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The Spirit: source of all ministry

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 6 February 1991 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. For the full maturation of the life of faith, for preparation for the sacraments and for continual help to individuals and communities in responding to the grace given through these "salvific means," the Church has a structure of ministries (that is, organs and functions of service, diakonie ), some of which are of divine institution. These are principally bishops, priests and deacons. Paul's words addressed to the presbyters of the Church of Ephesus, recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, are well known: "Keep watch over yourselves and over the whole flock of which the Holy Spirit has appointed you overseers, in which you tend the Church of God that he acquired with his own blood" (Acts 20:28). This advice from Paul shows the bond which exists between the Holy Spirit and the service of hierarchical ministry which takes place in the Church. The Holy Spirit, operating continually in the Church, helps her persevere in the truth of Christ inherited from the apostles and infuses into her members all the wealth of the sacramental life. He is also the one who "appoints bishops," as we read in the Acts of the Apostles. Appointing them does not simply mean naming them or having them named, but to be from the very beginning the life-giving principle of their ministry of salvation in the Church. Similar to the bishops, this holds true for the subordinate ministries.

The Holy Spirit is the Author and Giver of the divine, spiritual, pastoral strength of the entire ministerial structure with which Christ the Lord has endowed the Church which is built upon the apostles. In the Church, as Paul says in the First Letter to the Corinthians, "there are different forms of service, but one Lord" (1 Cor 12:5).

2. The Apostles were quite aware of this truth which first concerned them in their task of evangelization and government. Thus Peter, addressing the faithful spread throughout various regions of the pagan world, reminded them that the preaching of the Gospel was accomplished "through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven" (1 Pet 1:12). Similarly, the Apostle Paul reveals the same awareness several times in his letters. Thus he writes in the Second Letter to the Corinthians: "Our qualification comes from God, who has indeed qualified us as ministers of a new covenant, not of letter but of spirit" (2 Cor 3:5-6). According to the Apostle, the "service of the new covenant" receives life from the Holy Spirit, through whom the proclamation of the Gospel and the entire work of salvation takes place. Paul was called to perform these tasks especially among the nations beyond Israel. He presented himself to the Romans as one who had received the grace of being "a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles in performing the priestly service of the Gospel of God, so that the offering up of the Gentiles may be acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit" (Rom 15:16).

The entire apostolic college knew it was inspired, commanded and moved by the Holy Spirit in the service of the faithful, as can be seen from the concluding declaration of the council held by the apostles and their closest collaborators, the presbyters, at Jerusalem: "It is the decision of the Holy Spirit and of us" (Acts 15:28).

3. The Apostle Paul repeatedly affirms that, with the ministry which he exercises by virtue of the Holy Spirit, he intends "to show the spirit and his power." In his message there is no "sublimity of word," nor are there "persuasive words of wisdom" (1 Cor 2:1, 4). As an apostle he speaks in a language "not...taught by human wisdom, but with words taught by the Spirit, describing spiritual realities in spiritual terms" (1 Cor 2:13). It is here that he makes that significant distinction between "the natural person" who does not understand "what pertains to the spirit of God" and "the spiritual person" who "can judge everything" (cf. 1 Cor 2:14-15) in the light of the truth revealed by God. The Apostle can say of himself (and of the other preachers of the word of Christ) that "this [the things concerning the divine mysteries] God has revealed to us through the Spirit; for the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God" (1 Cor 2:10).

4. Paul's concept of his apostolate as service corresponds to the awareness of the power of the Holy Spirit present and at work in his ministry. Let us recall that beautiful synthesis of his entire ministry: "We do not preach ourselves but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for the sake of Jesus" (2 Cor 4:5). These words so well express the thought and intention which can be found in Paul's heart. They are decisive for the understanding of every ministry of the Church and in the Church for all time. They are the essential key for understanding it in a Gospel way. They are the basis of the spirituality which must flourish in the successors of the apostles and their collaborators: a humble service of love, although with the awareness that the same Apostle Paul manifests in the First Letter to the Thessalonians where he affirms: "Our Gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit, and with much conviction" (1 Thess 1:5). We could say that they are like two coordinates which allow us to recognize the place of ministry in the Church: the spirit of service and the awareness of the power of the Holy Spirit who is at work in the Church. Humility of service and strength of soul derive from the personal conviction that the Holy Spirit assists and supports one in ministry, if the person is docile and faithful to his action in the Church.

5. Paul was convinced that his activity derived from that transcendent source. He did not hesitate to write to the Romans: "In Christ Jesus, then, I have reason to boast in what pertains to God. For I will not dare to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to lead the Gentiles to obedience by word and deed, by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit..." (Rom 15:17-19).

Paul told the Thessalonians that "our Gospel did not come to you in word alone, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with much conviction. You know what sort of people we were among you for your sake." Paul then felt that he was able to offer them this beautiful testimony: "You became imitators of us and of the Lord, receiving the word in great affliction, with joy from the Holy Spirit, so that you became a model for all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia..." (1 Thess 1:6-7). This is the most splendid perspective, and it must be the most important task for all those who are called to fulfill ministries in the Church: to be, like Paul, not only preachers, but also witnesses of faith and models of life. They should also tend to act so that the faithful also all become so within the Church herself and among the various particular churches.

6. This true glory of the ministry, according to Jesus' command to the apostles, must serve for preaching "conversion and forgiveness" (Lk 24:47). Yes, it is a ministry of humility, but one of glory, too. All those who are called to exercise it in the Church can make their own two expressions of Paul's sentiments. First of all: "All this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation; namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ.... So we are the ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God" (2 Cor 5:18-20). The other text is the one in which Paul, considering the "ministry of the new covenant" as a "ministry of the Spirit" (2 Cor 3:6) and comparing it to the ministry of Moses on Sinai as mediator of the old law (cf. Ex 24:12), observes: if he "was so glorious that the Israelites could not look intently at the face of Moses because of its glory that was going to fade, how much more will the ministry of the Spirit be glorious?" This reflects the glory of the new covenant which is not surpassed in glory (2 Cor 3:7-10).

It is the glory of the reconciliation which has taken place in Christ. It is the glory of service given to one's brothers and sisters through the preaching of the message of salvation. It is the glory of having preached "not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord" (2 Cor 4:5). Let us repeat it once and for all: it is the glory of the cross!

7. The Church has inherited from the apostles the awareness of the presence and assistance of the Holy Spirit. This is attested to by the Second Vatican Council when it writes in the Constitution Lumen Gentium: "The Spirit dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful, as in a temple (cf. 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19). In them he prays on their behalf and bears witness to the fact that they are adopted sons (cf. Gal 4:6; Rom 8:15-16, 26). The Church, which the Spirit guides in the way of all truth (cf. Jn 16:13) and which he unified in communion and in works of ministry, he both equips and directs with hierarchical and charismatic gifts and adorns with his fruits (cf. Eph 4:11-12; 1 Cor 12:4; Gal 5:22)" (LG 4).

From this intimate awareness derives the sense of peace which the shepherds of Christ's flock maintain even at times when the world and the Church are in turmoil. They know that beyond their limitations and inadequacies, they can count on the Holy Spirit who is the soul of the Church and the guide of history.

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

Ad alcuni gruppi di espressione inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a cordial welcome to the faculty and students from the Loyola University Rome Center. May your studies in the Eternal City strengthen your faith and lead you to a deeper understanding of the mystery of God’s love at work in our hearts and in all of history. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience I invoke God’s abundant blessings of grace and peace.

Ad alcuni gruppi di fedeli di lingua tedesca

Ich grüße alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher sehr herzlich. Mein besonderer Gruß gilt den pfarrlichen Mitarbeitern aus dem Dekanat Stockerau in der Erzdiözese Wien, die unter Leitung von Herrn Weihbischof Florian Kuntner an einem Kurs für Neuevangelisierung teilnehmen. Ferner begrüße ich die Pilgergruppen aus Feldkirch unter der Leitung von Herrn Altbischof Bruno Wechner sowie aus Baden bei Wien.

Beten wir in diesen Tagen, in denen viele Menschen unter den Folgen des Unrechts und des Krieges zu leiden haben, daß der Friede und das Recht bald wiederhergestellt werden.

Euch allen und Euren lieben Angehörigen in der Heimat sowie den mit uns über Radio und Fernsehen verbundenen Gläubigen erteile ich von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Me complace saludar ahora a los peregrinos de lengua española venidos de España y de América Latina. De modo particular saludo a los miembros de la Congregación de la Asunción y San Fructuoso, de los Ingenieros del Instituto Católico de Artes e Industrias (ICAI), que forma parte de la Universidad Pontificia de Comillas en Madrid.

Asimismo saludo con afecto a los estudiantes de la escuela italiana “Vittorio Montiglio” de Santiago de Chile, y a los alumnos del colegio inglés “Saint John’s” de la misma ciudad.

Al agradecer a todos vuestra presencia aquí, os aliento a dar testimonio de vuestra identidad cristiana en el propio ambiente. Al mismo tiempo os invito a uniros a la plegaria de toda la Iglesia para que el Seńor conceda el ansiado don de la paz entre todas las naciones.

A todos os imparto de corazón la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Amadíssimos irmãos e irmãs,

Para todos os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, afectuosas saudações em Cristo Senhor, com a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai connazionali polacchi

Stajemy dziś przed Tobą, Matko Jasnogórska, z proroczym wyznaniem starca Symeona w świątyni jerozolimskiej. W dniu, który nasza tradycja przywykła nazywać “Matką Boską Gromniczną”, przychodzimy ze ś wiecami w ręku, aby wyznać Chrystusa, który jest “światłem na oświecenie ludów”. Dziękujemy za to światło, które daje życie naszym duszom, co znalazło swój wyraz od wielu już lat na polskiej ziemi w ruchu “światło-życie”.

Dziękujemy za ten ruch, za jego twórcę, ś p. księdza Franciszka Blachnickiego, za jego animatorów - i za wszystkich, którzy ze środowisk oazowych czerpali i czerpią nadal “światło i życie”.

Czerpiąc światło i życie od Chrystusa, “pokonujemy w sobie samych panowanie grzechu”, a “służąc Chrystusowi w bliźnich, ich również do Niego przybliżamy”. Przypomina o tym Sobór Watykański II w swej nauce o apostolstwie świeckich. “Służyć Chrystusowi - to znaczy królować”, to znaczy również “przyczyniać się do tego, aby dobra stworzone były doskonalsze dzięki ludzkiej pracy, technice i cywilizacji społecznej zgodnie z przeznaczeniem, jakie im wyznaczył Stwórca”.

Co jeszcze znaczy służyć?

Czytamy dalej w Soborowej Konstytucji o Koś ciele: “ludzie świeccy winni wspólnymi siłami tak uzdrawiać istniejące na ś wiecie urządzenia i warunki, jeśli one gdzieś  skłaniają do grzechu . . . Tak postępując, przepoją kulturę i dzieła ludzkie wartością moralną”.

O takie przepojenie kultury i życia naszego społeczeństwa wartością moralną prosimy Ciebie, Pani Jasnogórska.

Prorocze słowa Symeona o Chrystusie, który jest światłem ś wiata, zapowiadają równocześnie, że będzie On “znakiem, któremu sprzeciwiać się będą”. Wiemy dobrze, że tak jest. Wiemy też o “mieczu, który przeniknął duszę Matki, aby na jaw wyszły zamysły serc wielu”.

Matko Jasnogórska!

Ile razy ten miecz przeniknął Twoją duszę z naszej winy! Prosimy Cię - właśnie przez ten miecz Cię prosimy - aby zwyciężało w nas światło, którym jest Chrystus.

Pozdrawiam polskich pielgrzymów: ks. kard. Metropolitę Krakowskiego, ks. bpa ordynariusza śląskiego z Katowic, ks. bpa Jana Nowaka z Gniezna; prócz tego pielgrzymkę nauczycieli i młodzieży z Krakowa, Gdowa, Skawiny i Pcimia; pielgrzymkę nauczycieli z Mielca; pielgrzymkę “Caritas” z Gniezna i Wrześni; pielgrzymkę “Caritas” z Włocławka; pielgrzymkę z parafii ś w. Michała Archanioła oo. dominikanów z Prudnika w diecezji opolskiej; grupę młodzieży z Krakowa i okolic; nauczycieli z Warszawy; grupę UNITUR z Przemyśla; grupę z Wyższej Szkoły Pedagogicznej z Rzeszowa; Dziecięcy Teatr “Pantomima” z Barda śląskiego; grupę esperantystów ze Zduńskiej Woli oraz innych pielgrzymów z kraju i emigracji nie objętych tymi grupami.

Ai diversi gruppi di fedeli provenienti da diocesi italiane

Il primo saluto va oggi ai cari Fratelli Vescovi, che partecipano ad un convegno spirituale organizzato dal Movimento dei Focolari presso il Centro “Mariapoli” di Castel Gandolfo. Esprimo loro il mio compiacimento per tale momento di preghiera e di riflessione sul tema “Lo Spirito Santo e la sua azione nel mondo d’oggi”, mentre auspico che, “custode della speranza nel cuore dell’uomo”, lo Spirito divino conforti il loro ministero, doni efficacia alla loro predicazione, susciti copiosi frutti di concordia e di carità nelle rispettive Chiese particolari.

Saluto anche gli Alunni e gli ex Alunni del Seminario del Pontificio Istituto delle Missioni Estere, convenuti qui con i loro familiari per ricordare il 70° anniversario di fondazione. A tutti l’augurio che numerosi giovani con coraggio e generosità sappiano allargare i confini della loro carità, manifestando sincera premura e sollecitudine per i fratelli che ancora non conoscono il Cristo.

Saluto, inoltre, un gruppo di giovani insegnanti dell’Istituzione Teresiana, associazione laicale che intende promuovere l’evangelizzazione attraverso la cultura, l’educazione e lo sviluppo, dedicandosi in modo particolare alle comunità nazionali più povere, nello spirito di Santa Teresa d’Avila.

Sono anche presenti numerosi fedeli della parrocchia di Santa Maria e San Bartolomeo in Montoro Inferiore, Arcidiocesi di Salerno, accompagnati dal loro parroco. Carissimi, siate annunciatori del Vangelo di Cristo nella vostra società, e date vivo esempio di fede e di vita cristiana.

Rivolgo, infine, un saluto ai numerosi Donatori di Sangue appartenenti al gruppo “Fratres” della Misericordia di Ponsacco, in diocesi di San Miniato. Sia la vostra carità un costante impegno per la salvaguardia e la difesa della vita umana ed una risposta effettiva contro qualsiasi tentazione di disprezzo, di abbandono nei riguardi di chi soffre o è indifeso.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Ed ora un affettuoso saluto a tutti i Giovani, agli Ammalati e agli Sposi novelli.

Carissimi, la Chiesa celebra oggi la memoria dei santi giapponesi Paolo Miki e compagni, i quali hanno lasciato luminosa testimonianza cristiana per il coraggio eroico, col quale hanno affrontato il momento supremo del martirio, avvenuto per crocifissione sulle colline di Nagasaki.

L’esempio di questi nostri fratelli sia per voi giovani di stimolo a testimoniare con coerenza le impegnative consegne ricevute nel giorno del vostro Battesimo.

Nell’imitazione di questi martiri, che non indietreggiarono davanti al supplizio della Croce, anche voi, cari ammalati, offrite le vostre prove e sofferenze quotidiane per contribuire alla conversione di tutti gli uomini.

Esorto, infine, voi, sposi novelli, a costruire la vostra famiglia, sostenendovi con amore fedele per tutta la vita, sull’esempio dei martiri che hanno amato Cristo e la Chiesa con amore indiviso.

A tutti la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

* * *

Ulteriore intervento, alla fine dell’Udienza generale, per la guerra del Golfo

Il pensiero di tutti noi continua a rivolgersi con profonda tristezza alla regione del Golfo, dove la guerra è giunta ormai al suo 20 giorno.

Venti giorni di intensi combattimenti!

Pregheremo insieme ricordando tutte le vittime di questa guerra e chiedendo ancora con insistenza a Dio di farla cessare al più presto.

Fratelli e sorelle, vi invito a rivolgervi con me al Signore, affinché, in questo terribile conflitto, non venga fatto ricorso a nuovi strumenti di morte. Penso, in particolare, alle armi chimiche e batteriologiche, il cui uso è stato più volte minacciato ed è tanto temuto.

Un simile spaventoso ricorso a mezzi inaccettabili e condannabili da ogni punto di vista segnerebbe la negazione di ogni elementare rispetto della dignità umana.

Che il Dio di Misericordia ascolti la nostra supplica.

Per questo recitiamo, ora, il “Padre Nostro”.

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