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In Jesus the Redeemer, Divine Providence Overcomes Evil

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on God the Father
General Audience, Wednesday, 11 June 1986 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. In the previous catechesis we dealt with the question posed by people in every age concerning divine Providence, in the face of evil and suffering. God's word luminously and conclusively states: "against the wisdom (of God), evil does not prevail" (Wis 7:30). It indicates that God permits evil in the world for higher ends, but does not will it. Today we desire to listen to Jesus Christ who offers the full and complete answer to this tormenting question, in the context of the paschal mystery.

Let us reflect first of all on the fact that St. Paul announced Christ crucified as "the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1:24), in whom salvation is granted to believers. Certainly, his power is marvelous if it is manifested in the weakness and humiliation of the passion and death of the Cross. It is a sublime wisdom, unknown outside divine revelation. In God's eternal plan, and in his providential action in human history, every evil, and in particular moral evil—sin—is subjected to the good of the redemption and salvation precisely through the cross and resurrection of Christ. It can be said that in him God draws forth good from evil. He does it in a certain sense from the very evil of sin, which was the cause of the suffering of the Immaculate Lamb and of his terrible death on the cross as a victim for the sins of the world. The Church's liturgy does not hesitate even to speak, in this regard, of the "happy fault" (cf Exsultet of the Easter Vigil).

2. Thus a definitive answer cannot be given to the question about the reconciliation of evil and suffering with the truth of divine Providence, without reference to Christ. On the one hand, Christ, the Incarnate Word, confirmed through his own life—in poverty, humiliation and toil—and especially through his passion and death, that God is with every person in his suffering. Indeed God takes upon himself the multiform suffering of man's earthly existence. At the same time Jesus Christ reveals that this suffering possesses a redemptive and salvific value and power. That "imperishable inheritance" of which St. Peter spoke in his first letter is prepared through this suffering: "an imperishable inheritance kept in heaven for you" (1 Pet 1:4). The truth of Providence acquires, through the "power and wisdom" of the cross of Christ, its definitive eschatological sense. The definitive answer to the question about the presence of evil and suffering in our earthly existence is offered by divine revelation in the perspective of "predestination in Christ," in the perspective of man's vocation to eternal life, to participation in the life of God himself. Christ has provided this answer, confirming it by his cross and resurrection.

3. In this way everything, even the evil and suffering present in the created world, and especially in human history, are subjected to that inscrutable wisdom, concerning which St. Paul exclaimed in rapture: "O the depths of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and inscrutable his ways..." (Rom 11:33). In the whole context of salvation, it is that "wisdom against which evil does not prevail" (Wis 7:30). It is a wisdom full of love, since "God so loved the world that he gave his only Son..." (Jn 3:16).

4. The apostolic writings occupy themselves precisely with this wisdom, rich in compassionate love for the suffering, in order to help the afflicted to recognize God's grace. Thus St. Peter wrote to the Christians of the first generation: "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials" (1 Pet 1:6). He added: "So that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ" (1 Pet 1:7). These last words refer to the Old Testament, particularly to the Book of Sirach in which we read: "For gold is tested in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation" (Sir 2:5). Taking up again the same idea of testing, Peter continued in his letter: "But rejoice in so far as you share in Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed" (1 Pet 4:13).

5. The apostle St. James expressed himself in a similar way when he exhorted Christians to face up to trials with joy and patience: "Count it all joy, my brethren when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect in you" (Jas 1:2-4). Finally, in the Letter to the Romans, St. Paul compared human and cosmic sufferings to a kind of "groaning in travail" of the whole creation, emphasizing the "inward groaning" of those "who have the first fruits of the Spirit" and wait for the fullness of adoption, that is, "the redemption of our bodies" (cf. Rom 8:22-23). But he added: "We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him..." (Rom 8:28) and: "Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? (Rom 8:35). Finally, he concluded: "For I am sure that neither death, nor life...nor anything else in creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom 8:38-39). Alongside the fatherhood of God, the divine pedagogy also appears, manifested by divine Providence: "It is the discipline (paideia, that is, education) that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline?... God disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness" (Heb 12:7, 10).

6. Suffering, therefore, viewed with the eyes of faith, even if it can still appear as the most obscure aspect of man's destiny on earth, permits us to see the mystery of divine Providence contained in Christ's revelation, and in particular, in his cross and resurrection. Doubtlessly it can still happen that while asking himself the age-old questions on evil and suffering in a world created by God, man may not find an immediate answer, especially if he doesn't have a living faith in the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ. Gradually, however, with the help of faith nourished by prayer, he discovers the true meaning of suffering which everyone experiences in his own life. It is a discovery which depends on the word of divine revelation and on the "word of the Cross" (cf. 1 Cor 1:18) of Christ, which is "the power of God and the wisdom of God" (1 Cor 1:24). As the Second Vatican Council stated: "Through Christ and in Christ, the riddles of sorrow and death grow meaningful. Apart from his Gospel, they overwhelm us" (GS 22). If through faith we discover this power and this "wisdom," we are on the salvific path of divine Providence. The meaning of the Psalmist's words are confirmed: "The Lord is my shepherd... Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil: for you are at my side" (Ps 23:1, 4). In this way divine Providence is revealed as God walking alongside man.

7. In conclusion, the truth about Providence, which is intimately connected with the mystery of creation, must be understood in the context of the whole of revelation, of the whole creed. Thus one sees that the revelation of the "predestination" (praedestinatio) of man and of the world in Christ, the revelation of the whole economy of salvation and its realization in history, enter organically into the truth of Providence. The truth of divine Providence is also closely linked to the truth of the kingdom (cf. Mt 6:33; cf. Lk 12:31). The truth about divine Providence, about God's transcendent government of the created world, becomes intelligible in the light of the truth about the kingdom of God, about that kingdom which God has eternally intended to realize in the created world on the basis of the "predestination in Christ" who is "the first-born of all creation" (Col 1:15).

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

Ai pellegrini di espressione francese

Je suis heureux d’accueillir ici les divers groupes de pèlerins de langue française, notamment de France, de Belgique, d’Afrique. J’encourage de tout coeur les prêtres qui consacrent une année de recyclage à l’Institut Catholique de Toulouse pour une pastorale toujours plus réfléchie sur le plan doctrinal et correspondant en profondeur aux besoins religieux.

* * *

Je salue particulièrement les pèlerins du Bénin et du Togo: je garde un souvenir vivant de votre pays, de votre accueil chaleureux et de votre ferveur religieuse.

* * *

J’ai noté la présence de Pères des Missions Africaines, dont l’apostolat, en plusieurs pays d’Afrique, a porté beaucoup de fruits: que l’Esprit Saint entretienne en vous, chers amis, le zèle missionnaire et suscite une relève, car l’annonce de l’Evangile et l’entraide entre Eglises sont toujours aussi nécessaires!

* * *

Il y a encore parmi nous des représentants de la Fédération internationale des Vespa Clubs, qui partent pour leur Congrès Eurovespa à Barcelone et leur pèlerinage à Notre-Dame de Montserrat. A tous les jeunes qui y participent, je dis: pour être des hommes complets, sachez toujours unir l’engagement loyal dans le sport, l’initiative de loisirs sains, la joie de découvrir d’autres horizons, le respect des autres, le don de vous-mêmes dans l’amitié et la solidarité pardessus les frontières, et l’attention à Dieu qui demeure proche de vous, en vous, et vous invite à vivre de sa Vie.

A tous je donne de grand coeur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I would like to extend a special welcome to the group of pilgrims from New Zealand. My greetings also go to all the young people who are present at this audience, especially to the Latin students from Helsinki, Finland. I greet most cordially the pilgrims from Singapore and also groups from Sweden.

* * *

In a particular way I welcome the priests from the Archdiocese of Birmingham who have come to Rome for a study programme and retreat.

I am reminded by your presence of my pastoral visit to England and of the Mass in Manchester when I had the joy of ordaining twelve men to the priesthood. I wish to repeat to you today what I said to them on that occasion: “Realize how deeply Jesus desires you to be consecrated as he himself is consecrated. Realize how closely the bond of priesthood joins you to Christ. Be worthy of the privilege you . . . receive of bringing God’s gifts of love to his people and offering to God the people’s prayerful response . . . You must try to deepen every day your friendship with Christ”.

And upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors from England, Sweden, Finland, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and the United States I invoke the grace and peace of God our Father and of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ai gruppi di lingua tedesca

Allen Besuchern deutscher Sprache wünsche ich von Herzen die tröstende Erfahrung von Gottes liebender Vorsehung an hellen wie an dunklen Tagen. Einen besonderen Gruß richte ich heute an die Ordensschwestern, die gegenwärtig in La Storta zu einem Monat geistlicher Erneuerung versammelt sind: Ich erbitte euch die reiche Fülle der Gaben des Heiligen Geistes für euer persönliches und euer gemeinschaftliches Ordensleben. Ebenso Gruß ich die Besuchergruppe von der Komturei Köln im Ritterorden vom Heiligen Grab zu Jerusalem. Allen schenke ich gern mein Gebet und meinen Segen. Gelobt sei Jesus Christus!

Ai fedeli e pellegrini provenienti dalla Spagna e dai Paesi dell’America Latina 

Mi más cordial saludo ahora a los peregrinos llegados de España y de América Latina.

Saludo también con particular afecto a los religiosos y a las religiosas presentes, de modo especial a las Hermanas Carmelitas de la Caridad, a las Religiosas Hospitalarias del Sagrado Corazón, a las Religiosas de la Congregación “Jesús María”, así como a los Hermanos de las Escuelas Cristianas del “Centro Español Lasaliano”. Os aliento a proseguir con renovada ilusión el camino emprendido de entrega total a Dios y de servicio generoso a la Iglesia, siendo testigos vivos de su presencia, de acuerdo con el respectivo carisma fundacional.

* * *

A la peregrinación de matrimonios, de la Rioja, y al grupo de matrimonios de la Parroquia “Nuestra Señora de la Medalla Milagrosa”, de Buenos Aires, doy mi afectuosa bienvenida a este Encuentro. Decid a vuestros seres queridos que el Papa tiene presentes las necesidades de vuestros hogares en la oración y pide al Señor que consigáis plasmar un estilo de vida cristiana que refleje la generosidad y el amor de Dios.

En prueba de benevolencia os imparto la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli provenienti dalla Polonia

Witam serdecznie pielgrzymów z Polski: ks. biskupa Jerzego Ablevicza z Tarnowa, starego sąsiada; pielgrzymów z parafi Matki Bożej z Lourdes, z Krakova; pielgrzymów z parafii św. Krzyża w Zakopanem, którzy budują kosciół; z parafii św. Mikołaja w Grójcu, archidiecezja warszawska; z parafii św. Andrzeja Boboli w Rawiczu, archidiecezia poznańska; uczestników pielgrzymki Spółdzielni Inwalidów “Naprzód” z Białegostoku; uczestników grup turystycznych PKS z Górnego śląska, Sport-Touristu i Tyrysty . . . łączę pozdrowienie i błogosławieństwo dla wszystkich tu obecnych oraz dla wszystkich moich umiłowanych rodaków w Ojczyźnie.

Ai vari gruppi italiani 

Desidero rivolgere un saluto particolare al gruppo di iscritti all’Università milanese “della terza età”, guidato dal Cardinale Giovanni Colombo. Avete voluto festeggiare, cari fratelli, la conclusione del primo triennio di attività accademica con una visita alla Sede di Pietro. Vi ringrazio di cuore per la vostra presenza, e colgo l’occasione per esprimere i miei rallegramenti per questa iniziativa in corso, tanto legata alla disponibilità del venerato Cardinale qui presente. Formulo per voi, e per tutti gli altri Colleghi i miei più sinceri voti di largo profitto in questo impegno morale e culturale meritorio e fecondo di bene, mentre con affetto vi benedico. 

* * * 

Un caro saluto, adesso, a due gruppi di Religiose qui presenti: le Suore aderenti alla Federazione Italiana Religiose Operatrici Sanitarie e le Suore Figlie di San Paolo.

A tutte voi, care sorelle, va il mio benvenuto ed una parola d’incoraggiamento per la preziosa attività che state svolgendo per la crescita del Regno di Dio ed il bene dell’umanità. Continuate con fortezza, speranza e tanta carità nell’opera intrapresa, che è opera di Dio, e la vostra convinta testimonianza possa attirare al vostro ideale nuove schiere di giovani ferventi e generose. Vi accompagno con la mia Benedizione! 

* * * 

Un cordiale saluto voglio ora rivolgere ai partecipanti al corso indetto dall’istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale, provenienti da trentacinque Paesi del mondo. Esprimo il mio compiacimento per il vostro impegno, teso a perfezionare l’organizzazione e la direzione del mondo del lavoro: un intento tanto importante, in relazione alle esigenze della giustizia e dello sviluppo umano. Gli ideali di un vero e sano umanesimo siano la vostra guida e la vostra forza, mentre io di cuore vi imparto la mia Benedizione. 

Ai giovani 

Rivolgo il mio affettuoso saluto ai giovani. Carissimi, vi assicuro del mio ricordo al Signore, perché Egli compia, attraverso il vostro aprirvi a Cristo, la sua volontà per il bene della Chiesa e dell’umanità intera.

Affido questa mia preghiera alla Vergine Maria, con la certezza che Ella trasformerà tale domanda nella pienezza dei doni celesti, e voi possiate così divenire sempre più generosi nell’irraggiare la fede di Dio, il cui amore conforta e sostiene.

Lo Spirito Santo vi illumini e vi fortifichi, e la mia Benedizione vi accompagni sempre. 

Agli ammalati 

Sono lieto, ora, di salutare tutti, ammalati ed i portatori di handicap rivolgendo uno speciale pensiero agli ospiti della “Piccola Lourdes” di Mondragone. Voi siete particolarmente vicini al mio cuore.

Carissimi fratelli e sorelle, la sofferenza è sempre una prova difficile, ma è anche una particolare chiamata a conformarsi a Gesù. La configurazione a Cristo, Servo sofferente, è quella preziosa grazia che, in primo luogo, mette in grado il credente di assicurare la continuità del ricordo di Dio e della sua lode nel mondo, offrendo il proprio corpo come sacrificio vivo, santo, gradito al Padre. In secondo luogo, pone il fedele al servizio della salvezza degli uomini, completando in sé i patimenti di Cristo e favorendo rapporti mossi da misericordia.

Con affetto vi imparto l’Apostolica Benedizione, che volentieri estendo a quanti vi assistono. 

Agli sposi novelli 

Il mio saluto, insieme con l’augurio più cordiale di vita serena, va infine a voi, cari sposi novelli.

Il Signore, che ha benedetto il vostro reciproco amore, faccia crescere in voi il dono della carità e della concordia, perché, vivendo in comunione piena, diventiate testimoni di come sia salda e lieta una famiglia, edificata sulla roccia di Cristo. Lo “Spirito di dolcezza” custodisca la vostra casa e mantenga nella pace voi ed i vostri cari.

Con la mia Benedizione Apostolica invoco su tutti i doni costanti della celeste protezione.

© Copyright 1996 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana