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The Prologue of John's Gospel synthesizes the faith of the Apostolic Church

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
General Audience, Wednesday 3 June 1987 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish  

"1. In the last catechesis we have shown, on the basis of the Synoptic Gospels, how faith in the divine sonship of Christ comes into being through the revelation of the Father in the awareness of his disciples and hearers, and first of all in the awareness of the apostles. The Father revealed his Son in Christ ("my Son") through the theophanies which took place at the baptism in the Jordan and then during the transfiguration on the mountain. It is above all the testimony of the Father himself that contributes to create the conviction that Jesus is the Son of God in the strict and full sense of this word, not merely in a metaphorical sense. We have also seen how the revelation of the truth about the divine sonship of Jesus reached the minds and the hearts of the apostles through the work of the Father, as is clear from the words of Jesus to Peter: "It was not flesh and blood that revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 16:17).

2. We must read the whole Gospel of John, and particularly its prologue (Jn 1:1-18), in the light of this faith in the divine sonship of Jesus, a faith which acquired much greater strength after the resurrection. It is a unique synthesis that expresses the faith of the apostolic Church—of that first generation of disciples to whom it was given to have contact with Christ, whether directly or through the apostles who spoke of what they had personally heard and seen. In these events they had discovered the fulfillment of all that the Old Testament had foretold about him. What had already been revealed beforehand, but in a certain sense was covered with a veil, now took on transparency and became clear and comprehensible in the light of what Jesus had done.

In this way, the Gospel of John (which was the last of the four Gospels to be written) is in a certain sense the most complete testimony about Christ as the Son of God, the Son who is consubstantial with the Father. The Holy Spirit, who had been promised by Jesus to the apostles, and who was to "teach them everything" (cf. Jn 14:26), truly permitted the evangelist "to search the depths of God" (cf. 1 Cor 2:10) and to express them in the inspired text of the prologue.

3. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. Everything was made through him, and without him nothing was made of all that exists" (Jn 1:1-3). "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us; and we saw his glory, glory as of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth" (Jn 1:14). "He was in the world and the world was made through him, yet the world did not recognize him. He came among his own people, but his own did not receive him" (Jn 1:10-11). "But to all who received him, he gave the power to become sons of God; to those who believe in his name, who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God" (Jn 1:12-13). "No one has ever seen God: it is the only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, who has made him known" (Jn 1:18).

4. The prologue of John is certainly the key text that gives full expression to the truth about the divine sonship of Christ. He who "became flesh" in time, is the Word himself from all eternity. He is the only-begotten Son—God "who is in the bosom of the Father." He is the Son "of the same substance of the Father," he is "God from God." He receives the fullness of glory from the Father. He is the Word "through whom everything was made." Therefore everything that exists owes to him that "beginning" of which the Book of Genesis speaks (cf. Gen 1:1), the beginning of the work of creation. This same eternal Son, when he comes into the world as the "Word become flesh," brings with him for humanity the fullness "of grace and truth." He brings the fullness of truth because he gives teaching about the true God whom "no one has ever seen." And he brings the fullness of grace, because he gives to all those who receive him the power to be reborn of God. Alas, as the evangelist observes, "the world did not recognize him," and even though "he came among his own people," many "did not receive him."

5. The truth contained in the Johannine prologue is the same truth that we find in other books of the New Testament. Thus, for example, we read in the Letter to the Hebrews that God "in these days has spoken to us through the Son, whom he has constituted heir of all things, and through whom also he made the world. This Son, who is the reflection of his glory and the imprint of his substance, and upholds everything with the power of his word, after having accomplished the purification of sins, has taken his place at the right hand of the majesty in the highest heavens" (Heb 1:2-3).

6. Like the Letter to the Hebrews in its own way, the prologue of the Gospel of John expresses through biblical allusions the accomplishment in Christ of everything that was said in the old covenant, beginning with the Book of Genesis, through the law of Moses (cf. Jn 1:17) and the prophets, up to the sapiential books. The expression "the Word" (which "was with God in the beginning") corresponds to the Hebrew word dabar. Even though we find the term logos in Greek, nevertheless the source of the thought is primarily the Old Testament. Two dimensions are borrowed from the Old Testament at one and the same time: that of hochma, (wisdom), understood as God's plan for creation, and that of dabar (logos), understood as the realization of this plan. The use of the word logos, which had been taken over from Greek philosophy, in turn made it easier for minds formed by this philosophy to approach these truths.

7. Remaining for the present in the realm of the Old Testament, we read in Isaiah: "The word that goes forth from my mouth shall not return to me empty, without having done what I desire and without having carried out that for which I sent it" (Is 55:11). It is clear from this text that the biblical dabar (word) is not merely a word but is also a realization (act). One can say that there already appears in the books of the old covenant a certain personification of the word (dabar, logos), and likewise of wisdom (sophia).

Wisdom "is initiated into the knowledge of God, and chooses his works" (Wis 8:4), and in another passage: "With you is wisdom, who knows your works, and was present when you created the world; she knows what is pleasing to your eyes and what is fitting.... Send her from the holy heavens, for your glorious throne, so that she may assist me and stand by me in my work, so that I may know what is pleasing to you" (Wis 9:9-10).

8. Thus, we are very close to the first words of the prologue of John. The following words of the Book of Wisdom are even closer: "While a deep silence enveloped all things, and night was halfway through its course, your almighty word leaped down from your royal throne...into the midst of this land doomed to destruction, bearing your inexorable command like a naked sword" (Wis 18:14-15). Nevertheless, this word to which the sapiential books refer, this wisdom which is with God from the beginning, is considered in relationship to the created world which it orders and directs (cf. Prov 8:22-27). "The Word" in the Gospel of John, on the other hand, not only exists "in the beginning," but is revealed as turned wholly toward God (pros ton theon) and as being himself God. "The Word was God." He is the only-begotten Son, who "is in the bosom of the Father"—God the Son. He is in Person the pure expression of God, the "reflection of his glory" (cf. Heb 1:3), consubstantial with the Father.

9. It is precisely this Son - the Word who becomes flesh - who receives testimony from John at the Jordan. In the prologue, we read about John the Baptist: "There came a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to give testimony to the light" (Jn 1:6-7). This light is none other than Christ—as the Word. We read further on in the prologue: "In him was life, and the life was the light of men" (Jn 1:4). This is "the true light, that gives light to every man" (Jn 1:9). The light that "shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not overcome it."

Accordingly, the prologue of the Gospel of John shows us that Jesus Christ is God, because he is the only-begotten Son of God the Father—the Word. He comes into the world as the source of life and of holiness. Truly, we are at the central and decisive point of our profession of faith here: "The Word became flesh and came to dwell among us.""

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

Ai fedeli di espressione francese

Je salue tous les pèlerins de langue française, notamment les missionnaires, les laïcs adultes et jeunes, de différents diocèses de France et de Belgique, et je les bénis de tout cœur.

Ad alcuni gruppi di lingua inglese

On this occasion I extend a warm welcome to the group of Lutheran visitors from Sweden, and also the pilgrims who have come from Lahore, Pakistan. I cordially greet the Chinesespeaking Catholics from Singapore, and the pilgrim group from Korea.

A special word of welcome goes to the many priests and religious who are present here today; in particular to the members of the Canon Law Society of the United States of America, and to a renewal group of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. I offer warmest greetings to the Sisters who are celebrating their Jubilees of Religious Profession: the Franciscan Sisters from Saint Theresa’s College in Winona, and the Sisters of Mercy from Great Britain. Through your public witness as priests and religious, you are making a vital contribution to the Church’s mission of proclaiming the Gospel. I thank you for your fidelity and generous service. May you always find joy in praising God’s holy name.

* * *

I extend cordial greetings to all the English-speaking visitors: from Great Britain, Ireland, Sweden, Pakistan, Singapore, Korea, and the United States of America. As we draw near to the great feast of Pentecost, may your hearts be filled with the peace and grace of the Holy Spirit. God bless you all.

Ai pellegrini di espressione tedesca

Liebe Besucher deutscher Sprache, euch alle und jeden einzelnen grüße ich noch einmal von Herzen und erbitte euch einen jugendlichen, frohen Glauben an die liebende Nähe Gottes inmitten eures Lebens mit seinen Freuden und Sorgen, seinen Ängsten und Hoffnungen. Habt eine gesunde Heimkehr und gebt meinen Segen weiter an all eure Lieben zu Hause!

Ai numerosi fedeli provenienti dalla Spagna e da alcuni Paesi latinoamericani

Dirijo ahora mi más cordial saludo de bienvenida a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española.

En particular al grupo de sacerdotes de la arquidiócesis de Monterrey (México) y a las junioras de la Congregación de Religiosas de María Inmaculada. A todos aliento a una generosa entrega a Dios y a la Iglesia.

* * *

Saludo igualmente a los miembros de la Asociación Trinitaria de Antequera, a los componentes del Coro EASO de San Sebastián y del Coro Estable Municipal de Merlo (Argentina); así como al grupo de estudiantes procedentes de Puerto Rico.

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

Ad alcuni pellegrini giunti dal Brasile

Quero saudar, em particular, o numeroso grupo de Brasileiros -do Rio de Janeiro e de São Paulo, Belo Horizonte, Porto Alegre e Salvador -, presentes hoje: grato pela visita, desejo a todos que a estada em Roma sirva para avivar a fé e dar novo impulso à sua vida de testemunhas de Jesus Cristo e de filhos da Igreja, como quem recebeu o Espírito Santo, para ter coragem e alegria em ser cristão. Penso nas vossas famílias, nos vossos amigos e na vossa pátria, ao dar-vos a Bênção.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Pozdrawiam pielgrzymów Z Wrocławia, z parafii Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa; z archidiecezji wrocławskiej, z parafii Żurawina, dekanat Borów; prócz tego Polaków z Australii, ze Szwajcarii; dzieci polskie, które w ostatnią niedzielę przystąpiły do I Komunii św. w polskim kościele św. Stanisława z ich rodzinami; grupę zakładów “Ursus” w Warszawie; jako też uczestników grup turystycznych.

Ad alcuni pellegrinaggi italiani

Saluto cordialmente i sacerdoti di Torino, che celebrano il XXV anniversario della loro sacra ordinazione. Sono loro vicino in questa tappa importante della loro vita, con la mia preghiera, con i miei auguri e con la mia Benedizione.

* * *

Un saluto caro anche ai giovani seminaristi dei Figli di Don Orione del Santuario dell’Incoronata di Foggia. La Vergine Santa vi sostenga nel vostro cammino e vi prepari a divenire pastori di anime! Con la mia affettuosa Benedizione.

* * *

Saluto poi i numerosi religiosi e religiose presenti: i religiosi Assunzionisti riuniti per il loro Capitolo generale; le suore Collegine della Sacra Famiglia, giunte in pellegrinaggio alla tomba del loro Fondatore, il Cardinale Pietro Marcellino Corradini; le suore dell’Istituto Figlie di Maria Ausiliatrice, provenienti da diciannove Nazioni, per un corso di aggiornamento missionario; il gruppo di religiose “juniores”, delle Suore di Maria Immacolata, giunte da diversi Paesi esteri, e che si stanno preparando ad emettere la professione perpetua; il gruppo di religiosi “ Servi di Nazareth ”.

A tutti voi, cari religiosi e religiose, un affettuoso benvenuto e l’espressione del mio compiacimento per la vostra totale dedizione al Signore nelle forme proprie del carisma di ciascun Istituto. Lo Spirito Santo e l’intercessione della Beata Vergine Maria facciano sempre di voi un “ segno ” dell’umanità futura, un segno di speranza per i cuori assetati di Dio, della sua verità, della sua giustizia, della sua pace. Io vi accompagno con la mia preghiera e la mia Benedizione.

* * *

Una particolare parola desidero riservare ai missionari provenienti da vari Paesi, che sono a Roma per partecipare ad un corso di aggiornamento indetto dagli Istituti Missionari Italiani. Vi auguro buon lavoro e vi benedico di cuore.

Ai giovani

Carissimi giovani, giunga a tutti voi il mio cordiale benvenuto. Abbiamo iniziato il mese di giugno, che nella vostra vita significa mese di esami scolastici e di inizio delle vacanze estive; ma io desidero ricordarvi che è anche il mese dedicato dalla Chiesa alla devozione al Sacro Cuore di Gesù. La vostra giovinezza è bella, è ricca di ideali, è generosa di proposte e di prospettive; ma è anche fragile e insidiata. Siate perciò anche voi devoti del Cuore di Gesù, simbolo del suo amore redentore e misericordioso.

Agli ammalati

Saluto poi con affetto gli ammalati qui presenti e tutti coloro che li accudiscono e li hanno qui accompagnati. Fra questi desidero menzionare il gruppo dell’Istituto Andreoli Borgonovo Val Tidone (Piacenza), coloro che sono accompagnati dal Gruppo di Preghiera di Monte Paolo (Forlì), il gruppo dell’Opera Don Guanella -Riva San Vitale (Svizzera) e in particolare il vasto gruppo guidato dal Centro Don Orione di Monte Mario in Roma, con la partecipazione di rappresentanti dell’Istituto dell’Opera Don Orione di Pescara, Napolil-Ercolano e di Savignano.

Carissimi vi sia di conforto la certezza che attraverso la vostra croce, il Signore realizza il suo disegno di salvezza. In questi giorni di preparazione alla solennità liturgica di Pentecoste, stiamo pregando con particolare intensità lo Spirito Santo per noi stessi, per la Chiesa, per l’intera umanità. Siate anche voi profondamente devoti allo Spirito consolatore, affinché vi doni la sapienza del cuore, la gioiosa conoscenza delle verità eterne, il conforto della divina presenza, la serenità in questa vostra situazione di pazienza e di fiducia. Vi imparto di cuore la mia Benedizione.

Agli sposi novelli

Infine rivolgo il mio fervido saluto a voi, cari sposi novelli. Siete venuti in pellegrinaggio a Roma e sulla tomba di Pietro, il Primo Apostolo, anche per rinnovare i sentimenti della vostra fede cristiana. Vi auguro tanta felicità, nell’amore fedele e generoso, nel senso religioso della vita. Tra pochi giorni inizieremo l’Anno Mariano; pregate anche voi Maria SS. ma, in modo speciale durante questo Anno di grazia, invocando il suo aiuto e imitando le sue virtù. La mia Benedizione vi sia di sostegno nella vostra nuova vita!

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