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Jesus Christ, Messiah and Divine Wisdom

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
General Audience, Wednesday 22 April 1987 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. A rich tradition of wisdom literature permeates the Old Testament. On the human level, it manifests the thirst of every person to make sense of the various experiences of daily existence and to direct one's life in the most profitable and worthwhile way. From this point of view Israel did not depart from the forms of wisdom found in other cultures of antiquity. It elaborated its own wisdom of life which embraced the various sectors of existence: individual, family, social and political.

This search for wisdom, however, was never separated from faith in the Lord, the God of the Exodus. This was due to the fact that for the Chosen People, perfect wisdom is to be found in God alone. For this reason the "fear of the Lord," the religious and vital orientation toward him, was regarded as the "principle," the "foundation," the "school" of true wisdom (Prov 1:7; 9:10; 15:33).

2. Under the influence of the liturgical and prophetic tradition the wisdom theme was singularly enriched and came to permeate the whole of revelation. After the exile there was an ever clearer understanding that human wisdom is a reflection of the divine Wisdom which God "has poured forth upon all his works, upon every living thing according to his bounty" (Sir 1:9-10). The peak point of the gift of wisdom occurred with the revelation to the chosen people to whom the Lord made known his Word (cf. Dt 30:14). Indeed divine Wisdom, known in the fullest form of which man is capable, is revelation itself, the "Torah," "the book of the Most High's covenant" (Sir 24:23).

3. In this context divine Wisdom appears as God's mysterious design which is at the origin of creation and salvation. It is the light which illumines all, the word which reveals, the power of love which joins God with creation and with his people. Divine Wisdom is not an abstract doctrine but rather a person who comes from God and who was with God from the beginning (cf. Prov 8:22-31). He is his delight in the moment of creation of the world and of humanity, rejoicing always before him (Prov 8:22-31).

The Book of Sirach again takes up this theme and develops it by showing that divine Wisdom finds its resting place in Israel and is established in Zion (Sir 24:3-12). Thus it indicates that the faith of the chosen people is the most sublime way to enter into communion with the divine thought and plan. The ultimate Old Testament fruit of this in-depth examination is the Book of Wisdom written shortly before Christ's birth. It defines divine Wisdom as "a breath of the power of God, a reflection of eternal light, a spotless mirror of the working of God, and an image of his goodness" (Wis 7:25-27).

4. At this level of personalized symbol of the divine plan, wisdom is a figure of the intimacy of communion with God and of the demand for a personal response of love. Wisdom therefore appears as a spouse (cf. Prov 4:6-9), the companion of life (cf. Prov 6:22; 7:4). With the motivations of love she invites the human person to communion with the living God. This communion is described with the liturgical image of a banquet, "Come, eat of my bread and drink of the wine I have mixed" (Prov 9:5). It is an image which will be taken up again by apocalyptic prophecy to indicate the eternal communion with God when he himself will have eliminated death forever (Is 25:6-8).

5. In the light of this sapiential tradition we have a better understanding of the mystery of Jesus the Messiah. A prophetic text of Isaiah already speaks of the Spirit of the Lord which shall rest on the King-Messiah and describes his Spirit especially as "the spirit of wisdom and understanding" and finally as the "spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord" (Is 11:2).

Various texts of the New Testament present Jesus as full of divine Wisdom. St. Luke's infancy Gospel suggests the important significance of Jesus' presence among the doctors in the temple, where "all who heard him were amazed at his understanding" (Lk 2:47). Luke summarizes the hidden life at Nazareth in the words, "Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature, and in favor with God and man" (Lk 2:52).

During the years of Jesus' ministry his teaching occasioned surprise and amazement: "Many who heard him were astonished, saying, 'Where did this man get all this? What is the wisdom given to him?'" (Mk 6:2).

This wisdom which came from God conferred a special prestige on Jesus, "for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes" (Mt 7:29). Jesus presented himself as one who is "greater than Solomon" (Mt 12:42). Since Solomon is the ideal figure of the recipient of divine Wisdom, it follows that in these words Jesus appears explicitly as the true wisdom revealed to mankind.

6. With singular insight, the Apostle Paul affirmed this identification of Jesus with wisdom. He wrote that God "has made Christ our wisdom and also our justice, our sanctification, and our redemption" (1 Cor 1:30). Jesus, indeed, is the "wisdom which is not of this age...which God decreed before the ages for our glorification" (1 Cor 2:6-7). The wisdom of God is identified with the Lord of glory who was crucified. The cross and resurrection of Jesus reveal in all its splendor the merciful plan of God who loves and pardons the human person to the point of making him a new creature. Sacred Scripture speaks also of another wisdom which is not of God, the "wisdom of this age," the human attitude which refuses to be the agent of one's own salvation. In the eyes of such a person the cross is a folly and a weakness. But he who believes in Jesus, Messiah and Lord, experiences with the Apostle that "the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men" (1 Cor 1:25).

7. Christ is ever more profoundly contemplated as the true wisdom of God. Thus, with clear reference to the language of the sapiential books he is proclaimed as "the image of the invisible God," "the first-born of all creation," the one through whom all things were created and in whom they subsist (cf. Col 1:15-17). As Son of God, he is "the reflection of the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power" (Heb 1:3).

Faith in Jesus, the wisdom of God, leads to a "full knowledge" of the divine will "in all spiritual wisdom and understanding," and makes it possible to lead a life "worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God" (Col 1:9-10).

8. The evangelist John, on his part, referring to the wisdom described in his intimacy with God, speaks of the Word who was in the beginning with God, and professes that "the Word was God" (Jn 1:1). The wisdom which the Old Testament had come to equate with the Word of God is now identified with Jesus, the Word who "became flesh and dwelt among us" (Jn 1:14). Just as wisdom, so also Jesus, the Word of God, invites us to the banquet of his word and of his body, because he is the "bread of life" (Jn 6:48), he gives the living water of the Spirit (Jn 4:10; 7:37-39), and he has "the words of eternal life" (Jn 6:68). In all this Jesus is truly "greater than Solomon" because he not only carries out fully wisdom's mission of showing and communicating the way, the truth and the life, but he himself is "the Way, the Truth and the Life" (Jn 14:6). He is the supreme revelation of God in the mystery of his fatherhood (Jn 1:18; 17:6).

9. This faith in Jesus, revealer of the Father, is the most sublime and consoling aspect of the Good News. This is the testimony that comes to us from the first Christian communities in which Jesus' hymn of praise to the Father continued to resound, blessing him because he was pleased to reveal "these things" to the little ones.

Throughout the centuries the Church has grown with this faith. "No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Mt 11:27). In the final analysis God, in revealing the Son to us through the Spirit, manifests to us his design, his wisdom and the riches of his grace "lavished on us with all wisdom and insight" (Eph 1:8)."

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

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica francese

Je voudrais saluer chacun des pèlerins et des groupes de langue française. Vous êtes venus de tous les horizons, notamment de France, de Belgique, du Luxembourg, de Suisse, du Canada. Certains sont prêtres, moines, frères, religieuses; vous représentez des diocèses, des paroisses, des familles, des écoles, des groupes de catéchèse, d’aumônerie, d’amitié sans frontière.

Sans pouvoir reprendre tous les noms, je salue particulièrement le nombreux pèlerinage annuel des familles chrétiennes de l’Alsace, que je félicite de leur fidélité.

Je salue le diocèse de Baveux et Lisieux, avec son Evêque, Monseigneur Jean Badré: voilà juste cent ans que la jeune Thérèse Martin venait à Rome demander d’entrer sans plus tarder au carmel, et il y a sept ans, je me suis fait moi-même pèlerin à Lisieux, car sainte Thérèse, qui aurait pu sembler petite aux yeux des hommes, est devenue grande aux yeux de Dieu, de l’Eglise, des âmes contemplatives, des missionnaires et de tous les chrétiens qui, comme elle, cherchent à faire de leur vie un don gratuit à Jésus, dans la prière, comme l’amour au cœur de l’Eglise.

Enfine je salue les groupes importants de jeunes venus avec leur Evêque ou leurs aumôniers, notamment de Bauvais, d’Orléans, d’Angoulême, de Mont de Marsan, de Lauzerte, et tous les autres.

Chers Amis, que le Christ ressuscité soit votre lumière, votre force, votre sagesse! Comme l’Apôtre Pierre, qui est venu en témoigner ici même, par sa mort, ne craignez pas de vous dire ses disciples. Pour mieux le connaître, attachez-vous à l’Eglise. Et rayonnez son amour tout autour de vous, comme des frères et sœurs. Construisez votre avenir, et le monde, sur son Evangile.

A tous les pèlerins présents ici, je donne ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Al gruppo di fedeli di lingua inglese

I wish to welcome the English-speaking people present at today’s audience.

In particular, I would like to greet the newly-ordained deacons from both the Irish and Scots Colleges, together with their families and friends. Dear young men, by your ordination to the Diaconate you give generous response to the Lord’s call for ministry on behalf of the People of God. As you devote yourselves wholeheartedly to the ministry of the Word, to prayer and to loving service may you be filled with the Spirit of the Risen Lord.

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I warmly welcome the members of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Asociation of the Sacred Heart from the Diocese of Down and Connor in Ireland, as well as the sick and handicapped persons of both the Across and Inter Pares Trust groups from England.

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I am also happy to greet the Anglican Choir from the Cathedral of Lichfield in England.

And upon all the pilgrims and visitors from Ireland, Scotland, England, Norway, Trinidad and Tobago and the United States I invoke abundant blessings of peace and joy in the Risen Saviour.

Ai fedeli provenienti da Paesi di espressione tedesca

Einen besonderen brüderlichen Gruß richte ich an die große Gruppe von lutherischen Pastoren, die heute unter uns weilen. Sie wollen in dieser Osterwoche hier in Rom, am Ort einer zweitausendjährigen Geschichte des Osterzeugnisses seit den Aposteln Petrus und Paulus, dieser Ortskirche wie auch zugleich der weltweiten Kirche des Herrn begegnen. Christus schenke Ihnen dabei zahlreiche ermutigende geistliche Erfahrungen für Ihre Person und Ihr Wirken im Volke Gottes. Ebenso herzlich Grüße ich die Teilnehmer an der Romfahrt der katholischen Jugend aus der Diözese Regensburg. Ihnen und allen jungen Menschen, die bei dieser Audienz zugegen sind, erbitte ich wachsende Freude am Glauben und reifen Mut, ihn in Wort und Tat zu bezeugen Allen Besuchern deutscher Sprache wünsche ich eindrucksvolle Romtage und eine gesunde Heimkehr zu euren Familien. Auf ein baldiges Wiedersehen in eurer Heimat!

Ai diversi pellegrini di espressione spagnola

Deseo ahora dar mi más cordial bienvenida a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española.

En particular, a los alumnos y profesores del Seminario de Barbastro; a las peregrinaciones parroquiales provenientes del Levante español, y a los numerosos grupos de estudiantes junto con sus familiares y maestros.

A todas las personas, familias y grupos provenientes de los diversos países de América Latina y de España imparto con afecto, en la alegría del Señor Resucitado, mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai suoi connazionali polacchi

Pozdrawiam serdecznie pielgrzymów z parafii Narodzenia Najświętszej Maryi Panny - Kraków-Bierzanów Stary; pielgrzymów z Częstochowy; z Torunia, z parafii Matki Boskiej Zwycięskiej; współpracowników misyjnych ze wspólnot sióstr pallotynek. Prócz tego Polaków z Niemiec Zachodnich: z Landshut, duszpasterstwo ojców redemptorystów; ze Stuttgartu, również duszpasterstwo redemptorystów; wreszcie uczestników grup turystycznych i innych pielgrzymów nie objętych wymienionymi grupami.

Ai numerosi pellegrini italiani

Un particolare saluto rivolgo alle Religiose appartenenti al movimento internazionale dei Focolari, riunite al Centro Mariapoli di Castel Gandolfo per un congresso.

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Ugualmente saluto le Figlie di Maria Ausiliatrice, riunite in Roma per un corso di rinnovamento vocazionale.

Carissime Religiose, mentre invoco l’assistenza del Signore sui lavori di entrambe le Assemblee, formo l’auspicio di un sempre più generoso impegno in risposta al progetto divino di vita consacrata per ciascuna di voi, per edificare una società permeata di valori evangelici e affido le vostre aspirazioni alla materna intercessione della Santissima Vergine, con la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

* * *

Saluto poi i giovani studenti Missionari della fede ed i loro assistenti.

Esprimo inoltre un cordiale pensiero al gruppo di trentini venuti per rendere omaggio alla sede di Pietro e per confidare la loro devozione alla Madre di Dio, venerata sotto il titolo di “Madonna Ladina dell’Aiuto ”. nell’augurarvi, carissimi, la perseverante fedeltà alle vostre nobili tradizioni cristiane e l’incremento continuo del culto e della venerazione alla Vergine Santissima, imparto a voi ed alle vostre rispettive famiglie la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

* * *

Rivolgo un saluto anche ai Membri dell’Oratorio “ San Giuseppe ” di Melegnano nell’arcidiocesi di Milano, che celebrano il centenario di fondazione del loro Oratorio.

Carissimi, mentre vi esprimo il mio sincero compiacimento, formo voti che continuiate, con rinnovato entusiasmo, nel comune impegno educativo secondo gli insegnamenti e le esigenze del messaggio di Gesù.

A voi tutti ed ai vostri cari la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Ai giovani

Ed ora una parola a tutti i giovani presenti a questa Udienza.

“Voi conoscete ciò che è accaduto”, voi siete cioè testimoni, in questa settimana di Pasqua, degli eventi meravigliosi compiuti in Cristo. Egli è morto, per compiere, appeso alla Croce, il sacrificio che ci ha redenti ed ha stabilito una nuova Alleanza; egli è risorto, iniziando per tutti noi una nuova vita. In questo mistero pasquale di Gesù noi leggiamo la grandezza del mistero dell’amore di Dio, ci accorgiamo fino a qual punto, Dio che è amore, ci ha amati. Rinnovo a tutti voi l’invito che ho rivolto ai giovani la Domenica delle palme. Lasciate che il mistero pasquale vi afferri, vi coinvolga, penetri fino in fondo nelle vostre vite, nella vostra coscienza, nella vostra sensibilità, nei vostri cuori, in modo tale che questo evento di more e risurrezione dia senso alla vostra vita ed al vostro comportamento. Comprenderete che il mistero pasquale include una vocazione divina che vi riguarda e vi chiama ad orientare con decisione la vita verso un destino sublime, ultimo e definitivo: ricondurre a Dio ogni creatura, seguendo Cristo risorto. “ Lasciate, dunque, che il mistero pasquale agisca in voi ”, e cercate di fare in modo che chi vi avvicina e conosce la vostra fede, possa percepire nelle parole, nei gesti, in tutto quello che siete, il riflesso del Cristo risorto. Cristo cammina con voi.

Agli ammalati

Un saluto agli ammalati qui presenti.

La pasqua ci ha fatto meditare l’immagine del Salvatore inchiodato sulla croce ed immolato nell’abbandono del suo dolore. Nel Crocifisso abbiamo potuto comprendere l’espressione più alta dell’amore di Dio che salva e redime. Ora stiamo contemplando in qual modo dalla Croce è nata la salvezza, perché l’evento della risurrezione e ce ne dà piena e gloriosa testimonianza. Da questi misteri conoscete quale sia il valore della Croce e della sofferenza.

Vi invito perciò ad unire sempre la vostra pena al sacrificio di Cristo con coraggio, con generosità, con l’intenzione di partecipare al suo mistero. Il Risorto diverrà così, per voi, sorgente di speranza, di serenità, di luce, di fortezza, di merito e santificazione. Vi benedico tutti di cuore.

Agli sposi novelli

Il mio saluto e l’augurio più vivo, giunga anche alle coppie di sposi novelli qui presenti.

Vivete nella prospettiva della fede pasquale questa primavera del vostro amore, riconoscenti a Cristo per il dono di grazia che egli vi ha fatto in questo tempo. Il sacramento del matrimonio è espressione dell’amore di Cristo verso la Chiesa: morendo, il Cristo ha rinnovato l’offerta di sé, per rendere la sua Chiesa, da lui amata come sposa, santa e immacolata al suo cospetto; e la Chiesa accoglie questo dono del suo sposo, per donarsi a sua volta a lui in pienezza d’amore. E’ questo il mistero che illumina la vita degli sposi cristiani. Sia esso il fondamento e la garanzia di ulteriore e sempre più fecondo inserimento della vostra famiglia nella vita in Cristo e nella Chiesa.

Vi benedico tutti, con ogni più felice augurio di bene.

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