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Jesus' awareness of his unique relationship to the Father

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
General Audience, Wednesday 1 July 1987 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish  

"1. Jesus' self-revelation as the Son of God is given a unique expression in the term Abba, Father. Abba is an Aramaic word which is preserved in the Greek text of Mark's Gospel (14:36). It appears precisely when Jesus addressed his Father. Even though this word can be translated into every language, yet on the lips of Jesus of Nazareth one can better understand its unique meaning.

2. Abba expresses not only the traditional praise of God, "I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth" (cf. Mt 11:25), but as used by Jesus it also indicates his awareness of the unique and exclusive relationship that exists between the Father and himself. It expresses the same reality to which Jesus alludes in such a simple and yet extraordinary way in the words preserved for us in the Gospels of Matthew (11:27) and Luke (10:22): "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." In other words, the term Abba not only manifests the mystery of the reciprocal bond between Father and Son, but summarizes in a certain way the whole truth about God's intimate life in the depths of the Trinity, that mutual knowledge of Father and Son which gives rise to the spiration of eternal Love.

3. The word Abba is taken from the vocabulary of family life and speaks of the personal communion between father and son, between the son who loves the father and is in turn loved by him. When Jesus used this word to speak of God, his hearers must have wondered and even been scandalized. An Israelite would not have used it even in prayer. Only one who regarded himself as Son of God in the proper sense of the word could have spoken thus of him and to him as Father--Abba, or my Father, Daddy, Papa!

4. A text of Jeremiah speaks of God wanting to be called Father, "I thought you would call me, 'My Father'" (Jer 3:19). It is as it were a prophecy that would be fulfilled in messianic times. It was fulfilled and surpassed by Jesus of Nazareth in speaking of himself in relation to the Father as he who "knows the Father," making use of the filial expression Abba. He constantly speaks of the Father, and invokes the Father as one having the right to address him simply with the name Abba--my Father.

5. All this was noted by the evangelists. Particularly in Mark's Gospel we read that during the prayer in Gethsemane Jesus exclaimed, "Abba, Father, all things are possible to you; remove this cup from me; yet not what I will, but what you will" (Mk 14:36). The parallel passage in Matthew reads, "my Father," that is, Abba, even though the Aramaic word is not literally quoted (cf. Mt 26:39-42). Even when the Gospel text says only "Father" (as in Lk 22:42, and also in another context, in Jn 12:27), the essential meaning is identical.

6. Jesus got his hearers to understand that when he used the word "God," and particularly the term "Father," he meant "Abba--my Father." Thus even in his youth when he was barely twelve years old, he said to his parents who had sought him for three days, "Did you not know that I had to be in my Father's house?" (Lk 2:49). At the end of his life, in the priestly prayer which concludes his mission, he insists in asking God, "Father, the hour has come; glorify your Son that the Son may glorify you" (Jn 17:1). "Holy Father, keep them in your name, which you have given me" (Jn 17:11). "O righteous Father, the world has not known you, but I have known you" (Jn 17:25). Already in foretelling the end of the world, in the parable of the last judgment, he appears as the one who proclaims, "Come, O blessed of my Father" (Mt 25:34). Later, on the cross, his last words were "Father, into your hands I commend my spirit" (Lk 23:46). Finally, after the resurrection he told the disciples, "And behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you" (Lk 24:49).

7. Jesus Christ, who "knows the Father" so profoundly, came "to manifest his name to the men whom the Father had given him." (cf. Jn 17:6). An important moment of this revelation of the Father is the reply which he gave to his disciples when they asked him, "Teach us to pray" (cf. Lk 11:1). He then dictated to them the prayer which begins with the words "our Father" (Mt 6:9-13) or "Father" (Lk 11:2-4). Through the revelation of this prayer the disciples discover their special participation in the divine sonship, of which the Apostle John will say in the prologue of his Gospel, "To all who received him (that is, to all who received the Word who became flesh), Jesus gave power to become children of God" (Jn 1:12). Rightly therefore, according to his own instruction, do they pray, "Our Father."

8. Jesus however always drew a distinction between "my Father" and "your Father." Again, after the resurrection he said to Mary Magdalene, "Go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (Jn 20:17). Moreover, it is to be noted that in no passage of the Gospel do we read that Jesus recommended his disciples to pray with the word Abba. That term refers exclusively to his personal relation of sonship with the Father. At the same time, however, the Abba of Jesus is in reality he who is also "our Father," as is clear from the prayer taught to his disciples. He is so by our participation or, better still, by our adoption, as the theologians teach following St. Paul who wrote to the Galatians: "God sent forth his that we might receive adoption as sons" [1] .

9. In this sense we are to understand the subsequent words of St. Paul in his Letter to the Galatians: "Because we are children, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, saying, 'Abba, Father!'" (Gal 4:6), and also what he wrote in his Letter to the Romans: "You did not receive a spirit of slavery...but a spirit of adoption through which we cry out, 'Abba, Father!'" (Rom 8:15). When therefore as adoptive sons (adopted in Christ--"sons in the Son," says St. Paul--cf. Rom 8:29) we cry out to God "Father," "our Father," these words refer to the same God, to whom Jesus said with incomparable intimacy " Father."

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

Je voudrais exprimer ma sympathie à tous les pèlerins et visiteurs d’expression française présents à cette audience. Que l’été soit pour vous un temps heureux de détente et aussi de renouvellement spirituel, comme vous y invitent à Rome tant de souvenirs et aussi tant de rencontres.

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Je suis heureux de saluer les Jeunes Démocrates-Chrétiens fribourgeois et de les encourager vivement dans leurs désir d’insuffler la doctrine de l’Eglise dans notre monde si matérialiste et avide d’une fausse liberté. Vous saurez, chers amis, trouver dans l’Evangile la Vérité qui fait vivre et qui libère.

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Et j'adresse salut très cordial aux Petits Chanteurs de Notre-Dame de Sion; je les encourage dans leur service liturgique si précieux pour la qualité de la prière commune.

A tous, je donne ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

My cordial greeting goes to the English-speaking people present, especially to the members of the various musical choirs who add to the joy of our audience this morning.

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I am happy to welcome the groups of women Religious, in particular the Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Dear Sisters: Be assured that my prayers are with you during these weeks of renewal. May the Spirit of Jesus rekindle your love and your dedication to the Gospel of salvation.

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I extend a warm welcome to the representatives of the Women’s Organization of Zimbabwe. May your efforts to promote the authentic good of women in your country be blessed by the Lord, who calls you to the loving service of your families and of the society in which you live.

Also present today are the participants in the Development Administration Programme, organized by the Italian Institute for University Cooperation of Rome. It is a pleasure for me to greet you and to offer my encouragement as you search for ever more effective ways of working for the progress of your peoples.

And to all the pilgrims and visitors, especially those from the United States and Canada, I offer my good wishes and prayers that the Lord will abundantly bless you with peace and joy.

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola

Mi más afectuoso saludo ahora a los peregrinos de España y América Latina aquí presentes. Ante todo me es grato saludar a las Religiosas Agustinas Misioneras, que asisten en Roma a un Encuentro Internacional Misionero, así como a un grupo de Religiosas de la Congregación “Jesús y María”. Asimismo dirijo mi cordial saludo a los numerosos estudiantes, en particular a los de los Colegios “La Purísima”, de Alcira, y “Ramón Martí Soriano”, de Vallada. Agradezco también la presencia en esta Audiencia de un grupo de seńoras de la Acción Católica de Hermosillo (México).

En mis viajes pastorales por tierras de España y Latinoamérica he podido comprobar la gran devoción que se tiene a la Virgen Santísima. En este Ańo Mariano os invito, siguiendo su ejemplo, a estar siempre disponibles a los amorosos y misteriosos designios de Dios Padre.

A vosotros y a vuestros seres queridos imparto mi Bendición Apostólica, en prenda de la constante protección del Altísimo.

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

A todos os amados ouvintes de língua portuguesa, com saudações cordiais, desejo felicidades, graça e paz no Senhor Jesus Cristo. Saúdo em particular os peregrinos do Brasil - de Curitiba, vindos a Roma principalmente por motivo do Ano Mariano: que Nossa Senhora vos acompanhe e ampare sempre, na caminhada da fé e no crescimento em amor cristão, e vos alcance, assim como para quantos vos são queridos, todo o bem. Com a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di lingua polacca

Witam serdecznie Księży Bikupów z Sandomierza i Białe-gostoku, prócz tego pielgrozymów z Warszawy - Marymont, parafia Królewej Polski, księża marianie; z Waszawy - duszpasterstwo akademickie, kościół św. Krzyża; z Warszawy - duszpasterstwo akademickie z bazyliki Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa; pielgrzymów z archidiecezyji gnieźnieńskiej, prymasowskiej; z diecezji kieleckiej, z seminarium kieleckiego; z archidiecezyji białostockiej; kapłanów z diecezji siedleckiej oraz pielgrzymkę z Siedlec: Diecezjalny Komitet Charytatywno-Społeczny; ogólnopolską pielgrzymkę marianską, w szczególnósci z Góry Kalwarii koło Warszawy; nauczycieli z Gdańska; pielgrzymów z Liechenia, z sanktuarium Matki Bożej Bolesnej; uczestników Uniwersytetu Polonijnego w Rzymie, zorganizowanego przez Instytut Kultury Chrzśscijańskiej i Dom Polski; z parafii księży marianów w Londynie, parafia Matki kościoła; prócz tego grupę polsko-niemiecką, z Schwäbisch Gmünd-Niemcy Zachodnie; Oaza III stopnia z warszawskiej prowincji kapucynów; pielgrzymke sióstr zgromadzenia Służebnic Jezusa w Eucharystii, przybyłych z różnych krajów świata na beatyfikację swego założyciela, błogosławionego arcybiskupa Jerzego Matulaitisa - Matulewicza. Prócz tego organizatorów pieszych pielgrzymek z Krakowa na Jasną Górę, wreszcie uczestników grup turystycznych.

A gruppi di pellegrini di lingua italiana

Rivolgo un cordiale saluto al gruppo dei diretti collaboratori della Parrocchia di Santo Stefano Martire di Robbio, in diocesi di Vercelli, giunti, insieme al Parroco, a pregare presso la Sede di Pietro. Voi celebrate il bicentenario della chiesa parrocchiale: siate pertanto i benvenuti! Il Signore benedica largamente la vostra attività, cari Fratelli e Sorelle: la renda sempre più feconda, credibile, incisiva. Siate, nel vostro ambiente, “ luce del mondo e sale della terra ”, mentre io vi seguo con un affettuoso pensiero.

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Un mio cordiale saluto anche ai Seminaristi di Novara, qui presenti insieme col loro Direttore spirituale. Grazie, cari Fratelli, per la vostra visita! Il vostro futuro, cari giovani, è un grande mistero di amore e di misericordia, affidato alle mani di Dio. Il vostro cammino sia, giorno per giorno, l’approfondimento di questo mistero e la sua totale accettazione, anche nei suoi aspetti di sacrificio e di abnegazione, in vista di rendere sempre più efficace la vostra testimonianza e prepararvi ad essere santi Sacerdoti. Il Signore vi dia l’abbondanza dei suoi doni; la Vergine Maria vi assista con la premura del suo materno affetto, ed io vi accompagno con la mia Benedizione.

Ai giovani

Mi è particolarmente gradito rivolgere il saluto ai giovani qui convenuti nei giorni immediatamente seguenti la Festività dei beati apostoli Pietro e Paolo.

Carissimi la fede a noi trasmessa dagli apostoli e da loro testimoniata con una adesione totale, fino al martirio, sia per voi, per ogni credente, un tesoro da conservare integro e puro; una sorgente alla quale alimentare la propria esistenza; un richiamo a spendere la vita in profondo amore alla Chiesa, quale Maestra e Madre dei credenti.

Agli ammalati

Saluto con affetto speciale, voi, carissimi ammalati, qui presenti.

I beati apostoli Pietro e Paolo che, quali testimoni della Fede, hanno saputo abbracciare la Croce del martirio, siano per voi un esempio ed un invito ad aderire alla fede cattolica, sapendo sfidare ogni ostacolo, compreso quello del dolore e della malattia, ed in pari tempo intercedendo per voi, affinché il Signore Risorto vi sia di conforto e sostegno nelle prove della vita.

Agli sposi novelli

Infine mi rivolgo a voi, carissimi sposi novelli, che siete venuti a Roma, cuore della Chiesa Cattolica, subito dopo aver ricevuto il sacramento del Matrimonio.

Carissimi, con la Grazia sacramentale voi siete divenuti un cuor solo ed un’anima sola, ed il vostro amore, da essa consacrato, ha dato origine ad una nuova famiglia. Vi auguro di saper sempre vivere la vostra esistenza coniugale e familiare, con Fede, Speranza e Carità, in comunione con le altre famiglie e all’interno della Grande Famiglia che è la Chiesa Cattolica.

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