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Pope Francis on the Church, the Truth and the Holy Spirit

Pope Francis reflects on the most misunderstood member of the Trinity in his inspiring catechesis on the Holy Spirit, exploring the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Church and in guiding us to the Truth.

The Holy Spirit guides us to the Truth

I would like to reflect on the Holy Spirit’s action in guiding the Church and each one of us to the Truth. Jesus himself told his disciples: “[the Holy Spirit] will guide you into all the truth” (Jn 16:13), since he himself is “the Spirit of Truth” (cf. Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:13).

We are living in an age in which people are rather sceptical of truth. Benedict XVI has frequently spoken of relativism, that is, of the tendency to consider nothing definitive and to think that truth comes from consensus or from something we like. The question arises: does “the” truth really exist? What is “the” truth? Can we know it? Can we find it? Here springs to my mind the question of Pontius Pilate, the Roman Procurator, when Jesus reveals to him the deep meaning of his mission: “What is truth?” (Jn 18:37,38). Pilate cannot understand that “the” Truth is standing in front of him, he cannot see in Jesus the face of the truth that is the face of God. And yet Jesus is exactly this: the Truth that, in the fullness of time, “became flesh” (cf. Jn 1:1,14), and came to dwell among us so that we might know it. The truth is not grasped as a thing, the truth is encountered. It is not a possession, it is an encounter with a Person.

Recognising the Truth

But who can enable us to recognise that Jesus is “the” Word of Truth, the Only-Begotten Son of God the Father? St Paul teaches that “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Co 12:3). It is the Holy Spirit himself, the gift of the risen Christ, who makes us recognise the Truth. Jesus describes him as the “Paraclete”, namely, “the one who comes to our aid”, who is beside us to sustain us on this journey of knowledge; and at the Last Supper Jesus assures the disciples that the Holy Spirit will teach them all things and remind them of all he has said to them (cf. Jn 14:26).

The Holy Spirit transforms our heart

So how does the Holy Spirit act in our life and in the life of the Church in order to guide us to the truth? First of all he recalls and impresses in the heart of believers the words Jesus spoke and, through these very words, the law of God – as the Prophets of the Old Testament had foretold – is engraved in our heart and becomes within us a criterion for evaluation in decisions and for guidance in our daily actions; it becomes a principle to live by. Ezekiel’s great prophesy is brought about: “You shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you…. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances” (Ezk 36:25-27). Indeed, it is in our inmost depths that our actions come into being: it is the heart itself that must be converted to God and the Holy Spirit transforms it when we open ourselves to him.

Our guide “into” the fullness of the Truth

Then, as Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit guides us “into all the truth” (Jn 16:13); not only does he guide us to the encounter with Jesus, the fullness of the Truth, but he also guides us “into” the Truth, that is, he makes us enter into an ever deeper communion with Jesus, giving us knowledge of all the things of God. And we cannot achieve this by our own efforts. Unless God enlightens us from within, our Christian existence will be superficial. The Church’s Tradition asserts that the Spirit of Truth acts in our heart, inspiring that “sense of the Faith” (sensus fidei) through which, as the Second Vatican Council states, the People of God, under the guidance of the Magisterium, adheres unfailingly to the Faith transmitted, penetrates it more deeply with the right judgement, and applies it more fully in life (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, n. 12). Let us try asking ourselves: am I open to the action of the Holy Spirit? Do I pray him to give me illumination, to make me more sensitive to God’s things?

Praying to the Holy Spirit

This is a prayer we must pray every day: “Holy Spirit, make my heart open to the word of God, make my heart open to goodness, make my heart open to the beauty of God every day”. I would like to ask everyone a question: how many of you pray every day to the Holy Spirit? There will not be many but we must fulfil Jesus’s wish and pray every day to the Holy Spirit that he opens our heart to Jesus. Let us think of Mary who “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19,51). Acceptance of the words and truth of faith so that they may become life is brought about and increases under the action of the Holy Spirit. In this regard we must learn from Mary, we must re-live her “yes”, her unreserved readiness to receive the Son of God in her life, which was transformed from that moment. Through the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son take up their abode with us: we live in God and are [of God]. Yet is our life truly inspired by God? How many things do I put before God?

We cannot be “part-time” Christians

We need to let ourselves be bathed in the light of the Holy Spirit so that he may lead us into the Truth of God, who is the one Lord of our life. In this Year of Faith let us ask ourselves whether we really have taken some steps to know Christ and the truth of faith better by reading and meditating on Sacred Scripture, by studying the Catechism, and by receiving the sacraments regularly. However, let us ask ourselves at the same time what steps we are taking to ensure that faith governs the whole of our existence. We are not Christian “part-time”, only at certain moments, in certain circumstances, in certain decisions; no one can be Christian in this way, we are Christian all the time! Totally! May Christ’s truth, which the Holy Spirit teaches us and gives to us, always and totally affect our daily life. Let us call on him more often so that he may guide us on the path of disciples of Christ. Let us call on him every day. I am making this suggestion to you: let us invoke the Holy Spirit every day, in this way the Holy Spirit will bring us close to Jesus Christ.

Pentecost: The Unity of the Church in the Upper Room

This celebration of faith is drawing to a close. It began with the Vigil and culminated with the Eucharist. It was a renewed Pentecost that transformed St Peter’s Square into an Upper Room beneath the open sky. We have relived the experience of the nascent Church, harmonised in prayer with Mary, the Mother of Jesus (cf. Ac 1:14). In the variety of charisms we too have experienced the beauty of unity, of being one. Moreover this is an action of the Holy Spirit who creates unity in the Church ever anew. I would like to thank all the movements, associations, communities and ecclesial groups. You are a gift and a treasure in the Church! This is what you are! I thank in particular all of you who have come from Rome and from so many parts of the world. Always convey the power of the Gospel! Do not be afraid! Always feel joy and enthusiasm for communion in the Church! May the risen Lord be with you constantly and may Our Lady protect you!


Witnesses to the Risen ChristThis blog is extracted from Witnesses to the Risen Christ. This collection of the Holy Father’s catecheses over the Easter period are a splendid insight into the living Faith of a man who has brought so much hope and optimism to the faithful around the world.

Get your copy of Witnesses to the Risen Christ to read more of Pope Francis’s reflections on Easter and to support the mission of CTS.

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