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The value of commitment in temporal realities

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the History of Salvation
General Audience, Wednesday 13 December 2000 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. The Apostle Paul states that "our homeland is in heaven" (Phil 3: 20), but he does not conclude that we can passively wait for our entry into this homeland; rather he urges us to be actively involved. "Let us not grow weary in well-doing", he writes, "for in due season we shall reap, if we do not lose heart. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith" (Gal 6: 9-10).

Biblical revelation and the best philosophical wisdom agree in stressing that, on the one hand, humanity strives for the infinite and eternity but, on the other, it is firmly planted on earth, within the coordinates of time and space. There is a transcendent goal to be reached, but along a path that unfolds on earth and in history. The words of Genesis are illuminating:  the human creature is tied to the dust of the earth, but at the same time he has a "breath" that unites him directly to God (cf. Gn 2: 7).

2. Genesis also says that when man came forth from God's hands, he was put "in the garden of Eden, to cultivate it and care for it" (2: 15). The two verbs in the original Hebrew text are used elsewhere to indicate "serving" God and "observing" his word, that is, Israel's commitment to the covenant with the Lord. This analogy seems to suggest that a primary covenant joins the Creator to Adam and to every human creature, a covenant that is fulfilled in the duty to fill the earth, subduing it and having dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, and every other living thing that moves upon the earth (cf. Gn 1: 28; Ps 8: 7-9).

Unfortunately, man often carries out this mission assigned to him by God not as a wise artisan but as an overbearing tyrant. In the end, he finds himself in a devastated and hostile world, in a shattered and divided society, as Genesis further teaches us in the great fresco of the third chapter, which describes the breaking of the harmony between man and his fellow human beings, the earth and the Creator himself. This is the result of original sin, that is, of the rebellion which occurred at the very beginning of the plan entrusted to humanity by God.

3. Therefore, with the grace of Christ the Redeemer we must once again make our own the plan of peace and development, of justice and solidarity, of the transformation and wise use of earthly and temporal realities foreshadowed in the first pages of the Bible. We must continue humanity's great adventure in the field of science and technology, discovering nature's secrets. We must develop - through the economy, trade and social life - well-being, knowledge and victory over poverty and over every degradation of human dignity.

In a certain sense, God has delegated his creative work to man, so that it will continue both in the extraordinary feats of science and technology and in the daily commitment of workers, scholars and those who, with their minds and hands, seek to "cultivate and care for" the earth and to increase solidarity among men and women. God is not absent from his creation, but has "crowned man with glory and honour", making him so to speak his representative, through his autonomy and freedom, in the world and in history (cf. Ps 8: 6-7).

4. As the Psalmist says, in the morning "man goes forth to his work and to his labour until the evening" (Ps 104: 23). In his parables Christ also refers to this work of man and woman in fields and at sea, in homes and at meetings, in law courts and in the market place. He uses it to illustrate symbolically the mystery of the kingdom of God and of its gradual realization, although he knows that this work is often frustrated by evil and sin, by selfishness and injustice. The mysterious presence of the kingdom in history sustains and enlivens the Christian's commitment to his earthly tasks.

Involved in this work and in this struggle, Christians are called to cooperate with the Creator to build on earth a "home for man" in greater conformity with his dignity and the divine plan, a home in which "mercy and faithfulness shall meet, justice and peace shall embrace" (Ps 85: 11).

5. In this light, I would once again like to offer for your meditation the passages in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes (cf. chapters III and IV) which the Second Vatican Council devoted to "man's activity in the universe" and to "the role of the Church in the modern world". "To believers", the Council teaches, "one thing is certain:  individual and collective activity, that monumental effort of man through the centuries to improve the circumstances of the world, presents no problem:  considered in itself, it corresponds to the plan of God" (Gaudium et spes , n. 34).

The complexity of modern society makes ever more arduous the commitment to animate the political, cultural, economic and technological structures, which are often soulless. In this difficult but promising horizon, the Church is called to recognize the autonomy of earthly realities (cf. Gaudium et spes , n. 36), and also effectively to proclaim "the priority of ethics over techniques, the primacy of the person over things, the superiority of the spirit over matter" (Congregation for Catholic Education, Guidelines for the Study and Teaching of the Church's Social Doctrine in the Formation of Priests, 30 December 1988, n. 44). Only in this way will Paul's prediction be fulfilled:  "Creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God ... who subjected it in hope; because creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom 8: 19-21)."

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

I welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from Northern Ireland and the United States of America. I pray that the Advent Season will be a time of particular grace for you, as you prepare in faith, hope and charity for the celebration of the Two Thousandth Anniversary of the Saviour’s birth. Entrusting you and your families to the protection of Mary, Mother of the Redeemer, I invoke upon you abundant divine blessings.

Je salue cordialement les pèlerins de langue française, notamment le groupe de fidèles du diocèse de Carcassonne, et les religieuses de la Congrégation de Saint-Thomas de Villeneuve.Que votre pèlerinage jubilaire à Rome, en ce temps de l’Avent, ravive votre foi et ouvre votre cœur à l’espérance, pour accueillir l’Emmanuel, le Prince de la Paix!À tous, je donne de grand cœur la Bénédiction apostolique.

Ich begrüße alle, die aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache hier anwesend sind. Gleichzeitig ermuntere ich euch, die Einladung des Schöpfers anzunehmen und der Welt ein menschliches Antlitz zu geben. Dazu erteile ich euch und allen, die mit uns über Radio Vatikan oder das Fernsehen verbunden sind, den Apostolischen Segen.

Saúdo os peregrinos de língua portuguesa que porventura aqui se encontrem; dou-lhes as boas-vindas e desejo cordialmente que todos vivam com alegria o tempo natalício que se aproxima, na prática das boas obras, especialmente nos seus lares, pelo caminhos da salvação de Cristo: muito Boas Festas e um Feliz Ano Novo, com minha Bênção Apostólica.

Saludo con afecto a todos los peregrinos de lengua española, especialmente a los Cadetes y personal del Servicio Penitenciario Bonaerense, de la Escuela Federal de Policía y de la Escuela Penitenciaria, de Argentina. Os deseo una buena celebración del tiempo del Adviento como preparación para la próxima Navidad. Que en ese camino os ayude la Virgen de Guadalupe, Patrona de América, cuya fiesta celebramos ayer.

Saluto in lingua slovacca:

Zo srdca pozdravujem slovenských pútnikov z Prešova, Košic, Jastrabia, Prestavlkov, Skalice ako aj predstavených a zamestnancov Knazského seminára svätého Františka Xaverského z Banskej Bystrice-Badína. Drahí pútnici, dejiny Cirkvi sú zivým svedectvom neprestajného putovania Bozieho l'udu. K púti patrí bdenie, pôst a modlitba. Pomocou nich napredujte aj vy na ceste krest'anskej dokonalosti. Rád vás zehnám. Pochválený bud Jeziš Kristus!

Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua slovacca:

Saluto di cuore i pellegrini slovacchi provenienti da Prešov, Košice, Jastrabie, Prestavlky, Skalica, come pure i Superiori ed il Personale del Seminario diocesano di San Francesco Saverio in Banská Bystrica-Badín. Cari pellegrini, la storia della Chiesa rappresenta una viva testimonianza del continuo pellegrinaggio del Popolo di Dio. Fa parte del pellegrinaggio la veglia, il digiuno e la preghiera. Con tali mezzi avanzate anche voi lungo la via della perfezione cristiana. Vi benedico volentieri. Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Saluto ai pellegrini croati:

Draga braco i sestre, zelim vam da prigoda Velikoga jubileja bude za vas ujedno i poticaj na još dublje shvacanje kršcanskoga smisla zivota. Vaša srca bila uvijek otvorena milosti koju Bog ne prestaje obilno darivati ljudima kroz povijesti. Od srca pozdravljam sve ovdje nazocne hrvatske hodocasnike te im rado udjeljujem apostolski blagoslov. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

Versione italiana del testo croato:

Cari Fratelli e Sorelle, vi auguro che l'occasione del Grande Giubileo sia pure motivo per comprendere ulteriormente il senso cristiano della vita. Siano i vostri cuori sempre aperti alla grazia che Dio non cessa di donare in abbondanza agli uomini nel corso della storia.

Saluto di cuore tutti i pellegrini croati qui presenti e volentieri imparto loro la Benedizione Apostolica.

Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!

Saluto in lingua romena:

Adresez un cordial bun venit membrilor coralei "CREDO" din Brasov, în România.
Mult iubitilor, vā multumesc din inimă pentru plăcuta voastrā vizitā, si în timp ce urez ca pelerinajul jubiliar să vā poată întāri credinta si angajarea generoasā de mārturie evanghelică, vă binecuvantez bucuros pe voi si familiile voastre.
Lāudat sā fie Isus Cristos!

Traduzione del saluto in lingua romena:

Rivolgo un cordiale benvenuto ai membri della corale "Credo" di Brasov, in Romania.
Carissimi, vi ringrazio di cuore per la vostra gradita visita, e mentre auspico che il pellegrinaggio giubilare valga a confermare la vostra fede ed il vostro generoso impegno di testimonianza evangelica, volentieri benedico voi e le vostre famiglie.
Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Saluto ai pellegrini lituani:

Sveikinu piligrimus lietuvius ir dziaugiuosi, kad cia atvyko chorai "Šiaudele" ir "Zemynas". Zvelkite i Marija ir pasìtikite gimstanti Jezu su dziaugsmu ir pasitikëjimu, o jusu jaunos širdys tebna pilnos paprastumo ir nuolankumo, kad ir jumyse visi galetu matyti Kristaus meile.

Dekoju uz js giesme ir malda, ir visus jus laiminu.

Garbe Jezui Kristui!

Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua lituana:

Saluto i pellegrini lituani, rallegrandomi per la presenza dei cori "Šiaudele" e "emynas".

Guardate a Maria e accogliete Gesù nascente con gioia e fiducia, e i vostri giovani cuori siano pieni di semplicità e di umiltà, affinché tutti possano ammirare anche in voi l’amore di Cristo.

Mentre vi ringrazio per il canto e per la preghiera, tutti vi benedico.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

* * *

Saluto, ora, tutti i pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, i fedeli dell'Arcidiocesi di Reggio Calabria-Bova, guidati dal loro Pastore, Monsignor Vittorio Mondello. Cari Fratelli e Sorelle, grazie per la vostra visita. Auspico cordialmente che il vostro pellegrinaggio giubilare sia ricco di frutti spirituali per la vostra Comunità diocesana, alla quale invio un cordiale ed affettuoso pensiero augurale.

Saluto, poi, le Comunità parrocchiali presenti, specialmente quelle di Maria Santissima del Buon Rimedio del Rione Scampia in Napoli, di Gallo Matese e di Santa Maria degli Angeli in Pietrelcina, venuti a far benedire le formelle del portone in bronzo della loro chiesa. Per tutti quest'incontro sia di stimolo a ravvivare il proprio cammino di fede e di solidarietà cristiana.

Saluto, altresì, il gruppo Laici Terzo Mondo, i membri del Movimento Dehoniano Europeo, il pellegrinaggio della Cooperativa di Pescatori "Colombo" di Savona, accompagnata dal Vescovo Monsignor Dante Lafranconi, il Circolo nautico Generali da Venezia, i partecipanti al Concorso Nazionale di Pasticceria ed il gruppo della "Together for Peace Foundation".

Il mio affettuoso saluto va ora ai giovani, ai malati ed agli sposi novelli.

Carissimi, ricorreva ieri la festa liturgica della Vergine Maria di Guadalupe, Patrona del Continente americano. A Lei affido voi, cari giovani: l'invito che a Cana rivolse ai servi: "Fate quello che vi dirà" (Gv 2,5) vi spinga ad accogliere con slancio la parola di Cristo e a farla fruttificare nella vostra vita. Maria sostenga voi, cari malati, e vi faccia sperimentare, anche nella sofferenza, la presenza consolante di Cristo Salvatore. La sua materna intercessione aiuti voi, cari sposi novelli, a costruire la vostra nuova famiglia nella fedeltà dell'amore coniugale, nel reciproco servizio e nell'accoglienza del dono della vita.


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