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God, the Fullness of Life, Is Spirit, Immense and Invisible

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on God the Father
General Audience, Wednesday, 11 September 1985 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. "God is spirit." Our Lord Jesus Christ pronounced these words during the conversation with the Samaritan woman near Jacob's well, in Sychar.

In the light of such words, let us continue to comment in this catechesis on the first truth of the symbol of faith: "I believe in God." Let us refer in particular to the teaching of the First Vatican Council in the Constitution Dei Filius, in the first chapter: "God creator of all things." "This God who has revealed himself, speaking 'through the prophets, and ultimately...through the Son' (Heb 1:1), being creator of the world is distinguished essentially from the world, which he has created." He is Eternity, as the preceding catechesis explained, while all that is created is contingent and subject to time.

2. Since the God of our faith is Eternity, he is the fullness of life. As such, he is distinguished from all that lives in the visible world. It is a question of a "life" which is to be understood in the highest sense of the word when it refers to the God who is spirit, pure spirit. So he is immense and invisible, as Vatican I teaches. We do not find in him anything that can be measured according to the criteria of the created and visible world and of the time which marks the passage of man's life. God is above matter, he is absolutely "immaterial." Nevertheless, the "spirituality" of the divine Being is not limited to that which we can reach according to the negative way—namely, only to immaterial. We come to know by the affirmative way that spirituality is an attribute of the divine Being, when Jesus of Nazareth replied to the Samaritan woman by saying: "God is spirit" (Jn 4:24).

3. The conciliar text of Vatican I to which we refer, affirms the doctrine on God. The Church professes and proclaims it with two fundamental assertions: "God is a unique spiritual substance, utterly simply and immutable"; and again: "God is infinite in intellect, will, and in every perfection."

The doctrine on the spirituality of the divine Being, passed on by revelation, is clearly written in this text in the "terminology of being." This is displayed in the formulation: "spiritual substance." The word "substance" pertains to the language of the philosophy of being. The conciliar text intends to state by this phrase that God, who by his essence is distinguished from the whole created world, is not only subsisting Being, but that, as such, he is also subsisting Spirit. The divine Being is by its own essence absolutely spiritual.

4. Spirituality signifies intellect and free will. God is Intelligence, Will and Liberty in an infinite degree, just as he is also all perfection in an infinite degree.

The facts of revelation which we find in Sacred Scripture and in Tradition often confirm these truths about God. For the present we will refer only to some citations from the Bible which emphasize the infinitely perfect intelligence of the divine Being. We shall devote the subsequent catecheses to the infinitely perfect liberty and will of God.

First of all, St. Paul's magnificent exclamation in the Letter to the Romans comes to mind: "O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! Indeed, who has ever known the mind of the Lord?" (Rom 11:33 ff.).

The words of the Apostle resound as a powerful echo of the teaching in the sapiential books of the Old Testament: "His (referring to God) wisdom is beyond measure," Psalm 147:5 proclaims. God's majesty is united to his wisdom: "Great is the Lord and greatly to be praised, and his greatness is immeasurable" (Ps 145:3). "It is not possible to diminish or increase them, nor is it possible to trace the wonders of the Lord. When a man has finished, he is just beginning, and when he stops he will be at a loss" (Sir 18:5-7). The sage then states: "He is greater than all his works" (Sir 43:28), and concludes: "He is the all" (Sir 43:27).

The prophet Isaiah passes to the first person, "I," while the "sapiential" authors speak of God in the third person, "he." Isaiah makes God, who inspires him, say: "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts higher than your thoughts" (Is 55:9).

5. The "thoughts" of God and his "knowledge and wisdom" express the infinite perfection of his Being. God superlatively surpasses through his unlimited intellect all that exists outside of him. No creature can deny this perfection, in particular no man. "Who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, 'Why have you made me thus?' Is not the potter master of the clay?" asks St. Paul (Rom 9:20). This way of thinking and of expressing oneself is inherited from the Old Testament. Similar questions and replies are found in Isaiah (cf. Is 29:15; 45:9-11) and in the Book of Job (cf. 2:9-10; 1:21). The Book of Deuteronomy proclaims in its turn: "Give glory to our God! He is the rock, his work is perfect; for all his ways are justice. A God of faithfulness and without iniquity, just and right is he" (Dt 32:3-4). The praise of the infinite perfection of God is not only confession of his wisdom, but also of his justice and integrity, that is, of his moral perfection.

6. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus Christ urged: "Be you then perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect"(Mt 5:48). This call is an invitation to confess that God is perfect! He is "infinitely perfect" (Vatican I, DS 3001).

The infinite perfection of God is constantly present in the teaching of Jesus Christ. He said to the Samaritan woman: "God is spirit...true worshippers must worship him in spirit and truth..." (Jn 4:23-24). He expressed himself in a significant way when he replied to the young man—who had turned to him with the words: "Good Teacher..." by saying: "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone..." (Mk 10:17-18).

7. Only God is good, and he possesses the infinite perfection of goodness. God is the fullness of every good. Just as he "is" all the fullness of being, similarly he "is Good" with all the fullness of good. This fullness of good corresponds to the infinite perfection of his will. In the same way, the absolute fullness of truth corresponds to the infinite perfection of his intellect and of his intelligence. The fullness of truth subsists in it inasmuch as it is known by his intellect as identical with his knowing and his being. God is infinitely perfect spirit, through whom those who have known him become his true adorers. They adore him in spirit and truth.

God, this infinite Good which is the absolute fullness of truth, "est diffusivum sui" [1] . God has revealed himself by this also. Revelation is the same good which communicates itself as Truth.

This God who has revealed himself, desires to communicate himself in an ineffable and superlative way, to give himself! This is the God of the covenant and of grace.

[1]   Summa Theol., I, q. 5, a. 4, ad 2

After the Catechesis, Pope John Paul II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai pellegrini di espressione francese

J’adresse un salut spécial aux quarante sessionistes de langue française, qui viennent de suivre des cours de formation organisés par le Centre Pastoral d’Accueil de Saint-Louis des Français, et destinés à les qualifier au service des pèlerins et touristes d’expression française. Te les félicite, ainsi que les animateurs de la session, et je forme des voeux pour qu’ils accomplissent leur mission romaine avec le noble souci de l’exactitude historique et l’enthousiasme de la foi.

Je les bénis de grand cœur, ainsi que vous tous ici présents.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Present at this Audience are many pilgrims and visitors from English-speaking countries. I welcome you warmly and in particular I wish to greet the men and women religious, including the Missionaries of Charity who are preparing here in Rome for their final religious profession. May the Lord bless you in your service of the poorest of the poor. My greetings go also to the members of the Missionary Association of Mary Immaculate from South Africa, Canada and the United States.

From England, I am pleased to greet the pilgrims from the parish of Saint Wilfrid, Northwich, in the diocese of Shrewsbury and a group from the diocese of Brentwood.

A most cordial welcome to the physicians who are taking part in the International Meeting on Gynecological Oncology being held at the Lateran University. May your discussions always serve to protect the sacredness of human life.

And upon all of you I invoke abundant blessings in the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Indem ich euch diese Gedanken zur weiteren Vertiefung in eurem Denken und Beten anvertraue, erbitte ich Gottes reichen Segen für alle deutschsprachigen Besucher, heute vor allem für die Pilger der Trierer Kirchenzeitung mit ihrem Weihbischof Kleinermeilert. Der Herr schenke euch allen einen fruchtbaren Aufenthalt in der Ewigen Stadt. Gelobt sei Jesus Christus!

Ai fedeli di espressione spagnola

Con particular afecto saludo a los peregrinos de América Latina y de España aquí presentes.

Mi más cordial saludo también a los religiosos y a las religiosas, de modo especial a las Hermanas Mercaderías de la Caridad, a las Misioneras Franciscanas de María y a las Hermanas Misioneras de Acción Parroquial. Sé que vuestra presencia es expresión de filial adhesión al Sucesor del Apóstol Pedro. Os animo a que mantengáis siempre vivos los ideales de consagración a Dios y de servicio a la Iglesia y a los hermanos, de acuerdo con el carisma de vuestro Instituto.

* * *

A los oficiales, Cadetes y miembros de la Tripulación del buque escuela de la Armada Argentina “Libertad” deseo manifestar ahora mi profunda complacencia por su presencia en este Encuentro.

Siguiendo una costumbre de la marina de vuestra noble Nación, habéis venido esta mañana a demostrar los sentimientos de filial devoción que, al igual que muchos de vuestros compatriotas, sentís por el Papa. Vuestro País, lleno de esperanza, ha comenzado una nueva singladura en el mar de su historia. E1 pueblo argentino espera de vosotros una colaboración positiva para que los ideales de libertad, reconciliación, amor y paz-dones otorgados por Dios a la persona humana-estén siempre enarbolados en el mástil más alto de la nación Argentina.

A todos los aquí presentes os exhorto con San Pablo: “Tened un mismo sentir, vivid en paz, y el Dios de la caridad y de la paz será con vosotros” , De corazón os bendigo en el nombre del Señor.

Ai pellegrini giunti dalla Polonia

Serdecznie witam pielgrzymów z parafii św. Mikołaja z Krakowa; z parafii św. Mikołaja z Chrzanowa; z parafii Bożego Ciała z Warszawy; żołnierzy AK i uczestników Powstania Warszawskiego z rodzinami; z parafii św. Mateusza z Pabianic; z Papieskiego Wydziału Teologicznego w Poznaniu; pielgrzymkę z diecezji siedleckiej z księdzem Biskupem Ordynariuszem; Rektorat Katolickiego Uniwersytetu Lubelskiego z księdzem Biskupem Rektorem; pielgrzymów z parafii Ripie, diecezja koszalińsko-kołobrzeska; z parafii św. Bernarda z Sopotu; pielgrzymkę Klubu Inteligencji Katolickiej z Opola; pracowników Akademii Górniczo-Hutniczej z Krakowa; kolejarzy z Krakowa; chór Politechniki Gdańskiej; oprócz tego uczestników grup turystycznych PKS, Sport, PTTK, w szczególności grupę turystów PTTK z Lublina.

Ad un pellegrinaggio della diocesi di Peecz (Ungheria)

Saluto con affetto i pellegrini ungheresi qui a Roma.

Siate sempre fedeli alla Chiesa e alle vostre antiche tradizioni cristiane.

La mia benedizione apostolica do a voi e al diletto popolo ungherese.

Ai fedeli ucraini

Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini ucraini, sacerdoti e fedeli, dall’Europa, Canada e Stati Uniti d’America, che sono venuti a Roma in occasione del primo anniversario della morte del Cardinale Josyf Slipyi di venerata memoria, Arcivescovo Maggiore di Leopoli. Di tutto cuore imparto a tutti la mia benedizione apostolica.

A gruppi italiani

Desidero rivolgere un particolare saluto ai partecipanti al Congresso Internazionale di Oncologia ginecologica che si sta svolgendo in questi giorni a Roma sul tema della metastasi linfatica dei tumori maligni in ginecologia.

Siate i benvenuti, carissimi medici. Porgo volentieri a voi l’augurio che questo importante incontro su un tema dolorosamente attuale sia proficuo e rechi un utile contributo alla conoscenza e allo sviluppo dei nuovi metodi di terapia in questo campo. Voi conoscete l’ampia incidenza che i tumori hanno nella nostra epoca e come essi siano spesso infausta causa di sofferenza.

Benedico di nuovo il vostro lavoro, come benedico tutti coloro che, come voi, operano per mettere la scienza medica a servizio del bene della persona umana e delle famiglie. La provvidenza di Dio vi assista nella vostra ricerca, doni frutti confortanti alla vostra esperienza e apra il cuore di tutti, quello vostro come quello dei pazienti, alla speranza.

* * *

Saluto poi i pellegrini della parrocchia di Santa Maria a Serravalle di Guidonia, qui convenuti sotto la guida del parroco per ricambiare la visita pastorale che ho loro fatto il 5 maggio scorso.

Vi ringrazio, e vi ripeto quanto allora vi ho detto: costruite sempre di più gli spazi spirituali della vostra comunità: l’apostolato, l’entusiasmo, la vita cristiana. Così sarà efficace la vostra testimonianza nella città che si espande. A tutti la mia benedizione.

* * *

Saluto ora il pellegrinaggio della parrocchia di San Pio X di Le Fonti di Prato. Carissimi, siete convenuti qui a celebrare solennemente il 150° anniversario della nascita del vostro santo patrono.

Vi benedico tutti, come volentieri benedico la statua del titolare della vostra chiesa, che avete recato qui con voi.

Ai giovani

Saluto inoltre con grande affetto i giovani qui presenti. Sono molto lieto della vostra presenza, che dimostra la vostra fede cristiana e anche il vostro amore per il Papa! Il Signore premi questo gesto di fedeltà e di testimonianza, facendovi sentire sempre di più quanto è consolante, illuminante e costruttivo il messaggio del Vangelo. È questa una settimana eminentemente dedicata alla Madonna: abbiamo festeggiato il ricordo della sua natività; abbiamo fermato la nostra attenzione sul suo nome, che ogni giorno con confidenza invochiamo; e ci prepariamo a meditare sulle sue sofferenze di Madre Addolorata. Auspico di cuore che Maria santissima sia sempre presente anche nella vostra vita come guida nel cammino verso il cielo.

Agli ammalati

A voi, cari malati, e a coloro che vi amano e vi accompagnano rivolgo il mio saluto con particolare affetto, mentre penso alla vostra fede forte e confidente. Invoco per voi in modo speciale l’aiuto della Madonna Addolorata, che tra pochi giorni ricorderemo nella preghiera e nella meditazione. Maria santissima, che appunto perché Madre di Cristo redentore conobbe il mistero della croce, vi assista sempre, dandovi le consolazioni della grazia divina, che vi confortino nella vostra missione. Maria, salute degli infermi, consolatrice degli afflitti, sia per voi anche causa di intima letizia, sostenendovi nel compiere la volontà del Signore. Di gran cuore vi imparto la mia propiziatrice benedizione.

Agli sposi novelli

Il mio pensiero e la mia parola di saluto e di augurio giunga infine a voi, cari sposi novelli. Nell’atmosfera di intensa spiritualità “mariana” propria di questa settimana di settembre, vi esorto ad invocare con grande fiducia il nome di Maria, non solo all’inizio della vostra nuova vita, ma in tutti i giorni della vostra esperienza e maturazione coniugale e familiare. Il matrimonio non è un rischio - come afferma la mentalità mondana e moderna - ma il luogo normale, voluto da Dio, per realizzare la felicità, pur in mezzo a fatiche e a difficoltà. La vostra preghiera alla Vergine santissima vi mantenga uniti, sereni, comprensivi, coraggiosi, in modo da sentire e da donare la gioia che proviene dall’incontro e dall’amicizia con Cristo. La mia benedizione vi accompagni sempre.

© Copyright 1996 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana