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"I came into the world to testify to the truth"

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
General Audience, Wednesday 4 May 1988 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. "For this I was born and for this I came into the world: to testify to the truth" (Jn 18:37). When Pilate, during the trial, asked Jesus if he were a king, Jesus answered: "My kingdom is not of this world." When the Roman governor insisted in his question, "Then you are a king?" Jesus replied, "You say I am a king" (cf. Jn 18:33-37). This dialogue during the trial, recorded in John's Gospel, links what we have to say with the previous reflection concerning Christ's message on the kingdom of God. At the same time it opens up to us a further dimension or another aspect of Christ's mission indicated by the words, "to testify to the truth." Christ is king and "he came into the world to testify to the truth." He said so himself and added, "Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice" (Jn 18:37).

This reply opens before our eyes new horizons on Christ's mission, and on man's vocation, particularly on the fact that man's vocation is rooted in Christ.

2. Through the words addressed to Pilate, Jesus emphasized what is essential in the whole of his preaching. At the same time he anticipated in a certain way that which will always constitute the eloquent message of the paschal event, that is to say, the cross and resurrection.

Speaking of Jesus' preaching, even his opponents expressed in their own way its fundamental significance when they said to him, "Teacher, we know that you are a truthful teach the way of God in accordance with the truth" (Mk 12:14). Jesus was therefore the Teacher of the "way of God"; an expression of ancient biblical and extra-biblical origin to designate a religious and salvific doctrine. As regards the ordinary hearers of Jesus they were impressed by another aspect of his teaching: "The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes" (Mk 1:22). "He spoke with authority" (Lk 4:32).

This authority was constituted especially by the power of the truth contained in Christ's preaching. His disciples addressed him as "Teacher," not only in the sense that he knew the law and the prophets and commented on them with acute perception, like the scribes, but for a still more compelling reason: he "spoke with authority." This was the authority of the truth whose source is God himself. Jesus himself said, "My teaching is not my own, but is from the one who sent me" (Jn 7:16).

3. In this sense inclusive of the reference to God, Jesus was Teacher. "You call me Teacher and Lord; and you are right for so I am" (Jn 13:13). He was Teacher of the truth which is God. He bore witness to this truth unto the end, with the authority which came to him from on high, or we could say, with the authority of one who is king in the realm of truth.

In previous reflections, we already drew attention to the Sermon on the Mount, in which Jesus revealed himself as the one who has come, not "to abolish the law or the prophets," but "to fulfill them." This fulfillment of the law was an act of kingship and authority: the kingship and authority of the truth which decides on the law, on its divine source, and its progressive manifestation to the world.

4. In the Sermon on the Mount (cf. Mt 5-7), one perceives this authority with which Jesus intended to fulfill his mission. Here are some significant passages: "You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, 'You shall not kill'...but I say to you...." "'You shall not commit adultery'; but I say to you...." "It was said... 'Do not take false oaths'...but I say to you...." After every "I say to you" there is an authoritative exposition of that truth of human conduct which is contained in each of God's commandments. Jesus did not comment in a human way, like a scribe, on the texts of the Old Testament. But he spoke with the authority of the lawgiver himself. This is the authority of lawmaking—kingship. At the same time it is the authority of the truth, by reason of which the new law becomes for humanity a binding principle of conduct.

5. When Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, said on various occasions, "but I say to you," his language echoed the Old Testament texts which frequently repeated, "Thus says the Lord God of Israel" (2 Sam 12:7). "O Jacob...thus says the Lord who made you" (Is 44:1-2); "Thus says the Lord, your redeemer, the Holy One of Israel" (Is 43:14). Still more directly he harked back to the reference to God which was so frequently on the lips of Moses in giving the law—the "old" law—to Israel. Much greater than that of Moses is the authority which Jesus claimed in "fulfilling the law and the prophets" by virtue of the mission received from on high: not on Sinai, but in the sublime mystery of his relationship with the Father.

6. Jesus was well aware of this mission which was sustained by the power of the truth drawn from his own divine source. There is a close connection between his reply to Pilate: "I have come to bear witness to the truth" (Jn 18:37), and his statement before his hearers: "My teaching is not my own, but is from the one who sent me" (Jn 7:16). The connecting and unifying thread of this and other statements of Jesus on the "authority of the truth" with which he taught is in the awareness of the mission received from on high.

7. Jesus knew that the eternal Wisdom was manifested to humanity in his teaching. He therefore rebuked those who refused to accept it, not hesitating to recall the "queen of the south (the Queen of Sheba), who had come "to hear the wisdom of Solomon," and added immediately, "there is something greater than Solomon here" (Mt 12:42).

He also knew and openly proclaimed that the words which flow from that divine Wisdom "will not pass away." "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away" (Mk 13:31). They contain the power of the truth which is indestructible and eternal. They are therefore "words of eternal life," as the Apostle Peter confessed at a critical moment, when many of those who had assembled to hear Jesus, began to leave him, because they could not understand and were not disposed to accept his words foretelling the mystery of the Eucharist (cf. Jn 6:66).

8. Here we touch on the problem of human freedom to accept or not to accept the eternal truth contained in Christ's teaching. It is certainly valid to give to people of all ages - and therefore of our time also - an adequate response to their vocation which opens on to the eternal. Confronted with this problem, having a theological as well as an anthropological dimension (the human reaction and response to a truth proposed), it will suffice for the present to refer to what the Second Vatican Council said, especially in regard to the particular sensitivity of the people of today. The Council first of all stated that "all men are bound to seek the truth, especially in what concerns God and his Church," but also that "truth cannot impose itself except by virtue of its own truth, as it makes its entrance into the mind at once quietly and with power" (DH 1). Moreover, the Council recalled the duty of people "to adhere to the truth once it is known and to order their whole lives in accord with the demands of truth." Then it adds: "Men cannot discharge these obligations in a manner in keeping with their own nature unless they enjoy immunity from external coercion as well as psychological freedom" (DH 2).

9. Such is the mission of Christ as teacher of eternal truth.

The Council recalled that "God calls men to serve him in spirit and in truth.... God has regard for the dignity of the human person whom he himself created." Then it said that "this truth appears at its height in Christ Jesus, in whom God manifested himself and his ways with men. Christ is at once our Master and our Lord and also meek and humble of heart. In attracting and inviting his disciples he used patience. He wrought miracles to illuminate his teaching and to establish its truth, but his intention was to rouse faith in his hearers and to confirm them in faith, not to exert coercion upon them" (DH 11).

Eventually, the Council linked this dimension of Christ's teaching with the paschal mystery: "In the end, when he completed on the cross the work of redemption whereby he achieved salvation and true freedom for men, he brought his revelation to completion. For he bore witness to the truth, but he refused to impose the truth by force on those who spoke against it. Not by force of blows does his rule assert its claims. It is established by witnessing to the truth and by hearing the truth, and it extends its dominion by the love whereby Christ, lifted up on the cross, draws all men to himself" (DH 11).

As of now we can conclude that he who sincerely seeks the truth will find easily enough in the teaching of Christ crucified the solution to the problem of freedom also.


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

Ai fedeli di lingua francese 

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

JE SALUE cordialement tous les pèlerins de langue française. En particulier, je suis heureux d’assurer les Frères maristes de ma prière pour que leur session de spiritualité porte tous ses fruits.

J’accueille avec joie le pèlerinage du diocèse de Grenoble, avec Monseigneur Gabriel Matagrin. Je forme les meilleurs vœux pour toutes les communautés de votre vaste diocèse.

Je reçois ici avec joie le Noble Contingent des Grenadiers fribourgeois. L’accueil de leur ville reste pour moi un bon souvenir. Soyez les bienvenus à Rome où vous êtes venus entourer les Gardes suisses qui vont prêter serment le 6 mai!

J’offre aussi mes vœux aux Ouvriers chrétiens de Belgique: que votre pèlerinage contribue à donner à votre vie chrétienne tout son rayonnement!

Aux jeunes, notamment a ceux de Saint-Jean de Passy et de la rue de Lübeck à Paris, je dis mon espérance pour leur avenir de chrétiens convaincus et dynamiques.

Enfin, j’aimerais dire aux Opérés du cœur du Midi de la France toute ma sympathie. Que votre présence en ce centre de l’Eglise universelle soit pour vous un gage de la solidarité affectueuse des chrétiens avec leurs frères qui affrontent la maladie! Que Dieu vous garde dans l’espérance et la paix!

A tous, je donne de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique. 

Ai gruppi di fedeli di lingua inglese 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I OFFER A HEARTFELT GREETING to the groups of women religious taking part in various programmes of study and renewal, in particular the Missionary Benedictines of Tutzing and the Marist Sisters.

May the Lord strengthen all of you in your religious consecration and bless your apostolic labours for the good of the Church.

* * *

I WOULD ALSO like to welcome the Knights and Ladies of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre from Canada, the Lutheran study group from Finland, the members of the Wimbledon Lawn Tennis Club from England, and those taking part in a study course sponsored by the Italian Foreign Ministry.

* * *

MY CORDIAL GREETINGS also go to the members of Saint Matthew’s Cathedral Choir from Washington, D. C. And to all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims, especially the groups from England, Finland, Australia, Canada and the United States, I extend a very warm welcome. May the Risen Christ bless you with an abundance of peace and joy.

Ad un pellegrinaggio giapponese 

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

AI CARISSIMI PELLEGRINI di Kagoshima. La vostra città, Kagoshima, ha intima relazione con la Madonna. S. Francesco Saverio infatti è sbarcato proprio nel giorno dell’Assunta.

Ora, carissimi pellegrini, io vi auguro che la vostra vita quotidiana mantenga questo legame con la Madonna.

Con questo desiderio vi imparto di cuore la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo! 

Ai pellegrini tedeschi 

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

MIT DIESER KURZEN Erinnerung an die göttliche Grundlage unseres christlichen Glaubens grüße ich noch einmal alle Besucher deutscher Sprache und verspreche Euch mein Gebet, auf daß Euer Glaube stark bleibe und Euch Freude und Zuversicht schenke für Euren Lebensweg.

Gelobt sei Jesus Christus! 

Ai fedeli di lingua castigliana 

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

SALUDO CORDIALMENTE a los peregrinos y personas, venidas de América Latina y España, presentes en esta Audiencia. En especial, mi saludo se dirige a los alumnos y profesores del Liceo Español “Cervantes”, de Roma, así como a las peregrinaciones de la “Escuela Familiar Agraria La Grajera”, de Logroño, y al grupo de sacerdotes, seminaristas y catequistas de México.

En vísperas de mi visita pastoral a la Iglesia de Dios en el Uruguay, Bolivia, Perú y Paraguay, tan vinculada a vosotros por lazos entrañables de una misma fe y cultura, os ruego encarecidamente que en vuestra plegaria al Todopoderoso, por mediación de la Virgen María, que ocupa un lugar privilegiado en los corazones de los hijos e hijas de América Latina y España, encomendéis las intenciones del Papa, para que este viaje apostólico suponga un afianzamiento en la fe en Jesucristo para aquellas comunidades eclesiales. Que Nuestra Señora, modelo incomparable de fe y entrega a la causa de Dios, de la que Cristo tomó la humanidad, sea en todo momento constante valedora ante el Altísimo, con el fin de que Latinoamérica, donde la semilla sembrada hace ya casi cinco siglos ha dado abundantes frutos de vida cristiana, sea capaz, siguiendo el ejemplo de sus primeros misioneros, de llevar la Buena Nueva a otros lugares de la tierra.

Con mis mejores deseos para todos de una grata permanencia en Roma, os imparto con afecto la Bendición Apostólica. 

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

Amados irmãos e irmãs!

SAÚDO CORDIALMENTE OS presentes de língua portuguesa, com votos de felicidades e graça no Senhor Ressuscitado! Em particular, dou as boas-vindas aos numerosos peregrinos e visitantes brasileiros, provenientes de São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Salvador e Porto Alegre: que esta vinda a Roma, em tempo pascal, avive em vós a fé e vos encha de esperança, para viverdes a paz que é Cristo, nossa Páscoa, e procurardes a paz com todos, em santidade de vida. Com a minha Bênção! 

Ai pellegrini polacchi 

POZDRAWIAM SERDECZNIE wszystkich pielgrzymów z archidiecezji krakowskiej - parafia Niepołomice, Górka Kosielicka i dekanat Kęcki; z archidiecezji warszawskiej; z Radomia - parafia Matki Bożej Miłosierdzia oraz grupa Apostolstwa Modlitwy księży jezuitów; z diecezji warmińskiej wraz z kapłanami - Swięta Lipka; z Poznania - parafia Matki Bożej Pocieszenia; oraz z archidiecezji poznańskiej - z Podolanowa, parafia Sw. Marcina; z archidiecezji wrocławskiej - parafia Sw. Michala Archanioła z Koskowic; prócz tego pozdrawiam delegację Związku Niewidomych z Warszawy (Laski) oraz uczesuników grup turystycznych: Turysty i kolejarzy z Warszawy . . . . Teraz są wielkie dni w naszej Ojczyźnie, dni naszych Patronów. Czciliśmy wspólnie św. Wojciecha; wczoraj, w dniu 3 maja, Maryję Królową Polski; jeszcze jest przed nami uroczystość św. Stanisława biskupa i męczennika, Patrona Polski. Niech wszystkie te wielkie święta, które przywołują na pamięć tysiącletnie dzieje Chrystusowej Prawdy w polskich duszach, pomagają nam tę Prawdę wciąż na nowo odnajdować, z niej żyć, w niej znajdować siłę do bycia człowiekiem, do bycia Polakiem - nawet w najtrudniejszych okolicznościach, jak dzisiaj. To są równocześnie moje życzenia dla wszystkich rodaków dziś tu obecnych i dla wszystkich moich rodaków w Polsce i na świecie, w związku z wielkimi świętami patronalnymi Kościoła w Polsce. Wszystkich też proszę o modlitwę w perspektywie mojej najbliższej pielgrzymki do krajów Ameryki Łacińskie.

Ai gruppi di lingua italiana 

È PRESENTE QUI tra noi una delegazione della diocesi di Viterbo, guidata dal Vescovo Monsignor Fiorino Tagliaferri e da Autorità religiose e civili, giunta per consegnarmi in dono una bella pubblicazione che ricorda la mia visita in quella Città.

Vi ringrazio, cari Fratelli, per la vostra presenza e per il gentile omaggio. Conservo un caro ricordo del breve ma intenso periodo passato tra voi, e mi auguro che il seme della Parola di Dio che ho sparso nel terreno dei vostri cuori continui a dare frutti abbondanti. Vi sono vicino col mio affetto e la mia Benedizione. 

* * * 

SALUTO CORDIALMENTE il gruppo di pellegrini dell’erigenda parrocchia di S. Giuseppe Lavoratore di Paliano, in diocesi di Palestrina. Hanno portato una statua della Madonna col Bambino chiedendomi di benedirla. Ben volentieri concedo questo favore spirituale; e benedico anche tutti voi, cari fratelli e sorelle, qui presenti: il Parroco, i suoi collaboratori, i parrocchiani, e vi auguro di formare una comunità cristiana sempre più viva ed attiva nel nome del Signore. 

* * * 

UN CARO SALUTO va anche al gruppo “Collegamento Pro Sindone”, un’associazione formata da studiosi di Sindonologia, che si propone di far conoscere il messaggio spirituale, che emana dal famoso e misterioso tessuto custodito a Torino. Mi auguro, illustri Signori, che il vostro impegno scientifico, non dissociato dalla testimonianza di fede, contribuisca ad una sempre migliore conoscenza della verità circa questo antico documento della pietà cristiana. Vi accompagna la mia Benedizione. 

* * * 

MI RIVOLGO POI alla rappresentanza del convegno, attualmente in corso a Roma, della Conferenza Italiana di Medicina Respiratoria “Prevenzione e Terapia”, che riunisce studiosi specialisti nei vari aspetti e problemi di questo delicato settore della nostra salute. Auguriamo a tutti loro un buon lavoro. Da parte mia, invoco la Benedizione divina sull’attività di questa importante assemblea, affinché da essa scaturiscano nuovi contributi per la tutela e la promozione di un bene così prezioso, come è quello della salute. 

Ai giovani 

UN SALUTO AFFETTUOSO a voi, giovani e ragazzi, che partecipate a questa Udienza col consueto entusiasmo. Siamo nel tempo pasquale. La nostra fede ci dice che Gesù Risorto è la Vita, ossia la perenne giovinezza. Chi crede in Cristo partecipa fin d’ora alla vita che da lui promana e sperimenta in sé un riflesso della sua giovinezza indefettibile. La giovinezza più vera, del resto, non si calcola in numero di anni, ma dall’ardore dell’animo e dalla nobiltà dell’impegno. Seguite perciò sempre Cristo, Risurrezione e Vita.

Sappiate guardarvi attentamente intorno: siete circondati dagli spettacoli invadenti del male, ma anche, senza dubbio, sollecitati dal richiamo del bene. Il male è generalmente rumoroso e vi può assediare con innumerevoli lusinghe. Ma il bene è immensamente più grande, anche se nascosto e silenzioso. Sappiate scoprirlo e viverlo in pieno. Così non invecchierete mai e darete il vostro contributo alla giovinezza del mondo. Vi benedico tutti e ciascuno. 

Agli ammalati

DESIDERO, POI, salutare con particolare affetto gli infermi, qui presenti, e quanti li assistono con fraterna carità evangelica.

Voi siete nel numero dei prediletti di Gesù Risorto. Egli non vi dimentica mai, ed è sempre a voi vicino in ogni momento del giorno e della notte. A ciascuno di voi, che partecipate in maniera così viva alle sofferenze della sua Passione, Egli vuole comunicare fin d’ora, in abbondanza, l’ineffabile gioia della sua Risurrezione, la forza della Vita senza termine, che non può essere minacciata dai malanni temporanei della nostra esistenza terrena.

Pensate costantemente a Lui, morto e risorto, e la malattia del corpo si trasformerà in strumento di elevazione e di perfezione dello spirito.

In questo non facile cammino vi accompagni la mia Benedizione. 

Agli sposi novelli 

PORGO, INFINE, il mio saluto a voi, sposi novelli, insieme con l’augurio di una serena, santa e feconda vita in comune, che il Signore della Vita, col suo Sacramento, si è impegnato a realizzare con voi.

Oggi la famiglia è insidiata dall’invadenza della mentalità corrente del benessere senza scrupoli e dell’autonomia personale senza doveri. Mentalità che è in antitesi con lo spirito proprio del matrimonio, di generosa donazione e di fiducia nel Padre dei cieli.

Nel Sacramento da voi ricevuto troverete la sorgente reale di una forza, che la legge umana non può dare, e di una gioia, che supera ogni desiderio. Fate l’esperienza di appellarvi costantemente alle risorse creative della grazia, e così scoprirete tutte le ricchezze della vostra nuova famiglia, e sarete in grado di dare alla società di oggi il contributo di cui ha bisogno per rinascere.

Vi benedico di cuore.

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