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The Paraclete - the Spirit of Truth

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 17 May 1989 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. Several times we have cited Jesus' words in his farewell discourse to the apostles in the upper room when he promised the coming of the Holy Spirit as a new and definitive defender and counselor: "I will pray the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever...the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him" (Jn 14:16-17). That farewell discourse, situated in the solemn account of the Last Supper (cf. Jn 13:2), is a source of primary importance for pneumatology, the theological discipline concerning the Holy Spirit. Jesus spoke of him as the Paraclete who "proceeds" from the Father, and whom the Father "will send" to the apostles and to the Church "in the name of the Son" when the Son himself "will go away," a departure which will be effected by the sacrifice of the cross.

We must consider the fact that Jesus called the Paraclete the "Spirit of truth." He also called him this at other times (cf. Jn 15:26; 16:13).

2. We recall that Jesus in that same farewell discourse, in reply to a question from the apostle Thomas about his identity, said of himself: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life" (Jn 14:6). From this twofold reference to the truth made by Jesus to define both himself and the Holy Spirit, one deduces that if he calls the Paraclete the "Spirit of truth," this means that the Holy Spirit is he who, after Christ's departure, will preserve among the disciples the truth which he had announced and revealed and, indeed, which he himself is. The Paraclete is the truth, as Christ is the truth. John said so in his First Letter: "The Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth" (1 Jn 5:7). In that same letter John also writes: "We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error" (1 Jn 4:6). The Son's mission and that of the Holy Spirit meet, are connected and are mutually completed in the affirmation of the truth and in victory over error. Their fields of action are the human spirit and the history of the world. The distinction between truth and error is the initial stage of that work.

3. To remain in the truth and to act in the truth is the essential task of Christ's apostles and disciples, both in the early times and in all succeeding generations of the Church down the centuries. From this point of view the announcement of the Spirit of truth has a key importance. Jesus said in the upper room: "I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now" (Jn 16:12). Jesus' messianic mission lasted a short time, too short to disclose to the disciples all the contents of revelation. And not only was the available time short, but the preparation and intelligence of the hearers were limited. On several occasions it is stated that the apostles themselves "were utterly astounded" (cf. Mk 6:52), and "did not understand" (cf. e.g., Mk 8:21), or even misunderstood Christ's words and deeds (cf. e.g., Mt 16:6-11).

This explains the full significance of the Master's words: "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth" (Jn 16:13).

4. The first confirmation of this promise of Jesus will be had on the day of Pentecost and the subsequent days, as the Acts of the Apostles attests. The promise is not limited to the apostles and their immediate companions in evangelization. It extends to the future generations of disciples and confessors of Christ. The Gospel is destined for all nations and for all the successive generations which will arise in the context of diverse cultures and of the manifold progress of human civilization. Viewing the whole range of history Jesus said: "The Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father will bear witness to me" (Jn 15:26). "He will bear witness," that is to say, he will show the true meaning of the Gospel within the Church, so that she may proclaim it authentically to the whole world. Always and everywhere, even in the ceaselessly changing events of the life of humanity, the "Spirit of truth" will guide the Church "into all the truth" (Jn 16:13).

5. The relationship between the revelation communicated by the Holy Spirit and that of Jesus is very close. It is not a question of a different disparate revelation. This can be deduced from the actual words of Christ's promise: "The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you" (Jn 14:26). The "bringing to remembrance" is the function of memory. By recalling, one returns to what has been, to what has been said and done, thus renewing the awareness of things past, and as it were, making them live again. In regard to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of a truth endowed with divine power, his mission is not limited to recalling the past as such. "By recalling" the words, deeds and the entire salvific mystery of Christ, the Spirit of truth makes him continually present in the Church. The Spirit ensures that he takes on an ever new "reality" in the community of salvation. Thanks to the action of the Holy Spirit, the Church not only recalls the truth, but remains and lives in the truth received from her Lord. The words of Christ are fulfilled also in this way: "He (the Holy Spirit) will bear witness to me" (Jn 15:26). This witness of the Spirit of truth is thus identified with the presence of the ever living Christ, with the active power of the Gospel, with the redemption increasingly put into effect and with a continual exposition of truth and virtue. In this way the Holy Spirit "guides" the Church "to all the truth."

6. This truth is present in the Gospel, at least implicitly. What the Holy Spirit will reveal has already been said by Christ. He himself revealed it when, speaking of the Holy Spirit, he emphasized that the Spirit "will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak.... He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you" (Jn 16:13-14). The Christ, glorified by the Spirit of truth, is first of all the same Christ who was crucified, stripped of everything and as it were "emptied" in his humanity for the redemption of the world. Precisely by the work of the Holy Spirit the "word of the cross" was to be accepted by the disciples, to whom the Master himself had said: "...but you cannot bear them now" (Jn 16:12). The shadow of the cross was looming up before those poor men. A profound intervention was needed to make their minds and hearts capable of discerning "the glory of the redemption," which was accomplished precisely in the cross. A divine intervention was required to convince and transform interiorly each one of them, in preparation especially for the day of Pentecost, and then for the apostolic mission in the world. Jesus informed them that the Holy Spirit "will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you." According to St. Paul only the Spirit, who "searches the depths of God" (1 Cor 2:10), knows the mystery of the Son-Word in his filial relationship with the Father and in his redemptive relationship with the people of every age. He alone, the Spirit of truth, can open human minds and hearts and make them capable of accepting the inscrutable mystery of God and of his incarnate Son, crucified and risen, Jesus Christ the Lord.

7. Again Jesus said: "The Spirit of truth...will declare to you the things that are to come" (Jn 16:13). What is the meaning of this prophetic and eschatological projection? In it, Jesus placed under the ray of the Holy Spirit the entire future of the Church, the entire historical journey it is called upon to carry out down the centuries. It means going to meet the glorious Christ, toward whom it reaches out as expressed in the invocation inspired by the Spirit: "Come, Lord Jesus!" (Rev 22:17, 20). The Holy Spirit leads the Church toward a constant progress in understanding of revealed truth. He watches over the teaching of that truth, over its preservation and over its application to changing historical situations. He stirs up and guides the development of all that serves the knowledge and spread of that truth, particularly in scriptural exegesis and theological research. These can never be separated from the guidance of the Spirit of truth nor from the Magisterium of the Church, in which the Spirit is always at work.

Everything happens in faith and through faith under the action of the Holy Spirit, as was stated in the encyclical Dominum et Vivificantem: "For the mystery of Christ taken as a whole demands faith, since it is faith that adequately introduces man into the reality of the revealed mystery. The 'guiding into all the truth' is therefore achieved in faith and through faith: and this is the work of the Spirit of truth and the result of his action in man. Here the Holy Spirit is to be man's supreme guide and the light of the human spirit. This holds true for the apostles, the eyewitnesses, who must now bring to all people the proclamation of what Christ did and taught, and especially the proclamation of his cross and resurrection. Taking a longer view, this also holds true for all the generations of disciples and confessors of the Master, since they will have to accept with faith and confess with candor the mystery of God at work in human history, the revealed mystery which explains the definitive meaning of that history" (n. 6).

In this way the Spirit of truth continually announces the things that are to come. He continually shows to humanity this divine future, which is above and beyond every temporal future, and thus fills with eternal value the future of the world. Thus the Spirit convinces man, making him understand that with all that he is and has and does, he is called by God in Christ to salvation.

Thus the Paraclete, the Spirit of truth, is man's true Counselor. Thus he is the true defender and advocate. He is the guarantor of the Gospel in history. Under his influence the good news is always the same and always near, and in an ever new way he illumines man's path in the perspective of heaven with "words of eternal life" (Jn 6:68).


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

A fedeli di lingua francese 

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

A TOUS LES PÈLERINS de langue française venus ce matin, je souhaite de recevoir avec joie l’Esprit de Pentecôte.

En particulier, j’exprime mes vœux et mes encouragements aux membres du Chapitre général des Religieux de Saint-Vincent-de-Paul qui se consacrent à l’évangélisation des milieux populaires. Que votre saint patron, chers amis, vous aide à demeurer ensemble fidèles à votre haute mission, dans le respect et l’amour des plus pauvres!

* * *

J’ADRESSE ÉGALEMENT un salut cordial aux membres de Aumônerie du cinquième Chasseurs de Périgueux, officiers et soldats: que l’expérience d’Eglise de votre pèlerinage vous fasse découvrir toujours mieux la vérité du Christ et la force de son amour!

A tous ici présents, je donne volontiers ma Bénédiction Apostolique. 

A fedeli provenienti da Paesi anglofoni 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I OFFER A WARM welcome to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, and I greet especially the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary participating in a renewal course on the charism of the Foundress of their Religious Institute. My greetings go to the members of the Oasis of Love Community from the Philippines. May your pilgrimage to Rome and the Holy Land strengthen you in your daily witness to Christ.

* * *

I ALSO WELCOME a delegation of Buddhist Monks from Sri Lanka. May your mission of good will further the cause of peace in the world.

To all the English-speaking people present, especially to the pilgrim groups from Indonesia, Korea, and India, to the visitors from South Africa, as well as the students from Finland, I extend my cordial good wishes of peace and joy in our Lord Jesus Christ.

A quanti sono giunti da Paesi di espressione tedesca 

ERFLEHEN WIR, liebe Brüder und Schwestern, der Kirche, ihren Hirten und uns selbst immer wieder diesen göttlichen Beistand des Geistes der Wahrheit. Indem ich euch diese Bitte besonders empfehle, grüße ich euch alle sehr herzlich in so großer Zahl zu der heutigen Audienz: die Gruppen und Einzelpilger, vor allem die zahlreichen Jugendlichen unter euch. Einen besonderen Glückwunsch richte ich an die Gruppe von Priesterjubilaren aus der Erzdiözese Bamberg. Für reiche Gnaden des pfingstlichen Geistes erteile ich euch allen und euren Angehörigen in der Heimat von Herzen meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Di lingua spagnola 

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

DOY MI MÁS CORDIAL bienvenida a este encuentro a todas las personas, familias y grupos de los diversos Países de América Latina y de España, junto con mi saludo afectuoso y el deseo de que vuestra visita a Roma, centro de la catolicidad, refuerce vuestra fe y os aliente en vuestra vida cristiana. 

* * * 

EN PARTICULAR, saludo a las peregrinaciones procedentes de Madrid, Toledo, Valencia y Castellón. Igualmente, a los representantes de los Países del Pacto andino y de Centroamérica así como al grupo de peregrinos chilenos.

A todos imparto la Bendición Apostólica. 

Ai pellegrini di espressione portoghese 

Caríssimos irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa,

COM VOTOS CORDIAlS de felicidades, saúdo quantos me escutam, em particular os muitos Brasileiros presentes: que o Espírito da Verdade, o Espírito Santo, ilumine sempre de esperança em Cristo os vossos caminhos, na graça e na paz de Deus, nosso Pai. 

Ai suoi connazionali 

POZDRAWIAM PIELGRZYMÓW, zwłaszcza tych, którzy przybyli, by 18 maja obchodzić rocznicę bitwy pod Monte Cassino. Pragnę przypomnieć słowa wypowiedziane przez biskupów polskich podczas ostatniej Konferencji na Jasnej Górze: “Szczególną troską duszpasterzy Kościoła w Polsce była i pozostaje nadal podmiotowość narodu i spoleczeństwa. Nauka społeczna Kościoła głosi, że ludzkiej naturze odpowiadajcą tylko takie struktury prawno-polityczne, które by zawsze i coraz lepiej dawały wszvstkim obywatelom, bez żadnej dyskryminacji, skuteczną możliwość swobodnego i czynnego udziału w uchwalaniu zarówno podstaw prawnych wspólnoty politycznej, jak i w zarządzaniu państwem, w określaniu pole działania i celów różnych insytuacji oraz w zyborze władz”. Jest to nauka zawarta w Soborze Watykańskim II, w Konstytucji a Gaudium et spes”. Życzę wszystkim światła i mocy Ducha Świętego, zarówno tu obecnym, jak i wszystkim rodakom w Polsce i na emigracji. 

Ad alcuni gruppi italiani 

Desidero ora porgere il mio saluto cordiale alle famiglie appartenenti al Movimento dei Focolari, che sono qui convenute, giungendo da diverse nazioni per conoscere più profondamente le esigenze spirituali della loro vocazione matrimoniale. Carissimi, la Beata Vergine Maria sia sempre per voi modello di dedizione religiosa, di umile operosità e di attento, reciproco amore cristiano. 

* * * 

Saluto poi voi, dirigenti del Movimento Femminile della Confederazione Nazionale Coltivatori Diretti, su cui invoco, a sostegno delle nuove responsabilità che vi sono state affidate, abbondanti grazie ed energie spirituali, per un contributo sempre più valido alla Chiesa ed alla società civile. 

* * * 

Il mio pensiero va pure ai membri del Coro di Creta, ed ai loro distinti accompagnatori. Di vero cuore vi esprimo il mio benvenuto, cui unisco l’augurio che il vostro soggiorno in Italia favorisca quel dialogo fraterno, tanto necessario per l’unità dei cristiani.

A tutti giunga la mia benedizione. 

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli 

Desidero esprimere, come di consueto, il mio cordiale saluto ai giovani, agli ammalati e ai novelli sposi.

In questo mese dedicato alla Vergine affido a Lei voi giovani, i vostri ideali e i vostri propositi, affinché Ella vi ottenga la forza necessaria per testimoniare la fede cristiana negli ambienti del vostro studio o del vostro lavoro. Come Maria, accogliete la parola di Dio per farla crescere e sviluppare abbondantemente nei vostri cuori. 

* * * 

A voi cari fratelli e sorelle infermi, chiedo di offrire, come Maria sotto la Croce, le vostre sofferenze a Dio per la salvezza del mondo. Ricordatevi che il vostro patire non è vano, se saprete abbracciarlo con sentimenti soprannaturali, contribuendo così ad arricchire la Chiesa di meriti e a collaborare con essa nella sua missione redentrice. 

* * * 

Anche a voi sposi novelli, auguro che nella vostra nuova famiglia non manchi mai la presenza premurosa e materna di Maria Colei che concepì il Verbo di Dio Incarnato. Imparate da Lei su quali fondamenti di salda fede, di fervida speranza e di operosa carità edificare la vostra comunità d’amore per vivere una vita coniugale nella gioia e nella grazia del Signore.

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