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Preparation for the coming of the Holy Spirit

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 21 June 1989 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. We know Jesus' supreme promise and last order to the apostles before the ascension: "I send the promise of my Father upon you; but stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high" (Lk 24:49; cf. Acts 1:4). We have spoken of this in a previous reflection, emphasizing the continuity and development of the pneumatological truth between the old covenant and the new. Today we learn from the Acts of the Apostles that that order was carried out by the apostles, who "when they had entered the city went up to the upper room, where they were staying.... All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer" (Acts 1:13-14). Not only did they remain in the city, but they assembled in the upper room as a community. They remained there in prayer together with Mary, the mother of Jesus, as an immediate preparation for the descent of the Holy Spirit. They also waited and for the first external manifestation, through the work of the Holy Spirit, of the Church born from the death and resurrection of Christ. The whole community as such was preparing for that, and each one personally.

2. It was a preparation made of prayer: "All these with one accord devoted themselves to prayer" (Acts 1:14). It was a repetition or a prolongation of the prayer through which Jesus of Nazareth prepared for the descent of the Holy Spirit at the moment of his baptism in the Jordan, when he was to begin his messianic mission: "When Jesus...was praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him" (Lk 3:21-22).

One might ask: why keep on praying for what has already been promised? Jesus' prayer at the Jordan shows that it is indispensable to pray for the timely reception of "the perfect gift from above" (cf. Jas 1:17). The community of the apostles and of the first disciples had to prepare for the reception of this very gift which comes from above: the Holy Spirit who was to initiate the mission of Christ's Church on earth.

In particularly important moments the Church acts in like manner. She joins herself to that assembly of the apostles in prayer together with Christ's mother. In a certain sense she returns to the upper room. Thus it was, for example, at the beginning of the Second Vatican Council. Every year, moreover, the solemnity of Pentecost is preceded by a novena to the Holy Spirit, which reproduces the experience of the first Christian community awaiting in prayer the coming of the Holy Spirit.

3. The Acts of the Apostles emphasizes that the prayer was with "one accord." This detail indicates that an important transformation had already taken place in the hearts of the apostles. Previously there had been differences and even rivalry (cf. Mk 9:34; Lk 9:46; 22:24). It was a sign that Jesus' priestly prayer had begun to bear fruit. In that prayer Jesus had asked for the unity of his disciples: "that they may all be one; even as you, Father, are in me, and I in you, that they also may be in us" (Jn 17:21). "I in them and you in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that you have sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me" (Jn 17:23).

Throughout all ages and in every Christian generation, this prayer of Christ for the unity of the Church is always relevant. How appropriate are those words to our own times, characterized by ecumenical efforts on behalf of Christian unity! Perhaps never more than today have they had a significance closer to that very special meaning with which they were uttered by Christ at the moment when the Church was about to be launched into the world! Today also one gets the impression on all sides of a start toward a new world, one more united and drawn together.

4. Moreover, the prayer of the community of the apostles and disciples before Pentecost was persevering: "they devoted themselves to prayer." It was not a prayer of momentary exaltation. The Greek word used by the author of the Acts of the Apostles suggests a patient assiduousness, in a certain sense even a "stubbornness," implying sacrifice and the overcoming of difficulty. It was therefore a prayer of the most complete dedication, not only of the heart but also of the will. The apostles were aware of the task that awaited them.

5.That prayer was itself a fruit of the interior action of the Holy Spirit, for it is he who urges to prayer and helps one to be devoted to prayer. Again there comes to mind the analogy with Jesus himself who, before beginning his messianic mission, went into the wilderness. The Gospels stress that "the Spirit drove him" (Mk 1:12; cf. Mt 4:1), that "he was led by the Spirit in the wilderness" (Lk 4:1).

If the gifts of the Spirit are manifold, it must be said that during the period in the upper room at Jerusalem, the Holy Spirit was already at work in the secrecy of prayer. This was so that on the day of Pentecost they might be ready to receive this great and "decisive" gift, by means of which the life of Christ's Church was to begin definitively on earth.

6. In the united community of prayer other persons were present besides the apostles, and some of them were women.

Christ's recommendation, at the moment of his departure to return to the Father, concerned the apostles directly. We know that "he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father" (Acts 1:4). To them he had entrusted a special mission in his Church.

If other persons, and in particular women, now take part in the preparation for Pentecost, this is simply a continuation of Jesus' own way of acting, as is evident from different passages of the Gospels. Luke even tells us the names of some of these women who were followers, collaborators and benefactors of Jesus: Mary called Magdalene, Joanna the wife of Chuza, Herod's steward, Susanna, and many others (cf. Lk 8:1-3). The gospel proclamation of the kingdom of God took place not only in the presence of the Twelve and of the disciples in general, but also of these women in particular. The evangelist speaks of them when he said that they "provided for them (Jesus and the apostles) out of their means" (Lk 8:3).

From this it follows that "women on a parity with men are called to share in the kingdom of God which Jesus announced, to be part of it and also to contribute to its growth among people," as I explained at length in the Apostolic Letter, Mulieris Dignitatem.

7. From this viewpoint, the presence of women in the upper room at Jerusalem, during the preparation for Pentecost and the birth of the Church, takes on particular importance. Men and women, the simple faithful, took part in the entire event alongside the apostles and together with them. From the very beginning the Church has been a community both of apostles and disciples, of men and women alike.

There is no doubt that the presence of the mother of Christ had a great importance in the preparation of the apostolic community for the coming of the Spirit at Pentecost. However, this is a subject for a separate reflection.


After the Catechesis, Pope John Paul II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai pellegrini di lingua francese

JE SALUE CORDIALEMENT tous les pèlerins de langue française qui participent à cette audience. Je souhaite que leur pèlerinage aux tombeaux des Apôtres renouvelle leur fidélité dans le prière et leur disposition à accueillir l’Esprit du Christ tout au long de leur vie.

Je suis heureux d’accueillir ici les jeunes du groupe folklorique Don Bosco de Gatenga, au Rwanda, et je les encourage à profiter de leurs années de formation pour approfondir leur foi chrétienne et préparer sérieusement leur avenir.

A tous ici présents, jeunes et aînés, je donne ma Bénédiction en priant l’Esprit du Christ de les aider à prendre une part active à la mission de l’Eglise.

Ai gruppi di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I WISH TO OFFER a warm welcome to the groups from Australia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Nigeria, Singapore and Sweden. My special greeting also goes to the people from various countries taking part in the Development Administration Programme. Dear Friends: The task which you have undertaken is truly a noble public service. By your concern for the common good and your personal integrity you can do much to promote the well-being and authentic human development of your fellow citizens. May Almighty God grant you wisdom and courage for this great responsibility. To all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims I cordially impart My Apostolic Blessing.

A diversi pellegrini di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

MIT DIESER KURZEN Betrachtung grüße ich Euch alle sehr herzlich, die Ihr an der heutigen Audienz teilnehmt: die Gruppen und Einzelpilger. Einen besonderen Gruß richte ich an die Gruppe von Ordensfrauen, die an einem religiösen Erneuerungskurs in La Storta teilnehmen. Mögt Ihr in Eurer Berufung den Wert und die Stellung der Frau am Aufbau des Reiches Gottes neu und noch klarer erfassen.

Euch und allen anwesenden Besuchern sowie Euren Angehörigen in der Heimat erteile ich von Herzen meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

ME ES GRATO saludar a las personas, familias y grupos provenientes de América Latina y España, presentes en esta Audiencia. Mi más cordial saludo se dirige también a todos los estudiantes españoles, a los cuales deseo recordar nuestra gran cita en Santiago de Compostela, con ocasión de la Jornada Mundial de la Juventud.

Saludo igualmente a la peregrinación franciscana de Puerto Rico y a la procedente de España.

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ME COMPLACE asimismo dar mi afectuoso saludo de bienvenida al grupo de Religiosas de la Congregación “Hijas de Jesús”, así como a los religiosos Franciscanos, de América Latina, participantes en el curso de formación permanente “Experiencia Asís-89”, y a los seminaristas teólogos de Tarazona (España). Ante todo, quiero manifestaros mi aprecio por la abnegada y eficiente labor que realizáis en vuestros lugares de trabajo. En el umbral ya del V Centenario de la Evangelización del Nuevo Mundo, os invito, queridos hermanos y hermanas, a mantener viva la llama evangelizadora, que movió en tiempos pasados a tantos religiosos y religiosas a dejar todo por la causa de Cristo, buscando unidos a la Jerarquía el mismo fin: la edificación de la Iglesia. Así Jesucristo y su Mensaje de Salvación ocuparán un lugar privilegiado en ese querido continente de la esperanza. Que la Bienaventurada Virgen María, la cual por su íntima participación en la historia de la salvación reúne en Sí y refleja en cierto modo las supremas verdades de la fe,  os acompañe siempre.

A vosotros, a vuestras comunidades, y a todos los venidos de España y América Latina, imparto de corazón mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai numerosi pellegrini di lingua portoghese

DESEJO A QUANTOS me escutam felicidades, com a graça de Deus. E saúdo todos, em especial os visitantes anunciados, vindos do Brasil, e o grupo das Irmãs de São José (de Chambéry).

Levai a certeza da minha estima e oração por vós, com uma bênção para as vossas famílias e comunidades. E, caríssimas Irmãs, que a vossa generosidade contribua para que o reino de Deus se consolide, cresça e expanda entre o dilecto Povo brasileiro!

Ai connazionali polacchi

POZDRAWIAM SERDECZNIE wszystkich obecnych pielgrzymów z parafii Świętych Piotra i Pawła - Tarnowskie Góry; z parafii Grobu Bożego - Miechów; z diecezji łódzkiej; z diecezji chełmińskiej; z Gdyni, parafia św. Maksymiliana Kolbego; witam serdecznie wszystkich pielgrzymów z parafii św. Michała Archanioła w Zubrzycy Górnej na Orawie; kuśnierzy z Warszawy; kapłanów z diecezji katowickiej na dziesięciolecie święceń; z parafii Niepokalanego Serca Maryi - Łożyna koło Wodzisławia Śląskiego; z parafii Świętych Piotra i Pawła, a także z innych parafii Zawiercia; z parafii Chrystusa Króla - Łódź; z parafii bł. Urszuli Ledóchowskiej - Łódź; z kościoła św. Antoniego, Biała Podlaska, ojcowie, kapucyni; z kościoła księży salezjanów w Gdańsku; z parafii Chrystusa Miłosiernego - Gdynia-Redłowo; z parafii św. Józefa w Toruniu, ojcowie redemptoryści; z parafii św. Jacka w Słupsku; z dekanatu Sławno, diecezja koszalińsko-kołobrzeska; neo-prezbiterów archidiecezji poznańskiej; pielgrzymów z parafii Świętych Piotra i Pawła w Opolu; współpracowników misyjnych księży pallotynów z całej Polski; grupę sióstr zmartwychwstanek przebywających w Rzymie dla odnowy duchowej; pielgrzymke polonijną ze Stanów Zjednoczonych; grupę z Chełma Lubelskiego; grupę rzemieślników z Wołomina; grupę pracowników ”Lotu“; grupe kolejarzy - Katowice, Wrocław; oraz uczestników grup turystycznych: Orbisu z Kępna, Pol-Tour, Turysty i PKS.

A gruppi di fedeli italiani

Sono particolarmente lieto di dare il mio benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. Saluto in primo luogo i missionari Salesiani, che svolgono la loro attività pastorale nelle Filippine; gli apparte nenti all’Istituto Secolare Sacerdotale del Sacro Cuore; nonché i partecipanti a Roma al Corso di Pastorale Migratoria. Cari fratelli mentre ricordo che l’unione con il Redentore rende fecondo il ministero a cui Egli vi ha chiamati, auguro che la generosa dedizione a Lui, vi renda sempre zelanti servitori nella impegnativa vostra missione.

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Rivolgo, poi, la mia parola affettuosa ai pellegrini della Parrocchia di San Giovanni Maggiore, nell’arcidiocesi di Napoli, ed ai ragazzi disabili dell’Istituto Don Orione, che sono con loro. Perseverate nell’amore confidente a Cristo. In tal modo crescerà sempre più in voi la certezza della sua infinita bontà, che ascolta ed esaudisce la preghiera del vostro cuore, prendendo nelle sue mani tutti gli affanni e i dolori.

* * *

Giunga il mio pensiero anche a voi, fedeli della Parrocchia di “San Massimiliano Kolbe”, in Varese, che siete venuti a Roma per rafforzare l’impegno di essere pietre vive nella costruzione della erigenda Chiesa. Ben volentieri confermo tale vostro proposito invocando su di voi e su quanti rappresentate abbondanti doni di grazia e di amore, e benedicendo la prima pietra del tempio, dove vi raccoglierete per lodare Dio come comunità orante ed evangelizzante.

* * *

Saluto infine, i ragazzi della Parrocchia di Lallio, in diocesi di Bergamo, i quali hanno ricevuto il sacramento della Cresima.

Siate sempre, carissimi, cristiani esemplari e testimoni coraggiosi del Cristo.

A ciascuno di voi come a quanto portate nel vostro cuore imparto la Benedizione Apostolica.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Carissimi Giovani, Ammalati e Sposi Novelli! Nel porgervi il mio saluto affettuoso, vi invito a volgere il vostro sguardo a San Luigi Gonzaga, di cui oggi ricorre la festa. Egli impegnò i brevi anni della sua vita nel praticare la carità in grado eroico, nel visitare abitualmente gli Ospedali, nel compiere i servizi più umili, nell’insegnare la Dottrina Cristiana ai poveri.

Cari giovani, amate e invocate San Luigi, vostro celeste Patrono, per aver sempre la fede e la carità necessarie a sostenere la vostra vita di purezza; invocatelo anche voi, diletti ammalati, per aver la forza di accettare la sofferenza con spirito apostolico e missionario; e l’esempio della sua vita limpida ed eroica, cari Sposi Novelli, sia presente anche nella vostra nuova esperienza, che vi auguro ricca di amore e di fedeltà.

Di gran cuore a tutti imparto la mia Benedizione!

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