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The apparitions of the Risen Christ

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
General Audience, Wednesday 22 February 1989 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. St. Paul was chronologically the first to record the truth of Christ's resurrection. We are familiar with the passage of the First Letter to the Corinthians in which he states: "I handed on to you...what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve..." (1 Cor 15:3-5). It was a question of a truth handed on, received and again handed on. It is a truth pertaining to the "deposit of revelation" which Jesus himself, through his apostles and evangelists, left to his Church.

2. Jesus gradually revealed this truth in his prepaschal teaching. It was realized in the concrete in the paschal events at Jerusalem. These events were historically verified, but fraught with mystery.

The announcements and the facts were confirmed especially by the meetings with the risen Christ, which the Gospels and Paul record. It must be said that the Pauline text presents the meetings - in which the risen Christ is revealed - in a global and synthetic way. He added at the end his own meeting with the risen one at the gates of Damascus (cf. Acts 9:3-6). The Gospel accounts of the meetings are rather fragmentary.

It is not difficult to gather and compare some characteristics of each of these apparitions and of all of them taken together, to arrive still closer at the discovery of the meaning of this revealed truth.

3. First of all, we can observe that, after the resurrection, Jesus presented himself to the women and the disciples with his body transformed, made spiritual and sharing in the glory of the soul—but in no way triumphalistic. He appeared with great simplicity. He spoke as a friend to his friends, in the ordinary circumstances of their daily lives. He did not wish to confront his adversaries, adopting a victorious attitude. He was not concerned to show them his superiority; still less did he wish to annihilate them. It does not appear that he even met them. Everything that the Gospel says leads to the conclusion that he did not appear, for example, to Pilate, who had handed him over to the high priests to be crucified (cf. Jn 19:16), or to Caiaphas who had rent his garments because Christ claimed to be God (cf. Mt 26:63-66).

To those to whom he appeared, Jesus made himself known in his physical identity: that face, those hands, those features which they knew so well, the side which had been pierced, the voice which they had heard so often. Only in the meeting with Saul near Damascus did the light which surrounds the risen one blind the rabid persecutor of the Christians and strike him to the ground (cf. Acts 9:3-8). However, it was a manifestation of the power of him who, already ascended to heaven, struck a man whom he wished to make a "chosen instrument" (Acts 9:15), a missionary of the Gospel.

4. It is significant that Jesus appeared first to the women, his faithful followers, before appearing to the disciples and even to the apostles whom he had chosen to preach his Gospel to the world. It was to the women that he first disclosed the mystery of his resurrection. They were the first witnesses to this truth. Perhaps he wished to reward their delicacy, their sensitiveness to his message, and their strength that drove them all the way to Calvary. Perhaps he wished to reveal an exquisite trait of his humanity, consisting in the kindness and gentleness with which he approached and rewarded those who counted less in the great world of his time. That is what seems to follow from a text of Matthew: "And behold, Jesus met them (the women who were running to give the news to the disciples) and said, 'Hail!' And they came and took hold of his feet and worshipped him. Then Jesus said to them, 'Do not be afraid; go and tell my brethren to go to Galilee, and there they will see me'" (28:9-10).

Moreover, the appearance to Mary Magdalene (cf. Jn 20:11-18) is of extraordinary delicacy. This is true both on the part of the woman who revealed all her passionate and reserved devotedness to the following of Jesus, and on the part of the Master who treated her with exquisite delicacy and kindness.

This special place given to woman in the paschal events is an inspiration to the Church which, in the course of history, has been able to rely on them for her life of faith, prayer and apostolate.

5. Some characteristics of these postpaschal meetings are in a certain way typical examples of the spiritual situations which so often arise in personal relationships with Christ when people feel called or "visited" by him.

Above all, there is an initial difficult in recognizing Christ on the part of those who meet him. This can be seen in the case of Mary Magdalene (cf. Jn 20:14-16) and of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:16). There is a certain element of fear in his presence. He is loved and he is sought, but when found, there is a certain hesitation....

In the case of Mary Magdalene (cf. Jn 20:16), of the disciples on the road to Emmaus (cf. Lk 24:26 ff.), and similarly in the case of the other disciples (cf. Lk 24:25-48), Jesus gradually led them to recognize him and to believe in him. It is a sign of Christ's patient pedagogy in revealing himself to people, in attracting them, in converting them and in leading them to the knowledge of the riches of his heart and to salvation.

6. It is interesting to analyze the psychological process that the various meetings give us a glimpse of. The disciples experienced a certain difficulty not only in recognizing the truth of the resurrection, but also the identity of the one who stood before them. He appeared as the same and yet as different: a transformed Christ. It was not easy for them to identify him immediately. Yes, they perceived that it was Jesus, but at the same time they felt that he was not in the same condition as he was before. In his presence they were seized with reverence and fear.

When they realized with his help that it was not a case of someone different, but of himself transformed, a new capacity for discovery, understanding, charity and faith was released in them. It was like an awakening of faith: "Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened the Scriptures to us?" (Lk 24:32). "My Lord and my God!" (Jn 20:28). "I have seen the Lord!" (Jn 20:18). Then they began to understand the event of the cross in an absolutely new light. The mystery of Christ's suffering and death was seen to end in the glory of new life! This would be one of the principal elements of the announcement of salvation brought by the apostles from the very beginning to the Jewish people and gradually to all nations.

7. Finally, an important characteristic of the appearances of the risen Christ, especially in the last appearances, was his entrusting to the apostles (and to the Church) the mission of evangelizing the world by the announcement of his Word and the gift of his grace.

Remember the apparition to the disciples in the upper room on the evening of the first Easter Day: "As the Father has sent me, even so I send you..." (Jn 20:21). He granted them the power to forgive sins.

Then in the apparition at the Sea of Tiberias, followed by the miraculous catch of fish which symbolized and foretold the fruitfulness of their mission, it was evident that Jesus wished to direct their attention to the work that awaited them (cf. Jn 21:1-23). This was confirmed by the definitive conferring of the special mission on Peter (Jn 21:15-18): "Do you love me?... You know that I love you.... Feed my lambs.... Feed my sheep...."

John notes that "this was the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead" (Jn 21:14). This time they not only took note of his identity: "It is the Lord!" (Jn 21:7). They also understood that all that had happened and was happening during those Easter days committed each of them, and especially Peter, to building a new era of history, an era that had begun on Easter morning.


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

Ai pellegrini francesi 

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

J’ACCUEILLE AVEC JOIE les personnes de langue française venues à cette audience et je salue, en particulier, les divers groupes de jeunes qui font un pèlerinage avec leurs familles et leurs éducateurs. Chers jeunes, je souhaite que votre séjour à Rome ravive votre foi dans le Christ et vous encourage à prendre una part toujours plus active à la vie de votre communauté ecclésiale.

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ENFIN, JE SUIS HEUREUX de saluer les délégués de mouvements politiques d’inspiration chrétienne, venus de nombreux pays, qui participent à l’audience de ce jour. Je forme des voeux pour le service qu’ils rendent à la famille humaine, à la lumière de l’Evangile.

A tous, jeunes et adultes, je donne de grand coeur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai visitatori di lingua inglese 

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I AM VERY PLEASED to welcome all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims, in particular the group of Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart, the members of the Swedish Church Study Organization, the students from Denmark and the choirs from Oslo and Kerry.

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MY SPECIAL GREETING goes to the priests participating in the Institute for Continuing Education at the North American College. I am confident that these studies in Rome will help you in your future ministry and will deepen your appreciation of the universality of the Church. May you always grow in your love of the mystery of Christ “in whom are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge”.

* * *

FINALLY, I OFFER a cordial welcome to the “Sollicitudo Rei Socialis” Study Group. I encourage you to commit yourselves actively to the authentic development of humanity which this encyclical seeks to promote. May Almighty God bless your efforts and show you the path that leads to human solidarity and peace. To all present today I impart my Apostolic Blessing.

Ad un gruppo di studenti e di studentesse giapponesi 

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

CARISSIMI STUDENTI e studentesse dell Università Sophia di Tokyo, del Collegio Yamada di Nagoya e pellegrini di Shodoshima: auspico che il vostro impegno di studio e di aggiornamento, come pure questo vostro pellegrinaggio a Roma, contribuiscano non soltanto al bene personale di ciascuno di voi, ma anche allo sviluppo del Giappone, che ha appena iniziato la nuova era “Heisei”.

Con questo augurio vi benedico di cuore.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca 

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

DIESE KURZE BETRACHTUNG mag uns, liebe Brüder und Schwestern, in der jetzigen österlichen Bußzeit helfen, uns würdig auf das Fest der Auferstehung unseres Herrn vorzubereiten. Herzlich grüße ich euch alle zu der heutigen Audienz. Einen besonderen Willkommensgruß richte ich an die anwesenden Schwestern verschiedener Kongregationen, die in La Storta an einem geistlichen Erneuerungskurs teilnehmen. Ich wünsche euch in Besinnung und Gebet ein stetes Wachsen in der Erkenntnis und Liebe Jesu Christi. Zugleich erteile ich euch und allen Pilgern deutscher Sprache für reiche göttliche Gnaden von Herzen meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini giunti dalla Spagna e da diversi Paesi dell’America Latina

Amadisimos hermanos y hermanas,

DESEO AHORA presentar mi más cordial bienvenida a todos los peregrinos y visitantes procedentes de los diversos países de América Latina y de España.

Un saludo fraterno dirijo a los Señores Obispos de México, presentes en Roma para la visita “ad limina” y que han querido acompañarnos en esta audiencia. Saludo asimismo a los sacerdotes, religiosos, religiosas y demás almas consagradas, a quienes aliento en su abnegada tarea de hacer presente la Buena Nueva de salvación en todos los ámbitos de la vida social.

A todas las personas, familias y grupos de lengua española imparto con afecto la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini polacchi 

WITAM PlELGRZYMKE kapituły katedralnej diecezji koszalińskokołobrzeskiej z ordynariuszem księdzem biskupem Ignacym Jeżem oraz ksigdzęm biskupem Piotrem, jego współpracownikiem; prócz tego witam grupę Almatur z Krakowa, ze statku “Estonia” także wszystkich uczestników grup turystycznych Turysty, Orbisu, Logos-Tour, zwłaszcza z Bygoszczy.

Ad un gruppo di docenti ed alunni del “Pontificium Institutum Altioris Latinitatis” presso l’Università Pontificia Salesiana

PROMPTISSIMA QUIDEM voluntate maximoque animi studio adloquor coram adstantes moderatores, magistros et alumnos Pontificii Instituti Altioris Latinitatis sive potius Facultatis Litterarum Classicarum et Christianarum apud Pontificiam Studiorum Universitatem Salesianam, quippe qui sollemniore quodam ritu hodie commemorant vicesimum quintum annum exactum, cum Apostolicae Litterae Decessoris mei Pauli Sexti prodierunt, “Studia Latinitatis” inscriptae, quibus idem Institutum est legitime Romae conditum.

Merito sane spes atque expectationes illius providentissimi Pontificis Romani hodie rursus ante oculos constituuntur ac rationes aequo indicio subducuntur, quandoquidem nemo non liquido percipit usum ac studium nobilis huius et immortalis sermonis, pro dolor!, etiam in Ecclesia Romana Catholica usque minui.

Ex vestris scholis et curriculis aptos progredi oportet Latinitatis praeceptores; vestra ratio et disciplina ostentare debet studiosis universis verum linguae Latinas splendorem et subtilitatem; servare praeterea debet in terris Latinitatis vigorem et maiestatem. Pergite igitur, retro vestras ad origines spectantes, posteram Facultatis vestrae aetatem etiam prosperiorem reddere fructibusque solidis pleniorem, opitulante caelitus Divino Magistro, cuius lumen et robur impetret adfatim vobis Apostolica mea Benedictio.

Ad alcuni gruppi italiani

Rivolgo un cordiale saluto a voi, Rappresentanti di alcuni Movimenti politici di ispirazione cristiana, che prendete parte a questa Udienza.

Vi sono grato per la vostra presenza e per l’impegno sociale e civile che portate avanti al fine di realizzare il vero bene comune, nelle Comunità in cui operate. Ciò comporta uno sforzo costante e generoso per contribuire a quel rinnovamento dell’ordine temporale che forma la preoccupazione di chi è veramente desideroso di vedere una società più solidale, più fraterna e più in pace.

Vi ringrazio anche per l’impegno mirante a portare nella società di oggi il fermento dei principi cristiani, venendo così incontro ai veri bisogni spirituali e materiali dei vostri concittadini.

Vi sostenga nella vostra attività la mia Benedizione che imparto a voi e ai vostri familiari.

* * *

Desidero ora porgere il mio saluto affettuoso ai fedeli della Parrocchia di Maria SS. Annunziata, in Pietradefusi, Arcidiocesi di Benevento, che sono giunti pellegrini a Roma per ricordare l’Anno centenario dell’incoronazione della Madonna dell’Arco e per la benedizione di due campane. Auguro che la devozione alla Madre del Redentore disponga il loro animo a condurre un’esistenza cristiana che sia sempre generosa testimonianza di fede operosa.

* * *

Saluto poi le Religiose convenute a Roma per l’annuale Convegno di aggiornamento indetto dalla F.I.R.O.S. Mentre esprimo il mio apprezzamento per l’umile, ma fervente dedizione con la quale svolgono il loro compito fra le persone ammalate, esorto a crescere nella intimità con Cristo, la cui carità è fonte e custodia dell’amore al prossimo.

* * *

Il mio pensiero va poi alle Religiose ed alle Alunne dell’Istituto romano “Maria Assunta”, le quali hanno voluto accompagnare le Suore che stanno per recarsi in Bolivia. L’augurio che rivolgo a tutte è di vivere lo spirito missionario col fervente proposito di portare il Cristo, verità lieta e speranza sicura, ad ogni persona umana. 

* * * 

Saluto infine i funzionari ed impiegati dell’Amministrazione Provinciale di Salerno. Nel dare il benvenuto ad essi ed ai loro familiari, invoco su ciascuno la continua assistenza del Signore, perché possano contribuire efficacemente al progresso civile e morale della loro Provincia.

A tutti imparto la mia Benedizione. 

Ai giovani, agli ammalati, agli sposi novelli 

Mi è infine gradito rivolgere un saluto particolare e cordiale a tutti i ragazzi e giovani, ai cari malati e alle coppie di sposi novelli che partecipano a questa udienza.

Carissimi, la vostra presenza accanto al Papa nel giorno in cui la Chiesa celebra la festa liturgica della Cattedra di San Pietro, è per me motivo di gioia profonda.

A voi, giovani, dico: fondate ed ancorate il vostro avvenire alle certezze della fede che, soprattutto in questo tempo quaresimale, la Chiesa vi offre attraverso l’ascolto attento ed assiduo della Parola di Dio.

Voi, ammalati, aiutate Pietro nel suo gravoso compito di Pastore universale, offrendo con generosità e disponibilità il tesoro prezioso delle vostre quotidiane sofferenze e della preghiera.

E voi, cari sposi novelli, attingete alla grazia feconda del sacramento da poco ricevuto la forza di confrontare le vostre scelte concrete con il Magistero che la Chiesa offre alle famiglie, affinché vivano sempre in un amore che non si incrina di fronte alle immancabili difficoltà della vita quotidiana.

A tutti offro il sostegno della mia Benedizione.

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