May 1989

Wednesday, 24 May 1989


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 Jn 15,26 Jn 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.

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.

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" (1Jn 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.

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.

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 Mc 13,11 Lc 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.

2 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" (Lc 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" (Ac 6,5). His adversaries "could not withstand the wisdom and the spirit with which he spoke" (Ac 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.

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 (DEV 27).

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.

                                                                                  August 1989

Wednesday, 23 August 1989 - Reflection on the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela

1. "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life" (
Jn 14,6).

These words of Jesus Christ formed the theme of the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela, connected with the World Youth Day last Saturday and Sunday in the presence of hundreds of thousands of young people from Europe and throughout the world.

We must remember that the tradition of this Day had its origin on the occasion of the Jubilee of the Redemption, celebrated at Rome and throughout the Church from 25 March 1983 to 22 April 1984.

A huge multitude of young people assembled at Rome for Palm Sunday 1984. With the assistance of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, a thematic and pastoral programme which reflected the rich variety of the youth apostolate in the Church was drawn up for this meeting.

2. From then onwards, Palm Sunday has been declared Youth Day for the whole Church. Indeed, this day is particularly significant from the liturgical point of view; Christ enters Jerusalem surrounded by young people who recognize him as the Messiah.

Through the Paschal events at Jerusalem, the successive days of Holy Week have the purpose of developing to the full the truth of the Redeemer's messianic mission. The Cross on Golgotha and then the Resurrection form the definitive call to follow Christ for all, especially for the young people.

3. One can say that the initiative for the Youth Day came from the young people themselves, who for some time had shown a particularly spontaneous and vivid awareness of the call of the paschal liturgy, especially that of Palm Sunday.

In many dioceses and parishes this very Sunday is Youth Day. In others, it is celebrated on another date according to circumstances. Apart from these local meetings, starting from the Year of the Redemption there developed the tradition of Youth Day on an international level. In 1985 this Day was held at Rome (in conjunction with the World Youth Day proclaimed by UNO). Two years later, on Palm Sunday 1987, the venue for the international meeting of the young people was transferred to Buenos Aires in Argentina.

This year a pressing invitation came from Spain, and the very ancient Shrine of Santiago de Compostela became the meeting place.

4. The choice of this city for this year's World Youth Day was not by mere chance. In fact, it must be considered in the centuries-old context of Christian pilgrimages. Beginning from the fourth century, with a growth that reached extraordinary proportions in the Middle Ages, a devotion to what were soon to be called "holy places" became popular within the Christian community. This form of popular piety has as its basic purpose spiritual renewal, purification from sin through individual confession and penance.

From all places and from every nation of the young Europe which was coming into existence thanks to its new religious identity, Christianity, pilgrims set out for the various privileged centres of spiritual radiation: Jerusalem, Rome, Loreto and other places of devotion. Among these, the "memorial of St James"; the shrine dedicated to the proto-martyr apostle, and constructed in 813 in Galicia, gradually came to acquire renown. The name of the city, "Compostela", which according to some accounts derives from the Latin "campus stellae" — the star which had miraculously led to the discovery of St James's body — has its own symbolic value. Centuries have passed, and at present as in the past this shrine continues to be a privileged beacon of Christian radiation for Europe, this old Europe which is facing an approaching important stage in its unification and the imminence of the third Christian millennium — a Europe which must again make Christ's Gospel its own!

5. The World Youth Day at Santiago de Compostela made reference to these European traditions. Although the sons and daughters of European countries formed the majority of the great crowd assembled there, nevertheless the other continents were represented; their groups, though smaller, were no less aware of the importance of the meeting in which they were participating.

This meeting grew from the well defined basis of the Church's pilgrimage, and particularly from the young people, who wished to take part in this pilgrimage. The pastoral care of youth bears fruit in the programme of events of these Days. Both the awareness and the apostolic attitude of the young people themselves bear fruit.

4 At the same time the Youth Day is, in a certain sense, a new initiative for this apostolate and for the pastoral care which serves it. Thanks to this, it takes the actual form of what, on the basis of the Second Vatican Council, is usually called "a new evangelization". It is clear that the young people themselves must become the leaders of this new evangelization.

6. This World Day was thoroughly prepared by various episcopal conferences, but especially by the national youth commissions existing in many countries, and all the work was coordinated by the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

During the days immediately preceding the World Day, an International Youth Forum with participants from over fifty countries was held in Santiago de Compostela. This intense preparatory work, together with the spiritual force of the pilgrimage, brought results greater than expected. The number of young people who went on pilgrimage to Santiago is estimated at over a half million. However, over and above the numbers and the external aspects of the demonstration, I should stress with deep appreciation both the irreplaceable work done on this occasion by so many priests and religious, especially as regards the spiritual preparation, in particular as regards Confessions, as well as, in general, the hidden but constant work of those animators who day after day accompanied the young people on their journey of spiritual growth, and supported them in their courageous commitment to follow Christ, "Way, Truth and Life".

7. Complementing the pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela was the visit to the Shrine of Our Lady of Covadonga, in the Archdiocese of Oviedo. In this very part of Spain, the Asturias, the task of freeing the country from Arab occupation was begun. At the same time, it was a struggle to defend Christian values.

This took place in the eighth century with Don Pelayo.

In defending themselves against the invaders and reconquering their own land in the Iberian Peninsula, the ancestors of the present Spain in a certain sense together laid a cornerstone of their national and Christian (Catholic) identity.

The Shrine of Our Lady of Covadonga is intimately connected with all this important process, and remains as a cradle of Spanish Christianity and a symbol of its national identity.

8. The young people who came to Santiago de Compostela from various countries of Europe for the Youth Day are aware of the fact that to begin a new evangelization means to refer to that beginning which happened centuries ago in various places in the continent. Christ is the cornerstone. It is he who said of himself: "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life".

Building on him, let us find not only the way to the past of the peoples of Europe, but also the way to the future. This is "the way, the truth and the life" which is again proved to be the only valid way for the generations who, in the next millennium, will face the spotlight of history.