John Paul II: Life in the Spirit transcends even death Friday, May 22 2015 

jp2“God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:16).

In these words from the Gospel of John, the gift of “eternal life” represents the ultimate purpose of the Father’s loving plan.

This gift gives us access through grace to the ineffable communion of love of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit:

“This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3).

The “eternal life” that flows from the Father is communicated to us in its fullness by Jesus in his paschal mystery through the Holy Spirit.

By receiving it we share in the risen Jesus’ definitive victory over death. “Death and life”, we proclaim in the liturgy, “have contended in that combat stupendous: the Prince of life, who died, reigns immortal” (Sequence for Easter Sunday).

In this decisive event of salvation, Jesus gives human beings “eternal life” in the Holy Spirit.

In the “fullness of time” Christ thus fulfils, beyond all expectation, that promise of “eternal life” which the Father has inscribed in the creation of man in his image and likeness since the beginning of the world (cf. Gn 1:26).

As we sing in Psalm 104, man experiences that life in the cosmos and, particularly, his own life have their beginning in the “breath” communicated by the Spirit of the Lord:

“When you hide your face, they are dismayed; when you take away their breath, they die and return to their dust. When you send forth your Spirit, they are created; and you renew the face of the earth” (vv. 29-30).

Communion with God, the gift of his Spirit, more and more becomes for the chosen people the pledge of a life that is not limited to earthly existence but mysteriously transcends and prolongs it forever.

[…] Jesus links belief in the resurrection to his own person: “I am the Resurrection and the Life” (Jn 11:25).

In him, through the mystery of his Death and Resurrection, the divine promise of the gift of “eternal life” is fulfilled.

This life implies total victory over death: “The hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear the voice [of the Son] and come forth, those who have done good, to the resurrection of life …” (Jn 5:28-29).

“For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him should have eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day” (Jn 6:40).

John Paul II (1920-2005): General Audience, October 28th, 1998.

 

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John Paul II: The Holy Spirit Descends Into Our Hearts and Reproduces the Image of the Son Saturday, Jun 7 2014 

jp2In the Letter to the Galatians Paul speaks of the eternal design conceived by God in the depth of his trinitarian life.

It was accomplished in the “fullness of time” with the coming of the Son in the Incarnation to make us his adopted sons:

“God sent forth his Son, born of a woman…so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal 4:4-5).

According to the Apostle, the mission of the Holy Spirit is closely connected with the Son’s “mission” (missio) in the trinitarian economy.

He adds: “And because we are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Gal 4:6).

Here we touch the goal of the mystery expressed in Pentecost: the Holy Spirit descends “into our hearts” as the Spirit of the Son.

Precisely because he is the Spirit of the Son, he enables us to cry out to God together with Christ: “Abba, Father.”

This cry expresses the fact that not only are we called to be sons of God, “but we are so indeed,” as the Apostle John emphasizes in his First Letter (3:1).

Because of this gift, we truly share in the sonship proper to the Son of God, Jesus Christ. This is the supernatural truth of our relationship with Christ, a truth that can be known only by those who “have known the Father” (cf. 1 Jn 2:13).

This knowledge is possible only by virtue of the Holy Spirit, through the witness which he gives from within to the human spirit. There, he is present as the principle of truth and life.

The Apostle Paul tells us: “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:16-17).

“You did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship whereby we cry, ‘Abba! Father!’” (Rom 8:15).

The Spirit reproduces in man the image of the Son, thus establishing the intimate fraternal bond with Christ which leads us to “cry out with him, ‘Abba! Father!’”

Hence the Apostle writes that “all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Rom 8:14).

The Holy Spirit “breathes” in the hearts of believers as the Spirit of the Son, establishing in man the divine sonship in the likeness of Christ and in union with Christ.

The Holy Spirit forms the human spirit from within according to the divine exemplar which is Christ.

Thus, through the Spirit, the Christ known in the pages of the Gospel becomes the “life of the soul.”

In thinking, loving, judging, acting and even in feeling, man is conformed to Christ, and becomes “Christlike.”

John Paul II (1920-2005): General Audience, July 26th, 1989.

John Paul II: “Heaven is Wedded to Earth and Man is Reconciled to God!” Monday, Apr 21 2014 

jp2“God said: ‘Let there be light’; and there was light” (Gen 1:3).

An explosion of light, which God’s word brought forth from nothing, rent asunder the first night, the night of Creation.

The Apostle John will write: “God is light, and in him is no darkness at all” (1 Jn 1:5). God did not create darkness but light!

And the Book of Wisdom, clearly revealing that God’s work has always had a positive purpose, puts it thus:

“He created all things that they might exist; and the creatures of the world are wholesome, and there is no destructive poison in them; and the dominion of Hades is not on earth” (Wis 1:14).

In that first night, the night of Creation, is rooted the Paschal Mystery which, following the tragedy of sin, represents the restoration and the crowning of that first beginning.

The divine Word called into existence all things and, in Jesus, became flesh for our salvation.

And if the destiny of the first Adam was to return to the earth from which he had been made (cf. Gen 3:19), the last Adam has come down from heaven in order to return there in victory, the first-fruits of the new humanity (cf. Jn 3:13; 1 Cor 15:47).

Another night constitutes the fundamental event of the history of Israel: it is the wondrous Exodus from Egypt, the story of which is read each year at the solemn Easter Vigil.

[…] This is the second night, the night of the Exodus.

[…] In his Passover, as the new Moses, Christ has made us pass from the slavery of sin to the freedom of the children of God. Having died with Jesus, with him we rise to new life, thanks to the power of his Spirit. His Baptism has become our baptism.

[…]  This is the third night, the night of the Resurrection.

“Most blessed of all nights, chosen by God to see Christ rising from the dead!”. We sang these words in the Easter Proclamation at the beginning of this solemn Vigil, the Mother of all Vigils.

After the tragic night of Good Friday, when “the power of darkness” (Lk 22:53) seemed to have prevailed over the One who is “the light of the world” (Jn 8:12),

after the great silence of Holy Saturday, in which Christ, having completed his work on earth, found rest in the mystery of the Father and took his message of life into the pit of death,

behold at last the night which precedes “the third day”, on which, in accordance with the Scriptures, the Messiah would rise, as he himself had often foretold to his disciples.

“Night truly blessed, when heaven is wedded to earth and man is reconciled to God!” (Easter Proclamation).

John Paul II (1920-2005): Homily at the Easter Vigil, March 30th, 2002.

 

John Paul II: Heaven is Communion of Life and Love with the Trinity (2) Monday, Nov 25 2013 

jp2Continued from here…

The fatherhood of God, who is rich in mercy, is experienced by creatures through the love of God’s crucified and risen Son, who sits in heaven on the right hand of the Father as Lord.

After the course of our earthly life, participation in complete intimacy with the Father thus comes through our insertion into Christ’s paschal mystery.

St Paul emphasizes our meeting with Christ in heaven at the end of time with a vivid spatial image: “Then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thes 4:17-18).

In the context of Revelation, we know that the “heaven” or “happiness” in which we will find ourselves is neither an abstraction nor a physical place in the clouds, but a living, personal relationship with the Holy Trinity.

It is our meeting with the Father which takes place in the risen Christ through the communion of the Holy Spirit. It is always necessary to maintain a certain restraint in describing these “ultimate realities” since their depiction is always unsatisfactory.

Today, personalist language is better suited to describing the state of happiness and peace we will enjoy in our definitive communion with God. The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums up the Church’s teaching on this truth:

“By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has ‘opened’ heaven to us. The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ” (n. 1026).

This final state, however, can be anticipated in some way today in sacramental life, whose centre is the Eucharist, and in the gift of self through fraternal charity. If we are able to enjoy properly the good things that the Lord showers upon us every day, we will already have begun to experience that joy and peace which one day will be completely ours.

We know that on this earth everything is subject to limits, but the thought of the “ultimate” realities helps us to live better the “penultimate” realities.

We know that as we pass through this world we are called to seek “the things that are above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God” (Col 3:1), in order to be with him in the eschatological fulfilment, when the Spirit will fully reconcile with the Father “all things, whether on earth or in heaven” (Col 1:20).

John Paul II (1920-2005): Wednesday General Audience, 21st July 1999.

 

John Paul II: Heaven is Communion of Life and Love with the Trinity (1) Monday, Nov 25 2013 

jp2When the form of this world has passed away, those who have welcomed God into their lives and have sincerely opened themselves to his love, at least at the moment of death, will enjoy that fullness of communion with God which is the goal of human life.

As the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches, “this perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity — this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed — is called ‘heaven’”.

[…] In biblical language “heaven”, when it is joined to the “earth”, indicates part of the universe. Scripture says about creation: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gn 1:1).

Metaphorically speaking, heaven is understood as the dwelling-place of God, who is thus distinguished from human beings (cf. Ps 104:2f.; 115:16; Is 66:1). He sees and judges from the heights of heaven (cf. Ps 113:4-9) and comes down when he is called upon (cf. Ps 18:9, 10; 144:5).

However the biblical metaphor makes it clear that God does not identify himself with heaven, nor can he be contained in it (cf. 1 Kgs 8:27); and this is true, even though in some passages of the First Book of the Maccabees “Heaven” is simply one of God’s names (1 Mc 3:18, 19, 50, 60; 4:24, 55).

The depiction of heaven as the transcendent dwelling-place of the living God is joined with that of the place to which believers, through grace, can also ascend, as we see in the Old Testament accounts of Enoch (cf. Gn 5:24) and Elijah (cf. 2 Kgs 2:11).

Thus heaven becomes an image of life in God. In this sense Jesus speaks of a “reward in heaven” (Mt 5:12) and urges people to “lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven” (ibid., 6:20; cf. 19:21). The New Testament amplifies the idea of heaven in relation to the mystery of Christ.

To show that the Redeemer’s sacrifice acquires perfect and definitive value, the Letter to the Hebrews says that Jesus “passed through the heavens” (Heb 4:14), and “entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself” (ibid., 9:24). Since believers are loved in a special way by the Father, they are raised with Christ and made citizens of heaven.

[…] “God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved), and raised us up with him, and made us sit with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:4-7).

John Paul II (1920-2005): Wednesday General Audience, 21st July 1999.

John Paul II: Reconciliation, Redemption and New Creation Sunday, Jun 16 2013 

jp2On Colossians 1:3, 12-20.

The great Christological hymn that opens the Letter to the Colossians…exalts the glorious figure of Christ, the heart of the liturgy and centre of all ecclesial life.

The horizon of the hymn, however, soon widens to embrace creation and redemption, involving every created being and the whole of history.

[…] After an introduction in which thanks are given to the Father for our redemption (cf. vv. 12-14), our hymn is divided into two strophes that the Liturgy of Vespers proposes anew each week.

The first celebrates Christ as the “firstborn of all creation”, that is, begotten before all other beings. Hence, this strophe affirms his eternity which transcends space and time (cf. vv. 15-18a).

He is the “image”, the visible “icon” of God who remains invisible in his mystery.

It was through this experience of Moses, in his ardent desire to look upon God’s personal reality, that he heard in response: “You cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live” (Ex 33: 30; cf. Jn 14: 8-9).

Instead, the face of the Father, Creator of the universe, becomes accessible in Christ, the architect of created reality: “All things were created through him… and in him all things hold together” (Col 1: 16-17).

Thus, while on the one hand Christ is superior to created realities, on the other hand he is involved in their creation. For this he can be seen by us as an “image of the invisible God”, brought close to us through the act of creation.

In the second strophe (cf. vv. 18b-20), the praise in Christ’s honour reaches to a further horizon: of salvation, redemption, the rebirth of humanity created by him but which, through sin, had been plunged into death.

Now, the “fullness” of grace and of the Holy Spirit that the Father instilled in the Son enabled him, through dying and being raised, to communicate new life to us (cf. vv. 19-20). He is therefore celebrated as “the firstborn from the dead” (1: 18b).

With his divine “fullness” but also by shedding his blood on the Cross, Christ “reconciles” and “makes peace” with all things, in heaven and on earth.

Thus, he brings them back to their original condition, recreating the initial harmony that God desired in accordance with his plan of love and life. Creation and redemption are thus connected, like the stages of one and the same saving event.

[…] St John Damascene…writes…: “The death of Christ saved and renewed man; and it brought the angels back to their original joy because of the people saved, and combined earthly realities with those above…. Indeed, he made peace and took away enmity. Therefore, the angels said: Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth”.

John Paul II (1920-2005): Commentary on the Psalms and Canticles of Vespers (General Audience, 24 November 2004).

John Paul II: Thanks to the Spirit’s Gifts, Every Kind of Human Sin Can be Reached by God’s Saving Power Monday, Jun 6 2011 

At the climax of Jesus’ messianic mission, the Holy Spirit becomes present in the Paschal Mystery in all his divine subjectivity: as the one who is now to continue the salvific work rooted in the sacrifice of the Cross.

[…] The words of the Risen Christ on the “first day of the week” give particular emphasis to the presence of the Paraclete-Counselor as the one who “convinces the world concerning sin, righteousness and judgment.”

For it is only in this relationship that it is possible to explain the words which Jesus directly relates to the “gift” of the Holy Spirit to the Apostles.

He says: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Jesus confers on the Apostles the power to forgive sins, so that they may pass it on to their successors in the Church, but this power granted to men presupposes and includes the saving action of the Holy Spirit.

By becoming “the light of hearts,” that is to say the light of consciences, the Holy Spirit “convinces concerning sin,” which is to say, he makes man realize his own evil and at the same time directs him toward what is good.

Thanks to the multiplicity of the Spirit’s gifts, by reason of which he is invoked as the “sevenfold one,” every kind of human sin can be reached by God’s saving power.

In reality – as St. Bonaventure says – by virtue of the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit all evils are destroyed and all good things are produced.

Thus the conversion of the human heart, which is an indispensable condition for the forgiveness of sins, is brought about by the influence of the Counselor.

Without a true conversion, which implies inner contrition, and without a sincere and firm purpose of amendment, sins remain “unforgiven,” in the words of Jesus, and with him in the Tradition of the Old and New Covenants.

For the first words uttered by Jesus at the beginning of his ministry, according to the Gospel of Mark, are these: “Repent, and believe in the Gospel.”

A confirmation of this exhortation is the “convincing concerning sin” that the Holy Spirit undertakes in a new way by virtue of the Redemption accomplished by the Blood of the Son of Man.

Hence the Letter to the Hebrews says that this “blood purifies the conscience.”

It therefore, so to speak, opens to the Holy Spirit the door into man’s inmost being, namely into the sanctuary of human consciences.

John Paul II (1920-2005): Dominum et Vivificantem, 2,5,42.

John Paul II: It is Love which Grants Participation in the Very Life of God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit Sunday, May 1 2011 

The cross on Calvary, the cross upon which Christ conducts His final dialogue with the Father, emerges from the very heart of the love that man, created in the image and likeness of God, has been given as a gift, according to God’s eternal plan.

[…] He is also Father: He is linked to man…by a bond still more intimate than that of creation. It is love which…grants participation in the very life of God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

[…] The cross of Christ on Calvary stands beside the path of that…wonderful self-communication of God to man, which also includes the call to man to share in the divine life by giving himself, and with himself the whole visible world, to God, and like an adopted son to become a sharer in the truth and love which is in God and proceeds from God.

It is precisely beside the path of man’s eternal election to the dignity of being an adopted child of God that there stands in history the cross of Christ, the only-begotten Son, who, as “light from light, true God from true God”, came to give the final witness to the wonderful covenant of God with humanity, of God with man.

This covenant, as old as man – it goes back to the very mystery of creation – and afterwards many times renewed with one single chosen people, is equally the new and definitive covenant, which was established there on Calvary, and is not limited to a single people, to Israel, but is open to each and every individual.

[…] And yet this is not yet the word of the God of the covenant: that will be pronounced at the dawn when first the women and then the Apostles come to the tomb of the crucified Christ, see the tomb empty and for the first time hear the message: “He is risen”.

[…] Yet, even in this glorification of the Son of God, the cross remains, that cross which-through all the messianic testimony of the Man the Son, who suffered death upon it – speaks and never ceases to speak of God the Father, who is absolutely faithful to His eternal love for man.

[…] Believing in the crucified Son means “seeing the Father”, means believing that love is present in the world and that this love is more powerful than any kind of evil in which individuals, humanity, or the world are involved.

Believing in this love means believing in mercy. For mercy is an indispensable dimension of love; it is as it were love’s second name.

John Paul II (1920-2005): Dives et Misericordia, 5,7.

John Paul II: The Spirit of Truth, the Paraclete, Sent by the Risen Christ to Transform Us into His Own Risen Image Tuesday, Apr 26 2011 

We find ourselves on the threshold of the Paschal events.

The new, definitive revelation of the Holy Spirit as a Person who is the gift is accomplished at this precise moment.

The Paschal events – the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ – are also the time of the new coming of the Holy Spirit, as the Paraclete and the Spirit of truth.

They are the time of the “new beginning” of the self-communication of the Triune God to humanity in the Holy Spirit through the work of Christ the Redeemer.

[…] On the day of the Resurrection…Jesus of Nazareth “descended from David according to the flesh”, as the Apostle Paul writes, is “designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his Resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:3f).

It can be said therefore that the messianic “raising up” of Christ in the Holy Spirit reaches its zenith in the Resurrection, in which he reveals himself also as the Son of God, “full of power”.

And this power, the sources of which gush forth in the inscrutable Trinitarian communion, is manifested, first of all, in the fact that the Risen Christ does two things:

On the one hand he fulfills God’s promise already expressed through the Prophet’s words: “A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you,…my spirit” (Ez 36:26f);

And on the other hand he fulfills his own promise made to the Apostles with the words: “If I go, I will send him to you” (Jn 16:7).

It is he: the Spirit of truth, the Paraclete sent by the Risen Christ to transform us into his own risen image.

[…] There is no sending of the Holy Spirit (after original sin) without the Cross and the Resurrection: “If I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you” (Jn 16:7).

There is also established a close link between the mission of the Holy Spirit and that of the Son in the Redemption.

The mission of the Son, in a certain sense, finds its “fulfillment” in the Redemption. The mission of the Holy Spirit “draws from” the Redemption: “He will take what is mine and declare it to you” (Jn 16:15).

The Redemption is totally carried out by the Son as the Anointed One, who came and acted in the power of the Holy Spirit, offering himself finally in sacrifice on the wood of the Cross.

And this Redemption is, at the same time, constantly carried out in human hearts and minds – in the history of the world – by the Holy Spirit, who is the “other Counselor”.

John Paul II (1920-2005): Dominum et Vivificantem, 1,6,23-24.

John Paul II: Salvation, Eucharist, Divinization, Communion with the Mystery of the Trinity Tuesday, Oct 5 2010 

“Everyone knows with what love the Eastern Christians celebrate the sacred liturgy, especially the Eucharistic mystery, source of the Church’s life and pledge of future glory.

“In this mystery the faithful, united with their bishops, have access to God the Father through the Son, the Word made flesh who suffered and was glorified, in the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

“And so, made ‘sharers of the divine nature’ (2 Peter 1:4) they enter into communion with the most holy Trinity” (Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis Redintegratio, 15).

These features describe the Eastern outlook of the Christian. His or her goal is participation in the divine nature through communion with the mystery of the Holy Trinity.

In this view the Father’s “monarchy” is outlined as well as the concept of salvation according to the divine plan, as it is presented by Eastern theology after Saint Irenaeus of Lyons and which spread among the Cappadocian Fathers.

Participation in Trinitarian life takes place through the liturgy and in a special way through the Eucharist, the mystery of communion with the glorified body of Christ, the seed of immortality.

In divinization and particularly in the sacraments, Eastern theology attributes a very special role to the Holy Spirit:

through the power of the Spirit who dwells in man deification already begins on earth; the creature is transfigured and God’s kingdom inaugurated.

The teaching of the Cappadocian Fathers on divinization passed into the tradition of all the Eastern Churches and is part of their common heritage.

This can be summarized in the thought already expressed by Saint Irenaeus at the end of the second century: God passed into man so that man might pass over to God.

This theology of divinization remains one of the achievements particularly dear to Eastern Christian thought.

On this path of divinization, those who have been made “most Christ-like” by grace and by commitment to the way of goodness go before us: the martyrs and the saints.

And the Virgin Mary occupies an altogether special place among them. From her the shoot of Jesse sprang (cf. Isaiah 11:1).

Her figure is not only the Mother who waits for us, but the Most Pure, who – the fulfillment of so many Old Testament prefigurations – is an icon of the Church, the symbol and anticipation of humanity transfigured by grace, the model and the unfailing hope for all those who direct their steps towards the heavenly Jerusalem.

John Paul II (1920-2005): Apostolic Letter Orientale Lumen, 6.

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