Holy spirit

Convincing the World: Saint John Paul II’s Encyclical on the Holy Spirit

By Thomas V. Mirus (bio – articles – email) | 23 Aug 2015

The Holy Spirit may seem, from a human point of view, the most obscure person in the Holy Trinity. He is certainly the least “personifiable” in the anthropomorphic sense, as one easily sees in the countless representations of the Trinity in Christian art. In human history he has been the most hidden of the three, fully revealed as a divine person only in the last words and the departure of Jesus. And in recent times, when it comes to the theological and spiritual consciousness of many Catholics, one could even say “missing” rather than hidden.

However, the third Person of the Trinity is an integral part of each of the Christian mysteries and therefore of all Christian life. It is by the Holy Spirit that we can believe in Jesus in the first place. It is the Holy Spirit that we receive in Baptism. To the extent that we fail to receive inspiration from the Spirit, our belief and understanding of what we believe does not rise above the letter.

Since the Christian life is not just a system of rules, we need the guidance of the Spirit in knowing how to please God from moment to moment. And since the Spirit of God is the Spirit of love – love which is the law of the New Covenant – anyone who does not have the Spirit remains a slave to the law of the flesh, or law of sin (Romans 7: 25).

And so, to put it concretely, if your spiritual wheels are turning, it is likely that the missing “element” is the Holy Spirit.

In 1986, Pope Saint John Paul II was already anticipating the new millennium, with its new challenges, as well as the new graces that the Holy Spirit would grant to the Church as she celebrated the Jubilee inaugurating the third millennium of Christianity. . Eager to prepare the Church for these things by giving the people of God an increased awareness and knowledge of the Holy Spirit, he published the encyclical Dominum and Vivificantem, “On the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church and of the world”, May 18, Solemnity of Pentecost.

The Holy Spirit, partner in Jesus’ mission

A part of Dominum and Vivificantem takes the form of a commentary on what Jesus said about the coming of the Holy Spirit in his farewell address (John 14-17). First of all, Saint John Paul II reflects on what these promises tell us about the “partnership” between Jesus and the Holy Spirit in the accomplishment of the saving mission.

Jesus calls the Holy Spirit “another counselor” (alternately Paraclete, intercessor or advocate) and “the Spirit of truth” (John 14: 16-17) who will be sent by the Father to stay with and in his disciples for all time. He specifies that the Holy Spirit will continue the work for which the Son came into the world: “He will teach you all things and remind you of all that I have said to you” (John 14:26).

The Holy Spirit, in fact, will help the disciples to reap what has been sown by the Son, not only by preserving but by increasing in them (John 16:13, “he will guide you into all the truth”) right understanding. of Jesus. words and deeds. It is the guarantee of the Church’s fidelity to Jesus, in her message, her mission and, since the message of the Gospel is nothing less than the person of Jesus himself, in the fullness of his identity.

Christ said of the Advocate: “He will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning ”(John 15: 26-27). Indeed, if the Apostles were with Jesus throughout his ministry, the Spirit was with him “from the beginning” in the most absolute sense, with the Son and the Father from all eternity. He is therefore the “expert witness” par excellence of the Son who directs, inspires and cooperates with all other witnesses.

Even further: “He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14). By taking what belongs to Jesus, the Holy Spirit “takes over” the mission of Jesus on earth in his “absence”, yet, as we have already seen, it is the Holy Spirit who guarantees the continuity. presence of Jesus in the fulness of the Gospel. While Jesus will speak of his departure, it is (as we will see) by his departure that he remains, fully and universally, in the coming of the Holy Spirit.

“If I leave, I will send it to you”

Although Jesus first speaks of the Holy Spirit as a Counselor sent by the Father, he also connects the coming of the Spirit with his own departure: “But I tell you the truth, it is better for you than I go. Because if I don’t go, the Advocate won’t come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you ”(John 16: 7).

Saint John Paul II emphasizes that this connection is more than chronological; it is also “causal”: “The Holy Spirit will come to the extent that Christ departs through the Cross: he will come not only afterwards, but because of the Redemption accomplished by Christ, by the will and action of the Father. “(DV 8).

Since the Holy Spirit comes with the departure of Christ, which occurs “by the Cross”, Jesus’ prophecy that the Spirit “will take what is mine” takes on a more specific meaning: the Holy Spirit receives the Complete redemption accomplished by Jesus on the Cross, and it is through the Holy Spirit that this Redemption is accomplished in us. Fully identified with Jesus and his mission, the Holy Spirit is not only the Spirit of the Father but also the Spirit of the Son.

If the Spirit possesses and gives us the fullness of Jesus, Jesus also came, in the first place, as the Messiah or “the Anointed One” in whom “the Spirit of the Lord” (Isaiah 11: 2) would rest fully. Although the Old Testament did not fully reveal the Holy Spirit as a divine Person, we can see in retrospect that the coming of the Messiah was the event that would lead to this full revelation. The greatness of the Messiah is that he alone possesses the fullness of the Spirit of God; the fullness of the fulfillment of Jesus ushers in the age of the Holy Spirit, the age of the Church that began at Pentecost.

Convince the world

The same Spirit who teaches, witnesses, recalls, and guides into all truth, as Jesus said, “shall convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16: 8). Fortunately, Jesus immediately explains what he means by these three things:

“He will convict the world concerning sin, righteousness, and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I am going to the Father, and you will see me no more; concerning judgment, because the ruler of the world is judged. (John 16: 8-11)

The opposition between sin (the rejection of Jesus’ mission) and righteousness (the glorification of Jesus by the Heavenly Father) naturally involves judgment on the world in the sense that the Holy Spirit will convict the world of its own guilt. . However, the Holy Father notes, the world is convinced of its sin not to be condemned but to be saved. We can find hope in the fact that Jesus is not saying that it is the world which is the proper object of judgment, but the “ruler of the world”, Satan.

Therefore, when the Holy Spirit convinces us about sin, He is showing us more than just the existence and depravity of sin; he shows us “sin saved” (DV 28) by Jesus. When he convinces us about righteousness, he shows us not only Jesus justified and glorified by the Father, but the possibility of participating in that righteousness and glory. And when he convinces us concerning the judgment, he shows us that by the death and resurrection of Jesus, we are withdrawn from the judgment reserved from the beginning to the sovereign of this world.

We see this threefold conviction manifested in many examples of apostolic preaching recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, first of all in Peter’s speech at Pentecost. Peter immediately convinces the Jews of their sin by crucifying Christ and testifies of his resurrection and glorification. He does not do it to condemn or taunt them but to save them:

Now, when they heard this, they were touched in the heart, and they asked Peter and the other apostles: “What shall we do, my brethren?” Rock [said] to them: “Repent and be baptized, each of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. (Acts 2: 37-38)

The reason Peter tells them that their sin is to awaken their conscience so that they can repent and be saved. The Holy Father writes:

Conversion requires conviction of sin; it includes the inner judgment of conscience, and this, being a proof of the action of the Spirit of truth in the innermost being of man, at the same time becomes a new beginning of the gift of grace and love: “Receive the Holy Spirit. “So in this ‘conviction of sin’ we discover a double gift: the gift of the truth of conscience and the gift of the certainty of redemption. (DV 31)

Belief concerning sin is, for us as well as for the Jews of Peter’s day, related not only to sin in general but, specifically, to sin committed at Calvary. Yet man is “absolutely ignorant” of the relationship between his own sin and the death of Jesus and therefore cannot see evil in all its dimensions – and therefore have a fully awakened conscience – without the guidance of the Holy Spirit. : “It is precisely the Holy Spirit. Spirit who ‘searches’ the ‘depths of God’ and draws from them God’s answer to the sin of man ”(DV 32).

At the same time, to see fully the sin of Calvary in relation to all the sins of human history, is to see that it is by this worst possible sin – which sums up all the others – that God has overcome and completely redeemed the human sin.

Moreover, although I will not dwell on it here, Saint John Paul II says that the famous “sin against the Holy Spirit” consists precisely in rejecting the “convincing concerning sin” and therefore in rejecting his mission of To advise. It is, in part, the “loss of the sense of sin” that Pope Pius XII called “the sin of the century” (DV 46-47).


Focusing on Saint John Paul II’s exegesis of Jesus’ promises concerning the Holy Spirit, I have covered less than half of Dominum and Vivificantem. Saint John Paul II offers many other ideas about (and from) the Holy Spirit: how the Spirit guides the Church, how he teaches us to participate in the divine gift of self, and above all, how he nourishes the inner man, gives him new life and leads him to maturity.

Since I started this article by pointing out the need for the guidance of the Spirit in our daily life, the reader may feel cheated because I did not focus more on the topics I just mentioned. recall. In truth, I feel less able to summarize the deep depths of the thought of the Holy Father later in the encyclical. But I hope I have given you some idea of ​​the role of the Holy Spirit and, of course, convinced you that Dominum and Vivificantem worth reading in full.

Thomas V. Mirus is a pianist living in New York. He is the Podcast Director for CatholicCulture.org, hosts the Catholic Culture Podcast, and co-hosts Criteria: The Catholic Film Podcast. See the full biography.

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