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Jesus Christ, "the faithful witness"

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
General Audience, Wednesday 8 June 1988 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. Regarding Jesus Christ's earthly mission, we read in the Constitution Lumen Gentium of the Second Vatican Council: "The Son, therefore, came, sent by the Father. It was in him, before the foundation of the world, that the Father chose us and predestined us to become adopted sons, for in him it pleased the Father to re-establish all things (cf. Eph 1:4-5 and 10). To carry out the will of the Father Christ inaugurated the kingdom of heaven on earth and revealed to us the mystery of that kingdom. By his obedience he brought about our redemption" (LG 3).

This text summarizes all that we have been speaking about in the recent reflections in which we sought to emphasize the essential aspects of Christ's messianic mission. The Council's text again proposes to us the truth of the close and deep connection between this mission and the envoy himself, Christ, who in the fulfillment of the mission manifested his personal dispositions and talents. Certain fundamental characteristics can be noted in Jesus' entire demeanor. They are expressed in his preaching, and they make his messianic mission completely credible.

2. In his preaching and in his comportment Jesus showed, above all, his deep union with the Father in his thought and in his words. What he wished to convey to his hearers (and to all humanity) comes from the Father who "sent him into the world" (Jn 10:36). "I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me what to say and speak. And I know that his commandment is eternal life. So what I say, I say as the Father told me" (Jn 12:49-50). "I say only what the Father taught me" (Jn 8:28). Thus we read in John's Gospel. The Synoptics also record a similar statement of Jesus: "All things have been handed over to me by my Father" (Mt 11:27). In the words, "all things," Jesus referred expressly to the content of the revelation which he brought to humanity (cf. Mt 11:24-27; similarly Lk 10:21-22). These words of Jesus manifest the spirit in which he carried out his preaching. He is and remains the "faithful witness" (Rev 1:5). This witnessing includes that particular "obedience" of the Son to the Father, which in the final moment will be shown as "obedience to death" (cf. Phil 2:8).

3. In his preaching Jesus also showed that his absolute fidelity to the Father as the first and ultimate source of all that was to be revealed, is the essential foundation of his veracity and credibility. "My teaching is not my own but is from the one who sent me," Jesus said, and he added, "Whoever speaks on his own seeks his own glory, but whoever seeks the glory of the one who sent him is truthful, and there is no wrong in him" (Jn 7:16, 18). These words may appear surprising on the lips of the Son of God, spoken as they are by him who is "of one Being with the Father." However, we must not forget that he spoke also as man. It was important for him to ensure that his hearers should not be in any doubt on a fundamental point, namely, that the truth transmitted by him is divine and comes from God. It was important for him to ensure that his hearers find in his words access to the same divine source of revealed truth: they must not dwell on the one who teaches, nor let themselves be fascinated by the originality and extraordinary character of that which in this doctrine comes from the Master himself. The Master "does not seek his own glory"; he seeks solely and exclusively "the glory of him who sent him." He does not speak "in his own name," but in the name of the Father.

This, too, is an aspect of the "self-emptying" (kenosis) which, according to St. Paul (cf. Phil 2:7), will reach its peak in the mystery of the cross.

4. Christ is the "faithful witness." This fidelity—in seeking exclusively the Father's glory and not his own—is a result of the love which he intends to prove. "The world must know that I love the Father" (Jn 14:31). However, his revelation of his love for the Father also includes his love for humanity. "He went about doing good" (cf. Acts 10:38). His whole earthly mission was full of acts of love for people, especially for the little ones and those most in need. "Come to me," he said, "all you who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest" (Mt 11:28). "Come"; this exhortation is not limited to his contemporaries whom Jesus met during the days of his life and suffering on earth. It is a call for the poor of all times, ever relevant even today, always being renewed on the lips and in the heart of the Church.

5. Parallel to this exhortation there is another: "Learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for yourselves" (Mt 11:29). Jesus' meekness and humility attract those called to his school: "Learn from me." Jesus is the faithful witness of God's love for humanity. In his testimony divine truth and divine love are united. Therefore, there is a profound conformity, one might almost say an identity, between word and action, between his deeds and his teaching. Jesus not only taught that love is the supreme commandment, but he himself fulfilled it in the most perfect manner. The Beatitudes that he taught in the Sermon on the Mount were incarnated in all that he did. Not only did he teach us to love our enemies, but he himself lived out that teaching to the full, especially at the hour of his death on the cross when he said, "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do" (Lk 23:34).

6. However, that meekness and humility of heart in no way implied weakness. On the contrary, Jesus is demanding; his is a demanding Gospel. Is it not he who admonishes: "Whoever does not take up his cross and follow me is not worthy of me"? And a little later: "Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Mt 10:38-39). The Gospel language is radical, and so, too, are the actual demands of the following of Christ. He did not hesitate to frequently confirm their full extent: "Do not think that I have come to bring peace upon the earth. I have come to bring not peace but the sword" (Mt 10:34). It is a forceful way of saying that the Gospel is also a source of unease for people. Jesus wishes to make us understand that the Gospel is demanding. This means shaking up consciences, not allowing them to sink into a false "peace" in which they become ever more insensitive and dulled, with the result that spiritual realities would be emptied of value and lose all interest. Jesus said to Pilate, "I came into the world to bear witness to the truth" (Jn 18:37). Those words refer also to the light which he sheds over the entire field of human actions, putting to flight obscurity of thought and especially of conscience in order to secure the triumph of truth in everyone. It is a question, however, of placing oneself on the side of truth. "Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice," Jesus will say (Jn 18:37). Hence Jesus is demanding. He is not harsh or inexorably severe, but firm and unambiguous in calling everyone to live in the truth.

7. Thus the demands of Christ's Gospel enter into the sphere of law and morality. He who is the "faithful witness" (Rev 1:5) of the divine truth, of the Father's truth, said from the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, "Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do so will be called least in the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 5:19). In calling for conversion he did not hesitate to rebuke those very towns where the people refused to believe, "Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida!" (Lk 10:13), while he warned each and every one: "If you do not repent you will all perish" (Lk 13:3).

8. Thus the Gospel of meekness and humility goes step by step with the Gospel of moral imperatives, and even of severe threats against those who do not wish to be converted. There is no contradiction between the one and the other. Jesus lived by the truth which he announced and by the love he revealed. This is an exacting love, like the truth from which it derives. Love imposed the greatest demands on Jesus himself in Gethsemane, on Calvary and on the cross. Jesus accepted and complied with these demands to the very depths, because, as the evangelist tells us, he "loved to the end" (Jn 13:1). It was a faithful love, so that he could say to the Father on the day before he died, "The words you gave to me I have given to them" (Jn 17:8).

9. As faithful witness, Jesus fulfilled the mission received from the Father in the depths of the trinitarian mystery. It was an eternal mission, included in the thought of the Father who generated him and predestined him to fulfill it "in the fullness of time" for the salvation of every man and woman and for the perfect good of all creation. Jesus was conscious of this mission of his at the center of the creative and redemptive plan of the Father. Therefore, with all the realism of the truth and love brought into the world he could say, "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw all people to myself" (Jn 12:32).


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

Ai fedeli di lingua francese 

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

JE SUIS HEUREUX de saluer les pèlerins et visiteurs de langue française. Parmi vous, je voudrais adresser un salut spécial aux anciens Déportés du travail venus nombreux en pèlerinage. Vous gardez le souvenir de l’épreuve qui a marqué votre jeunesse. Vous gardez le souvenir de tous ceux qui ont été particulièrement fraternels dans de dures circonstances, de ceux qui ont été des témoins de la foi, pour un certain nombre au prix de leur vie. Comment ne pas évoquer aujourd’hui le bienheureux Marcel Callo, ses camarades séminaristes, jocistes et scouts, en Thuringe, à Berlin et en d’autres régions! Dans la fidélité de la mémoire, soyez aujourd’hui encore unis dans la foi et l’espérance, soyez les artisans de paix dont le monde a besoin! Que votre visite aux tombeaux des Apôtres soit source de grâce pour vous et tous vos amis!

A l’occasion de la fête prochaine du Sacré-Cœur de Jésus, vous tous qui êtes rassemblés ici, je vous invite à répondre à l’amour du Christ en mettant dans votre vie beaucoup d’amour! Et de grand cœur, je vous donne ma Bénédiction Apostolique!

Ai pellegrini di espressione inglese 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I WISH TO WELCOME the participants in the Development Administration Programma. Ladies and Gentlemen: During these months in Rome you are given an opportunity to perfect your professional skills in the company of men and women from a number of different countries. Such a setting which encourages dialogue and mutual understanding can foster international collaboration and a new spirit of fraternity and peace. May God bless you and strengthen you in your worthy endeavours.

* * *

MY GREETINGS also go to the Saint Cecilia Parish Choir from Houston, Texas, the group of alumni and benefactors of the Pontifical College Josephinum and a group of officers of Encyclopaedia Britannica International.

To all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, I extend very cordial greetings, especially to those from England, India, Australia, Canada and the United States. To you and to your families I willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca 

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

MIT DIESEN GEDANKEN grüße ich alle anwesenden deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher herzlich, unter ihnen besonders die Gruppe des katholischen Frauenbundes in Biberach, der katholischen Militärpfarrei St. Georg in Murnau sowie die Mitglieder der Männerarbeit der Evangelischen Kirche von Westfalen in Bielefeld.

Ich wünsche euch allen einen frohen und bereichernden Romaufenthalt und erbitte euch und euren Lieben in der Heimat mit dem Apostolischen Segen Gottes steten Schutz und Beistand.

Ai pellegrini giunti dalla Spagna e da numerosi Paesi latinoamericani 

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

DESEO AHORA DIRIGIR mi más cordial saludo a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española.

En particular, saludo al grupo de Hermanos de las Escuelas Cristianas, que están haciendo en Roma un curso de renovación espiritual. Asimismo, a los estudiantes del Concurso “Mi tierra”, de Avila, a la peregrinación de la diócesis de Badajoz y a la Asociación de Viudas de la diócesis de Jaén. A todas las personas, familias y grupos provenientes de los diversos Países de América Latina y de España, imparto con afecto la Bendición Apostólica. 

Ai fedeli giunti dal Portogallo e dal Brasile 

Amados irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa,

SAÚDO CORDIALMENTE todos os ouvintes de língua portuguesa, em especial os presentes: peregrinos de Lisboa, participantes numa iniciativa cultural em Roma e os grupos brasileiros, de Porto Alegre, Rio, Salvador e São Paulo. Sede bem-vindos! Grato pela vossa visita, desejo e peço a Deus que leveis deste encontro, com a fé mais avivada, o empenho em der testemunho da verdade: d’Aquele que a si próprio se designou a Verdade, Jesus Cristo. E, em seu nome, vos abençoo. 

Ai pellegrini polacchi 

POZDRAWIAM KSIEDZA Biskupa Ordynariusza i Księży Biskupów Pomocniczych diecezji szczecińskokamieńskiej oraz pielgrzymów ze Szczecina, przybyłych tu na pierwszą rocznicę odwiedzin Papieża w ich mieście; pielgrzymów z parafii św. Jana Chrzciciela z Komorowic, archidiecezja krakowska; byłych uczniów szkoly pijarskiej w Krakowie, na dziesięciolecie matury; z parafii Jezusa Chrystusa Odkupiciela człowieka z Bielska-Białej; pielgrzymów z kościoła księży jezuitów z Piotrkowa Trybunalskiego; pomocników Koscioła z parafii Wspomożenia Wiernych w Poznaniu, księża salezjanie; pielgrzymów z parafii Matki Boskiej Częstochowskiej w Londynie; również pielgrzymkę Polonii australijskiej z Melbourne; pielgrzymkę z Polskiej Misji Katolickiej w Bielefeld; uczestników grup turystycznych: “Turysty” z Wrocławia i całej; Polski, PKS, PTTK; prócz tego innych pielgrzymów nie objętych tymi grupami, zarówno z kraju, jak i z emigracji. Wszystkich serdecznie pozdrawiam i z wielką wdzięcznością wspominam moje odwiedziny w Polsce, a w szczególności w Szczecinie odbyte rok temu u stóp Matki Bożej Fatimskiej. 

Ad alcuni gruppi italiani 

DESIDERO ORA rivolgere un caro saluto ai gruppi parrocchiali del Santissimo Redentore e di San Ciro, di Pozzuoli, in provincia di Napoli, e della parrocchia di Porto Legnago, in provincia di Verona. Vi ringrazio per la vostra presenza, mi unisco a voi nel festeggiare gli anniversari che state celebrando, e vi benedico di cuore.

* * * 

SONO PRESENTI, inoltre, alcuni gruppi di Religiosi e Religiose di vari Istituti, che lavorano nelle Missioni: un gruppo di Sacerdoti Comboniani, che festeggiano il 40° anniversario della loro Ordinazione presbiterale; Religiosi e Religiose del Pontificio Istituto Missioni Estere e dell’Istituto Figlie di Maria Ausiliatrice, a Roma per corsi di aggiornamento.

Auguro a tutti voi, cari Fratelli e Sorelle, uno slancio missionario sempre vivo, generoso, aggiornato, pieno di speranza. Possa questo soggiorno romano ritemprare le forze del vostro spirito per una ripresa del vostro lavoro ancor più fervorosa e ricca di risultati apostolici. Vi seguo con la mia Benedizione.

* * * 

UN CORDIALE SALUTO anche ad alcuni gruppi di Religiose di vari Istituti, presenti a Roma per un periodo di più intensa spiritualità, al fine di dare al loro cammino di fede una nuova carica di fervore e di generosità. Si tratta delle Figlie della Chiesa, delle Figlie di San Paolo e delle Piccole Sorelle dei Poveri.

Care Sorelle, in questi giorni di aggiornamento culturale e di più profonda vita interiore, vi sono vicino con la preghiera affinché i vostri incontri e le lezioni che ascolterete abbiano una ricca eco nella vostra anima, vi rendano più salde nella vostra vocazione, e sempre più pronte nel servizio della Chiesa e delle anime. Vi accompagno con la mia Benedizione. 

* * * 

UN CARO SALUTO inoltre a due gruppi appartenenti ad Enti benemeriti nel campo della promozione umana e della collaborazione tra i popoli: il gruppo dell’Istituto per la Ricostruzione Industriale, avente sede a Roma; e il gruppo della Fondazione di Ricerche e Studi Internazionali, con sede a Firenze. Si tratta per lo più di giovani, appartenenti a vari paesi del mondo, che partecipano a corsi di perfezionamento nelle loro rispettive discipline.

Rallegramenti per queste iniziative ed auguri di buon successo! 

* * * 

UN CORDIALE SALUTO anche al gruppo di allievi cinesi del Conservatorio di Milano, che si sono esibiti ieri qui a Roma in un saggio di carattere musicale, scenico e letterario. Su voi tutti, sui vostri familiari, e con un particolare pensiero alla vostra Patria, che qui rappresentate, invoco le continue benedizioni del Cielo. 

* * * 

SALUTO, INFINE con gioia il Coro di sacerdoti ortodossi serbi, che visita in questi giorni l’Italia per far conoscere la bellezza della preghiera cristiana vissuta e celebrata nella loro Chiesa.

I vostri canti corali, cari fratelli nel sacerdozio, ci ricordano che la Chiesa di Cristo è essa stessa un coro, e sono uno sprone a lavorare instancabilmente perché il suo canto dalle molte voci porti allo spirito dell’uomo l’armonia unica di Cristo Signore, crocifisso e risorto. Vi invito a portare i miei deferenti saluti al vostro Patriarca, Sua Beatitudine German, mio fratello nel Signore, e l’assicurazione del mio ricordo nella preghiera. 

Ai giovani

ED ORA SALUTO i giovani qui presenti ed i numerosi e vivaci alunni delle scuole.

Questo incontro col Papa voi lo avete certamente desiderato e atteso da tempo. Ora che vi è stato dato di viverlo, fate in modo che esso non resti nel vostro animo come un semplice anche se caro ricordo, ma serva a rendere più salda e coraggiosa la vostra fede, più fermi i propositi battesimali: fuga del male, di tutto quello che non piace a Dio, e prontezza agli atti generosi, ai doveri della vostra età, alla bontà verso tutti. Non abbandonate la vita di pietà, coltivate l’amicizia con Gesù e con la Madre sua, Maria Tutto questo nella più schietta gioia, perché al Signore piace di essere amato e seguito nella letizia del cuore. Vi accompagni, con questi pensieri, la mia Benedizione, che estendo molto volentieri alle vostre famiglie, ai vostri educatori, ai vostri compagni.

Agli ammalati 

RIVOLGENDOMI ORA ai cari ammalati - che vedo qui vicini a me, e che sono ancor più vicini al mio cuore - vorrei confortare la loro fede perché sia sempre forte anche nell’esperienza del male, senza mai perdere di vista i beni, i meriti, il valore e persino la gioia che i patimenti nascondono, se si sa unire la propria croce a quella di Gesù, innocente e vittima. Anche se è duro riconoscerlo, sappiamo che non c’è Pasqua senza Venerdì Santo: non c’è sofferenza che, se abbiamo vera fede, non ci rinnovi e non ci faccia migliori, portandoci a pregustare la gioia della risurrezione.

Dio grande e buono accresca la luce di questa verità, in voi e in tutti noi, perché tutti ne abbiamo bisogno. Col più vivo affetto, carissimi, prego per voi e vi benedico, come benedico le vostre famiglie e quanti hanno di voi amorevole cura. 

Agli sposi novelli

ANCHE AGLI SPOSI giunga il mio augurio e, insieme, il mio grazie. Sì, il mio grazie, perché è stato un bel pensiero l’aver voluto fare visita al Papa, per ricevere da Lui una speciale benedizione all’inizio della vostra nuova vita. Invoco su di voi l’assistenza divina, perché vi conforti nell’adempimento del solenne impegno, che è destinato a trasformare profondamente tutta la vostra esistenza e a renderla altamente responsabile dinanzi a Dio, dinanzi alla società, dinanzi a coloro che saranno, come auspico, i frutti del vostro amore. Se volete dare un saldo fondamento all’edificio della vostra famiglia poggiatelo sempre sull’osservanza fedele dei comandamenti di Dio e sulla pratica assidua della preghiera. Abbiate sempre una tenera devozione alla Vergine Santissima. Nel suo nome vi benedico di cuore.

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