GENERAL AUDIENCE 1998 35
1. As soon as the Holy Spirit had come down upon the Apostles on the day of Pentecost, they “began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (cf. Ac 2,4). Thus we can say that the Church, at the moment of her birth, receives as a gift from the Spirit the ability to “tell [of] the mighty works of God” (Ac 2,11): this is the gift of evangelizing.
This fact implies and reveals a basic law of salvation history: it is impossible to evangelize or prophesy, or indeed to speak of the Lord and in the Lord’s name, without the grace and power of the Holy Spirit. Using a biological analogy, we could say that just as human words are carried by the human breath, so the Word of God is transmitted by God’s breath, by his ruach or his pneuma, which is the Holy Spirit.
2. This connection between God’s Spirit and the divine word can already be noted in the experience of the ancient prophets.
Ezekiel’s call is described as a “spirit” entering into his person: “[The Lord] said to me: 'Son of man, stand upon your feet, and I will speak with you’. And when he spoke to me, the Spirit entered into me and set me upon my feet; and I heard him speaking to me” (Ex 2,1-2).
In the Book of Isaiah we read that the future servant of the Lord will proclaim justice to the nations precisely because the Lord has put his Spirit upon him (cf. Is 42,1).
According to the prophet Joel, the messianic age will be marked by a universal outpouring of the Spirit: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh” (Jl 2,28); as a result of this communication of the Spirit, “your sons and your daughters shall prophesy” (ibid. Is 42,1).
3. The Spirit-Word relationship reaches its summit in Jesus: indeed he is the very Word made flesh “through the work of the Holy Spirit”. He begins to preach “in the power of the Spirit” (cf. Lc 4,14 ff.). The very first time he preaches in Nazareth, he applies to himself the passage from Isaiah: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me ... he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor” (Lc 4,18). As the fourth Gospel stresses, the mission of Jesus, “he whom God has sent” and who “utters the words of God”, is the fruit of the gift of the Spirit, whom he has received and gives “not by measure” (cf. Jn 3,34). Appearing to his disciples in the Upper Room on Easter evening, Jesus performs the expressive act of “breathing” upon them, saying: “Receive the Holy Spirit” (cf. Jn 20,21-22).
The Church’s life unfolds beneath that breath. “The Holy Spirit is indeed the principal agent of the whole of the Church’s mission” (Redemptoris missio, RMi 21). The Church proclaims the Gospel through his presence and saving power. Addressing the Christians of Thessalonica, St Paul says: “Our Gospel came to you not only in word, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction” (1Th 1,5). St Peter describes the Apostles as “those who preached the good news to you through the Holy Spirit sent from heaven” (1P 1,12).
But what does “preach the good news through the Holy Spirit” mean? Briefly one can say: it means evangelizing in the power, in the newness and in the unity of the Holy Spirit.
4. Evangelizing in the power of the Spirit means being invested with that power which was supremely manifested in Jesus’ evangelizing activity. The Gospel tells us that those who listened to him were astonished at his teaching because “he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes” (Mc 1,22). Jesus’ word drives out demons, calms storms, heals the sick, forgives sinners and raises the dead.
Jesus’ authority is bestowed by the Spirit, as an Easter gift, on the Church. Thus we see the Apostles filled with parrhesia, i.e., that boldness which enables them to speak fearlessly about Jesus. Their adversaries were filled with wonder “when they ... perceived that they were uneducated, common men” (Ac 4,13).
37 Thanks to the gift of the Spirit of the New Covenant, Paul too can say in all truth: “Since we have such a hope, we are very bold” (2Co 3,12).
This power of the Spirit is more necessary than ever for the Christians of our time who are asked to bear witness to their faith in a world which is often indifferent, if not hostile and deeply marked by relativism and hedonism. It is a power essential to all preachers who must offer the Gospel anew without yielding to compromises and false short-cuts, by proclaiming the truth about Christ “in season and out of season” (2Tm 4,2).
5. The Holy Spirit also guarantees that the message is always fresh and timely, so that preaching does not fall into an empty repetition of formulas and a cold application of methods. Indeed, preachers must be at the service of the “New Covenant”, which is not “in a written code” that kills, but “in the Spirit” who gives life (cf. 2Co 3,6). It is not a question of spreading a service under the “old written code”, but the “new life of the Spirit” (cf. Rm 7,6). This requirement is particularly vital today for the “new evangelization”, which will truly be “new” in its ardour, method and expression, if those who proclaim the marvels of God and speak in his name have first listened to God and have become docile to the Holy Spirit. Contemplation consisting of listening and prayer is thus fundamental. If the preacher does not pray, he will end up “preaching himself” (cf. 2Co 4,5) and his words will be reduced to “godless chatter” (cf. 2Tm 2,16).
6. Lastly, the Spirit accompanies and encourages the Church to evangelize in unity and to build unity. Pentecost occurred when the disciples “were all together in one place” (Ac 2,1) and “all with one accord devoted themselves to prayer” (Ac 1,14). After receiving the Holy Spirit, Peter speaks to the crowd for the first time, “standing with the Eleven” (Ac 2,14): he is the icon of a unanimous proclamation which must continue to be such even when preachers are scattered throughout the world.
For all Christians, preaching Christ under the impetus of the one Spirit on the threshold of the third millennium involves a concrete and generous effort towards full communion. It is the great task of ecumenism, which should be supported with ever renewed hope and active commitment, even if the times and results are in the hands of the Father, who asks us for humble readiness in accepting his plan and the inner inspirations of the Spirit.
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
I welcome the Sisters of the Resurrection who have come to Rome for their General Chapter. May the Holy Spirit guide you in all your decisions. I also welcome the delegation from the Polish American Congress. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Scotland, Canada, Australia, Japan and the United States of America, I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.
1. “If Christ is the Head of the Church, the Holy Spirit is her soul”. So said my venerable Predecessor Leo XIII in the Encyclical Divinum illud munus (1897: DS 3328). After him, Pius XII explained that in the Mystical Body of Christ the Holy Spirit is “the principle of every vital and truly salvific action in each of the Body’s various members” (Encyclical Mystici Corporis, 1943: DS 3808).
Today we would like to reflect on the mystery of Christ’s Body which is the Church, inasmuch as she is enlivened and animated by the Holy Spirit.
After the Pentecost event, the group that gave rise to the Church profoundly changes: at first it was a closed, static group of “about a hundred and twenty” (Ac 1,15); later it was an open, dynamic group to which, after Peter’s address, “were added about three thousand souls” (Ac 2,41). The true newness did not consist so much in this numerical growth, however extraordinary, but in the presence of the Holy Spirit. A group of people is not enough to form a Christian community. The Holy Spirit brings the Church to birth. She appears — to use a happy phrase of the late Cardinal Congar — “entirely suspended from heaven” (La Pentecoste, Italian trans., Brescia, 1986, p. 60).
2. This birth in the Spirit, which occurred for the whole Church on Pentecost, is renewed for every believer at Baptism, when we are immersed “in one Spirit” to become members of “one body” (1Co 12,13). We read in St Irenaeus: “Just as flour cannot become one loaf without water, so we who are many cannot become one in Christ Jesus without the water that comes from heaven” (Adv. Haer., III, 17, 1). The water that comes from heaven and transforms the water of Baptism is the Holy Spirit.
St Augustine states: “What our spirit, i.e., our soul, is for our members, the Holy Spirit is for Christ’s members, for the Body of Christ which is the Church” (Serm. 267, 4).
In the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council returns to this image, develops it and explains it: Christ “has shared with us his Spirit who, being one and the same in head and members, gives life to, unifies and moves the whole body. Consequently, his work could be compared by the Fathers to the function that the principle of life, the soul, fulfils in the human body” (Lumen gentium, LG 7).
This relationship between the Spirit and the Church guides us in understanding her, without falling into the two opposite errors already pointed out by Mystici Corporis: ecclesiological naturalism, which is limited to the visible aspect and so regards the Church as a merely human institution; or the opposite error of ecclesiological mysticism, which emphasizes the Church’s unity with Christ to the point of considering Christ and the Church as a sort of physical person. These two errors are analogous — as Leo XIII had already stressed in the Encyclical Satis cognitum — to two Christological heresies: Nestorianism, which separated the two natures in Christ, and Monophysitism, which confused them. The Second Vatican Council offered us a synthesis which helps us grasp the true meaning of the Church’s mystical unity by presenting her as “one complex reality which comes together from a human and divine element” (Lumen gentium, LG 8).
3. The Holy Spirit’s presence in the Church enables her, despite being marked by the sin of her members, to be preserved from defect. Holiness not only replaces sin, but overcomes it. In this sense, too, we can say with St Paul that where sin abounds, grace even more abounds (cf. Rm 5,20).
The Holy Spirit dwells in the Church not as a guest who still remains an outsider, but as the soul that transforms the community into “God’s holy temple” (1Co 3,17 cf. 1Co 6,19 Ep 2,21) and makes it more and more like himself through his specific gift, which is love (cf. Rm 5,5 Ga 5,22). Love — the Second Vatican Council teaches in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church — “governs, gives meaning to and perfects all the means of sanctification” (Lumen gentium, LG 42). Love is the “heart” of Christ’s Mystical Body, as we read in a beautiful autobiographical passage of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus: “I understood that if the Church had a body composed of different members, the most necessary and noble of all could not be lacking to it, and so I understood that the Church had a heart and that this heart was burning with Love. I understood that it was Love alone that made the Church’s members act, that if Love were ever extinguished, apostles would not proclaim the Gospel and martyrs would refuse to shed their blood.... I understood that Love included all vocations, that Love was everything, that it embraced all times and places ... in a word, that it was eternal!” (Autobiographical Manuscript MSB 3vº).
4. The Spirit who dwells in the Church also abides in the heart of every member of the faithful: he is the dulcis hospes animae. Following a path of conversion and personal sanctification, then, means allowing ourselves to be “led” by the Spirit (cf. Rm 8,14), letting him act, pray and love in us. “Becoming holy” is possible if we allow ourselves to be made holy by him who is the Holy One, by docilely co-operating with his transforming action. For this reason, since the primary objective of the Jubilee is to strengthen the faith and witness of Christians, “it is necessary to inspire in all the faithful a true longing for holiness, a deep desire for conversion and personal renewal in a context of ever more intense prayer and of solidarity with one’s neighbour, especially the most needy” (Tertio millennio adveniente, TMA 42).
We can think of the Holy Spirit as the soul of our soul, and thus the secret of our sanctification. Let us dwell in his powerful and discreet, intimate and transforming presence!
5. St Paul teaches us that the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within us is closely connected with Jesus’ Resurrection and is also the basis of our final resurrection: “If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit who dwells in you” (Rm 8,11).
In eternal happiness we will live in the joyful fellowship that is now prefigured and anticipated by the Eucharist. Then the Spirit will bring to full maturity all the seeds of communion, love and brotherhood that have blossomed during our earthly pilgrimage. As St Gregory of Nyssa says, “surrounded by the unity of the Holy Spirit as the bond of peace, all will be one Body and one Spirit” (Hom. 15 in Cant.).
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
I welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from Latvia, Japan, Scotland, Canada and the United States of America. Upon all of you I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.
1. Jesus’ act 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” (Rm 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” (2Th 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, DEV 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” (Ep 4,24), a “new creation” (Ga 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” (2P 1,4); we are “called children of God; and so we are!” (1Jn 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” (CEC 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. Ep 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” (CEC 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. Rm 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., 4SN 20,2; 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, LG 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. He 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, VC 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.
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
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 Co-operators, 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.
1. The Acts of the Apostles show us the first Christian community united by a strong bond of fraternal communion: “All who believed were together and had all things in common; and they sold their possessions and goods and distributed them to all, as any had need” (Ac 2,44-45). There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit is at the root of this demonstration of love. His outpouring at Pentecost lays the foundations of the new Jerusalem, the city built on love, quite the opposite of the ancient Babel. According to the text of Genesis 11, the builders of Babel had decided to build a city with a great tower whose top would reach the heavens. The sacred author sees in this project a foolish pride which flows into division, discord and lack of communication. On the day of Pentecost, on the other hand, Jesus’ disciples do not want to climb arrogantly to the heavens but are humbly open to the gift that comes down from above. While in Babel the same language is spoken by all but they end up not understanding each other, on the day of Pentecost different languages are spoken, yet they are very clearly understood. This is a miracle of the Holy Spirit.
2. The Holy Spirit’s proper and specific action already within the Trinity is communion. “It can be said that in the Holy Spirit the intimate life of the Triune God becomes totally gift, an exchange of mutual love between the divine Persons, and 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” (Dominum et Vivificantem DEV 10). The third Person — we read in St Augustine — is “the supreme love that unites both the Persons” (De Trin., n. 7, 3, 6). Indeed the Father begets the Son by loving him; the Son is begotten by the Father, letting himself be loved and receiving from him the capacity to love; the Holy Spirit is love given in total gratuitousness by the Father, received with full gratitude by the Son, and returned by him to the Father. The Spirit is also the love and the personal gift which contains every created gift: life, grace and glory. The mystery of this communion shines forth in the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ, enlivened by the Holy Spirit. The Spirit himself makes us “one in Christ Jesus” (Ga 3,28) and thus integrates us within the same unity which binds the Son to the Father. We are left in wonder at this intense and intimate communion between God and us!
3. The Book of the Acts presents several symbolic situations which let us understand how the Spirit helps the Church to live communion in practice, enabling her to overcome the problems she will encounter from time to time. When persons who do not belong to the people of Israel enter the Christian community for the first time, a dramatic moment is experienced. The Church’s unity is put to the test. However at this moment the Spirit is to descend on the house of the first pagan to be converted, Cornelius, the centurion. He renews the miracle of Pentecost and works a sign favouring unity between the Jews and the Gentiles (cf. Ac 10-11). We can say that this is the direct manner of building communion: the Spirit intervenes with the full power of his grace and creates a new, utterly unforeseeable situation. But the Spirit frequently acts using human mediation. This is what happened — again, according to the narrative of the Acts — when a discussion arose within the community of Jerusalem about the daily distribution among the widows (cf. Ac 6,1 ff.). Unity is then re-established thanks to the intervention of the Apostles who ask the community to elect seven men “full of the Spirit” (Ac 6,3 cf. Ac 6,5) and they appoint this group of seven to serve tables. A critical moment is also experienced by the community of Antioch, which consisted of Christians who had formerly been Jews or pagans. Several Jewish-Christian converts insisted that the latter be circumcised and observe the law of Moses. Regarding this, St Luke writes “the Apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter” (Ac 15,6), and after “there had been much debate”, they reached an agreement, formulated in the solemn words: “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us ...” (Ac 15,28). Here it can clearly be seen how the Spirit acts through the mediation of the Church’s “ministers”. Between the Spirit’s two great paths: the direct one, more unpredictable and charismatic, and the mediated one, more permanent and institutional, there can be no real conflict. Both come from the same Spirit. In cases where human weakness might see causes for tension and conflict, it is necessary to abide by the discernment of authority, with the assistance of the Holy Spirit (cf. 1Co 14,37).
41 4. It is thanks to the “grace of the Holy Spirit” (Unitatis redintegratio UR 4) that there is a desire for full unity among Christians. In this regard, it must never be forgotten that the Spirit is the first common gift to divided Christians. As “the principle of the Church’s unity” (ibid., UR 2), he urges us to rebuild it through conversion of heart, common prayer, mutual knowledge, ecumenical formation, theological dialogue, and co-operation in the various contexts of social service inspired by love. Christ gave his life so that all his disciples might be one (cf. Jn 17). The celebration of the Jubilee of the third millennium must represent a new phase in overcoming the divisions of the second millennium and, since unity is a gift of the Paraclete, it comforts us to recall that precisely on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit significant steps have been made towards unity among the various Churches, especially among the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Churches. In particular, on the specific problem of the Filioque concerning the relationship between the Holy Spirit and the Word who proceed from the Father, it is possible to maintain that the difference between the Latin and Eastern traditions does not affect the identity of the faith “in the reality of the same mystery confessed” but its expression, constituting a “legitimate complementarity” which does not jeopardize but indeed can enrich communion in the one faith (cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church CEC 248 Apostolic Letter Orientale lumen, 2 May 1995, n. 5; Note of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, 29 June 1995: The Greek and Latin Traditions Regarding the Procession of the Holy Spirit, L’Osservatore Romano English edition, 20 September 1995, p. 3).
5. Lastly the forthcoming Jubilee must also see fraternal love grow within the Catholic Church. That effective love which must prevail in every community “especially [for] those who are of the household of faith” (Ga 6,10), involves every member of the Church, every parish and diocesan community, every group, association and movement in a serious examination of conscience which will dispose hearts to accept the unifying action of the Holy Spirit. St Bernard’s words are still timely: “We all need one another: from others I receive the spiritual good which I do not have and do not possess.... And all our differences, which express the riches of God’s gifts, will hold good in the one house of the Father, which includes so many mansions. Now there is a division of graces: then there will be a distinction of glories. Unity, both here and there, consists in one and the same love” (Apology to William of St Thierry, IV, 8: PL 182, 9033-9034).
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
I welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially the members of the Hong Kong Catholic Pastoral Association for the Deaf, and the students and teachers from Saint Paul High School in Tokyo. I also welcome those who have come from Scotland, Nigeria and the United States of America.
Upon all of you I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.
1. The New Testament testifies to the presence of charisms and ministries inspired by the Holy Spirit in the various Christian communities. The Acts of the Apostles, for example, describe the Christian community of Antioch in this way: “in the church at Antioch there were prophets and teachers, Barnabas, Symeon who was called Niger, Lucius of Cyre'ne, Man'a-en a member of the court of Herod the tetrarch, and Saul” (Ac 13,1).
The community of Antioch appears as a living reality in which two distinct roles emerge: that of prophets, who discern and announce God’s ways, and that of doctors, that is teachers, who properly examine and expound the faith. In the former, one might recongize a more charismatic aspect, in the latter a more institutional tone, but in both cases the same obedience to God’s Spirit. Moreover, this interweaving of the charismatic and institutional elements can be perceived at the very origins of the Antioch community — which came into being after the death of Stephen and following the dispersion of the Christians — where several brothers had even preached the Good News to pagans, bringing about many conversions. Hearing of this event, the mother community of Jerusalem had delegated Barnabus to pay a visit to the new community. Furthermore, says Luke, when he saw the grace of the Lord, “he was glad; and he exhorted them all to remain faithful to the Lord with steadfast purpose; for he was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and of faith” (Ac 11,23-24).
In this episode clearly emerges the twofold method with which the Spirit of God governs the Church: on the one hand, he directly encourages the activity of believers by revealing new and unprecedented ways to proclaim the Gospel, on the other, he provides an authentication of their work through the official intervention of the Church, represented here by the work of Barnabus, who was sent bythe mother community of Jerusalem.
2. St Paul, in particular, reflects deeply on charisms and ministries. He does so especially in chapters 12-14 of his First Letter to the Corinthians. On the basis of this text, one can gather certain elements in order to set out a correct theology of charisms.
Primarily the fundamental criterion of discernment is established by Paul, a criterion which could be described as “Christological”: a charism is not genuine unless it leads to proclaiming that Jesus Christ is Lord (cf. 1Co 12,1-3).
Paul then goes on immediately to stress the variety of charisms, and the unity of their origin: “There are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit” (1Co 12,4). The gifts of the Spirit, which he distributes “as he wills” (1Co 12,11), can be numerous, and Paul provides a list of them (cf. 1Co 12,8-10), which obviously does not claim to be complete. The Apostle then teaches that the diversity of charisms must not create divisions, and for this reason compares them to the various members of the one body (cf. 1Co 12,12-27). The Church’s unity is dynamic and organic, and all the gifts of the Spirit are important for the vitality of the Body as a whole.
3. Paul teaches, on the other hand, that God has established a hierarchy in the Church (cf. 1Co 12,28): first come the “apostles”, then the “prophets”, then the “teachers”. These three positions are fundamental and are listed in order of importance.
The Apostle then warns that the distribution of gifts is diversified: not everyone has this or that charism (cf. 1Co 12,29-30); each has his own (cf. 1Co 7,7) and must accept it with gratitude, generously putting it at the service of the community. This search for communion is dictated by love which continues to be the “best way” and the greatest gift (cf. 1Co 13,13), without which charisms lose all their value (cf. 1Co 13,1-3).
4. Charisms are therefore graces bestowed by the Holy Spirit on certain members of the faithful to prepare them to contribute to the common good of the Church.
The variety of charisms corresponds to the variety of services, which can be temporary or permanent, private or public. The ordained ministries of Bishops, priests and deacons, are permanent and publicly recognized services. The lay ministries, founded on Baptism and Confirmation, can receive from the Church, through the Bishop, official or only de facto recognition.
Among the lay ministries we recall those instituted with a liturgical rite: the offices of lector and acolyte. Then there are the extraordinary ministers of Eucharistic Communion and those responsible for ecclesial activities, starting with the catechists, but we should also remember the “leaders of prayer, song and liturgy; leaders of basic ecclesial communities and Bible study groups; those in charge of charitable works; administrators of Church resources; leaders in the various forms of the apostolate; religion teachers in schools” (Encyclical Redemptoris missio, RMi 74).
5. In accordance with the message of Paul and of the New Testament, often recalled and illustrated by the Second Vatican Council (cf. Lumen gentium, LG 12), there is no such thing as one Church according to a “charismatic model” and another according to an “institutional model”. As I have had the opportunity to stress on other occasions, opposition between charism and institution is “extremely harmful” (cf. Address to participants in the Second International Conference of Ecclesial Movements, 2 March 1987, L'Osservatore Romano English edition, 16 March 1987, p. 12).
It is the task of Pastors to discern the authenticity of charisms and to regulate their exercise in an attitude of humble obedience to the Spirit, of disinterested love for the Church’s good and of docile fidelity to the supreme law of the salvation of souls.
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
I extend a special welcome to the many pilgrims present with the Maltese Union for the Transport of the Sick to Lourdes. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Malta and the United States of America, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
After greeting the faithful in various languages, the Holy Father expressed his grief at the assassination of a priest in Haiti on Monday, 3 August.
Lastly, with deep sorrow I would like to recall that another priest was assassinated last Monday: Fr Jean Pierre Louis, from the Archdiocese of Port-au-Prince in Haiti. In view of this new, deprecable episode of violence, I invite you to pray that the Lord receive this brother of ours in his kingdom and that he support the beloved nation of Haiti and all humanity in the commitment to respect every human life.
GENERAL AUDIENCE 1998 35