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The Spirit: source of interior life

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 10 April 1991 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. St. Paul spoke to us, in the preceding catechesis, about "the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus" (Rom 8:2). We must live according to this law if we wish "to follow the Spirit" (Gal 5:25), accomplishing the works of the Spirit and not those of the "flesh."

The Apostle highlights the opposition between "flesh" and "Spirit," and between the two types of works, thoughts and life which result from them: "For those who live according to the flesh are concerned with the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit with the things of the Spirit. The concern of the flesh is death, but the concern of the Spirit is life and peace" (Rom 8:5-6).

It is distressing to see the "works of the flesh" and the conditions of spiritual and cultural decadence the "homo animalis" reaches. But this should not make us forget the very different reality of life "according to the Spirit," which is also present in the world and opposed to the spread of the forces of evil. St. Paul speaks of this in the Letter to the Galatians where, in opposition to the "works of the flesh" which exclude one from the "kingdom of God," he highlights the "fruit of the Spirit" which is "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (cf. 5:19-22). According to St. Paul, these things are suggested to the believer from within, from the "law of the Spirit" (Rom 8:2), which is in him and which guides him in the interior life (cf. Gal 5:18, 25).

2. At issue is a principle of the spiritual life and of Christian conduct which is interior and at the same time transcendent, as can be deduced already from the words of Jesus to the disciples: "The Spirit of truth, which the world cannot accept, because it neither sees nor knows it...will be in you" (Jn 14:17). The Holy Spirit comes from on high, but penetrates and resides in us to animate our interior life. Jesus did not only say: "He remains with you," which might suggest the idea of a presence which is merely close, but added that it is a presence within us (Jn 14:17). St. Paul in turn wishes for the Ephesians that the Father grant them "to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in the inner self" (Eph 3:16). For the human person what counts is not the external life, often superficial, but the intention of living in the "depths of God," scrutinized by the Holy Spirit (1 Cor 2:10).

St. Paul's distinction between the "psychic" man and the "spiritual" man (cf. 1 Cor 2:13-14) helps us to understand the difference and the distance between the natural maturing of the human soul's capacities and the properly Christian maturing which entails the development of the life of the Spirit, a maturing in faith, hope, and love. Knowledge of this divine Source of the spiritual life, which spreads from within the soul into all areas of life, even those exterior and social, is a fundamental and sublime aspect of Christian anthropology. The basis of this knowledge is the truth of faith by which I believe that the Holy Spirit dwells in me (cf. 1 Cor 3:16), prays in me (cf. Rom 8:26; Gal 4:6), guides me (cf. Rom 8:14), and has Christ live in me (cf. Gal 2:20).

3. Even the simile Jesus used in his conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well about the living water which he would give to those who believe, water which "will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life" (Jn 4:14), means the interior spring of the spiritual life. Jesus himself clarified this on the occasion of the "feast of Tabernacles" (cf. Jn 7:2), when he "stood up and exclaimed, 'Let anyone who thirsts come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture says [cf. Is 55:1]; rivers of living water will flow from within him.'" John the evangelist comments, "He said this in reference to the Spirit that those who came to believe in him were to receive" (Jn 7:37-39).

In the believer, the Holy Spirit develops the entire dynamism of the grace which gives new life and of the virtues which translate this vitality into fruits of goodness. From "within" the believer the Holy Spirit is also at work like a fire, according to another simile, used by John the Baptist regarding baptism: "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (Mt 3:11). Jesus himself also used it regarding his messianic mission: "I have come to set the earth on fire" (Lk 12:49). The Spirit, therefore, stirs up a life with that fervor which St. Paul recommends in his letter to the Romans: "Be fervent in the Spirit" (12:11). This is the "living flame of love" which purifies, enlightens, burns and consumes, as St. John of the Cross has explained so well.

4. Thus there develops in the believer,
under the action of the Holy Spirit, an original sanctity, that assumes, elevates and brings to perfection, without destroying it, the personality of each person. Thus every saint has his own physiognomy. As St. Paul can say: "Star differs from star in brightness" (1 Cor 15:41), not only in the "future resurrection" to which Paul refers but also in the present condition of the person who is no longer merely psychic (endowed with natural life), but spiritual (enlivened by the Holy Spirit) (cf. 1 Cor 15:44 ff.).

Holiness consists in the perfection of love. Nevertheless, it varies according to the different aspects which love assumes in the various conditions of personal life. Under the action of the Holy Spirit, each person conquers the instinct of egoism with love, and develops the best forces in his own original way of self-giving. When the expressive and expansive force of his originality is particularly strong, the Holy Spirit causes groups of disciples and followers to form around these people (even if they sometimes remain hidden). In this way, currents of spiritual life, schools of spirituality and religious institutes are born, whose variety is thus the effect of that divine intervention. It is the Holy Spirit who puts to use the capacities of all in persons and groups, in communities and institutions, among priests and lay people.

5. The new value of liberty which characterizes the Christian life derives from this interior source. As St. Paul says: "Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom" (2 Cor 3:17). The Apostle is referring directly to the freedom acquired by the followers of Christ in regard to the Jewish law, in harmony with the teaching and attitude of Jesus himself. But the principle which he states has a general value. He often talks about freedom as the vocation of the Christian: "You were called for freedom, brothers" (Gal 5:13). And he gives a good explanation of what he means. According to the Apostle, whoever "lives by the Spirit" (Gal 5:16) lives in freedom, because he is no longer under the oppressive yoke of the flesh: "Live by the Spirit and you will certainly not gratify the desire of the flesh" (Gal 5:16). "The concern of the flesh is death, but the concern of the Spirit is life and peace" (Rom 8:6).

The "works of the flesh" from which the Christian who is faithful to the Spirit has been freed are those of egoism and the passions, which prevent entrance into the kingdom of God. The works of the Spirit are those of love: "Against such there is no law" (Gal 5:23).

According to the Apostle, the result of this is that "if you are guided by the Spirit, you are under the law" (Gal 5:18). Writing to Timothy, he does not hesitate to say: "The law is not meant for a righteous person" (1 Tim 1:9). And St. Thomas explains: "The law does not have coercive power over the just, as it does for the wicked" (Summa Theol., I-II, q. 96, a. 5, and 1), because the just do nothing contrary to the law. Rather, guided by the Holy Spirit, they freely do everything which the law enjoins (cf. Rom 8:4; Gal 5:13-16).

6. This is the wondrous harmonization of freedom and law which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit's work in the just. Jeremiah and Ezekiel foretold this, announcing the interiorization of the law of the new covenant (cf. Jer 31:31-34; Ez 36:26-27).

"I will put my Spirit within you" (Ez 36:27). This prophecy was realized and continues to be active among the faithful and in the community of the Church. It is the Spirit who makes it possible to be not a mere observer of the law, but one who freely, fervently and faithfully accomplishes God's plan. They do all that the Apostle says: "Those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, "Abba, Father!'" (Rom 8:14-15). It is the freedom of children which Jesus proclaimed as the true freedom (cf. Jn 8:36). It is a fundamental, interior freedom, but one which is always oriented toward the love which makes access to the Father in the one Spirit possible and almost spontaneous (cf. Eph 2:18). It is the guided freedom which shines in the lives of the saints.

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

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Indem ich zum Schluß dieser Betrachtung dazu einlade, nach dem Geist der Osterzeit hoffnungsvoll in der neuen Wirklichkeit des Auferstehungsglaubens zu wandeln, grüße ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher sehr herzlich. Ein besonderer Gruß gilt der Pilgergruppe der Pfarrgemeinde Christus König in Halver, den Pilgergruppen aus den Pfarreien St. Kunibert in Heimerzheim und St. Martinus, Ollheim, sowie der Pilgergruppe aus der Pfarrei Heilige Familie in Goldberg.

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

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

 Je souhaite la bienvenue aux pèlerins de langue française présents à cette audience. Je salue en particulier le groupe des Missionnaires d’Afrique venus suivre une session à Rome, au milieu de leurs lourdes tâches, ainsi que le pèlerinage de l’École de la Foi, à qui je souhaite de poursuivre le chemin parcouru dans sa mission d’approfondissement de la Parole de Dieu. J’offre tous mes vœux aux étudiants de Grèce et aux Cadets de Belgique en leur souhaitant de profiter de leur séjour à Rome pour recevoir ses richesses spirituelles et culturelles. J’adresse enfin mon très cordial salut à la paroisse Saint -Ferdinand - des - Ternes en espérant que ces journées romaines lui donneront beaucoup de joie.

A chacun d’entre vous, mes chers amis, j’accorde de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I extend a warm welcome to the relatives and friends of the newly ordained Deacons from the North American College. My greetings go also to the pilgrimage group from Port Talbot, Wales, and to the members of the Cecilian Choir from Dundee, Scotland. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience I cordially invoke the joy and peace of the Risen Saviour.

Ad un gruppo proveniente dal Giappone

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Carissimi pellegrini provenienti da varie parti del Giappone. Mentre nel cuore dei cristiani risuona il canto dell’Alleluia pasquale, non si possono dimenticare tutti coloro che attendono con ansia di poterlo cantare liberi dagli orrori delle guerre, dalla fame, dalle oppressioni e persecuzioni.

Invocate per essi l’aiuto dell’Immacolata Madre di Gesù Risorto. Confidando in questa vostra preghiera vi imparto volentieri la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai pellegrini provenienti da Paesi di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Deseo ahora dar mi más cordial bienvenida a este encuentro a todos los peregrinos y visitantes procedentes de los diversos Países de América Latina y de España.

Mi saludo afectuoso se dirige a los sacerdotes, religiosos y demás almas consagradas, así como a los grupos parroquiales y de colegios aquí presentes. En particular a la peregrinación proveniente de Monterrey (México) y a los ex-Alumnos de los Colegios de la Guardia Civil española.

A todos imparto de corazón la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Amados irmãos e irmãs,

Neste tempo de Páscoa, escutai e obedecei fielmente a esse Hóspede divino, para que a vossa vida floresça e se cubra dos frutos do Espírito Santo, em penhor dos quais vos concedo a Bęnção Apostólica.

Ai connazionali polacchi

“Wimię Jezusa Chrystusa ukrzyżowanego i zmartwychwstałego, w duchu Jego mesjańskiego posłannictwa, które trwa w dziejach ludzkości, podnosimy nasz głos i błagamy, aby raz jeszcze na tym etapie dziejów objawiła się owa Miłośc, która jest w Ojcu, aby za sprawą Syna i Ducha Świętego okazała się obecną w naszym współczesnym świecie i potężniejszą niż zło: potężniejszą niż grzech i śmierć

Błagamy za pośrednictwem Tej, która nie przestaje głosić "miłosierdzia z pokolenia na pokolenie", a także tych wszystkich, na których wypełniły się już do końca słowa z Kazania na Górze: "Błogosławieni miłosierni, albowiem oni miłosierdzia dostąpią"”.

Pani Jasnogórska! Słowa z encykliki o miłosierdziu Bożym są nam szczególnie bliskie. Przypominają one postać  służebnicy Bożej, siostry Faustyny Kowalskiej. Ta prosta zakonnica w sposób szczególny przybliżyła Polsce, a także światu, paschalne orędzie Chrystusa Miłosiernego.

Było to w okresie przed II wojną światową z wszystkimi jej okrucieństwami. Naprzeciw całej zorganizowanej pogardy wobec człowieka orędzie Chrystusa umęczonego i zmartwychwstałego stawało się dla tylu ludzi w Polsce, a także daleko poza jej granicami, nawet na innych kontynentach, źródłem nadziei i siłą do przetrwania.

A dzisiaj? Czy również “w naszym współczesnym świecie”, w naszej Ojczyźnie, w społeczeństwie, wśród ludzi, którzy weszli na nowy etap dziejów, nie trzeba, aby miłość  okazała się potężniejsza niż nienawiść  i egoizm? Czy nie trzeba nam na język dzisiejszego pokolenia przetłumaczyć  ewangelicznych słów: “Błogosławieni miłosierni, albowiem oni miłosierdzia dostąpią”.

O Matko, która głosisz Boże miłosierdzie “na pokolenia i pokolenia” - pomóż naszemu pokoleniu podźwignąc się z moralnego kryzysu. Niech odzyskuje wśród nas coraz pełniejsze prawo obywatelstwa Chrystusowe “przykazanie nowe”: “abyście się wzajemnie miłowali”, “abyście się społecznie miłowali”.

Witam wszystkie grupy: z Kęt, z parafii św. Małgorzaty; z parafii św. Wojciecha z Warszawy; z sanktuarium Matki Bożej Pocieszenia Strapionych z Lewiczyna koło Grójca; młodzież Liceum Ogólno - kształcącego im. Mikołaja Kopernika z Warszawy; z parafii Nawiedzenia Matki Bożei z Zaborowa; z parafii Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa z Rzeszowa; pielgrzymka młodzieży i straży pożarnej z parafii Matki Bożej Wspomożenia Wiernych z Lublina - księża salezjanie; z parafii św. Stanisława Kostki z Częstochowy; z parafii Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa z Głoskowic koło Częstochowy; z parafii św. Jakuba z Czuchowa; z parafii Bogarodzicy Dziewicy z Poznania; z parafii Świętych Piotra i Pawła z Jeleniej Góry; pielgrzymkę współpracowników misyjnych księży pallotynów z całej Polski; pielgrzymkę kolejarzy z Gdańska; pielgrzymkę Klubu Inteligencji Katolickiej i Fundacji Obrony Życia Poczętego im. Księdza Popiełuszki z Warszawy; grupę pielgrzymkowó-turystyczną “Quo vadis” z Krosna; “Quo vadis” z Bielska-Białej; inne grupy turystyczne: z Warszawy “Jupiter”; z Łańcuta “Euro-Trans-Tours”; z Poznania “Gromada”; z Bydgoszczy “Esperantur”; z Kłodzka “Bramar”; z Gdańska “Clif-Tours”; z Warszawy “Barbara”; grupę służby zdrowia z Piły; grupę młodzieży i profesorów XXIV Liceum Ogólnokształcącego im. Marii Curie-Skłodowskiej; innych pielgrzymów z kraju i emigracji nie objętych tymi grupami.

Ai pellegrini di lingua italiana

Nel salutare tutti i numerosi pellegrini di lingua italiana mi rivolgo oggi in particolare agli alunni delle Scuole Medie di Delianuova, Cosoleto, Scido, Sinopoli e Bova Marina, accompagnati dal loro Vescovo Monsignor Francesco Rimedio, dai Sindaci dei rispettivi Comuni, dagli insegnanti. Mi compiaccio per il singolare concorso di pittura, di composizione letteraria e poetica, indetto per ricordare la figura di un generoso missionario della Calabria. A tutti l’augurio che i grandi esempi di generosità e di servizio per la verità e la promozione delle popolazioni più povere possa divenire un ideale di vita ed un motivo di impegno per tanti giovani.

Saluto poi i membri delle squadre ciclistiche lucchesi, associate sotto il titolo “Amore e vita”, che raccolgono molti giovani desiderosi di praticare una sana attività sportiva, esaltando, nello stesso tempo, attraverso lo sport, la vita quale valore assoluto da difendere e salvaguardare in tutte le sue forme.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Un particolare saluto, ancora colmo della gioia della Pasqua, va ora ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli presenti a questa Udienza.

La nostra fede, certa e profonda, che Cristo è risorto, proietta una singolare luce su tanti interrogativi che costantemente il mondo ci pone: domande sulla vita, sul suo valore, sulla sua immortalità. La Risurrezione è l’evento, in cui si fonda ogni speranza, ogni liberazione, ogni conforto.

Continuate, voi giovani, a credere nella Risurrezione di Cristo, accogliendo da lui il vero messaggio per una vita nuova. Sappiate voi malati appoggiare la vostra speranza sulla parola di Gesù e sulla sua promessa. Possiate voi, sposi novelli, costruire la vostra casa sulla “stabile roccia” che è Cristo.

Gesù risorto vi illumini sempre e vi conforti, mentre vi accompagna la mia benedizione apostolica.

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