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Christ's mission is to reveal the Father

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
General Audience, Wednesday 1 June 1988 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. "In times past, God spoke in partial and various ways to our ancestors through the prophets; in these last days, he has spoken to us through his son..." (Heb 1:1-2). In these words, well known to the faithful through the Christmas liturgy, the author of the Letter to the Hebrews speaks of Jesus Christ's mission, presenting it against the background of the history of the old covenant. There is a continuity between the mission of the prophets and Christ's mission, but also a very clear difference. Jesus is not merely the last or the greatest of the prophets—the eschatological prophet as he was called and awaited by some. He is essentially distinguished from all the ancient prophets and infinitely surpasses the level of their personality and mission. He is the Son of the Father, the Word-Son, of one being with the Father.

2. This is the key truth for understanding Christ's mission. He was sent to announce the Good News (the Gospel) to the poor. Together with him God's kingdom has come to us, entering definitively into human history. Christ bore witness to the truth drawn from his own divine source, as we have seen in the previous reflections. Now we can deduce from the above-quoted text of the Letter to the Hebrews the truth that unifies all aspects of Christ's mission: Jesus reveals God in the most authentic way, because this revelation is based on the one absolutely sure and unquestionable source, the very essence of God. Therefore, Christ's testimony has the value of absolute truth.

3. In John's Gospel we find a statement similar to that of the Letter to the Hebrews, but expressed more concisely. At the end of the prologue we read: "No one has ever seen God; the only Son who is in the bosom of the Father has made him known" (Jn 1:18).

This is the essential difference between the revelation of God in the prophets and in the whole of the Old Testament, and that brought by Christ who said of himself, "Behold, something greater than Jonah is here" (Mk 12:41). Here it is God himself, "the Word made flesh" (cf. Jn 1:14), who speaks to us of God. That Word who "is in the bosom of the Father" (Jn 1:18), becomes "the true light" (Jn 1:9), "the light of the world" (Jn 8:12). He said of himself, "I am the way, the truth and the life" (Jn 14:6).

4. Christ knows God as the Son who knows the Father and at the same time is known by him. "As the Father knows me and I know the Father..." we read in John's Gospel, and almost in identical terms in the Synoptics: "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him" (Mt 11:37; cf. Lk 10:22).

Therefore Christ, the Son who knows the Father, reveals the Father. At the same time the Son is revealed by the Father. Jesus himself, after the confession of Caesarea Philippi, made that known to Peter who recognized him as "the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16). "Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you," Jesus said, "but my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 16:17).

5. If Christ's essential mission is to reveal the Father, who is "our God" (cf. Jn 20:17), at the same time he himself is revealed by the Father as the Son. This Son, "being one with the Father" (Jn 10:30), can therefore say, "He who has seen me has seen the Father" (Jn 14:9). In Christ God has become "visible"; God's "visibility" is realized in Christ. St. Irenaeus expressed it concisely: "The invisible reality of the Son was the Father, and the visible reality of the Father was the Son" (Adv. Haer. IV, 6, 6).

Therefore God's self-revelation is realized to the full in Jesus Christ. The revelation of the Spirit will come at the appropriate moment. The Spirit will be revealed as the one who proceeds from the Father (cf. Jn 15:26), and whom the Father will send in the Son's name (cf. Jn 14:26).

6. In the light of these mysteries of the Trinity and Incarnation, due significance is acquired by the blessedness proclaimed by Jesus for his disciples: "Blessed are the eyes that see what you see. For I say to you, many prophets and kings desired to see what you see, but did not see it, and to hear what you heard, but did not hear it" (Lk 10:23-24).

A living echo of these words of the Master seems to resound in the First Letter of John: "What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we looked upon and touched with our hands concerns the Word of life (for the life was made visible; we have seen it and testify to it and proclaim to you the eternal life...), what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us" (1 Jn 1:1-3). In the prologue of his Gospel the same apostle wrote: "We saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14).

7. In reference to this fundamental truth of our faith the Second Vatican Council in the Constitution on Divine Revelation stated: "By this revelation then, the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines out for our sake in Christ, who is both the mediator and the fullness of all revelation" (DV 2). Here we have the full dimension of Christ, the revelation of God, because this revelation of God is at the same time the revelation of God's salvific economy in regard to humanity and the world. As St. Paul says in regard to the apostles' preaching, it brings "to light the plan of the mystery hidden from ages past in God who created all things" (Eph 3:9). It is the mystery of the plan of salvation which God conceived from eternity in the intimacy of the Trinitarian life, wherein he contemplated, loved, willed, created and "re-created" the things of heaven and of earth by linking them to the Incarnation and therefore to Christ.

8. Let us return once again to the Second Vatican Council where we read: "Jesus Christ...the Word made flesh, was sent as 'a man to men.' He 'speaks the words of God' (Jn 3:34), and completes the work of salvation which his Father gave him to do (cf. Jn 5:36; 17:4)." He "perfected revelation by fulfilling it through his whole work of making himself present and manifesting himself: through his words and deeds, his signs and wonders, but especially through his death and glorious resurrection from the dead and final sending of the Spirit of truth. Moreover he confirmed with divine testimony what revelation proclaimed, that God is with us to free us from the darkness of sin and death, and to raise us up to life eternal.

"The Christian dispensation, therefore, as the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away and we now await no further new public revelation before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Tim 6:14 and Titus 2:13)" (DV 4).


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

Ai pellegrini di lingua francese 

JE SALUE CORDIALEMENT les pèlerins et visiteurs de langue française. A la veille de la fête du Corps et du Sang du Christ, je vous souhaite de vivifier votre foi en la présence réelle du Sauveur dans le grand sacrement du sacrifice rédempteur. Et que votre visite au centre de l’Eglise universelle renforce en vous le sens de la communion avec les chrétiens de tous les continents!

Je prie Dieu de vous combler de ses Bénédictions.

Ad alcuni gruppi di lingua inglese 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I WOULD LIKE to extend a special welcome to the Choir from Saint Aloysius Gonzaga Parish in Nashua, New Hampshire.

I greet most cordially the volunteers, staff and friends of the USO in Naples, and I wish to assure you of my prayers for the victims of the terrorist attack some weeks ago.

* * *

I OFFER A WARM WELCOME to the pilgrims from the Church of Saint Anselm and Saint Cecilia in Kingsway, London, who are accompanied by the members of their Youth Choir.

* * *

IT IS A JOY to have so many priests and religious present at today’s audience. In a particular way I extend greetings to the Brothers of Saint Gabriel from India. The Church is most grateful for your public witness to Christ and the Gospel. I pray that your visit to Rome will renew in each of your hearts the joyful awareness that Christ has called you by name and loves you with an everlasting love.

* * *

AND TO ALL the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims I extend a very cordial welcome, especially to those from England, Denmark, Sri Lanka, Australia, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Brunei and the United States. To you and to all your dear ones I impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca 

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

DIESE BRÜDERLICHE Aufforderung richte ich auch an die heutigen Besucher deutscher Sprache und grüße alle noch einmal herzlich. Ein besonderer Gruß geht dabei an die Pilgergruppe der katholischen Frauengemeinschaft aus Illingen, denen ich gute Segenswünsche auch für ihre Familien zu Hause mit auf den Weg gebe. Mit aufmerksamer Wertschätzung grüße ich die Gruppe von Richtern und Staatsanwälten aus dem Raum Würzburg. Der Heilige Geist Gottes sei mit Ihrem verantwortungsvollen Wirken. Schließlich wende ich mich mit Dankbarkeit der großen Gruppe von Damen und Herren aus dem Fränkischen Sängerbund zu und bekunde meine Freude über Euer gekonntes Singen und Musizieren. Allen anwesenden Besuchern aus Deutschland, Österreich und der Schweiz gilt mein Gebet und Segen.

Ai fedeli dalla Spagna e da Paesi latinoamericani 

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

ME ES GRATO SALUDAR a los numerosos peregrinos de América Latina y España, presentes en esta Audiencia. De modo especial quiero saludar al grupo de sacerdotes claretianos llegados de diversas partes del mundo para un curso de renovación, a las peregrinaciones de la Arquidiócesis de Hermosillo (México), a las formadas por la familia salesiana de Santo Domingo; Uruguay y Costa Rica, así como a las representaciones del Colegio Médico de Sevilla y del Centro Tahanan - de inmigrantes filipinos -, con sede en Madrid. Os invito, como fruto de vuestra presencia en Roma, a caminar según el Espíritu, guía de la Iglesia, para que podáis comprender el significado de las palabras de Cristo que son “camino, verdad y vida”.

En esta circunstancia me complace también bendecir la puerta realizada para la Basílica de Nuestra Señora de Altagracia en Higüey (República Dominicana). Amadísimos hijos, esta puerta que sea para todos vosotros, a través de un fiel seguimiento de Cristo, la verdadera “Janua caeli”: puerta del cielo, por mediación de la Virgen María a la que tanto queréis y veneráis.

A todos imparto con afecto mi Bendición Apostólica. 

Ad alcuni gruppi di lingua portoghese 

Caríssimos irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa,

COM OS MEUS VOTOS de bem, a todos os presentes de língua portuguesa, saúdo em especial:

- os visitantes e peregrinos que vêm de São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Belo Horizonte, Salvador e Vitória, no Brasil: sede bem-vindos e que a estada em Roma seja para todos encontro com Cristo!

- o grupo pertencente ao Movimento de “Schoensttat”, também do Brasil: que a peregrinação a Roma impulsione a vossa peregrinação na fé, a exemplo de Maria, “a bem-aventurada porque acreditou”;

- de Portugal, o grupo de pessoas ligadas à “Sociedade Portuguesa de História da Medicina”, de Lisboa: grato pela visita, desejo que o vosso labor profissional, à luz dos princípios éticos, seja sempre serviço do homem, remido por Jesus Cristo; e, para vós próprios, caminho de plenitude humana e cristã, com as Bênçãos de Deus. 

Ai pellegrini polacchi 

SERDECZNIE POZDRAWIAM wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski, w szczególności z Krakowa z Woli Justowskiej, parafia Matki Boskiej Królowej Polski; z Ursusa koło Warszawy, parafia św. Józefa; z Kielc, parafia św. Wojciecha; z Gliwic, parafia św. Krzyża, ojcowie redemptoryści; z Głogowa, diecezja gorzowska, parafia Matki Bożej Królowej Polski; prócz tego współpracowników misyjnych księży pallotynów z różnych stron Polski; przedstawicieli Polonii ze Stanów Zjednocznych; kolejarzy z Częstochowy; esperantystów z Gdańska; grupę lekarzy, farmaceutów i pracowników kolei z Poznania i Warszawy; kolejarzy z Rajczy i Kluczborka; prócz tego uczestników grup turystycznych z Warszawy; PKS, z Gdańska Orbis-Turysta i handlowców z Tarnowa. 

Ad alcuni gruppi italiani 

DESIDERO ORA porgere il mio saluto ai numerosi pellegrini del quartiere di Ponticelli, in Napoli, guidati dall’arcivescovo Monsignor Michele Giordano, che il prossimo 28 giugno sarà elevato alla dignità cardinalizia. Mi compiaccio con voi, cari fedeli di Napoli, per la settimana di preghiere e di catechesi che in questo Anno Mariano avete voluto realizzare, ricordando specialmente la celeste patrona del vostro quartiere, la Madonna della Neve. Sia per tutti voi questo momento un’occasione per rinvigorire il vostro spirito nella fede, seguendo il modello di Maria, colei che ci precede nel cammino della fede. Pensate spesso all’esempio di Maria, che accolse la parola di Dio e le rimase fedele, fino ai piedi della Croce.

* * *

SALUTO IL PRESIDENTE ed il gruppo direttivo italiano dell’Associazione Internazionale “Ecole Instrument de Paix”, mentre esprimo il mio compiacimento per la bella iniziativa di diffondere nelle scuole di ogni ordine e grado l’educazione alla conoscenza ed all’apprezzamento dei diritti dell’uomo e del diritto all’ambiente per una cultura di pace. 

* * * 

SALUTO IL GRUPPO dei missionari Salesiani, provenienti da varie nazioni per un corso di formazione permanente. Ad essi auguro il conforto della grazia nel loro ministero, e li invito a diffondere sempre e dovunque lo spirito di Don Bosco, il suo amore per i giovani, il suo metodo di formazione alla vita cristiana. 

* * * 

IL MIO PENSIERO va poi alle religiose, addette agli Ospedali Militari in Italia, ed alle Suore della Provvidenza, giunte a Roma per un corso di aggiornamento e di spiritualità. Sappiate sempre essere, care sorelle, umili strumenti della Misericordia e della Provvidenza per chi soffre, operando con la testimonianza della carità affettuosa per avvicinare a Cristo i fratelli più bisognosi.

A tutti il mio cordiale saluto e la mia Benedizione. 

Ai giovani 

Rivolgo ora il mio saluto ai giovani.

INIZIA OGGI il mese di Giugno, dedicato al Sacro Cuore di Gesù. Il Culto al Sacro Cuore, che ha fondamento nella Sacra Scrittura, ed ha una storia di crescente sviluppo nella Chiesa, è una risposta di fede e di amore a Cristo che, offertosi per noi al Padre sulla Croce fino all’ultima goccia di sangue,  ci ha reso popolo della nuova ed eterna Alleanza.

Carissimi giovani, fate oggetto di riflessione questo mistero di grazia, per penetrare sempre più in profondità le inesauribili ricchezze spirituali, ma, soprattutto, lasciatevi coinvolgere dalla sua logica. A voi, che l’età rende attenti nel ricercare ideali significativi per i quali impegnare l’esistenza, non riuscirà difficile scoprire come la totale adesione al Signore sia la migliore garanzia per essere validamente illuminati dalle scelte che contano per il vostro presente e per il vostro futuro. Vi sostengano in questa ricerca la mia preghiera e la mia Benedizione. 

Agli ammalati 

Un affettuoso saluto anche agli ammalati presenti.

ANCHE A VOI, carissimi fratelli e sorelle, il Cuore di Cristo si offre come porto di sicuro rifugio e di consolazione: “Venite a me - egli ha detto - voi tutti che siete affaticati e oppressi, e io vi ristorerò”.  È davvero fonte di grande pace questo invito e, più ancora, la certezza che, accogliendolo, si troveranno luce e fama necessarie per affrontare momenti di immancabile sconforto e dar soluzione ad interrogativi che sembrerebbero senza risposta. Ci si sente, così, più uniti a Cristo crocifisso e redentore, e si diventa capaci di trasformare momenti di sofferenza in occasioni di grazia per sé e per i fratelli. Nell’assicurarvi il mio ricordo nella preghiera per una pronta guarigione, auspico che di questa verità possiate fare viva esperienza e diventarne sereni e convinti testimoni davanti al mondo. Vi benedico di cuore uno per uno.

Agli sposi novelli 

Agli sposi novelli venuti a questa Udienza, porgo fervidi auguri di ogni desiderato bene,

CARISSIMI, CON LA CELEBRAZIONE del sacramento del matrimonio, voi avete scelto il Signore come garante della vostra unione coniugale per andare avanti, insieme con Lui, con fondata fiducia. Siate certi che, se saprete rinnovare ogni giorno tale scelta, egli saprà ricompensarvi pienamente, continuando ad accompagnarvi con la Sua Provvidenza nel nuovo stato di vita. A Lui, che ha santificato il vostro amore, consacrate ogni giorno le vostre esistenze, i figli che avrete, i vostri progetti. La sua pace e la sua gioia consolideranno la vostra famiglia, che diventerà un esempio ed un modello anche per la società. Per questi voti, vi accompagni la mia propiziatrice Benedizione.

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