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Jesus, founder of his Church

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
General Audience, Wednesday 15 June 1988 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mk 1:15). These words at the beginning of Mark's Gospel are recorded as though to sum up briefly the mission of Jesus of Nazareth, who "came to announce the Good News." At the center of his announcement is the revelation of the kingdom of God, which has drawn near and indeed has entered human history. "The time is fulfilled."

2. By proclaiming the truth concerning the kingdom of God, Jesus at the same time announced the fulfillment of the promises contained in the Old Testament. The Psalms frequently speak of the kingdom of God (cf. Ps 103:19; Ps 93:1). Psalm 145 sings of the glory and majesty of this kingdom, and at the same time indicates its eternal duration: "Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and your dominion endures through all generations" (v. 13). Subsequent books of the Old Testament again take up this theme, especially the particularly eloquent prophecy of the Book of Daniel: "The God of heaven will set up a kingdom that shall never be destroyed or delivered up to another people: rather it shall break in pieces all these kingdoms and put an end to them, and it shall stand forever" (Dan 2:44).

3. Referring to these announcements and promises of the Old Testament, the Second Vatican Council noted and affirmed: "To carry out the will of the Father Christ inaugurated the kingdom of heaven on earth" (LG 3). At the same time the Council pointed out that "by preaching the Good News, that is, the coming of the kingdom of God, which for centuries had been promised in the Scriptures...the Lord Jesus inaugurated his Church" (LG 5). The inauguration of the Church, its institution by Christ, is inscribed in the Gospel of the kingdom of God, in the announcement of his coming and of his presence in humanity. If the kingdom of God is present among men by the coming of Christ, by his words and works, it is also true that, by his express will, "The Church, or in other words, the kingdom of God now present in mystery, grows visibly through the power of God in the world" (LG 3).

4. In various ways, Jesus made known to his hearers the coming of the kingdom of God. Indicative of this are his words about "casting out the devil" from persons and from the world: "If it is by the finger of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you" (Lk 11:20). Indeed, the kingdom of God means the victory over the power of evil and of him who is its principal and mysterious author. It is the spirit of darkness, the lord of this world. It is a question of every sin born in the human heart, as a result of man's evil will and under the influence of that mysterious and baleful presence. Jesus came to forgive sins. Even when he healed various illnesses, he observed that the liberation from physical evil is the sign of the liberation from a much greater evil which weighs on the human soul. This was explained at length in the previous reflections.

5. The various signs of God's saving power offered by Jesus in his miracles, together with his preaching, open the way to an understanding of the truth about the kingdom of God in the midst of humanity. He explained this truth especially by using parables, among which is that of the sower and the seed. The seed is the word of God which can be received in such a way as to take root in the soil of human hearts. Alternatively, for different reasons, it may not be received, or not in such a way as to mature and bear fruit in due course (cf. Mk 4:14-20). Yet another parable confronts us with the mystery of the seed developing through the work of God: "The kingdom of God is as if a man were to scatter seed on the land and would sleep and rise night and day. The seed would sprout and grow, but he knows not how. Of its own accord the land yields fruit, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear" (Mk 4:26-28). It is God's power that "gives the growth," as St. Paul would say (cf. 1 Cor 3:6 f.), and indeed, as the same apostle wrote, it is God who "works in you both to desire and to work" (Phil 2:13).

6. The kingdom of God or the "kingdom of heaven," as Matthew calls it (cf. 3:2), entered human history through Christ. Even during his passion and when his death on the cross was close at hand, Jesus spoke of himself as a king and at the same time explained the nature of the kingdom he had come to inaugurate upon the earth. His replies to Pilate, recorded by the fourth Gospel (cf. Jn 18:33 ff.), are a key text for understanding this point. Jesus was before the Roman governor, to whom he had been brought by the Sanhedrin on the charge of having claimed to be "king of the Jews." When Pilate questioned him on the matter, Jesus replied, "My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight, that I might not be handed over to the Jews" (Jn 18:36). However, the fact that Christ is not a king in the earthly sense of the word does not cancel the other meaning of his kingdom, which he explained in reply to a further question of his judge: "So you are a king?" Pilate asked. Jesus replied firmly, "You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Every one who is of the truth hears my voice" (Jn 18:37). It is the most clear and unambiguous proclamation of his kingship, and also of his transcendent character, which confirms the deepest value of the human spirit and the principal basis of human relationships, "the truth."

7. The kingdom which Jesus, as incarnate Son of God, inaugurated in human history, is the kingdom of God. As such it is established and grows in the human spirit by the power of truth and grace which come from God. This we learned from the parables of the sower and the seed which we have summarized. Christ is the sower of this truth. However, in the last analysis, it will be by means of the cross that he will achieve his kingship and fulfill his work of salvation in human history. "When I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself" (Jn 12:32).

8. All this is evident likewise from Jesus' teaching on the good shepherd who "offers his life for the sheep" (Jn 10:11). This image of the shepherd is closely connected with that of the sheepfold and of the sheep who hear the shepherd's voice. Jesus said that he is the good shepherd who "knows his sheep and they know him" (cf. Jn 10:14). As a good shepherd, he seeks the sheep that has gone astray (cf. Mt 18:12; Lk 15:4). He thinks also of the "other sheep that are not of this fold"; those also he "must bring," so that "they will hear his voice and there shall be one flock, one shepherd" (Jn 10:16). It is a universal kingship exercised in the spirit and manner of a shepherd, which leads all to live in the truth of God.

9. As is evident, all of Christ's preaching and his entire messianic mission was directed to gathering the flock. It is not merely a case of so many individual hearers, followers, and imitators. It is rather an assembly, which is expressed in Aramaic as kehala, and in Hebrew gahal, corresponding to the Greek ekklesia. The Greek word derives from a verb meaning "to call" (the Greek translation of "a call" is klesis). This etymological derivation gives us to understand that, as in the old covenant God had "called" his people Israel, so Christ calls the new People of God, choosing and seeking its members from among all peoples. He draws them to himself and gathers them around him by means of the word of the Gospel and by the redemptive power of the paschal mystery. This divine power, manifested definitively in Christ's resurrection, will confirm the words once spoken to Peter: "Upon this rock I will build my Church" (Mt 16:18), that is, the new assembly of the kingdom of God.

10. The Church-ecclesia-assembly receives from Christ the new commandment. "I give you a new commandment, that you love one another, as I have loved you.... By this all will know that you are my disciples..." (Jn 13:34; cf. Jn 15:12). It is certain that the "assembly-Church" receives from Christ also its external structure (of which we shall treat in the near future). But its essential value is the communion with Christ himself. It is he who gathers together the Church; it is he who builds it constantly as his Body (cf. Eph 4:12), as the kingdom of God on the universal level. "They will come from east and west and sit at table (with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) in the kingdom of God" (cf. Lk 13:28-29).


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

Ad alcuni fedeli di lingua francese 

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

PARMI LES GROUPES présents, je tiens à saluer les fils de Monseigneur Marion de Brésillac, fondateur de la Société des Missions Africaines de Lyon. Aux côtés de nombreux Instituts missionnaires, vous avez donné et vous donnez encore beaucoup à l’Afrique. Je suis heureux de vous exprimer mes chaleureux encouragements à collaborer fraternellement aux responsabilités pastorales maintenant portées par un épiscopat et un clergé autochtones que vous avez contribué à promouvoir. Votre labeur passé a été fructueux. Vos engagements d’aujourd’hui continuent d’être très précieux pour les jeunes Eglises d’Afrique.

Avec joie, j’adresse encore un salut particulier à la Délégation de femmes camerounaises qui assument dans leur pays des responsabilités socio-économiques fort importantes. En les remerciant de leur visite, je leur présente mes souhaits de réussite et les encourage à entretenir en elles la noble passion de bien servir tous leurs compatriotes.

A tous les pèlerins de langue française, mon très cordial merci pour leur présence, mes vœux pour leur vie humaine et chrétienne, avec ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I WOULD LIKE to offer a special word of welcome to the choirs from Uppsala and Göteborg in Sweden. I also greet most cordially the group of students from India and the pilgrims from Jakarta, Indonesia.

It is a joy to welcome the priests and Religious who are present at the audience today, especially the Sisters of Mercy from England who are celebrating their Golden Jubilees. Dear Sisters, how wonderful is the Providence of God. For fifty years God’s love has sustained you in fidelity and hope. Christ has been your portion and cup. Thank you for your public witness to the Gospel. May your hearts be full of praise for the goodnes of the Lord.

My heartfelt greetings go to all the English-speaking visitors, in particular those from England, Sweden and the United States.

Ad un gruppo di pellegrini provenienti dal Giappone

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!


Vi porgo le mie congratulazioni per le celebrazioni con le quali voi commemorate il primo centenario della riedificazione della vostra chiesa parrocchiale. La vostra chiesa parrocchiale ha come fondatore il venerabile Ukon Takayama che fu esiliato per la causa della fede.

Vi auguro che, seguendo il suo esempio, possiate mantenere e fortificare sempre più la vostra fede con l’aiuto della Madonna.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai pellegrini di espressione tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

MIT DIESEN KURZEN Anregungen verbinde ich meine besten Gebetsund Segenswünsche für alle heutigen Besucher deutscher Sprache: aus Deutschland, Österreich, der Schweiz und aus Südtirol. Einen besonderen Gruß richte ich an die Gruppe von Brüdern aus dem Orden der Redemptoristen, des heiligen Alfons von Liguori, auf Jubiläumsfahrt zu Ehren ihres berühmten Gründers. Mit Anerkennung grüße ich auch die Romwallfahrt der Diözese Augsburg in Erwiderung meines Besuches im vergangenen Jahr. Euch allen erbitte ich einen gelungenen Aufenthalt in der Ewigen Stadt und eine glückliche Heimkehr zu euren Lieben zu Hause. Gelobt sei Jesus Christus!

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola 

Amadísimos hermanos y

JUNTO CON ESTAS reflexiones, deseo dirigir mi cordial saludo de bienvenida a los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española.

En particular, saludo a los miembros del Movimiento de Apostolado “Regnum Christi”, a quienes aliento a una generosa entrega a Dios en el servicio a los hermanos. Igualmente saludo a la peregrinación procedente de Bogotá (Colombia), así como al grupo de oficiales venezolanos que participan en un curso en la Escuela Militar de Civitavecchia.

A todas las personas, familias y grupos procedentes de los diversos países de América Latina y de España imparto con afecto la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli di espressione portoghese 

Caríssimos irmãos e irmãs de língua portuguesa,

SAÚDO COM AFECTO no Senhor todos os ouvintes de língua portuguesa, em particular o grupo de portugueses de Califórnia e os peregrinos de Alpendurada, em Portugal.

Desejo a todos felicidades; e que todos levem de Roma uma consciência de Igreia mais clara e a fé no seu divino Fundador, Jesus Cristo, mais viva e operante. E peço a Nossa Senhora que os proteja e aos que lhes são queridos, ao darlhes a Bênção.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

SERDECZNIE WITAM wszystkich obecnych: pielgrzymkę z parafii św. Jana Chrzciciela z Janowa Lubelskiego; pielgrzymkę katedralną z Przemyśla z parafii katedralnej; z parafii Ducha Swiętego w Koszalinie; z parafii św. Katarzyny ze Sławięcic koło Kędzierzyna; pielgrzymkę do sanktuariów maryjnych. Polonijnej Ligii Kobiet z Chicago: pielgrzymkę polskiej parafii w Monachium; kolejarzy z Warszawy; prócz tego uczestników grup turystycznych “Turysta” z Wrocławia i z Gdańska oraz “Pekaes” z Warszawy; grupę turystyczną Towarzystwa Polsko-Włoskiego z Warszawy.

Ai numerosi gruppi di pellegrini giunti da varie Regioni d’Italia

RIVOLGO ORA il mio saluto cordiale e il mio augurio ai sacerdoti novelli della Diocesi di Brescia, accompagnati dai loro educatori e dai familiari. Cari novelli presbiteri, mi unisco alla vostra letizia e vi esorto a conservare sempre vivo nello spirito lo zelo che attualmente vi anima. In tale prospettiva vi esorto a coltivare una profonda amicizia con Cristo mediante la preghiera. Sarà essa a decidere della salvezza di tanti uomini, affidati al vostro servizio sacerdotale ed alla vostra cura pastorale. Con le parole stesse di Cristo, vi auguro di andare, di portare frutto, e che il vostro frutto rimanga.

* * *

SALUTO ANCHE le Suore Francescane Missionarie di Maria, convenute a Roma da tante parti del mondo per il Consiglio Generale dell’Istituto, e per riflettere sul tema della fraternità internazionale e della corresponsabilità al servizio della missione. Auguro loro di poter essere nel mondo missionario, caratterizzato da molteplici culture, segno ed annuncio del Vangelo, per favorire l’inserimento della parola di Cristo nell’animo e nella vita di tanti fratelli.

* * *

IL MIO PENSIERO va poi ai pellegrini della Cattedrale di Ragusa e della parrocchia di Santa Maria la Nova di Chiaromonte Gulfi. Saluto in particolare Monsignor Sebastiano Rosso, Vescovo emerito di Piazza Armerina, che li accompagna e mi compiaccio per il bell’impegno della recita del Rosario nelle famiglie. Auguro a tutti la costante protezione della Vergine Madre del Redentore.

* * *

SALUTO, INFINE, il gruppo di stranieri provenienti da alcuni Paesi in via di sviluppo ed ospiti di questa Città di Roma e mentre auguro loro una fruttuosa permanenza fra tante memorie classiche e cristiane, invoco la protezione del Signore sulle loro persone, sulle rispettive famiglie e sui loro Paesi d’origine. A tutti la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Ai giovani

ED ORA SALUTO voi, giovani, che con cuore aperto e gioioso - come ben testimonia la festosità della vostra presenza a questo incontro - chiedete di essere guidati ad una stabile amicizia col Redentore.

Carissimi, un segno che siete sulla strada giusta per raggiungere la meta desiderata è la letizia. Questa infatti sgorga in chi senza riserve segue Cristo, maestro e amico che, donandoci la verità di Dio, ci conforma a sé nella carità, nella libertà e nella pace.

Mentre vi affido a Maria, che esultò per quanto il Signore aveva fatto accadere nella sua giovane vita, vi esorto a portare nel mondo l’annuncio dell’amore perenne e misericordioso di Dio.

Agli ammalati

RIVOLGO POI la mia affettuosa parola di saluto a voi, cari malati, che dalla partecipazione a questa Udienza attendete conforto e consolazione.

Mentre invoco per voi dall’Onnipotente serenità e salute, vi invito a non venir meno - soprattutto durante l’infermità che vi ha colpiti - alla speranza ed alla pazienza. Accettate il ruolo che in questo momento Cristo vi affida così da divenire, nella comunione alle sue sofferenze, partecipi dei frutti della sua passione,  a vantaggio vostro e della Chiesa intera.

Vi sono vicino con la Benedizione Apostolica.

Agli sposi novelli

CARI SPOSI NOVELLI, giunga pure a voi il mio saluto cordiale, al quale unisco voti e preghiere perché il Signore vi conceda gioia duratura e ricolmi la vostra esistenza familiare con i suoi doni di pace e di prosperità.

Accompagno questo augurio con l’esortazione a vivere sempre l’amore coniugale nella verità di Cristo. Col sacramento del matrimonio non solo avete scelto di impegnarvi - nel vincolo di un amore santo - ad una reciproca donazione aperta alla vita; ma vi siete pure consacrati a Dio per collaborare all’edificazione del suo Regno. Non dimenticatelo!

Con la mia Benedizione.

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