ordenación, acompañados de sus familiares y de los alumnos del Seminario Menor de esa diócesis. Del mismo modo, mi saludo se dirige a los Padres Franciscanos procedentes de América Latina, que realizan un curso de formación permanente. Un saludo también al grupo de Hermanas Terciarias Capuchinas de la Sagrada Familia, venidas de diversos Países para celebrar su Capítulo General; y un afectuoso saludo a los peregrinos bolivianos de Santa Cruz. Que los dones del Espíritu Santo os ayuden a todos a ser fieles a la propia vocación y a dar testimonio de la misma en vuestro ambiente de apostolado o de trabajo.

Finalmente, me complace saludar también a los periodistas y personal técnico de la Televisión del Ecuador, que estan grabando esta Audiencia como parte de un programa sobre la Ciudad del Vaticano. Esta circunstancia permite sentirme de nuevo entre el querido pueblo ecuatoriano. Al recordar los entrañables encuentros tenidos durante mi visita pastoral a vuestra Nación, os aliento a mantener fielmente los valores mas genuinos de vuestra cultura cristiana. ¡Qué el Señor bendiga siempre al Ecuador y a todos sus hijos!

Al agradecer a todos vuestra presencia aquí os imparto mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai numerosi gruppi di fedeli italiani

Saluto i vari gruppi di lingua italiana che partecipano a questa Udienza.

Rivolgo un pensiero particolare alle Maestre delle Novizie ed alle Educatrici delle Suore Scolastiche Francescane, riunite in questi giorni a Roma per un corso di approfondimento sulla loro identità in riferimento alla pastorale vocazionale e alla formazione iniziale delle giovani. Possa questo incontro essere per voi di incoraggiamento e di stimolo a ben continuare, con totale fiducia nel Signore, il compito educativo che vi è stato affidato.

Ancora, desidero porgere un affettuoso benvenuto al gruppo dei Seminaristi della Congregazione dei Legionari di Cristo in visita a Roma al termine di un anno di crescita spirituale e culturale. Questo appuntamento vi faccia cogliere in profondità i valori del Vangelo, testimoniato qui a Roma sin dalle origini del cristianesimo.

Un saluto anche ai rappresentanti di Brooklyn ed Anzio che in occasione del gemellaggio sancito tra queste due Città, hanno manifestato il desiderio di incontrarsi con il Papa. Codesta lodevole iniziativa accresca lo spirito di reciproca solidarietà e fraternità che sono tanto importanti per edificare la nuova civiltà fondata sul vero amore cristiano.

Saluto pure i gruppi dei Sacerdoti Novelli, qui venuti insieme ai loro Superiori e familiari. Carissimi, vi esprimo le mie congratulazioni per il traguardo raggiunto e vi assicuro il ricordo nella preghiera per il vostro futuro ministero in mezzo alle anime che vi saranno affidate.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Rivolgo ora il mio cordiale saluto ai giovani, agli ammalati e alle coppie di sposi novelli.

Vi addito la figura sempre attuale e suggestiva di Maria Goretti, che la Chiesa ricorda in questi giorni.

Seguendo l’esempio di quella eroica fanciulla, anche voi, cari giovani, abbiate il coraggio delle scelte forti ed impegnative, che vi assicurano la gioia della vera libertà, che si radica nel messaggio di Cristo.

Voi, ammalati, invocate Santa Maria Goretti, affinché infonda nel vostro animo il coraggio per superare i momenti più duri della vostra sofferenza.

E voi, sposi novelli, cui esprimo i miei auguri, vivete il vostro matrimonio nella luce della fede e nella reciproca e fedele donazione.

A tutti imparto la mia Benedizione.

Il Papa ha quindi rivolto un appello per la pace in Jugoslavia

Cari fratelli e sorelle, v’invito oggi ad unirvi alla mia preghiera per implorare dal Signore la pace in Slovenia, in Croazia e in tutta la Jugoslavia.

Preghiamo Dio nostro Padre che voglia risparmiare nuove vittime innocenti ai popoli della Jugoslavia, a noi così vicini, e dare conforto a quanti sono nel lutto e nel dolore.

La ragione della forza tenta nuovamente di imporsi alla ragione del diritto, cercando di neutralizzare gli sforzi di quanti sul piano nazionale ed internazionale si stanno adoperando per una soluzione pacifica ai gravi problemi esistenti.

La Comunità internazionale sta rinnovando i suoi appelli affinché si fermi una guerra fratricida e inutile. Noi, accompagniamo con la preghiera questi sforzi. Voglia Iddio illuminare tutti i Responsabili e muoverli ad ascoltare la voce delle popolazioni del Paese, rispettandone i diritti e le legittime aspirazioni. Voglia la Regina della Pace ispirare alle autorità civili iniziative atte a ristabilire l’ordine e a creare nuove condizioni di dialogo, per fermare il ciclo infernale della violenza e dell’odio.

Faccio appello anche a tutti i Credenti della Jugoslavia perché uniscano i loro sforzi e le loro preghiere per conseguire quella che oggi è la priorità assoluta: la cessazione di una guerra civile che potrebbe assumere proporzioni ancora più gravi.

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