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The effect of Peter's discourse at Pentecost

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 15 November 1989 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. After recording Peter's first discourse on the day of Pentecost, the author of Acts informs us that those present "were cut to the heart" (Acts 2:37). These eloquent words indicate the action of the Holy Spirit in the souls of those who heard from Peter the first apostolic preaching, his witness concerning Christ crucified and risen, and his explanation of the extraordinary events which had taken place that day. In particular, that first public presentation of the paschal mystery reached the core of the expectations of the people of the old covenant, when Peter said: "God has made both Lord and Christ this Jesus whom you crucified" (Acts 2:36).

The same Holy Spirit who had descended upon the apostles was now at work in the hearts of those who heard the apostolic preaching. Peter's words touched their hearts, awakening in them "a conviction of their sinfulness," the beginning of conversion.

2. Filled with remorse, "...they said to Peter and the rest of the apostles: 'Brethren, what shall we do?'" (Acts 2:37). The question, "what shall we do?" shows their readiness of will. It was the interior good predisposition of Peter's listeners that made them aware that it was necessary to change their lives when they heard his words. They addressed Peter and the other apostles. They knew that Peter spoke for the eleven also, and that the eleven therefore (that is to say, all the apostles) were witnesses of the same truth and were charged with the same mission. It is also significant that they called them "brethren," echoing Peter who had spoken in a fraternal spirit in his discourse, in the latter part of which he addressed those present as "brethren."

3. Peter himself then replied to the question of those present. It was a simple reply which could well be described as lapidary: "Repent" (Acts 2:38). Jesus had begun his messianic mission with this exhortation (cf. Mk 1:15). Peter repeated it on the day of Pentecost, in the power of the Spirit of Christ who descended on him and on the other apostles.

Repentance, as I emphasized in the Encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem, is the crucial step in the process of conversion which the Holy Spirit works within us: "By becoming 'the light of hearts,' that is, the light of consciences, the Holy Spirit 'convinces concerning sin,' which is to say, he makes man realize his own evil [i.e. the evil committed by himself], and at the same time directs him toward what is good.... Thus the conversion of the human heart, which is an indispensable condition for the forgiveness of sins, is brought about by the influence of the Counselor" (n. 42).

4. On the lips of Peter "repent" means: change from the rejection of Christ to faith in the Risen One. The crucifixion had been the definitive expression of the rejection of Christ, sealed by an ignominious death on Golgotha. Peter exhorted those who crucified Jesus to have faith in the risen one: "God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death" (Acts 2:24). Pentecost, then, was the confirmation of Christ's resurrection.

The exhortation to conversion implies above all faith in Christ the Redeemer. Indeed, the resurrection is the revelation of that divine power which, by means of Christ's crucifixion and death, effects man's redemption and his liberation from sin.

If through Peter's preaching the Holy Spirit "convinces concerning sin," he does so "by virtue of the redemption accomplished by the blood of the Son of Man...." The Letter to the Hebrews says that this "blood purifies the conscience" (cf. 9:14). It therefore, so to speak, opens to the Holy Spirit the door into man's inmost being, namely, into the "sanctuary of human consciences" (DViv 42).

In his Pentecost discourse, Peter proclaimed and testified that this profound and inmost level is reached by the action of the Holy Spirit in virtue of Christ's redemption.

5. Peter went on to complete his message as follows: "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Here we have the echo of what Peter and the other apostles heard from Jesus after his resurrection, when "he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, 'Thus it is written that the Christ should suffer and rise from the dead... and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem'" (Lk 24:45-47).

Following faithfully what Christ had laid down (cf. Mk 16:16; Mt 28:19), Peter called not only for repentance but also for baptism in Christ's name "for the forgiveness of...sins" (Acts 2:38). On the day of Pentecost the apostles were "baptized in the Holy Spirit" (cf. Acts 2:4). Therefore, in passing on the faith in Christ the Redeemer, they urged people to be baptized, for baptism is the first sacrament of this faith. Since it effects the forgiveness of sins, the faith should find in baptism its own sacramental expression so that man may share in the gift of the Holy Spirit.

This is the ordinary way of conversion and grace. Other ways are not excluded, for "the Spirit blows where it wills" (cf. Jn 3:8). The Spirit can accomplish the work of salvation by sanctifying man apart from the sacrament, when its reception is not possible. It is the mystery of the meeting between divine grace and the human soul. Let this reference suffice for the moment, for we shall speak about it again, God willing, in the reflections on Baptism.

6. In the Encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem I analyzed the victory over sin won by the Holy Spirit in reference to the action of Christ the Redeemer. There I wrote: "The convincing concerning sin, through the ministry of the apostolic kerygma in the early Church, is referred—under the impulse of the Spirit poured out at Pentecost—to the redemptive power of Christ crucified and risen. Thus the promise concerning the Holy Spirit made before Easter is fulfilled: 'He will take what is mine and declare it to you.' When therefore, during the Pentecost event, Peter speaks of the sin of those who 'have not believed' and have sent Jesus of Nazareth to an ignominious death, he bears witness to victory over sin: a victory achieved, in a certain sense, through the greatest sin that man could commit: the killing of Jesus, the Son of God, consubstantial with the Father! Similarly, the death of the Son of God conquers human death: 'I will be your death, O death,' as the sin of having crucified the Son of God 'conquers' human sin: that sin which was committed in Jerusalem on Good Friday—and also every human sin. For the greatest sin on man's part is matched, in the heart of the Redeemer, by the oblation of supreme love that conquers the evil of all the sins of man" (n. 31).

It is therefore a victory of love! This is the truth contained in Peter's exhortation to conversion through Baptism.

7. By virtue of Christ's victorious love the Church also is born in sacramental Baptism through the work of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, when the first conversions to Christ took place.

We read that "those who received his word (that is, the truth contained in Peter's words) were baptized, and there were added that day about three thousand souls" (Acts 2:41), that is, "they were added" to those who had been previously "baptized in the Holy Spirit," the apostles. Having been baptized "with water and the Holy Spirit," they become the community "of the adopted sons of God" (cf. Rom 8:15). As "sons in the Son" (cf. Eph 1:5) they become "one" in the bond of a new brotherhood. Through the action of the Holy Spirit they become the Church of Christ.

8. In this regard one must recall the event concerning Simon Peter which took place on the lake of Gennesaret. The evangelist Luke tells us that Jesus "said to Simon, 'Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.' And Simon answered, 'Master, we toiled all night and took nothing. But at your word I will let down the nets.' And when they had done this, they enclosed a great catch of fish, and their nets were breaking...and they filled both the boats, so that they began to sink. But when Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus' knees, saying, 'Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord....' And Jesus said to Simon, 'Do not be afraid; henceforth you will be catching men.' And when they had brought their boats to land, they left everything and followed him" (Lk 5:4-8; 10-11).

That event-sign contained the announcement of the future victory over sin through faith, repentance and baptism, preached by Peter in Christ's name. That announcement became reality on the day of Pentecost, when it was confirmed by the work of the Holy Spirit. Peter the fisherman and his companions on the lake of Gennesaret found in this reality the paschal expression of Christ's power, and at the same time the meaning of their apostolic mission. They found the fulfillment of the announcement: "From now on you will be a fisher of men.""


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

Ai fedeli di lingua francese 

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

JE SOUHAITE la bienvenue aux francophones présents à cette audience. Je souhaite que votre séjour à Rome vous permette de renouveler votre regard sur l’Eglise universelle, et que, près du tombeau de Pierre, il vous soit donné de raffermir votre adhésion au Christ. Que Dieu vous aide au long de votre route! 

Ai numerosi pellegrini di espressione inglese 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I AM HAPPY to greet the members of Legatus who have assembled here in Rome. You have come to invoke the assistance of the holy apostles Peter and Paul and to consecrate your talents and your energies to the good of the universal Church. Your mission is one of service to Jesus Christ and to the cause of his Gospel. This service requires the authentic fulfilment of your role to be exemplary Catholics, applying the teaching of Church to the business world as well as to your individual lives. Your inspiration comes from your Baptism and your Confirmation, and your union with Chirst is forever the source of your joy and strength. The Church needs your fidelity and the Holy See counts on your generous commitment. It is my prayer that in all your activities you will experience the loving protection of the Mother of Christ.

* * *

I AM ALSO pleased to welcome the participants in the Rejoice Conference Seminar, sponsored by the Office of Black Catholics of the Archdiocese of Washington. Your stay in Rome provides you with a precious opportunity to experience in a unique way the universality of Christ’s Church. In every age, our Lord invites men and women of all nations and races, peoples and tongues to follow him.  I encourage you in your efforts to share the richness of your heritage as Black Catholics with all your brothers and sisters, and to grow in love for the Church and in your commitment to work for its unity and peace.

* * *

MY WARM WELCOME goes to the delegation from the “European Buddhist Union” present in Rome for meetings with the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue. I wish to extend a cordial greeting to the Prime Minister of Ontario and the delegation accompanying him, including a group of distinguished members of Parliament. I also welcome the Sisters of the Little Company of Mary who are participating in a programme of spiritual renewal. To all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Ai gruppi di espressione tedesca 

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

MIT DIESER EINLADUNG zum Gebet um den Heiligen Geist grüße ich herzlich alle anwesenden Pilger und Besucher aus den deutschsprachigen Ländern, besonders die Studiengruppe der Katholischen Akademie Hamburg, und erteile Euch für Gottes steten Schutz und Beistand gern meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen. 

Ai numerosi fedeli di lingua spagnola 

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo ahora muy cordialmente a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española.

EN PARTICOLAR, saludo a las Hermanas Franciscanas Misioneras de la Madre del Divino Pastor y a las Hermanas de Nuestra Señora de la Consolación, a quienes aliento a una generosa entrega a Dios y a la Iglesia en fidelidad a su propia vocación religiosa. 

* * * 

SALUDO IGUALMENTE a la peregrinación de “Rocieros”, que como testimonio de su devoción mariana, han querido venir a Roma, centro de la catolicidad, para orar ante el sepulcro de los Apóstoles. Que vuestro amor a la Santísima Virgen del Rocío, Reina de las marismas, os afiance en vuestra fe cristiana y os impulse a un renovado dinamismo apostólico en la sociedad española. ¡Viva la Blanca Paloma!

A todas las personas, familias y grupos procedentes de los diversos Países de América Latina y de España imparto con afecto la Bendición Apostólica. 

Ai pellegrini di espressione portoghese 

Caríssimos irmãos e irmãs,

A TODOS OS peregrinos e visitantes de língua portuguesa, concedo a minha afectuosa Bênção que os ajude a serem fiéis. 

Ai fedeli di lingua polacca 

WITAM SERDECZNIE pielgrzymów z Polski, witam w szczególności księży biskupów, którzy przybyli do Rzymu na kanonizację Brata Alberta z Krakowa, z Warszawy, z Częstochowy, z Gdańska, z Lublina, z Siedlec, z Pelplina. Witamy wszyscy serdecznie braci albertynów i siostry albertynki z całej Polski. Witam serdecznie pielgrzymów z parafii św. Szczepana i z parafii Bożego Ciała w Krakowie; z parafii św. Wojciecha w Mucharzu koło Wadowic; z parafii św. Brata Alberta w Nowym Chechle w diecezji katowickiej; z parafii św. Wawrzyńca w Wojniczu; z parafii św. Brata Alberta w Skarżysku-Kamiennej; z parafii katedralnej z Włocławka oraz z parafii św. Wojciecha z Konina w diecezji włocławskiej; pielgrzymów z diecezji siedleckiej; pielgrzymkę polonijną z Anglii; pielgrzymkę polonijną ze Stanów Ziednoczonych; wreszcie grupę kolejarzy z Tych, ze Szczakowej i z Katowic.

Dzisiejsza katecheza o Duchu Świętym, jak wszystkie poprzednie, skierowuje naszą uwagę na wieczernik jerozolimski w dniu Piećdziesiątnicy. Całe wydarzenie Pięćdziesiątnicy jerozolimskiej zasługuje na szczególną analizę, czego dokonuiemy w koleinych katechezach. Dzisiaj mowa była o bezpośrednich następstwach pierwszego kazania, katechezy, kerygmy św. Piotra, który mówił w imieniu wszystkich apostołów. Otóż skutkiem tego przemówienia, w którym Piotr ukazał tajemnicę paschalną Chrystusa:“Bóg wskrzesił Tego, któregoście wy ukrzyżowali”, skutkiem tego kazania jest wewnętrzne poruszenie sumień i pyeanie: “Co mamy czynić?”. To wewnętrzne poruszenie sumień jest oczywiście dziełem Ducha Świętego działającego w słuchaczach. I na tym wewnętrznym poruszeniu sumien zatrzymajmy się dzisiaj w sposób szczególny, mając w pamięci życiorys Brata Alberea. Wiemy, że jego życie wiele razy wracało do wnętrza, że wiele razy doznawał tego wewnętrznego poruszenia sumień i wiele razy słyszał głos “nawróćcie się”, “nawróć się”. Szczególnie głęboko ten głos Boży i działanie Ducha Świętego przemówiło do jego sumienia, kiedy poseanowił zmienić całkowicie swoją drogę i stać się tym, co go doprowadziło do szczytów świectości, stać się Bratem Ałbereem. Życiorysy naszego świętego starają się przedstawić ten moment, ten proces nawrócenia Adama Chmiełowskiego, jednakże żadna łudzka anałiza tego ostatecznie nie zgłębi, ponieważ to jest tajemnica Boga działającego w człowieku, w jego sercu. Trzeba natomiast nawiązać do słów Chrystusa: pierwsze słowa Chrystusa w Ewangełii brzmią: “Nawracajcie się”, i takie same są pierwsze słowa Piotra działającego w mocy Ducha Świętego, otrzymanego za sprawą Chrystusa: “Nawracajcie się”. Te słowa trzeba odnaleźć w całym życiorysie Brata Alberea jako słowa centralne, które nas łączą z tajemnicą paschałną, z Krzyżem Chrystusa i Zmartwychwstaniem i łaczą nas również z wydarzeniem Piećdziesiątnicy, z przyjściem Ducha Świętego. To wydarzeme jest również dniem narodzin Kościoła. Kościół rodzi się wówczas, gdy słuchacze Piotra w dniu Pięćdziesiatnicy nawracają się i przyjmują chrzest. Jest więc ten dzień także dniem narodzenia Kościoła. Kościół rodzi się w każdym z nas przez nasz chrzest. Tak narodził się w Bracie Albercie Adamie Chmielowskim przez jego chrzest przyjety tam, w pobliżu Krakowa, w podkrakowskiej parafii. Mvślę że w księgach tej parafii będzie można zapisać obok daty chrztu i daty beatyfikacji także date tej kanonizacji: 12 listopada 1989 roku w Rzymie. 

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli 

Rivolgo ora il mio consueto, cordiale saluto ai giovani, agli ammalati ed alle coppie di sposi novelli, presenti a questa Udienza.

A TUTTI IL MIO benvenuto. Invito, in particolare, i giovani a saper cogliere dai messaggi della cultura e della tecnica ciò che nutre lo spirito ed avvia verso responsabilità sociali positive e generose. Ai malati chiedo di sostenere con la loro sofferenza e preghiera l’impegno della Chiesa per l’Evangelizzazione del mondo. Agli sposi auguro che le loro nuove famiglie siano sempre aperte ai valori dello spirito e della generosità dell’amore vero.

Su tutti scenda la mia affettuosa Benedizione.

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