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Jesus Christ is a model of perfect love

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
Castel Gandolfo, Wednesday 31 August 1988 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. The filial union of Jesus with the Father is expressed in the perfect love which he also made the principal commandment of the Gospel: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment" (Mt 22:37-38). As we know, to this commandment Jesus attached a second, "like the first," that of love of one's neighbor (cf. Mt 22:39). He proposed himself as a model of this love: "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you" (Jn 13:34). He taught and gave his followers a love patterned on his own model.

The qualities of charity listed by St. Paul can truly be applied to this love: "Charity is is not jealous or boastful or does not insist on its own does not rejoice at rejoices in the bears all things...endures all things" (1 Cor 13:4-7). When the Apostle in his letter presented such an image of evangelical charity to the Corinthians, his mind and heart were certainly filled with the thought of Christ's love. Therefore his hymn to charity may be regarded as a commentary on the commandment of love after the model of Christ who is Love (as St. Catherine of Siena was to say many centuries later), "as I have loved you" (Jn 13:34).

In other texts St. Paul emphasizes that the summit of this love is the sacrifice of the cross: "Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God.... Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children" (Eph 5:1-2).

It is instructive, constructive, and consoling for us to consider these qualities of Christ's love.

2. The love, with which Jesus has loved us, is humble and characterized by service. "For the Son of Man also came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mk 10:45). On the eve of the passion, before instituting the Eucharist, Jesus washed the apostles' feet and said to them, "I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you" (Jn 13:15). On another occasion he admonished them, "Whoever would be great among you must be your servant, and whoever would be first among you must be the slave of all" (Mk 11:43-44).

3. In the light of this model of humble availability which extends as far as the final "service" of the cross, Jesus can invite the disciples: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart" (Mt 11:29).

The love taught by Christ is expressed in mutual service which includes self-sacrifice for others; its final proof consists in offering one's own life "for the brethren" (1 Jn 3:16). This is what St. Paul highlights when he writes that "Christ loved the Church and gave himself up for her" (Eph 5:25).

4. Another quality extolled in the Pauline hymn to charity is that true love "does not insist on its own way" (1 Cor 13:5). We know that Jesus has left us the most perfect model of such disinterested love. St. Paul says it clearly in another passage: "Let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to edify him. For Christ did not please himself..." (Rom 15:2-3). In Jesus' love the Gospel radicalism of the eight Beatitudes proclaimed by him is realized and reaches its summit. Christ's heroism will always be the model for the heroic virtues of the saints.

5. We know that John the evangelist, when he presents Jesus to us at the beginning of the passion, writes of him that "Having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end" (Jn 13:1). That "to the end" seems to prove here the definitive and indomitable character of Christ's love. Jesus himself said in the discourse recounted by his beloved disciple, "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jn 15:13).

The same evangelist writes in his letter: "By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 Jn 3:16). Christ's love, which was definitively manifested in the sacrifice of the cross—rather, "in laying down his life for the brethren"—is the definitive model for all genuine human love. If in many followers of Jesus crucified it takes the form of heroic sacrifice, as we sometimes see in the story of Christian holiness, this measure of the imitation of the master is explained by the power of the Spirit of Christ, obtained by him and sent from the Father also for the disciples (cf. Jn 15:26).

6. Christ's sacrifice has become the price and the indemnity for man's liberation: liberation from the "slavery of sin" (cf. Rom 6:6, 17), and the passage to the "liberty of the children of God" (cf. Rom 8:21). With this sacrifice, derived from his love for us, Jesus Christ completed his salvific mission. The announcement of the whole New Testament has its most concise expression in that passage of Marks' Gospel: "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).

This word "ransom" has encouraged the formation of the concept and expression "redemption." This central truth of the new covenant is at the same time the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophetic announcement regarding the servant of the Lord: "He was wounded for our sins...with his stripes we are healed" (Is 53:5); "He bore the sins of many" (Is 53:12). We can say that the redemption was the goal of the whole old covenant.

7. Therefore, "having loved to the end" (cf. Jn 13:1) those whom the Father "had given" him (cf. Jn 17:6), Christ offered his life on the cross as "a sacrifice for sin" (according to the words of Isaiah). The awareness of this task, of this supreme mission, was ever present in the thought and will of Jesus. His words about the "good shepherd" who "offers his life for the sheep" (Jn 10:11) tell us this; so does his mysterious though clear desire: "I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how am I constrained until it is accomplished!" (Lk 12:50); and that supreme statement over the chalice of wine during the Last Supper: "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sin" (Mt 26:28).

8. From the beginning, the apostolic preaching inculcated the truth that "Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures" (1 Cor 15:3).

Paul said firmly to the Corinthians: "So we preach and so you have believed" (1 Cor 15:11). He preached to the elders at Ephesus: "The Holy Spirit has made you guardians, to feed the church of the Lord which he obtained with his own blood" (Acts 2:28). Paul's preaching fully agrees with what Peter says: "Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God" (1 Pet 3:18).

Paul repeats the same idea, namely, that in Christ "we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace" (Eph 1:7).

To systematize and continue this teaching, the Apostle resolutely states: "We preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles" (1 Cor 1:23). "For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Cor 1:25). The Apostle is aware of the contradiction revealed in Christ's cross. Why, then, is this cross the supreme power and wisdom of God? There is only one answer—love is manifested in the cross: "God shows his love for us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us" (Rom 5:8); "Christ loved us and gave himself up for us" (Eph 5:2). Paul's words re-echo those of Christ himself: "Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jn 15:13), for the sins of the world.

9. The truth about the redemptive sacrifice of Christ who is Love forms part of the doctrine contained in the Letter to the Hebrews. Christ is portrayed as "a high priest of the good things that have come," who "entered once for all into the Holy Place, taking...his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption" (Heb 9:11-12). He did not offer that merely ritual sacrifice of animals' blood which used to be offered in the old covenant in the sanctuary "made with hands." He offered himself, transforming his own violent death into a means of communion with God. In this way, through "what he suffered" (Heb 5:8), Christ became "the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him" (Heb 5:9). This single sacrifice has the power to "purify our conscience from dead works" (cf. Heb 9:14). Only this offering "makes perfect once for all those who are sanctified" (cf. Heb 10:14). In this sacrifice, in which Christ "through the eternal Spirit offered God" (Heb 9:14), he found the definitive expression of his love: the love with which "he loved to the end" (Jn 13:1), the love which required him to become obedient "unto death, even death on a cross" (Phil 2:8).


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

Ai pellegrini di lingua francese 

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

J’ACCUEILLE AVEC JOIE les personnes de langue française venues à cette audience, en particulier le groupe de Lugny, du diocèse d’Autun. Chers pèlerins, à l’occasion du cinquantième anniversaire de la fondation des “Pèlerinages, de Lugny”, je remercie Dieu avec vous des grâces accordées à votre diocèse par les visites à Rome. J’adresse aux membres handicapés de votre groupe un salut cordial et mes encouragements à prendre toute leur place dans la société et dans l’Eglise.

Enfin, à toutes les personnes ici présentes, jeunes et adultes, je donne de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I WISH TO OFFER a cordial greeting to the ecumenical pilgrimage from Los Angeles, California, as well as to the members of the parish choir from Uganda.

* * *

IT IS A PLEASURE for me to welcome a delegation from the Committee on Science, Space and Technology of the United States House of Representatives.

I assure you of the interest of the Church in your efforts to protect the environment and to enhance the quality of life in every country around the world.

* * *

I EXTEND very special greetings to the new students of the North American College. To each of you the Lord says, as recorded in the prophecy of Isaiah: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine”. As you begin your preparation for the priesthood here in Rome, I invite you to meditate on these words and to deepen your awareness of the love of God for you. With the help of divine grace and the practice of regular prayer, may you grow each day in your desire to give your whole life for the sake of Jesus and the Gospel.

To all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims, I offer a warm welcome.

May the Lord bless you all with his gifts of peace and joy.

A pellegrini della parrocchia Senri di Osaka ed ad universitari di altre città del Giappone 

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

SALUTO I FEDELI della parrocchia Senri di Osaka e gli studenti dell’Università “Nanzan” di Nagoya e dell’Università Femminile “Kaisei” di Kobe.

State facendo un pellegrinaggio o dei corsi di aggiornamento. Auspico che i frutti del vostro pellegrinaggio o del vostro studio portino dei benefici nell’ambiente in cui vivete, così che la vostra fatica abbia uno scopo valido.

Mentre vi incoraggio a dedicarvi al bene della società nella quale siete inseriti, vi imparto ben volentieri la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo! 

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca 

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

MIT DIESEN Anregungen aus der Mitte unseres Glaubens grüße ich die Besucher deutscher Sprache und wünsche ihnen Gottes weise Führung auf ihrem Lebensweg. Möge er für euch alle an sein gottgewolltes Ziel gelangen! - Gelobt sei Jesus Christus!

A gruppi di espressione linguistica spagnola 

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

ME ES GRATO saludar ahora a los peregrinos de lengua española, procedentes de España y de América Latina, especialmente a los grupos parroquiales y asociaciones, así como a los diversos grupos de jóvenes.

De modo particular saludo al grupo de ciudadanos de Benifayó, ciudad valenciana que se ha hermanado con la localidad italiana de Valmonte. Que vuestro noble gesto de fraternidad sea un ejemplo para fomentar los valores de amistad y convivencia entre las personas y los pueblos. 

* * * 

TAMBIÉN QUIERO saludar con afecto a los miembros representantes de la Escuela Familiar Agraria “Quintanes” de Vic (España). Os animo a seguir manteniendo los valores de vuestra vida rural, enriquecidos siempre por los valores evangélicos.

Al desearos a todos que vuestra vida sea modelo de amor desinteresado por los demás, os imparto de corazón mi Bendición Apostólica. 

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese 

Amados irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa,

UMA SAUDAÇAO particular aos peregrinos vindos de Portugal:
- do Porto;
- do Sameiro de Braga;
- e aos diversos grupos vindos de vários lugares do Brasil: que a sua visita aos “vestígios” dos santos Apóstolos Pedro e Paulo seja estímulo a reavivar a fé em Cristo cujo amor nos redimiu e nos acompanha sempre. Dou a todos, de coração, extensiva aos seus familiares e pessoas amigas, a minha Bênção. 

Ai numerosi pellegrini provenienti dalla Polonia 

POZDRAWIAM WSZYSTKICH pielgrzymów z Polski: pielgrzymów z dekanatu Zywiec II; z parafii św. Michała z Katowic; z duszpasterstwa akademickiego parafii św. Krzyża z Gdańska-Wrzeszcza, księża jezuici; z diecezji koszalińskokołobrzeskiej; z parafii Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa - Gorzów Wielkopolski; młodych salezjanów w pielgrzymke do Rzymu i Turynu; “Cantores” - chór akademicki Zielonogórskiego Towarzystwa Spiewaczego, członków Towarzystwa Przyjaźni Polsko-Włoskiej z Gdańska i Torunia; prócz tego uczestników grup turystycznych Orbisu z Sanoka i Warszawy, Pekaesu z Warszawy, Almaturu z Poznania, Turysty z Gdańska, Gromady z Tych; na koniec esperantystów z Inowrocławia. 

A vari gruppi di fedeli di lingua italiana

DESIDERO ORA rivolgere un cordiale saluto ai parrocchiani di Maria Incoronata e dell’Immacolata Concezione di Minervino Murge, in diocesi di Andria, i quali festeggiano il centenario di fondazione delle rispettive Parrocchie e i giubilei sacerdotali dei propri parroci.

Al gruppo parrocchiale di Rosà, in diocesi di Vicenza, che ha compiuto un pellegrinaggio in bicicletta al Santuario della Madonna del Divino Amore; e al gruppo parrocchiale dei Ss. Pietro Apostolo e Giovanni Battista, di Grotte di Castro, in diocesi di Viterbo. Quest’ultimo gruppo mi ha chiesto di accendere una simbolica fiaccola, che verrà portata in parrocchia; ben volentieri accondiscendo alla richiesta.

* * * 

A VOI TUTTI cari fratelli e sorelle, un caloroso benvenuto, e l’augurio che questo vivo senso della realtà parrocchiale, del quale date testimonianza, possa consolidarsi in voi ed allargarsi ad una cerchia sempre più vasta di fratelli in una forte spinta missionaria ed evangelizzatrice.

Con la mia affettuosa Benedizione. 

* * * 

UN PENSIERO e un saluto cordiale anche ai seminaristi di Bergamo, qui presenti, insieme con i superiori ed alcuni familiari.

Il vostro pellegrinaggio, cari fratelli, è divenuto quasi una tradizione, e conosco bene l’affettuosa devozione che vi lega alla Sede di Pietro, nella quale vedete una guida sicura nella preparazione al sacerdozio e nella ricerca del Regno di Dio. Gioisco con voi per la vostra fede e ne ringrazio il Signore, pregandolo per la vostra fedeltà alla vocazione.

Vi accompagno con la mia Benedizione. 

* * * 

UN CARO SALUTO, infine, alle Suore Pie Operaie dell’Immacolata Concezione, che hanno partecipato ad un corso di esercizi spirituali.

Vi auguro che possiate riprendere, care sorelle, il vostro cammino di fede e di amore con rinnovato fervore, facendo tesoro delle esortazioni che avete ricevuto in questo periodo di più intenso colloquio con Dio, perché possiate vivere con maggior frutto e convinzione la missione che vi attende al servizio della Chiesa e delle anime.

Vi sono vicino con la mia Benedizione. 

Ai giovani 

CARI GIOVANI, Vi accolgo e vi saluto tutti con affetto e fede nel vostro incontro con Roma cristiana.

Rivolgo con voi lo sguardo a Cristo, sapienza eterna e sole di giustizia.

In ogni stagione della vita, e particolarmente nella vostra, Cristo è sapore e luce, signore del tempo e centro della storia. Egli è la Parola eterna del Padre, che si fa storia nella vostra storia, nella vostra chiamata e nelle vostre scelte, mediante il suo Spirito di vita.

In ogni situazione gioiosa o difficile, quando gli orizzonti umani vi stimolano e ancor più quando sembrano schiacciarvi, insieme con la Chiesa dite: “Cristo, sapienza eterna, / donaci di gustare / la tua dolce amicizia” . . . È l’amicizia dell’Uomo-Dio, di colui che si è fatto “punto focale dei desideri della storia e della civiltà”.  A Lui, Cuore più grande del nostro cuore, aprite la vostra esistenza, oggi e sempre, voi giovani e voi tutti che volete restare giovani.

Con grande affetto vi benedico. 

Agli ammalati 

SALUTO POI i malati, presenti a questa udienza, e tutti quelli che, da casa o dagli ospedali, si uniscono alla nostra preghiera.

L’esperienza della malattia spesso costringe all’isolamento, rende più difficile la sopportazione del dolore e la maturazione delle proprie decisioni. Sì, perché anche un malato ha tante cose da decidere in cuor suo.

È per questo che oggi faccio mie le parole della “Liturgia delle Ore” e con voi invoco Cristo “angelo del consiglio”: è Lui che “guida e protegge il popolo che spera nel suo nome”; è Lui “la nostra forza, la roccia che ci salva dagli assalti del male”.

In lui ritroviamo il fondamento della vera comunione con gli altri, la luce per vedere nella nostra situazione il limite e il dono, il coraggio per decidere nel nostro cuore i “Sì” più difficili al nostro dolore e alla sua offerta per amore.

Vi benedico e prego per voi. 

Agli sposi novelli 

CARI SPOSI NOVELLI, il mio saluto si rivolge a voi con particolare affetto. Davanti all’altare, ai familiari e agli amici vi siete detto il vostro sì. In ascolto di quel sì, era lì presente tutta la Chiesa, che oggi, col Papa, ancora una volta, prega per voi e con voi.

Il sacramento del matrimonio vi rende capaci di essere segno credibile dell’alleanza di Dio con gli uomini, in Cristo. La grazia del sacramento continuamente vi sollecita a tale credibilità; ma vi sollecita anche la società in cui vivete, così spesso disorientata dalla banalizzazione dei sentimenti e dell’amore umano.

La Chiesa vi dice: siate autentici, siate fedeli, siate coraggiosi. Le vostre famiglie siano strumenti di unità e scuole di pace, nel nome di Cristo e insieme con Maria.

Di cuore vi benedico.

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