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The metanoia, consequence of the encounter with Christ

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the History of Salvation
General Audience, Wednesday 30 August 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. The Psalmist sings: "My wanderings you have counted" (Ps 56: 9). This short, essential sentence contains the history of man wandering through the desert of solitude, evil and aridity. With sin he has destroyed the wonderful harmony of creation established by God in the beginning: "God saw everything that he had made, and behold, it was something very good and beautiful", as the well-known text in Genesis might be rendered (Gn 1: 31). Yet God is never far from his creature; on the contrary, he is always present deep within him, as St Augustine perceived so well: "Where were you then and how distant from me? I was wandering far from you.... But you were higher than my highest and more inward than my innermost self" (Confessions, 3, 6, 11).

However, the Psalmist had already described man's vain flight from his Creator in a stupendous hymn: "Where can I go from your spirit? From your presence where can I flee? If I go up to the heavens, you are there; if I sink to the nether world, you are present there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your hand shall guide me, and your right hand hold me fast. If I say, "Surely the darkness shall hide me, and night shall be my light' - For you darkness itself is not dark, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are the same" (Ps 139: 7-12).

2. When God seeks out the rebellious son who flees far from his sight, he does so with particular insistence and love. God traveled the tortuous roads of sinners through his Son, Jesus Christ, who, bursting onto history's stage, is presented as "the Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world" (Jn 1: 29). Here are the first words he says in public: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!" (Mt 4: 17). An important term appears which Jesus will repeatedly explain in words and deeds: "Repent", in Greek metanoeite, that is, make a metanoia, a radical change of mind and heart. It is necessary to turn away from evil and to enter the kingdom of justice, love and truth which is being established.

The trilogy of parables on divine mercy collected by Luke in chapter 15 of his Gospel is the most striking depiction of how God actively seeks out and lovingly awaits his sinful creature. Through his metanoia or conversion man returns, like the prodigal son, to embrace the Father who has never forgotten or abandoned him.

3. In commenting on this parable of the father who is prodigal with his love towards the son who was prodigal with his sin, St Ambrose introduces the presence of the Trinity: "Rise, run to the Church: here is the Father, here is the Son, here is the Holy Spirit. He runs out to meet you, for he hears you as you reflect within the secrecy of your heart. And while you are still at a distance, he catches sight of you and starts to run. He sees into your heart, he runs out so that no one will detain you, and futhermore he embraces you.... He throws his arms around your neck, to lift up what had been lying on the ground and to enable someone oppressed by the burden of sin and looking down at earthly things to turn his gaze again to heaven, where he should have been seeking his Creator. Christ throws his arms around your neck because he wants to remove the yoke of slavery and put a gentle yoke upon it" (In Lucam VII, 229-230).

4. A person's encounter with Christ changes his life, as we are taught by the story of Zacchaeus which we heard at the beginning. The same thing happened to sinful men and women when Jesus crossed their path. On the Cross there is an extreme act of forgiveness and hope given to the evil-doer, who makes his metanoia when he arrives at the final frontier between life and death, and says to his companion: "we are receiving the due reward for our deeds" (Lk 23: 41). To the one who implores him: "Remember me when you come in your kingly power", Jesus replies: "Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise" (cf. Lk 23: 42-43). Thus Christ's earthly mission, which began with the invitation to repent in order to enter the kingdom of God, ends with a conversion and an entry into his kingdom.

5. The Apostles' mission also began with a pressing invitation to conversion. Those who heard Peter's first address felt cut to the heart and anxiously asked "What should we do?". He said in reply: "Repent (metanoesate) and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2: 37-38). Peter's answer was promptly accepted: "about three thousand souls" were converted that day (cf. Acts 2: 41). After the miraculous healing of a crippled man, Peter exhorted them again. He reminded the residents of Jerusalem of their horrible sin: "You denied the Holy and Righteous One, ... and killed the Author of life" (Acts 3: 14-15), but he mitigated their guilt, saying: "Now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance" (Acts 3: 17); he then called them to conversion (cf. 3: 19) and gave them immense hope: "God sent him to you first, to bless you in turning every one of you from your wickedness" (3: 26).

Similarly, the Apostle Paul preached repentance. He says so in his address to King Agrippa, describing his apostolate as follows: "I declared" to everyone, "also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God and perform deeds worthy of their repentance" (Acts 26: 20; cf. 1 Thes 1: 9-10)". Paul taught that "God's kindness is meant to lead [us] to repentance" (Rom 2: 4). In the book of Revelation it is Christ himself who repeatedly urges repentance. Inspired by love (cf. Rv 3: 19), the exhortation is vigorous and expresses all the urgency of repentance (cf. Rv 2: 5, 16, 21-22; 3: 3, 19), but is accompanied by wondrous promises of intimacy with the Saviour (cf. 3: 20-21).

The door of hope is therefore always open to every sinner. "Man is not left alone to attempt, in a thousand often frustrated ways, an impossible ascent to heaven. There is a tabernacle of glory, which is the most holy person of Jesus the Lord, where the divine and the human meet in an embrace that can never be separated. The Word became flesh, like us in everything except sin. He pours divinity into the sick heart of humanity, and imbuing it with the Father's Spirit enables it to become God through grace" (Orientale lumen, n. 15). "

The Holy Father asked the faithful to pray for lasting peace in Burundi and the whole Great Lakes region of Africa:

Last Monday, 28 August, an initial, partial agreement was signed in Arusha, Tanzania, to restore peace to the beloved nation of Burundi, which has been soaked in blood from seven absurd years of civil war.

I ask you to pray that those peoples' desire for reconciliation will be accepted by all the parties concerned and the neighbouring States, and that a stable, lasting peace can soon be achieved for the benefit of the entire Great Lakes region.

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages:

I warmly welcome the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims, especially those from England, Ireland, Denmark, Malta, India, Indonesia, Hong Kong and the United States of America. Upon you and your families I invoke the abundant blessings of Almighty God.

Je salue avec plaisir les pèlerins de langue française, en particulier ceux du Gabon, accompagnés de Monseigneur André Fernand Anguilé, Archevêque émérite de Libreville.Je salue le pèlerinage œcuménique d’Athènes et les professeurs du collège des Sœurs Antonines de Ghazir. Je vous souhaite à tous de recevoir en abondance, pendant votre pèlerinage, les grâces du grand Jubilé de l’Incarnation, et je vous bénis de grand cœur.

Gern grüße ich die Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache. Besonders heiße ich die Wallfahrtsgruppe willkommen, die von der Bruderschaft vom gemeinsamen Leben und vom Ökumenischen Lebenszentrum Ottmaring organisiert wurde. Ebenso grüße ich die Ministranten vom Münchener Liebfrauendom sowie die Pilger aus Leutkirch, die sich mit dem Fahrrad auf den Weg nach Rom gemacht haben. Die Türen zum Haus Gottes stehen allen offen! Wir brauchen nur einzutreten. Für diesen Schritt erteile ich Euch, Euren Lieben daheim und allen, die mit uns über Radio Vatikan und das Fernsehen verbunden sind, den Apostolischen Segen.

Amados peregrinos de língua portuguesa, a minha saudação cordial a todos vós, nomeadamente aos paroquianos de Itamonte no Brasil e às paróquias portuguesas de Coimbra e Bougado. O céu cubra de graças o vosso caminho jubilar para que os vossos corações possam domingo-a-domingo hospedar Jesus-Eucaristia no meio dos homens. Sobre vós, vossos familiares e comunidades eclesiais, desça a minha Bênção.

Doy mi bienvenida a los peregrinos de lengua española. De modo especial saludo a los participantes en el Congreso Internacional de Colaboradores de las Religiosas de María Inmaculada; a los que venís en bicicleta desde Las Pedroñeras (Cuenca) y a los demás grupos procedentes de España, México, Chile, Venezuela y Argentina. Deseo que en este Año Jubilar experimentéis la presencia de Dios Padre que os abraza tiernamente y os quiere colmar de su amor misericordioso. 

Saluto ai pellegrini lituani:

Su meile sveikinu maldininkus lietuvius! Gailestingasis Tevas apsireiškia kiekvienoje širdyje, kuri jo klauso. Ypatingai šiais Metais js gyvenimas tebna apšviestas Jo buvimu. Su šitais linkejimais jus laiminu.

Garbe Jezui Kristui!

Versione italiana del saluto in lingua lituana:

Saluto con affetto i pellegrini lituani.

Il Padre Misericordioso si fa sentire nei cuori che lo ascoltano. Specialmente in quest’Anno la vostra vita sia sempre illuminata dalla sua presenza. Con questi voti vi benedico.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Saluto in lingua ungherese:

Szeretettel köszöntöm a magyar zarándokokat, különösen pedig a siketnémák csoportját. Isten hozott Benneteket! Köszönöm látogatástokat. Szeretettel adom apostoli áldásomat Rátok, szeretteitekre, és az egész magyar népre.

Dicsértessék a Jézus Krisztus!

Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua ungherese:

Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini ungheresi, specialmente il gruppo dei sordomuti. Carissimi, vi ringrazio per la vostra visita e cordialmente imparto la Benedizione Apostolica, che estendo ai vostri cari e all’intero popolo ungherese.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Saluto in lingua slovacca:

Srdecne pozdravujem slovenských pútnikov z Bratislavy a Povaskej Bystrice, Košic a Košickej Novej Vsi, Hruštína a Bobrova, Oravského Podzámku a Zuberca, Niného Hrušova a Chmenice, Trencína Zohora, Kysúc a Ponitria, ako aj príslušníkov letectva Armády Slovenskej republiky s ich rodinami. Bratia a sestry, prešli ste Svätou bránou: ona pripomína prechod z hriechu do milosti, ktorý je povolaný uskutocni kadý kresan. Jeiš povedal: ‘Ja som brána’ (Jn 10,7), aby naznacil, e nikto nemôe prís k Otcovi, iba ak cez neho. Rád udeujem Apoštolské poehnanie vám i vašim blizkym vo vlasti. Pochválený bud Jeiš Kristus!

Versione italiana del saluto in lingua slovacca:

Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini slovacchi da Bratislava e Povaská Bbystrica, Košice e Košická Nová Ves, Hruštín e Bobrov, Oravský Podzámok e Zuberec, Niný Hrušov e Chmenica, Trencín e Zohor, Kysuce e Ponitrie, come pure i membri dell’aviazione dell’Esercito slovacco, con i familiari. Fratelli e sorelle, avete varcato la Porta Santa; essa evoca il passaggio che ogni cristiano è chiamato a compiere dal peccato alla grazia. Gesù ha detto: "Io sono la porta" (Gv 10,7), per indicare che nessuno può avere accesso al Padre se non per mezzo suo. Volentieri imparto la Benedizione Apostolica a voi e ai vostri cari in patria. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Saluto ai pellegrini croati:

Draga braco i sestre, na našemu nas zemaljskom putu svojim majcinskim zagovorom i svojom ljubavlju prati Blaena Djevica Marija, Majka Isusova i Majka hodocasnickoga Bojeg puka. Cudesno pridruena djelu spasenja i uznesena na nebo, Ona je »znak sigurne nade i utjehe« (Lumen gentium, 68) svemu ljudskom rodu. Srdacno pozdravljam clanove Narodne glazbe iz Šibenika te hodocasnike iz Dubrovnika, Splita, Slavonskoga Broda, Svetoga Ivana Zeline i ostalih mjesta. Na sve zazivam Boji blagoslov.

Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

Versione italiana del testo croato:

Cari Fratelli e Sorelle, sul nostro cammino terreno ci accompagna con materna intercessione e amore la Beata Vergine Maria, Madre di Gesù e Madre del pellegrinante Popolo di Dio. Mirabilmente unita all'opera della salvezza e assunta al cielo, Ella è «segno di sicura speranza e di consolazione» (Lumen gentium, 68) per l'umanità intera.

Saluto cordialmente i membri della Banda Musicale Cittadina di Šibenik ed i pellegrini provenienti da Dubrovnik, Split, Slavonski Brod, Sveti Ivan Zelina ed altre località. Invoco su tutti la benedizione di Dio.

Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!

* * *

Rivolgo ora un cordiale benvenuto a tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare ai fedeli della Diocesi di Trieste, venuti in pellegrinaggio a Roma con il loro Vescovo, Monsignor Eugenio Ravignani, come pure quelli della Diocesi di Mantova, guidati dal loro Pastore, Monsignor Egidio Caporello. Cari fratelli e sorelle, ricordo la mia visita alle vostre Comunità diocesane, e sono lieto dell'odierno incontro, che mi offre l'occasione di rinnovare l'affetto che a voi mi unisce. Ben volentieri benedico i sacerdoti, le religiose e i religiosi, le parrocchie, le famiglie e le intere Chiese particolari, auspicando che l'Anno giubilare rechi a tutti pace, letizia e un rinnovato spirito di fede.

Saluto poi la comunità dei diaconi permanenti di Firenze con i familiari, accompagnati dal loro Arcivescovo, il Cardinale Silvano Piovanelli; il gruppo di seminaristi che a Frascati partecipano all'Incontro Estivo sul tema "La santità cristiana: un ideale da proporre alle nuove generazioni?"; e gli alunni del Seminario Minore e Maggiore, con i loro Superiori, dell'Arcidiocesi di Brindisi-Ostuni. Carissimi, nell'esprimervi l'augurio che questo incontro rinsaldi la vostra adesione a Cristo, vi accompagno con un particolare ricordo nella preghiera, perché il Signore vi ricolmi sempre dei suoi doni di grazia.

Saluto anche i partecipanti al pellegrinaggio a cavallo promosso dalla Provincia di Belluno, dall'Associazione "Natura a Cavallo" e dal Comitato Triveneto per il Giubileo. Desidero manifestarvi il mio vivo apprezzamento per la lodevole iniziativa ben preparata, che nel suo percorso ha proposto numerose attività di carattere religioso e culturale. Auspico cordialmente che essa valga a stimolare in ognuno un rinnovato impegno nella testimonianza cristiana, per un atteggiamento di attenta solidarietà verso il prossimo, secondo i dettami del Vangelo.

Ed ora un particolare saluto a tutti i giovani, ammalati e sposi novelli. Vi esorto, cari giovani, a mettere Cristo al centro della vostra vita, per essere veri testimoni di speranza e pace in questa società. Voi, ammalati, accogliete con fede il mistero del dolore sull'esempio di Gesù, il quale ha sofferto per la redenzione di tutti gli uomini. E voi, sposi novelli, attingete ogni giorno dal Signore il senso del vostro amore, perché questo sia vero, duraturo e aperto agli altri.

A tutti la mia Benedizione.


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