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The coming of the Holy Spirit in the light of the Old Testament promises

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 31 May 1989 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. "Behold, I will send the promise of my Father upon you" (Lk 24:49). After the announcements made by Jesus to the apostles on the day before his passion and death, we find recorded in Luke's Gospel the promise of their proximate fulfillment. Our previous reflections were based especially on the text of the farewell discourse in John's Gospel. We analyzed what Jesus said at the Last Supper about the Paraclete and his coming. This is a fundamental text inasmuch as it records the announcement and promise of Jesus who, on the eve of his death, linked the descent of the Holy Spirit to his own "departure." The former, he emphasizes, will take place "at the price" of his departure. Therefore, Jesus said: "It is to your advantage that I go away" (Jn 16:7).

The final part of Luke's Gospel also contains important statements of Jesus on this subject after the resurrection. He said: "Behold, 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). At the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles, Luke repeats this same admonition: "While staying with them he charged them not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father" (Acts 1:4).

2. In speaking of the promise of the Father, Jesus indicates the coming of the Holy Spirit, already foretold in the Old Testament. We read in the book of the prophet Joel: "And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy; your old men shall dream dreams and your young men shall see visions. Even upon the menservants and maidservants in those days, I will pour out my spirit" (Joel 3:1-2). St. Peter will refer to this text in his first discourse of Pentecost, as we shall see later.

In speaking of the "promise of the Father", Jesus also referred to the announcement of the prophets, significant even though generic. Jesus' announcements at the Last Supper are explicit and direct. If after the resurrection he refers to the Old Testament, it is a sign that he wishes to emphasize the continuity of pneumatological truth in the whole of revelation. It means that Christ brings to fulfillment the promises already made by God in the old covenant.

3. The prophet Ezekiel (36:22-28) gives particular expression to these promises. Through the prophet God announced the revelation of his own holiness, which had been profaned by the sins of the Chosen People, especially by the sin of idolatry. He also announced that he will again assemble Israel, purifying her from all stain. And then he promises: "A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will take out of your flesh the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. I will put my spirit with you, and cause you to walk in my statutes.... You shall be my people, and I will be your God" (Ez 36:26-28).

Ezekiel's prophecy, with the promise of the gift of the Spirit, makes more precise Jeremiah's famous prophecy on the new covenant: "Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.... I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts. I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jer 31:31, 33). In this text the prophet emphasizes that this new covenant will be different from the previous one—from that which was linked to the liberation of Israel from the bondage of Egypt.

4. Before going to the Father shortly before the day of Pentecost, Jesus recalled the promises of the prophets. He had particularly in mind the eloquent texts of Ezekiel and Jeremiah which explicitly refer to the new covenant. That prophetic announcement and promise of "putting a new spirit within them" is addressed to the heart, to man's interior, spiritual essence. The result of this insertion of a new spirit will be the placing of God's law within man ("within them") and therefore a profound bond of a spiritual and moral nature. This will be the essence of the new law infused into the human heart (indita), as St. Thomas says (cf. Summa Theol., I-II, q. 106, a. 1), in reference to the prophet Jeremiah and to St. Paul, following in the steps of St. Augustine (cf. De Spiritu et littera, cc. 17, 21, 24: PL 44, 218, 224, 225).

According to Ezekiel's prophecy, it is not merely a case of the law of God infused into the human soul, but rather of the gift of the Spirit of God. Jesus announced the proximate fulfillment of this stupendous prophecy: the Holy Spirit, author of the new law, and himself the new law, will be present and active in human hearts. "You know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you" (Jn 14:17). On the evening after his resurrection, in presenting himself to the apostles assembled in the upper room, Christ said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit" (Jn 20:22).

5. The "outpouring of the Spirit," therefore, does not merely imply the "placing," the writing of the divine law in the depths of man's spiritual essence. By virtue of Christ's redemptive Pasch it also effects the gift of a divine Person: the Holy Spirit is "given" to the apostles (cf. Jn 14:16) that he may "dwell" in them (cf. Jn 14:17). It is a gift in which God communicates himself to man in the intimate mystery of divinity, so that the latter, sharing in the divine nature, in the trinitarian life, may bear spiritual fruit. This gift is therefore the basis of all the supernatural gifts, as St. Thomas explains (cf. Summa Theol., I, q. 38, a. 2). It is the root of sanctifying grace which sanctifies precisely through "participation in the divine nature" (cf. 2 Pet 1:4). It is clear that this sanctification implies a moral transformation of the human spirit. Thus what was expressed by the prophets as "putting God's law in the heart" is confirmed, clarified and enriched in meaning in the new dimension of the "outpouring of the Spirit." On the lips of Jesus and in the gospel texts the promise acquires the fullness of meaning: the gift of the Person of the Paraclete.

6. This outpouring, this gift of the Spirit, also has as its purpose the consolidation of the apostles' mission when the Church makes her first appearance in history, and later throughout the whole development of the apostolic mission. Indeed, when taking leave of the apostles Jesus told them, "You will be 'clothed with power from on high'" (Lk 24:49). "You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

"You shall be witnesses": the apostles had already heard this during the farewell discourse (cf. Jn 15:27). In that same discourse Jesus had linked their human, firsthand and historical witness to him with the witness of the Holy Spirit: "He will bear witness to me" (Jn 15:26). Therefore, "in the witness of the Spirit of truth, the human testimony of the apostles will find its strongest support. And subsequently it will also find therein the hidden foundation of its continuation among the generations of Christ's disciples and believers who succeed one another down the ages" (DV 5).

Then and later, it was a question of bringing into being the kingdom of God as understood by Jesus. Indeed, in the same conversation prior to the ascension into heaven, he again insisted with the apostles that this kingdom (Acts 1:3) is to be understood in its universal and eschatological sense. It should not be understood as a merely temporal "kingdom of Israel" (Acts 1:6), which they still had in mind.

7. At the same time Jesus charged the apostles to remain in Jerusalem after the ascension. It is there that "they will receive power from on high"; and there the Holy Spirit will descend on them. Once again the bond and continuity between the old and new covenants is emphasized. Jerusalem, the point of arrival of the history of the People of God in the old covenant, must now become the departure point of the history of the People of God of the new covenant, that is, the Church.

Jerusalem was chosen by Christ himself (cf. Lk 9:51; 13:33) as the place of the fulfillment of his messianic mission. It was the place of his death and resurrection ("Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up": Jn 2:19), and the place of the redemption. With the Pasch of Jerusalem the "time of Christ" is prolonged in the "time of the Church": the decisive moment will be the day of Pentecost. "Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem" (Lk 24:46-47). This beginning will take place under the action of the Holy Spirit who, at the beginning of the Church, as the Creator Spirit (Veni, Creator Spiritus) prolongs the work of the first creation when the Spirit of God "hovered over the waters" (Gen 1:2).


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

Ad alcuni gruppi di espressione inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I WISH TO EXTEND a cordial welcome to the Canadian members of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem and to the groups from Korea and India. My special greeting also goes to the members of the Society of Saint Birgitta from Sweden and to the participants in the Swedish Church Study tour. I look forward to my Pastoral visit to your country next week. May your stay in Rome serve to deepen your understanding of the Catholic Church and of the historical roots shared by all Christians. Upon all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims I invoke joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ad alcuni fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

MIT DlESER KURZEN Betrachtung grüße ich alle Pilger und Besucher aus den deutschsprachigen Ländern. Ich wünsche Euch einen frohen Aufenthalt in der”Ewigen Stadt“und erbitte Euch und Euren Familien sowie den mit uns über Radio Vatikan verbundenen Hörerinnen und Hörern mit meinem Apostolischen Segen von Herzen Gottes steten Schutz und weise Führung.

Ai fedeli di espressione spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

PRESENTO AHORA mi más cordial saludo de bienvenida a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de los diversos países de América Latina y de España.

En especial, a la peregrinación organizada por las Misioneras Eucarísticas de Nazareth, de Sevilla, a los alumnos del Colegio “Antonio Machado” de Colmenar Viejo (Madrid) y a los grupos parroquiales de Salobreña, Santa Pola y Arenys de Mar.

A todos imparto con afecto la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai numerosi fedeli provenienti dal Brasile

Amados irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa,

SAÚDO CORDIALMENTE os numerosos Brasileiros, vindos de São Paulo, Porto Alegre, Rio de Janeiro e Salvador, e quantos me escutam: desejo-vos todo o bem, na graça de Deus! E que Ele vos ajude a viver segundo o seu Espírito, com um “coração novo”, pelos caminhos da justiça, do amor e da fraternidade!

Ad un pellegrinaggio di ungheresi

VORREI SALUTARE in ungherese il coro della “Schola Hungarica”, presente alla odierna Udienza generale.

Ai fedeli polacchi

POZDRAWIAM PIELGRZYMÓW z Polski, w szczególności pielgrzymkę katedralną z Tarnowa; Oazę Rodzin z Kielc; współ pracowników misyjnych sióstr pallotynek; polonijną parafią św. Anny w Jersey City; pielgrzymkę maryjną Polskiego Katolickiego Biura Pielgrzymkowego ze Stanów Zjednoczonych; neoprezbiterów z rodzinami; grupę turystyczną “Gościniec” z Drohiczyna; Klub Sportowy z Płocka; kolejarzy z Krakowa oraz uczestników grup turystycznych z Warszawy: PKS, Orbis, Turysta . . . Dzisiaj, w ostatni dzień maja Kosciół obchodzi święto Nawiedzenia Matki Bożej. To święto przypomina mi szczególne doświadczenie Kościoła w Polsce, jakim było nawiedzenie Matki Bożej w okresie przed Tysiącleciem Chrztu, podczas Tysiąclecia Chrztu i po jego zakończeniu. O ile wiem, to nawiedzenie odbywa się obecnie po raz drugi. Nawiedzenie, które miało początek w domu Elżbiety, gdzie Matka Boża przyniosła tej swojej krewnej Jezusa w swoim łonie i została przez nią pozdrowiona jako “laski pełna”, jako ta, “która uwierzyła”. Myślę, że nawiedzenie Matki Bożej na polskiej ziemi w ciągu wielu lat w różnych wspólnotach pomagało nam stale na nowo coraz głębiej uwierzyć razem z Maryją i w ten sposób wierząc odnalźć siebie, swoje powołanie, swoją godność chrześcijańską, a także swoją godność społeczną, swoją godność narodową, wielkie dziedzictwo kultury, języka, historii, które nasz naród przez tysiąc lat dziedziczy od momentu Chrztu. Przypominam o tym nawiedzeniu Matki Bożej ze względu na dzisiejsze święto, przypominam także dlatego, ażeby raz jeszcze podziękować Jasnogórskiej Pani za wszystkie dobra duchowe i społeczne, które swoim nawiedzeniem przyniosła do naszych polskich rodzin, paraffi, wspólnot, do całego społeczeństwa.

Ai numerosi gruppi italiani

Mi è gradito ora porgere il mio benvenuto ai numerosi pellegrini italiani presenti a questa Udienza. Saluto voi Allievi Ufficiali della Scuola del Genio di Roma-Cecchignola e vi esorto ad essere lealmente coerenti alla fede cristiana e ai valori che essa anima, per un proficuo impegno in favore della Nazione italiana.

* * *

Rivolgo il mio saluto cordiale a voi, care sorelle, che componete la Delegazione delle Ostetriche del Lazio. Siate di aiuto ad ogni madre perché accetti, custodisca e porti alla luce il figlio, donato dal Signore.

* * *

Giunga poi la mia parola di incoraggiamento ai Missionari e Missionarie, che stanno partecipando al corso di aggiornamento sul tema: “I Laici nell’evangelizzazione”.

Carissimi, sappiate che apprezzo la vostra opera di annuncio cristiano, che svolgete nei vari territori di missione. Invoco su di voi lo Spirito del Signore, perché siate sempre più generosi nel portare ad ogni persona il dono della Verità di Cristo e la consolante certezza della redenzione.

* * *

Saluto, infine, membri della “Compagnia di Sant’Orsola”, che, con alcuni accompagnatori, siete qui giunti da Barletta, per suggellare la ricorrenza del 75° anniversario di fondazione del vostro Sodalizio. Auguro che il Signore porti a compimento ogni vostra volontà di bene e di donazione per l’incremento della fede nei vostri cuori e nell’ambiente che voi frequentate.

Di questi voti sia per tutti pegno l’Apostolica Benedizione.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Saluto ora con affetto e gioia tutti i giovani, gli ammalati e le nuove coppie di sposi.

Carissimi, la festa liturgica di oggi ci ricorda la visita di Maria alla cugina Elisabetta, ormai prossima alla maternità. L’incontro si trasforma in un’occasione di fede e di amore concreto. Fede in Dio che “si prende cura degli uomini” (1 Pt 5, 7) e stimola le nostre energie spirituali al servizio dei fratelli.

Mediante Maria, è Dio che si prende cura di Elisabetta. Mediante le due cugine, chiamate alla maternità, è Dio che si prende cura di Giovanni Battista e di Gesù.

Mediante l’Opera del Precursore e del Signore, è Dio che porta a pieno compimento la sua sollecitudine amorosa e misericordiosa verso Israele e verso l’umanità intera.

La vostra venuta a Roma, miei cari, rafforzi la generosità della vostra fede, perché siate, come Maria, come Elisabetta, strumenti gioiosi e docili nelle mani di Dio che “si prende cura” di tutti gli uomini, chiamati ad essere figli nel Figlio suo. Tornando alle vostre case, sentitevi anche voi mandati a prendervi cura dei piccoli e degli anziani, dei sani e dei malati, dei vicini e dei lontani. Questo pellegrinaggio a Roma vi renda “visitatori” come Maria.

Con la mia Benedizione.

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