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The Holy Spirit as Advocate

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 24 May 1989 - in English, Italian & Spanish  

"1. In the previous reflection on the Holy Spirit we began with John's text of Jesus' farewell discourse. In a certain way this is the principal gospel source of pneumatology. Jesus announced the coming of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, who "proceeds from the Father" (Jn 15:26). He will be sent by the Father to the apostles and the Church in Christ's name, by virtue of the redemption effected in the sacrifice of the cross, according to the eternal plan of salvation. In the power of this sacrifice the Son also "sends" the Spirit, for he announced that the spirit will come as a consequence, and at the price of his own departure (cf. Jn 16:7). There is a connection stated by Jesus himself between his death-resurrection-ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, between the Pasch and Pentecost. Indeed, according to the fourth Gospel, the giving of the Holy Spirit took place on the very evening of Easter Sunday (cf. Jn 20:22-25). It may be said that the wound in Christ's side on the cross opened the way for the outpouring of the Spirit, which will be a sign and a fruit of the glory obtained though the Passion and death.

We learn from Jesus' discourse in the upper room that he called the Holy Spirit the "Paraclete": "I will pray the Father, and he will send you another Paraclete, to be with you forever" (Jn 14:16). Similarly we read in other texts: "the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit" (cf. Jn 14:16; 15:26; 16:7). Instead of "Paraclete" many translations use the word "Counselor." That term is acceptable, though it is necessary to have recourse to the original Greek word Parakletos to grasp the full meaning of what Jesus says about the Holy Spirit.

2. Parakletos means literally: "one who is called or appealed to" (from para-kalein, "to call to one's assistance"). He is therefore the defender," "the advocate," as well as the "mediator" who fulfills the function of intercessor. It is this meaning of "advocate-defender" that now interests us, while not forgetting that some Fathers of the Church use Parakletos in the sense of "Counselor" particularly in reference to the Holy Spirit's action in regard to the Church. For the present we shall speak of the Holy Spirit as the Paraclete-Advocate-Defender. This term enables us to grasp the close relationship between Christ's action and that of the Holy Spirit, as can be seen from a further analysis of John's text.

3. When Jesus in the upper room, on the eve of his passion, announced the coming of the Holy Spirit, he did so in the following terms: "The Father will give you another Paraclete." These words indicate that Christ himself is the first Paraclete, and that the Holy Spirit's action will be like that of Christ and in a sense prolong it.

Jesus Christ, indeed, was the "defender" and remains such. John himself will say so in his First Letter: "If anyone does sin, we have an advocate (parakletos) with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 Jn 2:1).

The advocate (defender) is he who, taking the part of those who are guilty because of sin committed, defends them from the penalty due to their sins, and saves them from the danger of losing eternal life and salvation. This is precisely what Jesus Christ did. The Holy Spirit is called the Paraclete because he continues Christ's redemptive work which freed us from sin and eternal death.

4. The Paraclete will be "another advocate-defender" also for a second reason. Remaining with Christ's disciples, he will watch over them with his omnipotent power. "I will pray the Father," Jesus said, "and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you forever" (Jn 14:16). "He dwells in you, and will be in you" (Jn 14:16). This promise must be taken together with the others made by Jesus when going to the Father: "I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28:20). We know that Christ is the Word who "became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14). When going to the Father he said: "I am with you always, to the close of the age" (Mt 28:20). It follows that the apostles and the Church must continually find, by means of the Holy Spirit, that presence of the Word-Son which, during his earthly mission, was physical and visible in his incarnate humanity, but which, after his ascension to the Father, is completely immersed in mystery. The Holy Spirit's presence which, as Jesus said, is interior to souls and to the Church ("He dwells with you, and will be in you": Jn 14:17), will make the invisible Christ present in a lasting manner "until the end of the world." The transcendent unity of the Son and the Holy Spirit will ensure that Christ's humanity, assumed by the Word, will be present at work wherever the trinitarian plan of salvation is being put into effect through the power of the Father.

5. The Holy Spirit-Paraclete will be the advocate-defender of the apostles, and of all those down through the centuries in the Church who will be the heirs of their witness and apostolate. This is especially so in difficult moments when they are tested to the point of heroism. This was Jesus' prophecy and promise: "They will deliver you up to will be dragged before governors and kings.... When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say...for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you" (Mt 10:17-20; likewise Mk 13:11; Lk 12:12 says: "for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that hour what you ought to say").

Even in this very practical sense the Holy Spirit is the Paraclete-Advocate. He is close and even present to the apostles when they must profess the truth, justify it and defend it. He himself then inspires them. He himself speaks through their words, and together with them and through them he bears witness to Christ and his Gospel. Before their accusers he becomes the invisible advocate of the accused, by the fact that he acts as their counselor, defender and supporter.

Especially during persecutions in all ages, those words of Jesus in the upper room are verified: "When the Paraclete comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father...he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning" (Jn 15:26-27).

The action of the Holy Spirit is that of "bearing witness." It is an interior, "immanent" action in the hearts of the disciples, who then bear witness to Christ externally. Through that immanent presence and action, the transcendent power of the truth of Christ who is the Word-Truth and Wisdom, is manifested and advances in the world. From him, through the Spirit, the apostles obtained the power to bear witness according to his promise: "I will give you a mouth of wisdom, which none of your adversaries will be able to withstand or contradict" (Lk 21:15). This happened already in the case of the first martyr Stephen, of whom we read in the Acts of the Apostles that he was "full of the Holy Spirit" (6:5). His adversaries "could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke" (Acts 6:10). Also in the following centuries the opponents of the Christians continued to rage against the heralds of the Gospel. At times they stifled the Christians' voice in their blood, but without succeeding in suffocating the truth of which they were the messengers. That truth continued to flourish in the world through the power of the Spirit.

7. The Holy Spirit - the Spirit of truth, the Paraclete - is he who according to the words of Christ, "will convince the world of sin and of righteousness and of judgment" (Jn 16:8). Jesus' own explanation of these terms is significant: "Sin" signifies the lack of faith that Jesus met with among "his own," those of his own people who arrived at the point of condemning him to death on a cross. In speaking of "righteousness," Jesus seems to have in mind that definitive righteousness which the Father will confer upon him ("...because I go to the Father") in the resurrection and ascension into heaven. In this context "judgment" means that the Spirit of truth will demonstrate the guilt of the world in rejecting Christ, or more generally, in turning its back upon God. Because Christ did not come into the world to judge and condemn it but to save it, then in actual fact that "convincing the world of sin" on the part of the Spirit of truth must be understood as an intervention directed to the salvation of the world, to the ultimate good of humanity.

"Judgment" refers particularly to the "prince of this world," namely, Satan. From the very beginning he tried to turn the work of creation against the covenant and union of man with God: knowingly he opposes salvation. Therefore, he "is already judged" from the beginning, as I explained in the encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem (n. 27).

8. If the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, is to convince the world precisely of this "judgment," undoubtedly he does so to continue Christ's work aimed at universal salvation.

We can therefore conclude that in bearing witness to Christ, the Paraclete is an assiduous (though invisible) advocate and defender of the work of salvation, and of all those engaged in this work. He is also the guarantor of the definitive triumph over sin and over the world subjected to sin, in order to free it from sin and introduce it into the way of salvation.


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

Ai gruppi di lingua francese 

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

J’ADRESSE MON CORDIAL salut à tous les pèlerins de langue française. En particulier, je voudrais dire mes encouragements aux Sœurs de Notre-Dame des Apôtres. Que votre présence près du tombeau de Pierre vous renouvelle dans le don de votre vie au Seigneur et dans votre générosité missionnaire!

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JE SALUE également les membres de “Foi et Lumière”; je vous souhaite, chers amis, d’être toujours avec joie des témoins du Christ parmi vos frères qui attendent la Bonne Nouvelle.

A tous, aux groupes de jeunes notamment, je donne volontiers ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai gruppi di fedeli di lingua inglese 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I WISH TO GREET the Christian Brothers who have come to Rome for a Renewal Course, to deepen their commitment to Christ and to the service of his Church through a period of study and prayer. Dear Brothers: may your stay in this City increase your knowledge of the mystery of God’s call, a call which echoes through all of history and is directed at all peoples. To all the Englishspeaking visitors and pilgrims, especially the visitors from Korea, I cordially impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca 

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

MIT DIESER KURZEN Betrachtung grüße ich sehr herzlich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher. Ich wünsche Euch allen einen bereichernden Romaufenthalt und erteile Euch und Euren Lieben in der Heimat, wie auch den mit uns verbundenen Hörerinnen und Hörern von Radio Vatikan von Herzen den Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola 

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

SALUDO AHORA cordialmente a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española. En particular a los Hermanos Maristas y las Religiosas de la Compañía de Santa Teresa de Jesús, que hacen en Roma un curso de espiritualidad. A todos aliento a una entrega generosa e ilusionada a Dios y a la Iglesia, en fidelidad al propio carisma religioso.

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

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese 

Caríssimos irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa,

AS MINHAS CORDIAIS saudações aos que me escutam, com votos de saúde, paz e graça, na caridade e alegria do Espírito Santo! 

Ai fedeli e ai pellegrini polacchi 

POZDRAWIAM SERDECZNIE pielgrzymów z Polski. Witam wszystkie grupy: pielgrzymów z parafii Matki Bożej z Lourdes - Kraków, księża misjonarze; pielgrzymów z Klubu Inteligencji Katolickiej - Bielsko-Biała; z parafii św. Wincentego a Paulo - Bydgoszcz; z parafii św. Jerzego - Biłgoraj; z dekanatu kaliskiego; z parafii Matki Bożej Pocieszenia w Szamotułach; współpracowników misyjnych księży pallotynów z całej Polski; parafię polonijną w Leeds - Anglia; pielgrzymkę byłych dzieci polskich, które znalazły schronienie w Indiach; grupę kolejarzy z Wałbrzycha; grupę Logos-Tour z Wrocławia; poza tym uczestników grup turystycznych PKS, Orbisu, Turysty, Pol-Tour z Gdańska, Orbisu z Bydgoszczy. . . . My dobrze znamy to wezwanie „niech zstąpi Duch Twój i odnowi ziemię”. Tyle razy tego wezwania używalem będąc jeszcze w Polsce, będąc w Piekarach Sląskich - wspominam o tym, bo teraz, w tę niedzielę jest pielgrzymka do Piekar - a także podczas pierwszych odwiedzin w Warszawie: „Niech zstąpi Duch Twój i odnowi ziemię tę naszą polską ziemię”. Wszyscy wyczuwamy, że znowu chodzi o to samo, o to, ażeby dokonała się odnowa na tej naszej polskiej ziemi i dlatego te słowa wypowiedziane przy pierwszej pielgrzymce w Warszawie na placu Zwycięstwa nabierają na nowo swojej aktualności. Nie przestaję się modlić wraz z całym moim narodem o tę odnowę, której zródłem ostatecznym jest Duch Swięty. Niech zstąpi Duch Twój i odnowi ziemię, naszą polską ziemię, nasz polski naród, naszą współczesność i przyszłość! 

Ai numerosi fedeli italiani

Abbiamo oggi tra noi alcuni gruppi di Religiose, presenti a Roma per vari motivi. Saluto cordialmente le Suore di Carità “Immacolata Concezione” di Ivrea, accompagnate da docenti, studenti e familiari dei loro istituti educativi. Esse festeggiano il 150° anniversario della nascita al cielo della loro Fondatrice, Serva di Dio Antonia Maria Verna.

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È presente, inoltre, un gruppo di Suore della Provvidenza, provenienti da tutta Italia per seguire un corso di spiritualità in occasione del loro 40° anniversario di professione religiosa.

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Vi è poi un gruppo di Piccole Sorelle dei Poveri, che hanno concluso gli esercizi spirituali.

A voi tutte, Sorelle carissime, l’espressione del mio compiacimento per le varie circostanze che vi hanno portato a Roma e a far visita alla Sede di Pietro. Vedo in queste iniziative la testimonianza della vostra fede e del vostro amore per la vostra santa vocazione. Perseverate con coraggio e portate ancora molti frutti di vita eterna!

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Rivolgo un caldo saluto anche ai pellegrini della parrocchia dei Santi Andrea e Lorenzo, di Fisciano in provincia di Salerno, presenti insieme con le autorità cittadine. Mi hanno chiesto di benedire la statua della Madonna di Fatima, venerata nella chiesa parrocchiale: cosa che faccio ben volentieri, implorando la Vergine Santissima che ottenga a tutti voi, cari fratelli e sorelle, l’abbondanza delle grazie celesti per una serena convivenza civile ed ecclesiale nella pratica della giustizia, delle virtù morali e sociali, nella pace e nella concordia.

* * * 

Dalla provincia di Salerno, e questa volta dal Comune di Mercato San Severino, proviene pure un gruppo di visitatori desiderosi di dare una testimonianza di amore e di fede al Successore di Pietro, anche a nome dell’intera popolazione locale, ancora sofferente per gli strascichi del terremoto del 1980. A voi, cari fratelli e sorelle, il mio affettuoso saluto e l’espressione della mia gratitudine con l’augurio di un fiducioso impegno di progresso civile e spirituale.

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Da Napoli, infine, proviene un gruppo di anziani associati all’Azione cattolica e legati tra loro da fraterna collaborazione ed amicizia. Anche a voi, cari fratelli, il mio cordiale benvenuto, ed il mio compiacimento per le vostre attività, che sono testimonianza di fede e di solidarietà cristiana.

A tutti voi, fratelli e sorelle presenti, va la mia affettuosa Benedizione, che estendo di cuore ai vostri cari, in particolare a coloro che soffrono o sono nel bisogno. 

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Mi rivolgo ora ai giovani, ai malati, agli sposi novelli, presenti a questa Udienza e li saluto invitandoli a trarre forza e incoraggiamento nella solennità liturgica della Trinità celebrata domenica scorsa e da quella del Corpo e Sangue del Signore, che sarà celebrata domani o domenica prossima.

A voi giovani, che sentite profondamente il valore della compagnia, raccomando di vivere col pensiero continuo al Padre, al Figlio, allo Spirito Santo, per non sentirvi mai soli e diventare trasparenza di Dio nel mondo contemporaneo. Voi, carissimi malati, pensando a Cristo che ha offerto il suo Corpo e versato il suo Sangue per tutti noi, sentite la fierezza di essere con Lui Ostia vivente per la salvezza del mondo. Quanto a voi, sposi novelli, impegnatevi a costruire la vostra famiglia a immagine della Santa Trinità, e vivrete nella gioia di un amore, che non verrà mai meno.

Nell’affidarvi alla materna protezione di Maria Ausiliatrice, vi benedico tutti di cuore.

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