(A statue of Saint John Paul II in Lichen, Poland)
“And when [the Holy Spirit comes], he will convince the world of sin, and of justice, and of judgment.” (John 16:8)
“Well then, should we keep on sinning so that God can show us more and more of his wonderful grace? Of course not!”(Romans 6: 1-2)
Part II of Pope John Paul II’s magnificent encyclical on the Holy Spirit, Dominum et Vivificantem, is entitled, “THE SPIRIT WHO CONVINCES THE WORLD CONCERNING SIN.” This portion of the encyclical touches upon a very ominous theme: the mystery of sin, iniquity and rebellion despite the “omnipresent” reality of the Holy Spirit who was sent as a special envoy to convince us of the all-important truth that Jesus is Lord and Savior of the world. The Spirit has been sent, the gift offered to all humanity, to awaken our hearts to conversion and repentance, but in the perversity of our selfish and sin-seeking wills we have the freedom to reject such a great salvation (encyclical, no. 38).
Indeed, as Saint John Paul II points out, man is tempted to “falsify” truth by the dark “opposition” of Satan and the “constant pressure on man to reject God….” (38). The Holy Spirit’s convincing about sin is thus rejected as a limitation of man’s own freedom. “In the depths of its divine-human mystery, conversion means the breaking of every fetter by which sin binds man to the whole of the mystery of iniquity. Those who are converted, therefore, are led by the Holy Spirit out of the range of the ‘judgment,’ and introduced into that righteousness which is Christ Jesus….”(48).
THUS, according to John Paul II, the sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit “consists...in refusal to accept the salvation which God offers to man through the Holy Spirit, working through the power of the cross. If man rejects the ‘convincing concerning sin’ which comes from the Holy Spirit,” he is in essence rejecting the “redemptive power of Christ’s blood” (46). And this “blasphemy against the Holy Spirit consists precisely in the radical refusal to accept this forgiveness [of sin],” and correspondingly the person claims the right to “persist in evil” (46).
Although the Holy Spirit has been sent in power to convince the world about sin and judgment (John 16:8), and thus to conversion in the redemption of Jesus Christ, it is a baffling mystery that we can be so unreceptive to such an amazing gift. The doctor has prescribed the correct medicine, and yet for some reason we do not have the will to swallow it and be cured.
The “spirit of the world” is “unconversion” and “indifference” towards God. “The progress of spirituality,” says Father Faber, “is the growth of detachment from the world.” Detachment from “the world” is a process accomplished by prayer (which is, in essence, the desire for friendship with God). John Paul II mentions the need for prayer in the third part of his encyclical on the Holy Spirit, stating, “Our difficult age has a special need of prayer” (65).
Dear friend, be committed to prayer. Prayer will protect us from the hardening our hearts to the offer of such a great salvation. The Holy Spirit will help us to pray. Saint John Paul II, intercede for us that we may be always receptive to the
convincing of the Holy Spirit.
Thomas L. Mulcahy, M.A.
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