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Ioannes Paulus PP. II
Dominum et vivificantem

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    • 2. The Testimony of the Day of Pentecost
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2. The Testimony of the Day of Pentecost


30. Christ's prophecies in the farewell discourse found their most exact and direct confirmation on the day of Pentecost, in particular the prediction which we are dealing with: "The Counselor...will convince the world concerning sin." On that day, the promised Holy Spirit came down upon the Apostles gathered in prayer together with Mary the Mother of Jesus, in the same Upper Room, as we read in the Acts of the Apostles: "And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance,"109 "thus bringing back to unity the scattered races and offering to the Father the first-fruits of all the nations."110

The connection between Christ's prediction and this event is clear. We perceive here the first and fundamental fulfillment of the promise of the Paraclete. He comes, sent by the Father, "after" the departure of Christ, "at the price of" that departure. This is first a departure through the Cross, and later, forty days after the Resurrection, through his Ascension into heaven. Once more, at the moment of the Ascension, Jesus orders the Apostles "not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait for the promise of the Father"; "but before many days you shall be baptized with the Holy Spirit"; "but you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the end of the earth."111

These last words contain an echo or reminder of the prediction made in the Upper Room. And on the day of Pentecost this prediction is fulfilled with total accuracy. Acting under the influence of the Holy Spirit, who had been received by the Apostles while they were praying in the Upper Room, Peter comes forward and speaks before a multitude of people of different languages, gathered for the feast. He proclaims what he certainly would not have had the courage to say before: Men of Israel,...Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst...this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it."112

Jesus had foretold and promised: "He will bear witness to me,...and you also are my witnesses." In the first discourse of Peter in Jerusalem this "witness" finds its clear beginning: it is the witness to Christ crucified and risen. The witness of the Spirit-Paraclete and of the Apostles. And in the very content of that first witness, the Spirit of truth, through the lips of Peter, "convinces the world concerning sin": first of all, concerning the sin which is the rejection of Christ even to his condemnation to death, to death on the Cross on Golgotha. Similar proclamations will be repeated, according to the text of the Acts of the Apostles, on other occasions and in various places.113


31. Beginning from this initial witness at Pentecost and for all future time the action of the Spirit of truth who "convinces the world concerning the sin" of the rejection of Christ is linked inseparably with the witness to be borne to the Paschal Mystery: the mystery of the Crucified and Risen One. And in this link the same "convincing concerning sin" reveals its own salvific dimension. For it is a "convincing" that has as its purpose not merely the accusation of the world and still less its condemnation. Jesus Christ did not come into the world to judge it and condemn it but to save it.114 This is emphasized in this first discourse, when Peter exclaims: "Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified."115 And then, when those present ask Peter and the Apostles: "Brethren, what shall we do?" this is Peter's answer: "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit."116

In this way "convincing concerning sin" becomes at the same time a convincing concerning the remission of sins, in the power of the Holy Spirit. Peter in his discourse in Jerusalem calls people to conversion, as Jesus called his listeners to conversion at the beginning of his messianic activity.117 Conversion requires convincing of sin; it includes the interior judgment of the conscience, and this, being a proof of the action of the Spirit of truth in man's inmost being, becomes at the same time a new beginning of the bestowal of grace and love: "Receive the Holy Spirit."118 Thus in this "convincing concerning sin" we discover a double gift: the gift of the truth of conscience and the gift of the certainty of redemption. The Spirit of truth is the Counselor.

The convincing concerning sin, through the ministry of the apostolic kerygma in the early Church, is referred - under the impulse of the Spirit poured out at Pentecost - to the redemptive power of Christ crucified and risen. Thus the promise concerning the Holy Spirit made before Easter is fulfilled: "He will take what is mine and declare it to you." When therefore, during the Pentecost event, Peter speaks of the sin of those who "have not believed"119 and have sent Jesus of Nazareth to an ignominious death, he bears witness to victory over sin: a victory achieved, in a certain sense, through the greatest sin that man could commit: the killing of Jesus, the Son of God, consubstantial with the Father! Similarly, the death of the Son of God conquers human death: "I will be your death, O death,"120 as the sin of having crucified the Son of God "conquers" human sin! That sin which was committed in Jerusalem on Good Friday - and also every human sin. For the greatest sin on man's part is matched, in the heart of the Redeemer, by the oblation of supreme love that conquers the evil of all the sins of man. On the basis of this certainty the Church in the Roman liturgy does not hesitate to repeat every year, at the Easter Vigil, "O happy fault!" in the deacon's proclamation of the Resurrection when he sings the "Exsultet. "


32. However, no one but he himself, the Spirit of truth, can "convince the world," man or the human conscience of this ineffable truth. He is the Spirit who "searches even the depths of God."121 Faced with the mystery of sin, we have to search "the depths of God" to their very depth. It is not enough to search the human conscience, the intimate mystery of man, but we have to penetrate the inner mystery of God, those "depths of God" that are summarized thus: to the Father - in the Son - through the Holy Spirit. It is precisely the Holy Spirit who "searches" the "depths of God," and from them draws God's response to man's sin. With this response there closes the process of "convincing concerning sin," as the event of Pentecost shows.

By convincing the "world" concerning the sin of Golgotha, concerning the death of the innocent Lamb, as happens on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit also convinces of every sin, committed in any place and at any moment in human history: for he demonstrates its relationship with the Cross of Christ. The "convincing" is the demonstration of the evil of sin, of every sin, in relation to the Cross of Christ. Sin, shown in this relationship, is recognized in the entire dimension of evil proper to it, through the "mysterium iniquitatis"122 which is hidden within it. Man does not know this dimension - he is absolutely ignorant of it apart from the Cross of Christ. So he cannot be "convinced" of it except by the Holy Spirit: the Spirit of truth but who is also the Counselor.

For sin, shown in relation to the cross of Christ, is at the same time identified in the full dimension of the "mysterium pietatis,"123 as indicated by the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Reconciliatio et Paenitentia.124 Man is also absolutely ignorant of this dimension of sin apart from the Cross Christ. And he cannot be "convinced" of this dimension either, except by the Holy Spirit: the one who "searches the depths of God."


109. Acts 2:4.

110. Cf. St. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, III, 17, 2: SC 211, pp. 330-332.

111. Acts 1:4, 5, 8.

112. Acts 2:22-24.

113. Cf. Acts 3:14f.; 4:10, 27f.; 7:52; 10:39; 13:28f.; etc.

114. Cf. Jn 3:17; 12:47.

115. Acts 2:36.

116. Acts 2:37f.

117. Cf. Mk 1:15.

118. Jn 20:22.

119. Cf. Jn 16:9.

120. Hos 14:14 Vulgate; cf. 1 Cor 15:55.

121. Cf. 1 Cor 2:10.

122. Cf. 2 Thess 2:7.

123. Cf. 1 Tim 3:16.

124. Cf. Reconciliatio et Paenitentia (December 2, 1984), 19-22: AAS 77 (1985), pp. 229-233.

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