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The Paraclete—the Spirit of Truth General audience of May 17, 1989. Jesus in his farewell discourse to the apostles in the upper room promises the coming of the Holy Spirit as a new and definitive defender and counselor: .
General audience of May 17, 1989
"I will pray the Father and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever...the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him"
situated in the solemn account of the Last Supper
is a source of primary importance for pneumatology, the theological discipline concerning the Holy Spirit.
(cf. Jn 13:2),
who "proceeds" from the Father,
and whom the Father "will send"
to the apostles and to the Church
"in the name of the Son"
when the Son himself
"will go away,"
a departure which will be effected
by the sacrifice of the cross.
We must consider the fact that Jesus called the Paraclete the
"Spirit of truth."
He also called him this at other times
(cf. Jn 15:26; 16:13).
"I am the way, and the truth, and the life"
From this twofold reference to the truth made by Jesus to define both himself and the Holy Spirit,
one deduces that if he calls the Paraclete the
"Spirit of truth,"
this means that the Holy Spirit is he who,
after Christ's departure,
will preserve among the disciples the truth which he had announced and revealed and, indeed, which he himself is.
as Christ is the truth.
John said so in his First Letter:
"The Spirit is the witness, because the Spirit is the truth"
(1 Jn 5:7).
In that same letter John also writes:
"We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error"
(1 Jn 4:6).
and that of the Holy Spirit
and are mutually completed
in the affirmation of the truth
and in victory over error.
Their fields of action
are the human spirit
and the history of the world.
The distinction between truth and error is the initial stage of that work.
is the essential task of Christ's apostles and disciples,
both in the early times and in all succeeding generations of the Church down the centuries.
From this point of view the announcement of the Spirit of truth has a key importance.
Jesus said in the upper room:
"I have yet many things to say to you,
but you cannot bear them now"
too short to disclose to the disciples all the contents of revelation.
And not only was the available time short,
but the preparation and intelligence of the hearers were limited.
On several occasions it is stated that the apostles themselves
"were utterly astounded"
(cf. Mk 6:52),
and "did not understand"
(cf. e.g., Mk 8:21),
or even misunderstood Christ's words and deeds
(cf. e.g., Mt 16:6-11).
"When the Spirit of truth comes,
he will guide you into all the truth"
The promise is not limited to the apostles and their immediate companions in evangelization.
It extends to the future generations of disciples and confessors of Christ.
The Gospel is destined for all nations and for all the successive generations which will arise in the context of diverse cultures and of the manifold progress of human civilization.
"The Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father will bear witness to me"
"He will bear witness,"
that is to say,
he will show the true meaning of the Gospel within the Church,
so that she may proclaim it authentically to the whole world.
Always and everywhere, even in the ceaselessly changing events of the life of humanity,
the "Spirit of truth" will guide the Church
"into all the truth"
It is not a question of a different disparate revelation.
This can be deduced from the actual words of Christ's promise:
"The Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you"
By recalling, one returns to what has been,
to what has been said and done,
thus renewing the awareness of things past,
and as it were,
making them live again.
the Spirit of a truth endowed with divine power,
his mission is not limited to recalling the past as such.
the words, deeds and the entire salvific mystery of Christ,
the Spirit of truth makes him continually present in the Church.
The Spirit ensures that he takes on an ever new "reality" in the community of salvation.
the Church not only recalls the truth,
but remains and lives in the truth
received from her Lord.
The words of Christ are fulfilled also in this way:
"He (the Holy Spirit) will bear witness to me"
This witness of the Spirit of truth is thus identified
with the presence of the ever living Christ,
with the active power of the Gospel,
with the redemption increasingly put into effect
and with a continual exposition of truth and virtue.
In this way the Holy Spirit
"guides" the Church "into all the truth."
The Church goes out to meet the glorious Christ.
at least implicitly.
What the Holy Spirit will reveal has already been said by Christ.
He himself revealed it when,
speaking of the Holy Spirit,
he emphasized that the Spirit
"will not speak on his own authority,
but whatever he hears he will speak....
He will glorify me,
for he will take what is mine
and declare it to you"
is first of all the same Christ who was crucified, stripped of everything
and as it were "emptied" in his humanity
for the redemption of the world.
Precisely by the work of the Holy Spirit the
"word of the cross"
was to be accepted by the disciples, to whom the Master himself had said:
"...but you cannot bear them now"
A profound intervention was needed to make their minds and hearts capable of discerning
"the glory of the redemption,"
which was accomplished precisely in the cross.
A divine intervention was required to convince and transform interiorly each one of them,
in preparation especially for the day of Pentecost,
and then for the apostolic mission in the world.
Jesus informed them that the Holy Spirit
"will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you."
"searches the depths of God"
(1 Cor 2:10),
knows the mystery of the Son-Word in his filial relationship with the Father and in his redemptive relationship with the people of every age.
He alone, the Spirit of truth,
can open human minds and hearts and make them capable of accepting the inscrutable mystery of God and of his incarnate Son, crucified and risen,
Jesus Christ the Lord.
"The Spirit of truth...will declare to you the things that are to come"
What is the meaning of this prophetic and eschatological projection?
In it, Jesus placed under the ray of the Holy Spirit the entire future of the Church,
the entire historical journey it is called upon to carry out down the centuries.
It means going to meet the glorious Christ, toward whom it reaches out as expressed in the invocation inspired by the Spirit:
"Come, Lord Jesus!"
(Rev 22:17, 20).
He watches over the teaching of that truth,
over its preservation
and over its application to changing historical situations.
He stirs up and guides the development of all that serves the knowledge and spread of that truth, particularly in scriptural exegesis and theological research.
These can never be separated from the guidance of the Spirit of truth nor from the Magisterium of the Church, in which the Spirit is always at work.
"For the mystery of Christ taken as a whole demands faith, since it is faith that adequately introduces man into the reality of the revealed mystery. The 'guiding into all the truth' is therefore achieved in faith and through faith: and this is the work of the Spirit of truth and the result of his action in man. Here the Holy Spirit is to be man's supreme guide and the light of the human spirit. This holds true for the apostles, the eyewitnesses, who must now bring to all people the proclamation of what Christ did and taught, and especially the proclamation of his cross and resurrection. Taking a longer view, this also holds true for all the generations of disciples and confessors of the Master, since they will have to accept with faith and confess with candor the mystery of God at work in human history, the revealed mystery which explains the definitive meaning of that history"
(Dominum et Vivificantem: n. 6).
He continually shows to humanity this divine future,
which is above and beyond every temporal future,
and thus fills with eternal value the future of the world.
Thus the Spirit convinces man,
making him understand that with all that he is and has and does,
he is called by God in Christ to salvation.
the Spirit of truth,
is man's true Counselor.
Thus he is the true defender and advocate.
He is the guarantor of the Gospel in history.
Under his influence the good news is always the same and always near,
and in an ever new way he illumines man's path in the perspective of heaven with
"words of eternal life"