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Miraculous signs reveal Christ's power

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
General Audience, Wednesday 25 November 1987 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. A text from St. Augustine offers us the key for interpreting Christ's miracles as signs of his saving power. "The fact that he became man for us contributed more to our salvation than the miracles he performed among us; and his healing of the evils of the soul is more important than the curing of the illnesses of the body which is doomed to death" (Augustine, In Io. Ev. Tr. 17, 1). For the salvation of the soul and the redemption of the whole world Jesus performed miracles of the corporeal order also. Hence the theme of the present reflection is as follows—by means of the "mighty deeds, wonders and signs" which he performed, Jesus Christ manifested his power to save the human race from the evil which threatens the immortal soul and the vocation to union with God.

2. This is revealed particularly in the healing of the paralytic of Capernaum. Since those who carried him were unable to enter by the door into the house where Jesus was teaching, they lowered the sick man through an opening in the roof so that he found himself at the feet of the Master. "Jesus, on seeing their faith, said to the paralytic, 'Son, your sins are forgiven.'" These words aroused among some of those present the suspicion of blasphemy, "This man is blaspheming! Who but God can forgive sins?" As though in response to those who had entertained these thoughts, Jesus said to those present, "Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, 'Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, 'Rise, pick up your mat and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth—he said to the paralytic—'I say to you, rise, pick up your mat, and go home.' He rose, picked up his mat at once, and went away in the sight of everyone" (cf. Mk 2:1-12; likewise Mt 9:1-8; Lk 5:18-26, "he went home glorifying God" Lk 5:25).

Jesus himself explained in this case that the miracle of curing the paralytic was a sign of the saving power whereby he forgives sins. Jesus performed this sign to show that he had come as Savior of the world. His principal task was to free mankind from spiritual evil, the evil that separates man from God and impedes salvation in God. That evil is sin.

3. With the same key one can explain that special category of Christ's miracles, the driving out of demons. According to Mark's Gospel, Jesus ordered, "Unclean spirit, come out of the man!" when Jesus met the man in the territory of the Gerasenes who had an unclean spirit (Mk 5:8). On that occasion we witness an unusual conversation. When that unclean spirit felt threatened by Christ, he cried out against Jesus, "'What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me!' Jesus asked him, 'What is your name?' He replied, 'Legion is my name. There are many of us'" (cf. Mk 5:7-9). We are therefore on the margin of an obscure world involving physical and psychical factors which undoubtedly play their part in causing pathological conditions. The demonic reality is inserted into that world. Variously represented and described in human language, the demonic world is radically hostile to God and therefore to man and to Christ who had come to free him from the power of evil. But in spite of himself, in that clash with the other presence, even the unclean spirit burst out into that admission coming from a perverse but lucid intelligence, "Son of the Most High God."

4. In Mark's Gospel we also find the description of the event usually described as the cure of the epileptic. The symptoms narrated by the evangelist are characteristic of this disease ("foaming at the mouth, grinding his teeth, and becoming rigid"). However the father of the epileptic presented his son to Jesus, describing the boy as one possessed by an evil spirit. The spirit would throw him into fits of convulsions and cast him down on the ground. The unfortunate youth would then roll about foaming at the mouth. It is indeed possible that in such a state of illness the evil one might insinuate himself and play a part. But even admitting that it was a case of epilepsy from which Jesus cured the youth reputed by his father as possessed by a devil, it is significant that Jesus effected the cure by ordering the "mute and deaf spirit" to "Come out of him and never enter him again" (cf. Mk 9:17-18). It is a reaffirmation of his mission and of his power to free man from the evil of the soul all the way to its roots.

5. Jesus made known clearly this his mission to free humanity from evil and first of all from sin, spiritual evil. This mission implies and explains his struggle with the evil spirit who is the prime author of evil in human history. As we read in the Gospels, Jesus repeatedly declared that this is the meaning of his work and of that of his apostles. We read in Luke: "I have observed Satan fall like lightning from the sky. Behold, I have given you the power to tread...upon the full force of the enemy and nothing will harm you" (Lk 10:18-19). According to Mark, after having appointed the Twelve, Jesus sent them forth "to preach and to have authority to drive out demons" (Mk 3:14-15). According to Luke the seventy-two disciples, after returning from their first mission, reported to Jesus, "Lord, even the demons are subject to us because of your name" (Lk 10:17).

This manifested the power of the Son of Man over sin and over the author of sin. Even the demons are subject to the name of Jesus, which means Savior. However, his saving power will have its definitive fulfillment in the sacrifice of the cross. The cross will mark the complete victory over Satan and sin. This is the Father's plan which his only-begotten Son fulfilled by becoming man, to conquer in weakness and to attain the glory of the resurrection and of life by means of the humiliation of the cross. The divine power shines forth even in this paradox, that power which can rightly be called the "power of the cross."

6. Even the victory over death, the dramatic consequence of sin, forms part of this power and belongs to the mission of the Savior of the world, manifested by "mighty deeds, wonders and signs." The victory over sin and over death marks the way of the messianic mission of Jesus from Nazareth to Calvary. Among the signs which particularly mark his journey toward the victory over death, the cases of people raised from the dead stand out. "The dead are raised" (Mt 11:5) was the answer Jesus gave to the messengers of John the Baptist (cf. Mt 11:3) when they questioned him whether he was the Messiah. Among the various dead people raised to life by Jesus, the case of Lazarus of Bethany merits special attention. His resurrection was a prelude to the cross and resurrection of Christ, which achieved the definitive victory over sin and death.

7. The evangelist John has left us a detailed description of this event. For us, let it suffice to refer to the final moment. Jesus asked that the stone which closed the tomb be removed ("Take away the stone"). The dead man's sister Martha observed that her brother had been dead for four days and that there would be a stench. Nevertheless Jesus cried out with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come out!" "And the dead man came out," the evangelist tells us (cf. Jn 11:38-43). This fact caused many of those present to believe in Jesus. Others, however, went to the representatives of the Sanhedrin to report the event. The chief priests and the Pharisees were alarmed, thinking of the possible reaction of the Roman occupying power ("the Romans will come and take away both our land and our nation," Jn 11:45-48). At that very moment Caiphas' famous words broke the silence of the Sanhedrin, "You know nothing, nor do you consider that it is better for you that one man should die instead of the people, so that the whole nation may not perish." The evangelist notes, "He did not say this on his own, but since he was high priest for that year, he prophesied." What was the nature of the prophecy? John gives us the Christian understanding of those words. "Jesus was to die for the nation, and not only for the nation, but also to gather into one the dispersed children of God" (cf. Jn 11:49-52).

8. As is evident, John's description of the resurrection of Lazarus also contains the essential indications regarding the salvific significance of this miracle. They are definitive indications, because it was then that the Sanhedrin decided to put Jesus to death (cf. Jn 11:53). It will be the redemptive death "for the nation" and "to gather into one the dispersed children of God," for the salvation of the world. But Jesus has already said that his death would become the definitive victory over death. On the occasion of the resurrection of Lazarus he assured Martha, "I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, shall live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die" (Jn 11:25-26).

9. At the end of our catechesis we turn once more to the text of St. Augustine, "If we consider now the deeds worked by Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, we see that the eyes of the blind, miraculously opened, were closed by death, and the limbs of the paralyzed, miraculously restored, were again immobilized in death. All that was temporarily cured in the mortal body, was in the end undone; but the soul that believed passed to eternal life. With this infirm man the Lord wished to give a great sign to the soul that would have believed, for the remission of whose sins he had come, and whose weaknesses he had healed by the humiliation of himself" (Augustine, In Io. Ev. Tr., 17, 1).

Yes, all the "mighty deeds, wonders and signs" of Christ are for the purpose of revealing him as Messiah, as Son of God, for the revelation of him who alone has the power to free mankind from sin and from death, of him who is truly the Savior of the world."


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

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Chers frères et Sœurs de langue française, en cette dernière semaine de l’année liturgique, je vous invite à accueillir dans la joie de la foi le règne d’amour et de paix.

Parmi vous, je salue cordialement un groupe de pèlerins de Côte d’Ivoire, venus auprès du tombeau de Pierre après avoir vénéré le tombeau du Christ en Terre Sainte. Que votre long itinéraire soit pour vous un heureux pèlerinage de la foi! Et apportez dans votre pays le salut du successeur de Pierre! A tous, je donne volontiers ma Bénédiction.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

I wish to extend a special word of welcome to the pilgrims who have come from Korea. And I offer very cordial greetings to the large group of visitors from Canada. I greet all the English-speaking visitors present at today’s audience, including those from England, Wales, Sweden, Denmark, Japan and the United States. To you and your loved ones I most willingly impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Ad un gruppo di pellegrini giapponesi

Saluto con affetto un gruppo di “Ave Maria pilgrimage tour” proveniente da varie parti del Giappone. Auguro che la vostra visita a Roma porti frutti spirituali a ciascuno di voi e alle vostre famiglie.

Ai pellegrini giunti dalla Spagna e dall’America Latina

Vaya ahora mi más cordial saludo de bienvenida a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española procedentes de los diversos países de América Latina y de España.

En particular, saludo a las Religiosas Oblatas del Divino Amor, que están celebrando el Capítulo General de su Congregación. Os aliento a una respuesta ilusionada y generosa a la gracia de vuestra vocación en el servicio a Dios y a los hermanos.

* * *

También saludo a los Oficiales, Profesores y Cadetes del Colegio Militar de la Nación Argentina, deseando que esta visita a Roma, centro de la catolicidad, les reafirme en sus principios cristianos y virtudes castrenses para mejor servir a la patria en la paz y en el progreso.

Finalmente, mi saludo a las peregrinaciones de Guadalajara (México), Cuzco (Perú) y San Juan Bautista de Muro (Mallorca).

A todos bendigo de corazón.

Ai fedeli di espressione tedesca

Diesen lebenspendenden, erlösenden Glauben erbitte ich euch, liebe Brüder und Schwestern. Zugleich grüße ich euch herzlich und wünsche euch schöne und fruchtbare Tage in der Ewigen Stadt. Für Gottes bleibenden Schutz und Beistand erteile ich euch und euren Lieben in der Heimat von Herzen meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Serdecznie witamwszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski: księdza biskupa Kraszewskiego z Warszawy; pielgrzymów z parafii Matki Bożej Bolesnej z Podczerwonego i z Chochołowa na Podhalu; katechetki i katechetów diecezji włocławskiej, którzy przybyli w pielgrzymce dziękczynnej za beatyfikacię biskupa Michała Kozala; pielgrzymów z parafii Matki Bożej Wspomożenia Wiernych z Katowic Zalecze; z parafii œw. Wawrzyńca we Wrocławiu; z parafii Matki Bożej Pocieszenia również we Wrocławiu, ojcowie redemptoryści. Prócz tego pracowników cyrku “Americano”; kolejarzy z Katowic, uczestników grup turystycznych oraz inne osoby znaiduj¹ce się na tej audiencji a nie objęte tymi grupami.

Ad alcuni gruppi italiani

Desidero ora porgere il mio saluto ai rappresentanti della Federazione Nazionale dei Consorzi di bacino Imbrifero Montano, riuniti a Roma per celebrare il 25° anniversario di fondazione. Auspico che il valore della solidarietà orienti sempre il vostro impegno, illustri Signori, così che esso corrisponda efficacemente alle esigenze del bene comune e dello sviluppo.

A tutti la mia Benedizione.

* * *

Un saluto cordiale ed affettuoso va poi agli alunni insigniti del premio “Livio Tempesta”. Si tratta anzitutto degli alunni della scuola elementare di San Fortunato di Todi, i quali hanno voluto dimostrare singolare e affettuosa partecipazione al dolore della loro Insegnante per la perdita del figlio in un tragico incidente; e ci sono poi i ragazzi della Scuola Media “Antonio Rosmini” di Roma, che si sono distinti nell’aiutare con cordiale spontaneità ed amicizia i ragazzi polacchi profughi che hanno frequentato la loro classe durante il periodo di soggiorno nel loro quartiere. Vi ringrazio e mi compiaccio con voi per questi segni di carità e di solidarietà.

Vi accompagni la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Ai giovani

Rivolgo ora un affettuoso saluto ai giovani presenti.

Inizia tra qualche giorno un nuovo Anno Liturgico e la Chiesa ricomincia ad approfondire i misteri di Cristo, dai tempi in cui Egli era l’atteso di tutti i popoli fino alla sua Pasqua di morte e risurrezione ed alla effusione del Suo Spirito sulla Comunità dei credenti.

Carissimi giovani, vi invito a camminare con la Chiesa per penetrare sempre più intimamente le insondabili ricchezze del Signore. Egli verrà incontro alla vostra ricerca e al vostro desiderio di realizzare progetti duraturi, per darvi la risposta più vera e il sostegno più sicuro. Il tempo che avete dinanzi è prezioso, ed io auspico che voi ne facciate buon uso, mettendone a frutto tutte le occasioni di grazia e di crescita. Vi benedico di cuore.

Anche a voi, carissimi ammalati, il mio cordiale saluto.

Agli ammalati

Mentre siamo ormai rivolti all’Avvento, si rinnova l’interiore desiderio di affinare lo sguardo di fede, che permetta di scoprire le misteriose, ma reali, venute del Signore nella vita di ogni giorno. Lo stato di malattia, nel quale ora vi trovate, può essere senz’altro considerato in questa prospettiva: utilizzatelo pienamente per farne una valida occasione di intima comunione con Lui. la luce e la pace che ne derivano, vi infonderanno coraggio per affrontare con serenità i momenti difficili, e vi offriranno anche diversi motivi di arricchimento spirituale, nella certezza che il Signore ricompensa abbondantemente quanto Gli viene offerto con generosità.

Vi accompagni la mia Benedizione.

Agli sposi novelli

Desidero, infine, esprimere un saluto agli sposi novelli.

Carissimi, con la celebrazione del sacramento del Matrimonio avete coronato il desiderio che vi ha sorretto nel periodo della conoscenza reciproca ed ha orientato le vostre energie ed i vostri sentimenti: formare una famiglia unita ed armoniosa il cui fondamento fosse il Signore. E’ stata e resta una scelta, che va rinnovata quotidianamente, per mantenere alla vostra vita coniugale la freschezza di questi giorni. Il Signore non farà mancare gli aiuti necessari per questo impegno e voi sperimenterete inoltre tutta la bellezza e l’importanza di contribuire, insieme con Lui, alla formazione di un’umanità più buona e più proficua.

A tutti voi i miei fervidi auguri, sostenuti dalla Benedizione Apostolica.


Desidero ora rivolgere il mio pensiero a una Nazione molto cara, che è sempre presente al mio cuore.

Nei giorni scorsi i vescovi di Haiti hanno indirizzato un nuovo Messaggio ai loro fedeli e agli uomini di buona volontà, esortandoli ad elevare a Dio le menti e i cuori per implorare, auspice la Vergine santissima, la luce e la forza morale necessarie in un momento così importante per l’avvenire pacifico e democratico della Nazione, mentre il popolo si prepara a scegliere liberamente i propri rappresentanti.

Vi chiedo di unirvi con me nell’invocare da Dio grazie e benedizioni su questo popolo generoso, che ha tanto sofferto. La speciale novena di preghiera e di penitenza indetta dai vescovi, ora in pieno svolgimento in tutte le diocesi haitiane, valga ad ottenere il ritorno a un clima di profonda riconciliazione nazionale, che favorisca l’impegno di tutti nella soluzione dei problemi che incontra il Paese.

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