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The Spirit as gift

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Holy Spirit
General Audience, Wednesday 21 November 1990 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. We all know the sensitive and inviting words Jesus addressed to the Samaritan woman who came to draw water from Jacob's well: "If only you recognized God's gift" (Jn 4:10). These words lead us into another fundamental aspect of the truth revealed about the Holy Spirit.

In that meeting Jesus spoke about the gift of "living water," stating that the one who drinks it "will never be thirsty" (Jn 4:14). On another occasion Jesus spoke in Jerusalem about "rivers of living water" (Jn 7:38). In reporting these words the evangelist adds that Jesus said this "referring to the Spirit which those who came to believe in him were to receive" (Jn 7:39). Afterward the evangelist explains that the Spirit would be given only after Jesus had been "glorified" (Jn 7:39).

Out of a reflection on these and similar texts the conviction emerged that the concept of the Holy Spirit as Gift granted by the Father belongs to Jesus' revelation. Furthermore in Luke's Gospel, in his teaching (which is almost a catechesis) on prayer Jesus tells his disciples that, if people know how to give good things to their children, "how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him" (Lk 11:13). The Holy Spirit is a "good" more valuable than any other (cf. Mt 7:11), the "good gift" par excellence!

2. In his farewell discourse to the apostles, Jesus assured them that he himself will ask the Father to give his disciples this gift above all others: "I will ask the Father and he will give you another Paraclete to be with you always" (Jn 14:16). This is how he spoke on the eve of his passion. After the resurrection he announced that the fulfillment of his prayer was near: "I will send down upon you the promise of My Father...until you are clothed with power from on high" (Lk 24:49). "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes down on you; then you are to be my the ends of the earth" (Acts 1:8).

Jesus asks the Father to give the Holy Spirit as a gift to the apostles and to the Church until the end of time. But at the same time he is the one who carries this gift within himself, and possesses even in his humanity the fullness of the Holy Spirit since "the Father loves the Son and has given everything over to him" (Jn 3:35). He is the one whom "God has sent," who speaks the words of God and does not ration his gift of the Spirit" (Jn 3:34).

3. Even through his humanity the Son of God is the one who sends the Holy Spirit. While the Holy Spirit is fully the Gift of the Father, Christ the man, by accomplishing his redemptive mission through his passion which he embraced and bore in obedience to the Father, an obedience "even to death on the cross" (Phil 2:8), reveals the Holy Spirit as Gift through his redemptive sacrifice as Son and gives the spirit to his disciples. What Jesus in the upper room called his "departure" becomes within the economy of salvation the preordained moment to which the "coming" of the Spirit is connected (cf. Jn 16:7).

4. Through this climactic moment of self-revelation by the Trinity, we are allowed to enter even more deeply into God's inner life. The Holy Spirit is revealed to us not only as a Gift to humanity, but also as Gift subsistent in the very inner life of God. "God is love," as St. John told us (1 Jn 4:8), essential love which is common to all three Divine persons, according to the clarification by theologians. But that does not exclude that the Holy Spirit, as Spirit of the Father and the Son, is Love in a personal sense, as we explained in prior catecheses. Therefore he "scrutinizes even the deep things of God" (1 Cor 2:10) with the penetrating power that belongs to Love. Therefore he is also the uncreated and eternal Gift shared by the three divine Persons in the inner life of God, one and three. His existence as Love is identified with his existence as Gift. One could even say that "through the Holy Spirit God 'exists' in the mode of gift. It is the Holy Spirit who is the personal expression of this self-giving, of this being-love. He is Person-Love. He is Person-Gift" (DViv 10).

5. St. Augustine writes that, "just as for the Son, to be the being which is born, means that he is from the Father, so for the Holy Spirit, to be the being which is Gift means that he proceeds from the Father and the Son" (De Trinitate, IV, 20: PL 42, 908). In the Holy Spirit there is an equality between being Love and being Gift. St. Thomas explains it well: "Love is the reason for a free gift which is given to a person out of love. The first gift, therefore, is love (amor habet rationem primi doni).... Thus, if the Holy Spirit proceeds as Love, he proceeds also as First Gift" [1] . All the other gifts are distributed among Christ's Body through the Gift which is the Holy Spirit, the Angelic Doctor concludes in harmony with St. Augustine [2] .

6. The Holy Spirit as Love-Person and uncreated God is at the origin of all other gifts poured out upon creatures, and is a source (fons vivus) from which every created thing derives. He is like a fire of love (ignis caritas), which showers sparks of reality and goodness upon all things (dona creata). This refers to the giving of existence through the act of creation and the giving of grace to angels and human beings within the economy of salvation. This is why the Apostle Paul wrote: "God's love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us" (Rom 5:5).

7. This Pauline text is also a synthesis of what the apostles taught immediately after Pentecost. "You must reform and be baptized," urged Peter, "each one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ that your sins may be forgiven; then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). Shortly thereafter Peter was sent to baptize the centurion Cornelius. Peter grasped through the experience of a divine revelation "that the gift of the Holy Spirit was to be poured out upon the pagans too" (cf. Acts 10:45). Acts reports also the episode referring to Simon Magus who wanted to buy the gift of the Holy Spirit with money. Simon Peter rebuked him harshly for that, and reasserted that the Holy Spirit is a gift only to be freely received as God's own gift (cf. Acts 8:19-23).

8. That is what the Fathers of the Church repeat. We read, for example, in Cyril of Alexandria that "our return to God is made through Christ the Savior, and occurs only through the participation and the sanctification of the Holy Spirit. The one who connects us and, so to speak, unites us with God is the Spirit; by receiving the Spirit we are sharers in and consorts of the divine nature; we receive the Spirit through the Son and in the Son we receive the Father" [3] . It is the "return to God" which is brought about continually in individuals and throughout various human generations during the intervening period between the redemptive "departure" of Christ—of the Father's Son—and the always new "coming" in holiness of the Holy Spirit, which will be complete in Jesus' glorious return at the end of history. All things on the sacramental, charismatic, and ecclesiastical-hierarchical levels which serve this "return" by humanity to the Father in the Son are a multi-form and varied outpouring of the one eternal Gift. This gift is the Holy Spirit, under the dimension of created gift, or as a sharing of humanity in infinite Love. It is the "Holy Spirit who gives himself," St. Thomas says [4] . There is a certain continuity between the uncreated Gift and created gifts. That led St. Augustine to write: "The Holy Spirit is eternally Gift, but in time he is [what is] given" [5] .

9. Out of this ancient tradition of the Church Fathers and Doctors who are links with Jesus Christ and the apostles comes what was written in Dominum et Vivificantem: "The love of God the Father, as a gift, infinite grace, source of life, has been made visible in Christ, and in his humanity that love has become 'part' of the universe, the human family and history. This appearing of grace in human history through Jesus Christ has been accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit, who is the source of all God's salvific activity in the world. He is the 'hidden God' who as love and gift 'fills the universe'" (n. 54). At the heart of this universal order made up of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is the human being, "a rational creature who, unlike other earthly creatures, can attain the enjoyment of the divine Person and make use of his gifts. The rational creature can arrive at this when he or she becomes a sharer in the divine Word and in Love which proceeds from the Father and the Son so that through free interior openness the human being can truly know God and properly love God...but this happens certainly not through personal merit, but as a gift granted from on high.... In this sense it is up to the Spirit to be given and to be Gift" [6] .

We will have another opportunity to indicate the importance of this teaching for the spiritual life. For now we will end our catecheses on the Person of the Holy Spirit—Love and Gift of infinite charity—with the beautiful text by the Angelic Doctor.

[1]   Summa Theol., I, q. 38, a. 2
[2]   De Trinitate, XV, 19; PL 42, 1084
[3]   Commentary on John's Gospel, 9, 10: PG 74, 544 D
[4]   Summa Theol., I, q. 38, a. 1, ad 1
[5]   De Trinitate, V, 16, 17; CC 50, 224
[6]   Summa Theol., I, q. 38, a. 1

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

Ai pellegrini di espressione spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Deseo ahora dar mi más cordial bienvenida a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española.

En particular, a las Hermanas Franciscanas Misioneras de la Madre del Divino Pastor y a las Religiosas Escolapias, que se encuentran en Roma haciendo un curso de renovación espiritual. A todas aliento a un renovado compromiso de generosa entrega a Dios y a la Iglesia, en fidelidad a su propia vocación de almas consagradas.

Igualmente saludo a las demás personas procedentes de España y de los diversos Países de América Latina, entre los que se hallan un grupo de profesionales latinoamericanos que hacen un curso de perfeccionamiento en Turín.

Con afecto imparto a todos la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Amadíssimos irmãos e irmãs,

Para todos, envio as minhas saudações cordiais, extensivas aos vossos entes queridos, com a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

“"Jeden drugiego brzemiona noście" - to zwięzłe zdanie Apostoła jest inspiracją dla międzyludzkiej i społecznej solidarności. Solidarność - to znaczy: jeden i drugi, a skoro brzemię, to brzemię niesione razem, we wspólnocie. A więc nigdy: jeden przeciw drugiemu. Jedni przeciw drugim. I nigdy "brzemię" dźwigane przez człowieka samotnie. Bez pomocy drugich. Nie może być walka silniejsza od solidarności. Nie może być program walki ponad programem solidarności. Inaczej - rosną zbyt ciężkie brzemiona. I rozkład tych brzemion narasta w sposób nieproporcjonalny”.

W dzisiejszej modlitwie “cyklu jasnogórskiego” pragnę nawiązać do tych właśnie słów. Były one wypowiedziane podczas ostatniej pielgrzymki do Ojczyzny, w Gdańsku na Zaspie. Dzisiaj je powtarzam i rozważam ponownie, rozważam wobec Ciebie, Jasnogórska Matko, rozważam wspólnie z moimi rodakami, gdy obraz życia społeczeństwa uległ historycznym przeobrażeniom. Dziś, gdy Opatrzność stawia przed nami trud budowania od podstaw społeczeństwa suwerennego, które jest samorządne i które w sposób demokratyczny stanowi o sobie . . .

Dziś trzeba nam także wiedzieć, jak “różnić się szlachetnie”.

“Różnić się”, to znaczy także odkrywać na nowo znaczenie solidarności.

Napisałem kiedyś: “Ten, kto wyraza sprzeciw, nie usuwa się od udziału we wspólnocie, nie wycofuje swej gotowości działania na rzecz wspólnego dobra . . . Treścią sprzeciwu jest przede wszystkim sposób pojmowania, a bardziej jeszcze sposób urzeczywistniania dobra wspólnego”.  Historia naszego stulecia to potwierdza.

“Różnić się” - to znaczy także “uzupełniać się wzajemnie”. A więc - nie przede wszystkim “zwalczać się”, ale “pełniej wyrażać” wspólnotę w wielorakich nurtach zbiorowego działania. Dobro wspólne jest dla wszystkich i przez wszystkich. Nie tylko wówczas, gdy trzeba go wspólnie bronić - jak w przeszłości, jak wczoraj - ale bardziej jeszcze, gdy trzeba je wspólnie tworzyć. Jak dzisiaj i jutro!

Minęły z górą trzy lata od słów wypowiedzianych w Gdańsku na Zaspie. Dzisiaj trzeba nam się modlić, o Matko naszego Narodu, o taką umiejętność “różnienia się”, które służy budowaniu wspólnego dobra. Prawdziwego dobra wspólnego.

Nigdy bowiem “nie może być walka silniejsza od solidarności”. Nie może być program walki ponad programem solidarności.

Zawsze pozostają w mocy te Pawłowe słowa: “jeden drugiego brzemiona noście”.  A więc nigdy: jeden przeciw drugiemu. Jedni - przeciw drugim. I nigdy “brzemię” dźwigane przez człowieka samotnie . . . “skoro brzemię, to brzemię niesione razem, we wspólnocie”.

Pani Jasnogórska! W momentach ważnych dla przyszłości Rzeczypospolitej, bądź z nami! Panno roztropna! Ucieczko grzeszników! Panno można! Stolico Mądrości! Królowo Polski!

Witam serdecznie wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski, wszystkich Polaków obecnych na tej audiencji. W szczególności ks. bpa Ryszarda Karpińskiego z Lublina; uczestników pieszej pielgrzymki z Warszawy do Częstochowy; pielgrzymów z parafii św. Jadwigi w Milanówku; z parafii Bożego Ciała w Bydgoszczy; z parafii Wniebowzięcia Matki Bożej i Miłosierdzia Bożego w Puławach w diecezji lubelskiej; duszpasterstwo ludzi pracy i absolwentów szkół wyższych z Kielc; pielgrzymów z parafii Wniebowzięcia Matki Bożej z Torunia; pielgrzymkę policjantów z ziemi Słupskiej; pielgrzymkę z dekanatu Główczyce-Skórowo z diecezji koszalińsko-kołobrzeskiej; z dekanatu Głuchołazy z diecezji opolskiej; z parafii Wniebowzięcia Matki Bożej z Płocka; z parafii św. Stanisława Kostki z Przasnysza; prócz tego grupę pielgrzymkowo-turystyczną “Quo vadis” z Krosna; grupę z Kuratorium Oświaty i Wychowania z Tarnobrzegu; uczestników grup turystycznych: “Agra” z Kielc, “Poltur” z Warszawy, “Juventur” z Jeleniej Góry, “Impuls-Sport” z Wrocławia, “Esperantur” z Bydgoszczy.

Ai vari gruppi di pellegrini provenienti da diverse regioni italiane

Il mio cordiale saluto ora ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, ed anzitutto agli Allievi Ufficiali di Complemento del Genio, appartenenti al 140° Corso. Vi auguro, cari giovani, che l’esperienza del servizio che state compiendo vi prepari alle future responsabilità e si attui nello spirito di collaborazione e di amicizia, specialmente in quelle emergenze che richiedono il vostro soccorso e il vostro aiuto.

Saluto poi il Parroco ed i Fedeli della Parrocchia romana di San Giovanni Battista al Collatino, che ricordano quest’anno il XXV di fondazione della loro Comunità. Invito tutti ad avere sempre presenti le parole del Concilio Vaticano II, che esortano i componenti delle parrocchie ad essere “un luminoso esempio di apostolato comunitario. Operate insieme, cari sacerdoti e fedeli, solidali e concordi nell’impegno di diffondere il Vangelo.

Il mio pensiero va poi a tre gruppi speciali: all’Associazione Filarmonica della Mezza Età, di Lama, in diocesi di Perugia; agli Ospiti e ai Dipendenti dell’Istituto Papa Giovanni XXIII di Serra d’Aiello, in diocesi di Cosenza, e all’Associazione degli Invalidi Civili del Molise. A tutti un fervido augurio di ogni bene.

Saluto particolarmente i ragazzi di diversi Istituti scolastici, che hanno partecipato al premio per la bontà, intitolato a “Livio Tempesta”. Siate sempre coraggiosi e generosi testimoni dell’amore fraterno, ben consapevoli che la società ha estremo bisogno di solidarietà, di comprensione e di concreti aiuti verso i più deboli.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Carissimi Giovani, Ammalati, Sposi Novelli, a voi, come di consueto, giunga il mio saluto più cordiale. Oggi, la liturgia ci propone la “memoria” della Presentazione al tempio della Beata Vergine Maria. È una delle feste mariane molto sentite dalla devozione popolare. Essa vuol commemorare la “dedicazione” a Dio di Maria Bambina e richiamare alla considerazione la nostra consacrazione avvenuta nel Battesimo, rendendoci partecipi della stessa vita trinitaria di Dio.

La Vergine Santissima aiuti a vivere, come “consacrati” a Dio: voi, giovani, nelle vostre aspirazioni e nei vostri ideali per il presente e per il futuro; voi, malati, nelle vostre speranze e nella vostra pazienza, soprattutto nei momenti più difficili di sofferenze e di dura prova; e voi, Sposi Novelli, nella vostra fiducia e nel vostro entusiasmo, necessari per ben iniziare la nuova vita familiare. A tutti la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

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