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Jesus, a man in solidarity with all humanity

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
General Audience, Wednesday 10 February 1988 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. Jesus Christ, true man, is "like us in all things but sin," as we saw in our previous reflection. Sin is essentially excluded in him who, being true man, is also true God ( verus homo, not merus homo ).

All the earthly life of Christ and all the unfolding of his mission bear witness to the truth of his absolute impeccability. He himself issued the challenge: "Can any of you charge me with sin?" (Jn 8:46). A man without sin, during his whole life Jesus Christ was engaged in a struggle against sin, beginning with Satan who is the father of lies in human history "from the beginning" (cf. Jn 8:44). This struggle began on the threshold of Jesus' messianic mission, in the moment of the temptation (cf. Mk 1:13; Mt 4:1-11; Lk 4:1-13). It reached its apex in the cross and resurrection. It is a struggle which ends in victory.

2. This struggle against sin and its roots did not alienate Jesus from people. On the contrary, it brought him closer to them, to every individual. During his earthly life Jesus was accustomed to show himself particularly close to those who were regarded by others as sinners. We see it in many texts of the Gospel.

3. Under this aspect the comparison which Jesus made between himself and John the Baptist is important. He said, "John came neither eating nor drinking, and they said, 'Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners'" (Mt 11:18-19). The polemical character of these words is evident in regard to those who first of all criticized John the Baptist, a solitary prophet and severe ascetic who baptized at the Jordan. Then they criticized Jesus because he moved about and worked among the people. However, these words also reveal the truth of Jesus' mode of being, of feeling and of behavior in regard to sinners.

4. They accused him of being a "friend of public sinners and tax collectors, who lived by extortion and were regarded as non-observers of the law (cf. Mt 5:46; 9:11; 18:17). Jesus did not absolutely reject this judgment. Its truth is confirmed by many episodes recorded in the Gospels, though without any suggestion of Jesus turning a blind eye or remaining silent. There is the case of Zacchaeus, the chief tax collector of Jericho. Jesus invited himself to his home. Jesus told him, "Zacchaeus, come down quickly, for today I must stay at your house." Being small in stature, Zacchaeus had climbed a tree to get a better view of Jesus who was passing by. The tax collector came down full of joy and offered Jesus the hospitality of his home. He heard Jesus say to him, "Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost" (cf. Lk 19:1-10). This text highlights not only Jesus' familiarity with tax collectors and sinners, but also the reason why he sought their company: their salvation.

5. A similar event is linked to the name of Levi, son of Alphaeus. This was all the more significant inasmuch as this man, whom Jesus had seen "seated at the customs post," was called to become one of the apostles. "Follow me," Jesus said to him. And he got up and followed him. He is listed among the Twelve under the name of Matthew, and we know that he is the author of one of the Gospels. The evangelist Mark tells us that Jesus "was at table in his house," and that "many tax collectors and sinners sat with Jesus and his disciples" (cf. Mk 2:13-15). In this case also "some scribes who were Pharisees" remonstrated with his disciples. But Jesus said to them, "Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do. I did not come to call the righteous but sinners" (Mk 2:17).

6. To be seated at table with others—including "tax collectors and sinners"—is a way of being human which one notes in Jesus from the very beginning of his messianic activity. One of the first occasions on which he manifested his messianic power was at the marriage feast of Cana in Galilee, at which he was present together with his mother and disciples (cf. Jn 2:1-12). Later, moreover, Jesus was accustomed to accept invitations to table, not merely from the tax collectors, but also from the Pharisees, who were his fiercest adversaries. For example, we read in Luke, "A Pharisee invited him to dine with him, and he entered the Pharisee's house and reclined at table" (Lk 7:36).

7. During this meal, something happened that throws a new light on Jesus' attitude to poor humanity, comprising so many sinners whom the presumed righteous people despise and condemn. A woman known in the city as a sinner was among those present. Weeping, she kissed Jesus' feet and anointed them with ointment. A discussion began between Jesus and his host, during which Jesus showed that an essential link exists between forgiveness of sins and love inspired by faith. "Her many sins have been forgiven, for she loved much.... Then he said to her, 'Your sins are forgiven...your faith has saved you; go in peace'" (cf. Lk 7:36-50).

8. This is not the only case of its kind. There is another dramatic case, that of a woman caught in adultery (cf. Jn 8:1-11). This event also, like the previous one, explains in what sense Jesus was "a friend of tax collectors and sinners." He said to the woman, "Go, and do not sin again." He who was "like us in all things but sin," was shown to be close to sinners in order to free them from sin. However, he aimed at this messianic purpose in a completely new way compared with the severity reserved for sinners by those who judged them on the basis of the Old Law. Jesus worked in the spirit of a great love for every human person, on the basis of the profound solidarity which he had for those created in the image and likeness of God (cf. Gen 1:27; 5:1).

9. Of what does this solidarity consist? It is the manifestation of the love which has its source in God himself. The Son of God came into the world to reveal this love. He already revealed it by the fact that he himself became man, one of us. This union with us on the part of Jesus Christ, true man, is the fundamental expression of his solidarity with every human person. It speaks eloquently of the love with which God himself has loved each and every person. Love is confirmed here in an entirely special way—one who loves seeks to share everything with the beloved. It is precisely for this reason that the Son of God became man. Isaiah had prophesied of him, "Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured" (cf. Mt 8:17; Is 53:4). Jesus thus shared the same existential condition with every son and daughter of the human race. In this he also revealed the existential dignity of each and every human person. The Incarnation is an ineffable "re-evaluation" of the human person and of humanity!

10. This "love-solidarity" stands out in the entire earthly life and mission of the Son of Man, especially in regard to those who suffer under the weight of misery, whether physical or moral. At the end of his journey there will be the "giving of his life as a ransom for many" (cf. Mk 10:45), the redemptive sacrifice of the cross. However, on the way leading to this supreme sacrifice, Jesus' entire earthly life manifested his solidarity with mankind. He summed up in his own words: "The Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45). He was a child like every human child. He worked with his hands alongside Joseph of Nazareth, just as all people work (cf. Encyclical Laborem Exercens 26). He was a son of Israel; he shared in the culture, tradition, hope and suffering of his people. He, too, experienced what often happens in the life of those called to some mission: misunderstanding and betrayal by one of those whom he himself had chosen as his apostles to continue his work. For this he experienced a profound sorrow (cf. Jn 13:21).

And when the moment drew near in which he was "to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mt 20:28), Jesus voluntarily offered himself (cf. Jn 10:18), thus consummating the mystery of his solidarity in the sacrifice. The Roman governor found no other words to describe him before his assembled accusers except "Behold the man!" (Jn 19:5).

Pilate was unaware of the mystery but not insensitive to the attraction which issued from Jesus even in that moment. His words tell us everything about Christ's human reality. Jesus is the man; a true man who, like us in all things but sin, became a victim for sin and entered into solidarity with all, even to death on a cross.


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

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica francese 

Chers frères et sœurs de langue française, en vous reparlant aujourd’hui du Christ Sauveur, je souhaite que votre pèlerinage à Rome, auprès des tombeaux des Apôtres et des martyrs, au centre de l’Eglise vivante, vous aide à retrouver les sources de la solidarité humaine, les sources de l’espérance fondée sur le Christ.

Parmi vous, je salue en particulier les Frères du Sacré-Cœur, en stage de renouveau spirituel et pastoral: je vous encourage à trouver, grâce à la prière et à la réflexion, un élan nouveau dans votre vie religieuse et dans votre service ecclésial.

A tous, aux jeunes et aux aînés, je donne volontiers ma Bénédiction. 

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I offer a special word of welcome to the First Year Students from the Pontifical Beda College. In this Marian Year, God’s Providence has brought you to Rome to begin your preparation for the priesthood. I encourage you therefore to use this time to foster a filial love for the Blessed Mother of God. Like Mary, seek always to listen attentively to God’s word and to put it into practice. There is no better way to prepare yourselves to be faithful heralds of the Gospel of salvation.

I wish also to extend a cordial greeting to the participants in the visit organized by the Ecumenical Institute of Bossey.

And on all the English-speaking visitors present, especially from England and the United States, I invoke abundant blessing of peace and joy.

Ai pellegrini di espressione spagnola 

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Me es grato presentar ahora mi más cordial saludo de bienvenida a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española.

En particular, deseo saludar al grupo salesiano procedente de Buenos Aires, que conmemora con esta venida a Roma el centenario de la muerte de San Juan Bosco.

Igualmente saludo a los miembros del Movimiento de Apostolado “Regnum Christi”, a los estudiantes de la Universidad Católica de Chile y a los jóvenes del Perú y de Mallorca.

A todos imparto de corazón la Bendición Apostólica. 

Ai visitatori giunti dalla Polonia 

Witam wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski z księdzem bp. Muszyńskim, nowym ordynariuszem włocławskim; pielgrzymów z parafii św. Katarzyny z Warszawy na 750-lecie; pielgrzymów z parafii Matki Bożej Częstochowskiej z Józefowa koło Otwocka; prócz tego grupę młodzieży z LX liceum Ogólnokształcącego z Warszawy; grupę Logos-Tour z Wałbrzycha i Wrocławia; kolejarzy z Katowic oraz innych uczestników grup turystycznych.  

Ad alcuni gruppi italiani 

Desidero ora porgere il mio saluto al gruppo dei fratelli Cappuccini provenienti da diverse Province italiane per partecipare ad un corso di formazione. Desidero incoraggiare il loro impegno, ed auguro loro di conservare sempre un grande amore alla Chiesa, al servizio per i poveri e gli umili, sull’esempio di San Francesco. 

* * *

Saluto poi il gruppo delle Superiore delle Figlie dell’Immacolata Concezione, convenute a Roma dall’Argentina, dalla Spagna, dal Brasile e dall’Italia per un corso di aggiornamento. Auspico per loro ogni bene ed invoco dal Signore copiosi frutti di grazia sul loro apostolato. 

* * *

Il mio pensiero va anche agli alunni ed agli educatori della Scuola Italiana “Antonio Raimondi” di Lima, in Perù. A loro do il mio benvenuto, con l’invito a scoprire in questa Città le tracce della tradizione culturale classica, insieme con i segni ed i monumenti delle origini del cristianesimo, delle “passioni” dei martiri e della vita della Chiesa.

A tutti il mio cordiale saluto e la mia Benedizione. 

Ai giovani 

Non manca mai, a questo incontro settimanale, la presenza vivace di tanti ragazzi e giovani. È giusto che ad essi sia rivolto uno speciale saluto.

Carissimi, in questi giorni i mezzi di informazione insistono nel presentare la figura e l’opera educativa di San Giovanni Bosco.

Vi invito ad inserire i vostri progetti per il futuro nel solco tracciato da questa grande anima sacerdotale. Don Bosco seppe rispondere alle sfide del suo tempo presentando ai ragazzi che accorrevano a lui un programma di vita fondato sui valori che la ragione, illuminata dalla fede, è in grado di scoprire e indicando nell’impegno della volontà, sostenuta dalla grazia, il segreto per attuarlo.

È un programma che non ha perso nulla del suo valore.

Nell’esortarvi a farlo vostro vi benedico di cuore. 

Agli ammalati 

Saluto con particolare affetto anche voi, cari ammalati, e quanti vi accompagnano e vi soccorrono con generosa e lodevole dedizione.

La vostra presenza precede quella di numerosi altri infermi che, nella ricorrenza dell’apparizione della Vergine a Lourdes, converranno nella Basilica di San Pietro per invocare la divina assistenza.

Nel proporre a tutti voi l’esempio di Santa Bernardetta, vi esorto a corrispondere generosamente all’invito della Madonna, offrendo a Dio le vostre sofferenze fisiche e morali che, unite ai meriti infiniti della passione di Cristo, contribuiscono alla redenzione del mondo.

In questo Anno Mariano, vi invito anche ad essere fedeli alla recita della bella preghiera del Rosario, in unione con le intenzioni del Papa. A tutti la mia affettuosa Benedizione. 

Agli sposi novelli 

Rivolgo infine il mio augurio cordiale alle coppie di sposi novelli qui presenti.

L’amore che vi siete promessi attraverso il Sacramento da poco ricevuto, deve accompagnare tutta la vostra vita, accrescendo ed affinando la vostra reciproca intesa. Esso non potrà non tradursi in un quotidiano esercizio di pazienza, di dialogo, di superamento delle inevitabili tensioni che la convivenza comporta. Avrete bisogno per questo dell’aiuto della grazia divina. Vi invito perciò ad essere costanti nella preghiera e nella pratica sacramentale. Dio non abbandona chi lo invoca con fiduciosa costanza.

Tornando nella vostra nuova casa, portatevi anche la mia Benedizione.

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