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The Right Attitude Before God

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on God the Father
General Audience, Wednesday, 3 July 1985 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. Today our catechesis arrives at the great mystery of faith, the first article of our Credo—I believe in God. To speak of God means to treat of a theme sublime, unlimited, mysterious and attractive. But here on the threshold, like one preparing for a long, fascinating journey of discovery - and such is always a genuine discourse about God - we feel the need first of all to take the right path by preparing our minds for the understanding of truths which are so noble and decisive.

For this purpose I think it necessary to respond at once to some questions, the first of which is: why speak about God today?

2. At the school of Job who humbly confessed: "Behold, I am of small account.... I lay my hands on my mouth" (40:4), we perceive rather forcibly that the source of our supreme certainties as believers, the mystery of God, is first of all the fruitful source of our deepest queries: Who is God? Can we know him in a truthful way in our human condition? Who are we, creatures, before God?

From these questions, great and sometimes tormenting difficulties have always arisen. If God exists, then why is there so much evil in the world? Why do the evil prosper and why are the just trampled under foot? Does not God's omnipotence end up by crushing our liberty and responsibility?

These questions and difficulties are intertwined with the expectations and aspirations of which the Bible characters, especially in the Psalms, have become the universal mouthpiece: "As a deer longs for flowing streams, so my soul longs for you, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God: when shall I come and behold the face of God?" (Ps 42:2, 3). From God, the Psalmist expects health, freedom from evil, happiness, and also with a splendid thrust of confidence the possibility of staying with God—"to dwell in your house" (cf. Ps 84:2 ff.). We speak then of God because this is an irrepressible need for us.

3. The second question is how to speak about God, how to speak about him correctly. Even many Christians have a deformed image of God. It is necessary to ask oneself if there has been a correct course of research, drawing the truth from genuine sources and in an adequate way. Here I think it right to recall above all, as a primary attitude, honesty of intelligence, namely, to remain open to those signs of truth which God himself has left of himself in the world and in our history.

There is certainly the path of right reason (and we will have time to consider what man of his own powers can know about God). But here I am bound to say that God himself offers to the reason, well beyond its natural resources, a splendid documentation of himself—what the language of faith calls "revelation." The believer, and every person of good will who is looking for the face of God, has at his disposition in the first place the immense treasure of Sacred Scripture. This is a real diary of God in his relationships with his people, which has at its center the supreme revealer of God, Jesus Christ: "He who sees me, sees the Father" (Jn 14:9). Jesus, on his part, has entrusted his testimony to the Church which has always with the help of the Spirit of God, made it the object of dedicated research, of progressive investigation and also of strenuous defense against error and deformation. God's genuine documentation, then, passes through the living Tradition of which all the Councils are fundamental witnesses - from Nicaea to that of Constantinople, from Trent to the First and Second Vatican Councils.

We will make it our duty to return to these genuine sources of truth.

Catechesis also draws its content about God from the twofold ecclesial experience: the faith as it is prayed—liturgy—whose formulations are a continual, untiring speaking of God by speaking to him; and also the faith lived by Christians, especially by the saints, who have had the grace of a profound communion with God. Therefore we are not destined merely to ask questions about God, thus losing ourselves in a forest of hypothetical or too abstract responses. God himself has come to meet us with an organic wealth of secure indications. The Church knows that it possesses, through the grace of God himself, in its patrimony of doctrine and of life, the correct direction to speak with respect and truth about him. Never as much as today does it feel the commitment to offer to men with fidelity and love the essential answer for which they are waiting.

4. This is what I intend to do in these meetings. But how? There are different ways to impart catechesis and their legitimacy depends on fidelity in regard to the integral faith of the Church. I have deemed it opportune to choose the way which while calling directly upon the Sacred Scriptures, also refers to the symbols of the faith, in that deepened understanding received from twenty centuries of reflection in Christian thought.

It is my intention, in proclaiming the truth about God, to invite all of you to recognize the validity not only of the historico-positive way but also of that offered by the doctrinal reflection elaborated in the great Councils and in the ordinary Magisterium of the Church. In this way, without diminishing in the slightest the richness of the Biblical data, it will be possible to illustrate the truths of faith or those which are proximate to the faith, or in any event theologically well founded. By being expressed in dogmatic-speculative language, they run the risk of being less felt and appreciated by many people today with no little impoverishment of knowledge about him who is an unfathomable mystery of light.

5. I could not end this initial catechesis of our discourse on God without recalling a second fundamental attitude besides that of upright intelligence, mentioned above. This is the attitude of a docile and grateful heart. We speak of him whom Isaiah proposes to us as the three times holy (6:3). We must therefore speak of him with deepest and total respect, in adoration. At the same time, however, sustained by him "who is in the bosom of the Father and has made him known" (Jn 1:18), Jesus Christ our brother speaks of him with tenderest love. "For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory for ever. Amen" (Rom 11:36)."

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

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Soeurs,

J’accueille avec joie tous les visiteurs de langue française, au seuil de leurs vacances, notamment les pèlerins de France et de Suisse, les religieuses, les jeunes. A tous, je donne ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini di espressione inglese

My greetings go to the individual visitors and pilgrims from England, Scotland, Ireland and the United States.

I extend a warm welcome also to all the groups, especially to the pilgrimage from Albany, New York. And I greet all the other Religious, including the Pallottine Sisters and the School Sisters of Notre Dame.

* * *

I acknowledge gratefully the presence of the Fife and Drum Band of the British Caledonian Airways, which expresses the wonderful traditions of Scotland; and also the Band of Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, California. My welcome goes likewise to the Irish athletes of the Tug-of-War World Championship.

* * *

My best wishes go to the Committee on the Budget of the: United States House of Representatives. May Almighty God bless your work and help you to serve humanity ever more effectively.

* * *

I offer a special welcome to the seminarians from Nigeria, praying that your visit will see you confirmed in the faith and love of our Lord Jesus Christ. Upon all the visitors I invoke divine grace and peace.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Herzlich grüße ich hiermit alle anwesenden deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher. Ich wünsche euch erlebnisreiche und geistig fruchtbare Tage in der Ewigen Stadt und Gottes Schutz für eine wohlbehaltene Rückkehr in eure Heimat. Von Herzen erteile ich euch und euren Lieben daheim meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di espressione spagnola

Y ahora deseo dirigir mi más cordial saludo a todos los peregrinos de lengua española presentes en esta Audiencia.

En particular, al grupo de Religiosos Agustinos Recoletos de Filipinas, a las Religiosas Agustinas Recoletas Misioneras y al grupo de sacerdotes de la diócesis de Avila que celebran sus bodas de plata sacerdotales. Os aliento a todos a un renovado empeño en vuestra entrega a Dios y a los hermanos.

* * *

Saludo igualmente a las personas que han querido venir a este encuentro con el Papa desde Cuenca, León, Berlanga de Duero, Banyoles, Torrente y Vallada.

* * *

Bienvenidos seáis los numerosos peregrinos procedentes de México, de Colombia y el grupo organizado por las Hermanas de Schönstatt de la diócesis de Mayagüez (Puerto Rico).

A todos los peregrinos de España y de los diversos Países de América Latina imparto con afecto mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ad un gruppo giunto dall’Ungheria

Saluto con grande affetto i pellegrini ungheresi.

Siate fedeli imitatori del Vescovo Prohászka Ottokár e di Kaszap István e di Bogner Mária Margit che sono morti in fama di santità nella vostra diocesi.

Dal cuore do la mia benedizione apostolica a voi e a tutto il popolo ungherese.

Ai fedeli di lingua ucraina

Saluto sinceramente il gruppo di professori e studenti ucraini giunti a Roma da tutto il mondo per partecipare al XV Corso accademico estivo presso il Centro studi superiori di San Clemente Papa. Che il vostro soggiorno e i vostri studi a Roma possano rafforzare la vostra fede e rinvigorire la vostra fedeltà all’insegnamento di Cristo e la sua santa Chiesa. Da tutto cuore imparto a voi, ai vostri familiari e ai vostri cari una particolare benedizione apostolica. Laudetur Iesus Christus!

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Serdecznie witam i pozdrawiam Księdza Kardynała z Wrocławia, Księdza Biskupa łódzkiego oraz wszystkich pielgrzymów. W sczególności, z parafii św. Józefa w Krakowie; z parafii Matki Bożej Królowej Polski z Nowej Huty; pielgrzymów z diecezji sandomiersko-radomskiej; z diecezji lubelskiej - parafia Wniebowzięcia Matki Bożej z Biłgoraja; z archidiecezji gnieźnieńskiej; kapłanów z archidiecezji poznańskiej i gnieźnieńskiej; z Poznania, pielgrzymkę z parafii św. Jana Vianeya; pielgrzymkę młodzieży oazowej oo. kapucynów z Warszawy i Krakowa; z parafii św. Józefa w Bydgoszczy; z diecezji katowickiej, z parafii św. Stanisława Kostki w Lublińcu; z Chorzowa, z parafii św. Barbary; pielgrzymów z diecezji warmińskiej; z parafii św. Bonifacego w Zgorzelcu; duszpasterstwo służby zdrowia z Wrocłavia; również z archidiecezji wrocławskiej, z parafii św. Jana Chrzciciela z Jaroszowa; z Gdańska, pielgrzymkę duszpasterstwa nauczycieli; z diecezji szczecińsko-kamieńskiej, z parafii Przemienienia Pańskiego w Płotach; z tejże diecezji szczecińsko-kamieńskiej, pielgrzymkę chóru wiejskiego z parafii Poczelnik. Prócz tego są jeszcze pielgrzymi z Polonii, a więc ze Stanów Zjednoczonych, z New Jersy - parafia Matki Boskiej Szkaplerznej z Bayonn; New Britain, z parafii św. Krzyża; z Chicago, z parafii św. Jacka i jeszcze ze Szwecji, pielgrzymka polonijna św. Brygidy; wreszcie uczestnicy grup turystycznych Orbisu i PTTK. Bardzo dziękuję wszystkim za odwiedziny . . . Pozdrawiam raz jeszcze wszystkich pielgrzymów, a za waszym pośrednictwem wszystkich rodaków zarówno w Polsce jak i na emigracji, cały Kościół w Polsce na ręce obecnego tutaj Księdza Kardynała i Księdza Biskupa.

Ai pellegrini italiani

Rivolgo un particolare saluto ai gruppi italiani, provenienti da varie città e regioni, sempre numerosi e devoti: vi ringrazio per la vostra presenza e vi assicuro il costante ricordo nella preghiera.

In modo particolare desidero ricordare il gruppo di persone che, mediante l’Opera Italiana Pellegrinaggi Paolini, sono diretti a Lourdes, e hanno voluto fare una tappa a Roma per partecipare all’udienza. Vi sono riconoscente per questo gesto di fede e di ossequio e raccomando alle vostre preghiere ai piedi della Vergine di Lourdes tutte le necessità della Chiesa e la pace tra le nazioni.

* * *

Una parola di apprezzamento e di incoraggiamento rivolgo anche alle Suore missionarie dell’Istituto delle Figlie di Maria Ausiliatrice, riunite a Roma per un corso di aggiornamento.

Il Signore e la sua santissima Madre vi diano sempre più fervore, per essere coraggiose testimoni di fede e di carità nel mondo.

Ai giovani

Il consueto saluto desidero ora rivolgere ai giovani presenti all’odierno incontro. Fra di essi noto con particolare piacere il gruppo degli alunni di terza media del Seminario minore di Padova. Carissimi, voi, e certamente molti altri assieme a voi, siete un periodo di meritate vacanze e liberi dai vostri normali impegni di studio, desiderosi quindi di un più diretto rapporto con le bellezze del creato, che può arricchire la vostra personalità in maniera diversa, ma complementare, da quella della cultura attinta dai libri scolastici. Vi auguro che nel contatto con la natura sappiate trasformare tale esperienza in meritata riflessione e in adorante preghiera verso Dio, Creatore e Padre di tutti.

Agli ammalati

Sono anche presenti a questa udienza diversi ammalati: a voi che portate i segni della sofferenza desidero porgere un affettuoso, fraterno saluto, accompagnato da un sentimento di intensa solidarietà. Nel ricordo del Cristo crocifisso vi chiedo - a nome anche di tutti coloro che partecipano a questa udienza - di voler offrire a Dio, per la Chiesa e per il mondo, la vostra infermità. Ve ne siamo fin d’ora grati e riconoscenti al Signore.

Agli sposi novelli

Infine, agli sposi novelli il mio particolare saluto: in questi giorni voi, dinanzi a Dio, alla Chiesa e alla vostra coscienza, avete consacrato il vostro vicendevole amore mediante il Matrimonio, dando inizio alla vostra nuova famiglia cristiana. Vi auguro che la vita coniugale sia sempre animata e conforta dalla grazia del Sacramento, della fede in Cristo, e si esprima nel reciproco affetto, nella fedeltà, nella donazione, di modo che la vostra casa diventi veramente una “chiesa in miniatura”, ad esempio e a edificazione del popolo di Dio.


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