Man is Capable of Receiving
God's Self Gift
John Paul II
August 26, 1998
1. The history of
salvation is God’s gradual communication of himself to humanity,
which reaches its summit in Jesus Christ. God the Father, in the
Word made man, wishes to share his own life with everyone: in short,
he wants to communicate himself. This divine self-communication
takes place in the Holy Spirit, the bond of love between eternity
and time, the Trinity and history.
If God opens himself to man in his Spirit, man, on the other hand,
is created as a subject capable of accepting the divine
self-communication. Man — as the tradition of Christian thought
maintains — is “capax Dei”: capable of knowing God and of receiving
the gift he makes of himself. Indeed, created in the image and
likeness of God (cf. Gn 1:26), he is able to live a personal
relationship with him and to respond with loving obedience to the
covenant relationship offered to him by his Creator.
Against the background of this biblical teaching, the gift of the
Spirit, promised to man and bestowed upon him “without measure” by
Jesus Christ, therefore means a “call to friendship, in which the
transcendent 'depths of God' become in some way opened to
participation on the part of man” (Dominum et Vivificantem, n. 34).
In this regard, the Second Vatican Council teaches: “The invisible
God (cf. Col 1:15; 1 Tm 1:17), from the fullness of his love,
addresses men as his friends (cf. Ex 33:11; Jn 15:14f.), and moves
among them (cf. Bar 3:38), in order to invite and receive them into
his own company” (Dei Verbum, n. 2).
2. Therefore, if God, through his Spirit, communicates himself to
man, man is continuously called to give himself to God with his
whole being. This is his deepest vocation. He is constantly asked to
do so by the Holy Spirit, who, enlightening his mind and sustaining
his will, brings him into the mystery of divine sonship in Jesus
Christ and invites him to live it consistently.
Down the centuries, all the generous and sincere efforts of human
intelligence and freedom to draw close to the ineffable and
transcendent mystery of God are inspired by the Holy Spirit.
Particularly in the history of the Old Covenant made by Yahweh with
the people of Israel, we see this meeting between God and man
gradually taking place within the communion disclosed by the Spirit.
For example, there is the striking and intensely beautiful account
of the prophet Elijah’s encounter with God in the breath of the
Spirit: “And [the Lord] said: 'Go forth, and stand upon the mount
before the Lord'. And behold, the Lord passed by, and a great and
strong wind rent the mountains, and broke in pieces the rocks before
the Lord, but the Lord was not in the wind; and after the wind an
earthquake, but the Lord was not in the earthquake, and after the
earthquake a fire, but the Lord was not in the fire; and after the
fire a still small voice. And when Elijah heard it, he wrapped his
face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the
cave. And behold, there came a voice to him, and said, 'What are you
doing here, Elijah?'” (1 Kgs 19:11-13).
3. But the complete and definitive meeting between God and man —
awaited and contemplated in hope by the patriarchs and prophets — is
Jesus Christ. He, true God and true man, “in the very revelation of
the mystery of the Father and of his love, fully reveals man to
himself and brings to light his most high calling” (Gaudium et spes,
n. 22). Jesus Christ accomplishes this revelation with his whole
life. Indeed, under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, he always
strives to fulfil the Father’s will, and on the wood of the Cross
offers himself “once for all” to the Father, “through the eternal
Spirit” (Heb 9:12, 14).
Through the paschal event, Christ teaches us that, “if man is the
only creature on earth that God has wanted for its own sake, man can
fully discover his true self only in a sincere giving of himself” (Gaudium
et spes, n. 24). Now, the Holy Spirit himself, communicated in
fullness to the Church of Jesus Christ, ensures that man, by
recognizing himself in Christ, will increasingly “discover himself
in a sincere giving of himself”.
4. This eternal truth about man revealed to us by Jesus Christ has a
particular timeliness in our day. Even amid sharp contradictions,
the world today is experiencing a season of intense “socialization”
(cf. Gaudium et spes, n. 6), both with regard to interpersonal
relationships within various human communities, and with regard to
relations among peoples, races, different societies and cultures.
Throughout this journey towards communion and unity, the Holy
Spirit’s action is also necessary for us to overcome the obstacles
and dangers which threaten humanity’s progress. “As the Year 2000
since the birth of Christ draws near, it is a question of ensuring
that an ever greater number of people 'may fully find themselves ...
through a sincere gift of self’.... Through the action of the
Spirit-Paraclete, may there be accomplished in our world a process
of true growth in humanity, in both individual and community life.
In this regard Jesus himself 'when he prayed to the Father, 'that
all may be one ... as we are one' (Jn 17:21-22) ... implied a
certain likeness between the union of the divine persons and the
union of the children of God in truth and charity’” (Dominium et
Vivificantem, n. 59).
To the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors the Holy Father said:
I warmly welcome the group of pilgrims from Göteborg, Sweden. I
extend a special greeting to the Buddhist groups from Japan. Upon
all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those
from Japan, Sweden, Taiwan, Malta, Great Britain and the United
States of America, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus
At the General Audience of Wednesday, 26 August, the Holy Father
expressed his sorrow at the massacre of a priest, three women
religious, a seminarian and 32 lay people that occurred in the
Democratic Republic of the Congo on 24 August. The Pope also prayed
that this nation and all Africa would no longer be denied peace and
I was deeply saddened to receive the news of the massacre that took
place last Monday in Kasika, a parish in the Diocese of Uvira in the
eastern region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Fr Stanislas
Bwabulakombe, three religious from the Congregation of the Daughters
of the Resurrection, one seminarian and 32 lay people were
slaughtered in retaliation. All the victims were Congolese. I firmly
deplore this criminal act! May God welcome into his mercy these
brothers and sisters of ours who have suffered the anguish of such a
violent and unjust death. We implore the Lord that they will be the
last victims of a war which has returned to strike another cruel
blow to the Congolese people. May their innocent blood, united with
Jesus' blood in his redeeming sacrifice, help to heal hearts laden
with hatred and revenge and open them to sentiments of brotherhood
and love, so that this nation and the entire African continent will
no longer be denied peace and prosperity.
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