Bookmark and Share

The Holy Spirit sanctifies us

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the History of Salvation
General Audience, Wednesday 22 July 1998 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. Jesus’ gesture of “breathing” on the Apostles, which communicated the Holy Spirit to them (cf. Jn 20:21-22), recalls the creation of man, described by Genesis as the communication of the “breath of life” (Gn 2:7). The Holy Spirit is the “breath” as it were of the Risen One, who instils new life in the Church represented by the first disciples. The most obvious sign of this new life is the power to forgive sins. Jesus in fact says: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven” (Jn 20:22-23). Wherever “the Spirit of holiness” (Rom 1:4) is poured out, whatever is opposed to holiness, i.e., sin, is destroyed. According to Jesus’ word, the Holy Spirit is the one who “will convince the world of sin” (Jn 16:8).

He makes us aware of sin, but at the same time it is he himself who forgives sin. St Thomas comments in this regard: “Since it is the Holy Spirit who establishes our friendship with God, it is normal for God to forgive sins through him” (Contr. Gent., IV, 21, 11).

2. The Spirit of the Lord not only destroys sin, but also accomplishes the sanctification and divinization of man. “God chose” us, St Paul says, “from the beginning to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth” (2 Thes 2:13).

Let us look more closely at what this “sanctification-divinization” consists of.

The Holy Spirit is “Person-Love; he is Person-Gift” (Dominum et Vivificantem, n. 10). This love given by the Father, received and reciprocated by the Son, is communicated to the one redeemed, who thus becomes a “new man” (Eph 4:24), a “new creation” (Gal 6:15). We Christians are not only purified from sin, but are also reborn and sanctified. We receive a new life, since we have become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Pt 1:4); we are “called children of God; and so we are!” (1 Jn 3:1). It is the life of grace: the free gift by which God makes us partakers of his Trinitarian life.

In their relationship with the baptized, the three divine Persons should be neither separated — because each always acts in communion with the others — nor confused, because each Person is communicated as a Person.

In reflecting on grace it is important not to think of it as a “thing”. It is “first and foremost the gift of the Spirit who justifies and sanctifies us” (CCC, n. 2003). It is the gift of the Holy Spirit who makes us like the Son and puts us in a filial relationship with the Father: in the one Spirit through Christ we have access to the Father (cf. Eph 2:18).

3. The Holy Spirit’s presence truly and inwardly transforms man: it is sanctifying or deifying grace, which elevates our being and our acting, enabling us to live in relationship with the Holy Trinity. This takes place through the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, “which adapt man’s faculties for participation in the divine nature” (CCC, n. 1812). Thus, by faith the believer considers God, his brethren and history not merely from the standpoint of reason, but from the viewpoint of divine Revelation. By hope man looks at the future with trusting, vigorous certitude, hoping against hope (cf. Rom 4:18), with his gaze fixed on the goal of eternal happiness and the full achievement of God’s kingdom. By charity the disciple is obliged to love God with his whole heart and to love others as Jesus loved them, that is, to the total giving of self.

4. The sanctification of the individual believer always takes place through incorporation into the Church. “The life of the individual child of God is joined in Christ and through Christ by a wonderful link to the life of all his other Christian brethren. Together they form the supernatural unity of Christ’s Mystical Body so that, as it were, a single mystical person is formed” (Paul VI, Apostolic Constituion Indulgentiarum doctrina, n. 5).

This is the mystery of the communion of saints. An everlasting bond of charity joins all the “saints”, those who have already reached the heavenly homeland or are being purified in purgatory, as well as those who are still pilgrims on earth. There is also an abundant exchange of gifts among them, to the point that the holiness of one helps all the others. St Thomas states: “Whoever lives in charity participates in all the good that is done in the world” (In Symb. Apost.); and again: “The act of one is accomplished through the charity of another, that charity by which we are all one in Christ” (In IV Sent., d. 20, a. 2; q. 3 ad 1).

5. The Council recalled that “all the faithful in any state or walk of life are called to the fullness of Christian life and to the perfection of charity” (Lumen gentium, n. 40). Concretely, the way for the faithful to become saints is that of fidelity to God’s will, as it is expressed to us in his Word, the commandments and the inspirations of the Holy Spirit. As it was for Mary and for all the saints, so for us too, the perfection of charity consists in trusting abandonment into the Father’s hands, following Jesus’ example. Once again this is possible because of the Holy Spirit, who, even in the most difficult moments, enables us to repeat with Jesus: “Lo, I have come to do your will” (cf. Heb 10:7).

6. This holiness is reflected in a special way in religious life, in which one’s baptismal consecration is lived by the commitment radically to follow the Lord through the evangelical counsels of chastity, poverty and obedience. “Like the whole of Christian life, the call to the consecrated life is closely linked to the working of the Holy Spirit. In every age, the Spirit enables new men and women to recognize the appeal of such a demanding choice.... It is the Spirit who awakens the desire to respond fully; it is he who guides the growth of this desire, helping it to mature into a positive response and sustaining it as it is faithfully translated into action; it is he who shapes and moulds the hearts of those who are called, configuring them to Christ, the chaste, poor and obedient One, and prompting them to make his mission their own” (Apostolic Exhortation, Vita consecrata, n. 19).

An eminent expression of holiness, made possible by the power of Holy Spirit, is martyrdom, the supreme witness given in blood to the Lord Jesus. But the Christian commitment is already a significant and fruitful form of witness, when it is lived — day by day, in the various states of life — in radical fidelity to the commandment of love.

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

J'accueille avec plaisir les pèlerins de langue française présents ce matin. Aux diocésains de Papeete, venus des îles lointaines de Tahiti, j'offre mes vœux cordiaux d'heureux pèlerinage à Rome.

J'invoque l'Esprit Saint sur vous tous, afin qu'il vous soit donné de répondre à l'appel universel à la sainteté. Avec ma Bénédiction apostolique.
My thoughts and prayers go in a special way this morning to the people of Papua New Guinea who have been struck by the devastating tidal wave. As each day brings news of greater loss, our sense of shock grows deeper and we feel more the need for divine help and human solidarity. May the many dead find peace in the Risen Christ, and may those who mourn find strength in the God of all consolation.

* * *

I welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially the members of the Congregation of Holy Cross who have come to Rome for their General Chapter and who are here with their newly elected Superior General. May the power of the Lord’s Cross always be your strength. I also welcome the group of Salesian Cooperators, and the pilgrims and visitors from Scotland, Nigeria, Taiwan, Korea, Australia, Canada and the United States of America. Upon all of you, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.
Mit diesen Gedanken grüße ich die Pilger und Besucher, die aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache nach Rom gekommen sind. Euch allen, Euren lieben Angehörigen daheim und allen, die mit uns über Radio Vatikan und das Fernsehen verbunden sind, erteile ich von Herzen den Apostolischen Segen.
Saludo cordialmente a los peregrinos de lengua española, en particular al coro de la Escuela de Canto Coral de Mar del Plata, así como a los grupos venidos de España, México, Paraguay Argentina y otros países de Latinoamérica. Os invito a considerar la grandeza de la vocación a la que habéis sido llamados, a la vez que os bendigo de corazón.
Amados peregrinos de língua portuguesa, benvindos à Audiência Geral do Papa que reúne pessoas e grupos dos quatro cantos do mundo: no mesmo e único Espírito que nos une, eu saúdo e abençoo a Arquidiocese de Vitória do Espírito Santo aqui presente com seu bispo Auxiliar, o venerado Irmão Dom João de Aviz, e também os diversos grupos vindos de Portugal. Sobre os passos da vossa vida e dos vossos familiares, invoco a protecção da Virgem Mãe, para que trilhem sempre o caminho de Jesus.
Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua croata

Cari Fratelli e Sorelle, ogni dono dello Spirito obbliga quanti ricevono tali doni a riferirsi ed a sottomettersi ai Vescovi, Pastori della Chiesa. Essi, infatti, “sono il principio visibile e il fondamento dell’unità nelle loro Chiese particolari” (cf Conc. Ecum. Vat. II, Lumen Gentium, 23), che presiedono in forza dell’ufficio proveniente da Cristo e tale ufficio svolgono proprio per virtù dello Spirito Santo, che è stato dato loro nell’ordinazione episcopale.

Saluto cordialmente tutti i pellegrini croati e su di essi e sulle loro famiglie invoco la benedizione di Dio.

Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!
Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua neerlandese

Ora vorrei porgere il benvenuto a tutti i pellegrini neerlandesi e belgi, in particolare ai giovani presenti.

La Chiesa conta soprattutto sui giovani affinchè siano testimoni di Cristo, e possano irradiare la gioia della fede.

Di cuore imparto la Benedizione Apostolica.
Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua slovacca

Cordialmente saluto i pellegrini slovacchi da Komárno e da Zvolen.

Cari Fratelli e Sorelle, oggi la liturgia ci pone davanti agli occhi l’esempio di Santa Maria Maddalena. Con la penitenza si è distaccata dai suoi peccati, si è convertita a Dio e ha raggiunto l’alto grado di santità. Ogni pellegrinaggio dovrebbe includere in sé anche la penitenza e dovrebbe essere l’espressione del nostro ritorno a Dio. Che sia tale anche questo vostro pellegrinaggio a Roma! Prego per voi, affinché lo Spirito Santo vi purifichi e santifichi, e di cuore vi benedico.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!
Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua lituana

Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto al gruppo dei pellegrini lituani.

Cari Fratelli e Sorelle, la vostra odierna visita al Successore del Santo Apostolo Pietro accresca in ciascuno di voi l’amore per la Chiesa - messaggera di speranza cristiana per tutti gli uomini della terra - e vi confermi nella fede viva e autentica “che opera per mezzo della carità” (Gal. 5, 6). Affidando voi, i vostri cari e la vostra patria, la Lituania, alla protezione di Maria Santissima, Madre di Dio, imparto di cuore a tutti la Benedizione Apostolica.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

* * *

Rivolgo ora un cordiale saluto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. Carissimi, dopo i giorni di riposo che anche quest'anno ho potuto trascorrere sulle montagne del Cadore, sono lieto di riprendere oggi il consueto appuntamento dell'Udienza generale del mercoledì.

Il mio pensiero va, innanzitutto, ai Membri della Consulta Mondiale dell'Associazione Cooperatori Salesiani, venuti a Roma da varie parti del mondo per partecipare al loro incontro biennale. Carissimi, vi esorto ad offrire con coraggio la vostra testimonianza evangelica, collaborando generosamente alle molteplici attività pastorali e formative dei figli spirituali di san Giovanni Bosco. Vi affido tutti alla materna protezione di Maria Ausiliatrice.

Saluto poi le Religiose Figlie di Santa Maria della Divina Provvidenza, che in questi giorni hanno celebrato il loro Capitolo Generale, ed auguro loro che, animate e sostenute dal nuovo Consiglio Generale, possano prepararsi ad entrare nel terzo millennio cristiano con rinnovato slancio caritativo e missionario.

Un caloroso saluto va anche ai bambini provenienti dalla zona di Chernobyl, ospiti di famiglie abruzzesi ed accompagnati dai membri dell'Associazione Cicogna-Amici di Chernobyl, come pure ai bambini bielorussi, ospiti della Parrocchia Santa Croce in Macerata: a loro ed a quanti li hanno accolti in Italia auguro di trascorrere un periodo sereno e proficuo per il corpo e per lo spirito.

Mi rivolgo, infine, a voi, cari giovani, cari malati e cari sposi novelli. Ricorre, oggi, la memoria liturgica di santa Maria Maddalena, discepola del Signore e testimone della Risurrezione, alla quale Cristo ha "voluto affidare il primo annuncio della gioia pasquale" (Liturgia).

L'"amore ardente e fedele" di Maria Maddalena per il Maestro spinga voi, cari giovani, ad annunciare ai fratelli Cristo risorto con il vostro giovanile entusiasmo.

L'incontro con il Risorto nell'Eucarestia, cari ammalati, vi renda messaggeri della vittoria di Cristo sul dolore.

La fede nella risurrezione, cari giovani sposi, renda le vostre famiglie perseveranti nella preghiera e nell'amore reciproco.

A tutti imparto la mia Benedizione.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana