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Christ's miracles manifest salvific love

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
General Audience, Wednesday 9 December 1987 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. "Signs" of the divine omnipotence and of the salvific power of the Son of man, Christ's miracles, narrated in the Gospels, are also the revelation of the love of God for man, particularly for man who suffers, who has need, who implores healing, pardon and compassion. They are therefore signs of the merciful love proclaimed in the Old and New Testaments (cf. Encyclical Dives in Misericordia). Especially the reading of the Gospel makes us understand and almost feel that Jesus' miracles have their source in God's loving and merciful heart which lives and beats in his human heart. Jesus performs them to overcome every kind of evil existing in the world: physical evil, moral evil which is sin, and finally him who is "the father of sin" in the history of man: satan.

The miracles are therefore "for man." In harmony with the redemptive finality of his mission, they are works of Jesus which re-established the good where evil had lurked, producing disorder and confusion. Those who accepted them and who were present at them were aware of this fact, so much so that, according to Mark, "they were exceedingly astonished and said, 'He has done all things well. He makes the deaf hear and the mute speak'" (Mk 7:37).

2. An attentive study of the Gospel texts reveal that no other motive than love for humanity, merciful love, explains the "mighty deeds and signs" of the Son of Man. In the Old Testament, Elijah made use of "fire from heaven" to confirm his power as a prophet and to punish incredulity (cf. 2 Kgs 1:10). When the Apostles James and John sought to induce Jesus to punish with "fire from heaven" a Samaritan village which had refused them hospitality, he definitely forbade them to make such a request. The evangelist mentions categorically that "he turned and rebuked them" (Lk 9:55). (Many codices including the Vulgate add, "You do not know of what manner of spirit you are; for the Son of Man came not to destroy men's lives but to save them.") Jesus never worked a miracle to punish anyone, not even the guilty.

Significant in this regard is the detail connected with Jesus' arrest in the garden of Gethsemane. Peter was ready to defend his Master with the sword, and he even "struck the high priest's servant and cut off his right ear. The servant's name was Malchus" (Jn 18:10). But Jesus forbade Peter to use the sword. Indeed, Jesus "touched the servant's ear and healed him" (Lk 22:51). It is a further proof that Jesus did not perform miracles for his own defense. He told his followers that he could call upon his Father for "more than twelve legions of angels" (cf. Mt 26:53) to save him from the enemies who surrounded him. All that he does, even in working miracles, is done in close union with the Father. He does it for the sake of the kingdom of God and of the salvation of mankind. He does it for love.

4. Thus, at the beginning of his messianic mission, Jesus rejected the devil's suggestions to do "mighty works," for instance, to change stones into loaves of bread (cf. Mt 4:3-4). The power of the Messiah was granted to Jesus not for ostentatious display or vainglory. He who came "to bear witness to the truth" (Jn 18:37), who indeed is "the truth" (cf. Jn 14:6) always worked in absolute conformity with his salvific mission. All his "wonders and signs" expressed this conformity in the framework of the messianic mystery of God which was, as it were, concealed in the nature of a Son of Man, as is shown by the Gospels, especially that of Mark. The miracles nearly always radiated the divine power which the disciples and people sometimes grasped, to the extent that they recognized and exalted Christ as "Son of God." One likewise discovers in them the goodness, sincerity and simplicity which are the most visible qualities of the "Son of man."

5. One notes Jesus' great simplicity in the very way he performed the miracles, as well as his humility, tact and delicacy of gesture. This is brought home to us by the words which accompanied the raising of the daughter of Jairus: "The child is not dead but asleep" (Mk 5:39), as if he wished to cloak the significance of what he was about to do. And then "he gave strict orders that no one should know this" (Mk 5:43). He did the same in other cases, for example, after the curing of the deaf mute (Mk 7:36), and after Peter's profession of faith (Mk 8:29-30).

In his healing of the deaf mute it is significant that Jesus took him off by himself "away from the crowd." There "looking up to heaven, he groaned." This "groan" seems to be a sign of compassion and, at the same time, a prayer. The word ephphatha (Be opened!) had the effect of "opening the ears" and removing "the speech impediment" of the deaf mute (cf. 7:33-35).

6. If Jesus performed some of his miracles on the sabbath, he did so not to violate the sacred character of the day dedicated to God, but to demonstrate that this holy day is marked in a particular way by God's salvific work. "My Father is at work until now, so I am at work" (Jn 5:17). This work is for the good of humanity. Therefore it is not contrary to the holiness of the sabbath, but underlines it: "The sabbath was made for man, and not man for the sabbath! Therefore the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath" (Mk 2:27-28).

7. If we accept the Gospel account of Jesus' miracles—and there is no reason not to accept it other than prejudice against the supernatural—one cannot call into doubt a unique logic which links together all those signs and demonstrates their derivation from God's salvific economy. They serve to reveal his love for us, that merciful love which overcomes evil with good, as is shown by the very presence and action of Jesus Christ in the world. Inasmuch as they are inserted into this economy, the "wonders and signs" are an object of our faith in the plan of God's salvation and in the mystery of redemption effected by Christ.

As facts, the miracles belong to evangelical history, and the accounts contained in the Gospels are as reliable as, and even more so than, those contained in other historical works. It is clear that the real obstacle to their acceptance as facts of history and of faith is the anti-supernatural prejudice already referred to. It is a prejudice of those who would limit God's power or restrict it to the natural order of things, as though God were to subject himself to his own laws. But this concept clashes with the most elementary philosophical and theological idea of God, infinite, subsisting and omnipotent Being, who does not have limits except in regard to non-being and therefore the absurd.

In conclusion to this catechesis one spontaneously notes that this infinity in being and power is also infinity in love, as demonstrated by the miracles inserted into the economy of the Incarnation and redemption, as "signs" of the merciful love with which God sent his Son into the world "for us men and for our salvation," generous with us even unto death. Sic dilexit! (cf. Jn 3:16).

To such a great love let there not be lacking the generous response of our gratitude, expressed in the consistent witness of our lives."


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

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Je suis heureux d’accueillir ici les pèlerins et visiteurs de langue française, en particulier ceux qui viennent de l’Afrique sub-saharienne et des Caraïbes pour participer à un cours sur les sources d’énergies nouvelles dans les communautés rurales. Je leur souhaite un séjour fructueux en Italie.

De grand cœur, je vous bénis tous, jeunes et adultes.

A diversi gruppi di espressione inglese

I wish to greet all the English-speaking visitors ad pilgrims. May the God of love and compassion, who sent his Son into the world, fill your hearts with peace and joy.

To all of you goes my Apostolic Blessing.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung grüße ich herzlich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger bei der heutigen Audienz. Das Heilswirken Jesu bezeugt uns Gottes große Liebe zu uns Menschen. Nehmen wir seine Liebe gerade jetzt in der Advents- und Weihnachtszeit wieder mit offenem und dankbarem Herzen entgegen. Erwidern wir sie ihm durch aufrichtige Gegenliebe und durch tätige Nächstenliebe zu unseren Brüdern und Schwestern. Für reiche adventliche Gnaden erteile ich euch und allen, die euch verbunden sind, von Herzen meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Saludo cordialmente a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española, procedentes de los diversos países de América Latina y de España.

En particular, al grupo de Religiosas Terciarias Capuchinas de la Sagrada Familia y a todas las personas consagradas presentes en esta audiencia, a quienes aliento a una renovada y generosa entrega al Señor.

Asimismo, mi saludo se dirige a los miembros de la Asociación Española Independiente de Jóvenes Empresarios y también a la Delegación de Empresarios Argentinos. A todos quiero agradecer su presencia en este encuentro a la vez que les animo a hacer vida en su actividad profesional los principios cristianos en la promoción del hombre integral y en sintonía con la doctrina social de la Iglesia.

A todas las personas, familias y grupos latinoamericanos y españoles imparto, en prueba de benevolencia, mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai connazionali polacchi

Pozdrawiam pielgrzymów Polski: w szczególności pielgrzymów z diecezji w Drohiczynie; ze diecezji łomżyńskiej; z archidiecezji krakowskiej, z parafii św. Katarzyny w Nowym Targu; z parafii św. Teresy od Dzieciątka Jezus w Rabce; prócz tego przedstawicieli środowisk twórczych z Katowic; grupę kolarzy; siostry pasjonistki z Matką generalną; wreszcie uczestników grup turystycznych . . . Życzę wszystkim błogosławieństwa Bożego, zwłaszcza w perspektywie Świt Bożego Narodzenia i Nowego Roku.

[ . . .]

Ai giovani

Carissimi giovani! A voi tutti il mio saluto cordiale. Grazie per la vostra festosa e allegra presenza.

Il mio benvenuto si rivolge in particolare agli alunni e alle alunne di alcuni Istituti scolastici, qui convenuti con una rappresentanza più numerosa: gli alunni, in primo luogo, dell’Istituto Tecnico Commerciale “Matteucci”; quelli poi del “Collegio Nazareno”, presenti all’udienza insieme con il loro compagno Walter Francescone, insignito di uno speciale premio della bontà; gli alunni inoltre dell’Istituto “San Francesco di Sales” nel 50° anniversario di fondazione; e infine le alunne dell’Istituto di Nazaret, che celebrano quest’anno il centenario di fondazione della loro scuola, avviata nell’anno 1887 dalla Congregazione delle Religiose di Nazaret, che erano state da poco chiamate a Roma per svolgervi il loro apostolato, ispirato all’imitazione della vita povera, umile e nascosta di Gesù a Nazaret! Cari studenti e studentesse, mi rallegro con voi per il cammino di crescita che state compiendo nella vostra formazione umana, culturale e religiosa, sotto la guida esperta delle vostre educatrici e dei vostri educatori. Auguro che la luce della fede possa essere per tutti voi una guida sicura nei difficili sentieri della vita.

Desidero oggi richiamare la vostra attenzione sul periodo liturgico che stiamo vivendo, quello dell’Avvento. È un periodo molto congeniale con la vostra età, che è tutta protesa verso l’attesa del futuro. L’Avvento è precisamente un tempo di attesa dell’avverarsi di quell’evento decisivo per la storia umana che è la nascita del Salvatore. Gesù, in realtà, è già nato molti anni fa. Egli però desidera rinascere nella vita di ciascuno per arricchirla dei doni della grazia e dell’amore.

Vi invito perciò, cari giovani, a valorizzare questo tempo privilegiato dell’Avvento, nel quale ricordiamo l’inizio dell’umanità nuova, che ha il suo capostipite nel Figlio stesso di Dio. Impegnatevi a rinnovarvi dentro di voi, per disporvi ad incontrare Cristo nel mistero del Natale con lo stesso cuore puro e ardente con cui lo accolse Maria tra le sue braccia. La Madonna ci precede nel cammino della fede. Camminate con lei, sforzandovi di imitarne le virtù e invocandola con più insistenza nella preghiera quotidiana. Sarà lei stessa a condurvi verso un’esperienza più intima e profonda del suo Figlio Gesù.

E non dimenticate che la purificazione del cuore passa attraverso il pentimento del peccato, il distacco da se stessi, la bontà verso i fratelli. È lo stesso sant’Agostino a ricordarci che “l’offerta più gradita a Dio sono misericordia, confessione, pace e carità”.

Con questi sentimenti auguro a tutti un buon Avvento in preparazione di un Natale ricco di gioia e di pace.

A tutti la mia benedizione.

Agli ammalati

Rivolgo il mio affettuoso saluto a voi, ammalati, e vi esorto, carissimi ad offrire a Dio Padre ogni momento della vita quotidiana, con i suoi dolori e le sue sofferenze.

Come Maria, Vergine senza macchia, abbandonatevi alla volontà di Dio, accettando quanto Egli vi domanda col suo amore esigente. In tal modo sarete più vicini al Salvatore, fonte della serenità e della pace, e contribuirete efficacemente a santificare il mondo.

Mentre su di voi, e su quanti vi assistono con premura e dedizione, invoco l’abbondanza delle grazie e delle consolazioni divine, a tutti di cuore imparto la Benedizione Apostolica.

Agli sposi novelli

Giunga ora la mia parola di saluto a voi, giovani sposi. Mi è veramente gradito ringraziare il Signore perché, consacrando la vostra unione, vi ha concesso il dono, ed il compito, di amarvi in Lui.

La Madonna vi ottenga la grazia di un’umile e devota sapienza, la quale consente di comprendere il disegno di Dio sulla vita e dona l’energia spirituale per realizzarlo.

Vi sostenga in questo nuovo cammino la mia spirituale vicinanza, mentre a tutti imparto la Benedizione Apostolica, che porterete ai vostri genitori ed alle persone care,

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