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Jesus of Nazareth's experience of the Father

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the History of Salvation
General Audience, Wednesday 3 March 1999 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ" (Eph 1:3). Paul's words are a good introduction to the newness of our knowledge of the Father as it unfolds in the New Testament. Here God appears in his Trinitarian reality. His fatherhood is no longer limited to showing his relationship with creatures, but expresses the fundamental relationship which characterizes his inner life; it is no longer a generic feature of God, but the property of the First Person in God. In his Trinitarian mystery, in fact, God is a father in his very being; he is always a father since from all eternity he generates the Word who is consubstantial with him and united to him in the Holy Spirit "who proceeds from the Father and the Son". In his redemptive Incarnation, the Word unites himself with us, precisely in order to bring us into this filial life which he possesses from all eternity. The Evangelist John says: "To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God" (Jn 1:12).

2. Jesus' experience is the basis for this specific revelation of the Father. It is clear from his words and attitudes that he experiences his relationship with the Father in a wholly unique way. In the Gospels we can see how Jesus distinguished "his sonship from that of his disciples by never saying "Our Father", except to command them: "You, then, pray like this: "Our Father"" (Mt 6:9); and he emphasized this distinction saying, "my Father and your Father"" (CCC, n. 443).

Even as a boy he answered Mary and Joseph, who had been looking for him anxiously: "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Lk 2:48f.). To the Jews who had been persecuting him because he had worked a miraculous cure on the Sabbath he replied: "My Father is working still, and I am working" (Jn 5:17). On the cross he prayed to the Father to forgive his executioners and to receive his spirit (Lk 23:34, 46). The distinction between the way Jesus perceives God's fatherhood in relation to himself and in relation to all other human beings is rooted in his consciousness and emphasized by him in the words he addresses to Mary Magdalen after the Resurrection: "Do not hold me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father; but go to my brethren and say to them, I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God" (Jn 20:17).

3. Jesus' relationship with the Father is unique. He knows he is always heard; he knows that through him the Father reveals his glory, even when men may doubt it and need to be convinced by him. We see all this in the episode of the raising of Lazarus: "So they took away the stone. And Jesus lifted up his eyes and said, "Father I thank you that you have heard me. I knew that you hear me always, but I have said this on account of the people standing by, that they may believe that you sent me"" (Jn 11:41f.). Because of this unique understanding, Jesus can present himself as the One who reveals the Father with a knowledge that is the fruit of an intimate and mysterious reciprocity, as he emphasizes in his joyful hymn: "All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him" (Mt 11:27) (cf. CCC, n. 240). For his part, the Father expresses the Son's unique relationship with him by calling him his "beloved" son: as he did at the baptism in the Jordan (cf. Mk 1:11), and at the moment of the Transfiguration (cf. Mk 9:7). Jesus is also depicted as the son in a special sense in the parable of the wicked tenants who first mistreat the two servants and then the "beloved son" of the vineyard owner, sent to collect some of the fruit of the vineyard (Mk 12:1-11, especially v. 6).

4. The Gospel of Mark has preserved for us the Aramaic word "Abba" (cf. Mk 14:36) with which Jesus, during his painful hour in Gethsemane, called on God, praying to him to let the cup of the Passion pass him by. In the same episode Matthew's Gospel has given us the translation "my Father" (cf. Mt 26:39, cf. also v. 42), while Luke simply has "Father" (cf. Lk 22:42). The Aramaic word, which we can translate into contemporary language as "dad" or "daddy", expresses the affectionate tenderness of a child. Jesus uses it in an original way to address God and, in the full maturity of his life which is about to end on the cross, to indicate the close relationship which even at that critical moment binds him to his Father. "Abba" indicates the extraordinary closeness that exists between Jesus and God the Father, an intimacy unprecedented in the biblical or non-biblical religious context. Through the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, the only Son of this Father, we too, as St Paul said, are raised to the dignity of sons and have received the Holy Spirit who prompts us to cry "Abba! Father!" (cf. Rom 8:15; Gal 4:6). This simple, childish expression in daily use in Jesus' time and among all peoples thus acquired a highly significant doctrinal meaning to express the unique divine fatherhood in relation to Jesus and his disciples.

5. Although he felt united with the Father in so intimate a way, Jesus admitted that he did not know the hour of the final and decisive coming of the kingdom. "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only" (Mt 24:36). This is an indication of the "emptying of himself" proper to the Incarnation, which conceals the eschatological end of the world from his human nature. In this way Jesus disappoints human calculations in order to invite us to be watchful and to trust in the Father's providential intervention. On the other hand, from the standpoint of the Gospels, the intimacy and absoluteness of his being "Son" is in no way prejudiced by this lack of knowledge. On the contrary, precisely because he is so united with us, he becomes crucial for us before the Father: "Every one who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven; but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 10:32f.)

Acknowledging Jesus before men is indispensable for being acknowledged by him before the Father. In other words, our filial relationship with the heavenly Father depends on our courageous fidelity to Jesus, his beloved Son.

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

Je salue cordialement les pèlerins francophones présents ce matin, particulièrement les Petites Sœurs de Jésus du Père de Foucauld en année de renouveau, ainsi que les séminaristes du Puy. Je leur souhaite de se préparer avec une ardeur renouvelée aux célébrations des fêtes pascales. À tous, je donne de grand cœur la Bénédiction apostolique.

I extend a special greeting to the group of Knights of Columbus, as well as to the Knights and Ladies of the Holy Sepulchre. I warmly welcome our Lutheran visitors from Stockholm and the students and faculty of the Theological University of Helsinki and the students from Steubenville. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially those from England, Ireland, Sweden, Finland and the United States, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Mit dem Wunsch, daß wir immer mehr unsere besondere Beziehung zu Gott, unserem Vater, entdecken, grüße ich alle Pilger und Besucher aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache. Besonders heiße ich die Ordens-schwestern willkommen, die gerade in La Storta an einem Kurs geistlicher Erneuerung teilnehmen. Außerdem begrüße ich das Institut für Kanonisches Recht an der Katholisch-Theologischen Fakultät in Münster. Gern erteile ich Euch und Euren Angehörigen daheim sowie allen, die mit uns über Radio Vatikan oder das Fernsehen verbunden sind, den Apostolischen Segen.

Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos de España, México, Argentina y demás Países de América Latina, de modo particular a los fieles de la Parroquia de los Desamparados de Sevilla. Al animaros a todos en este tiempo cuaresmal a intensificar vuestra relación con el Padre celeste escuchando las palabras de Jesús, el Hijo predilecto, invoco sobre vosotros y vuestras familias la abundancia de la gracia divina y os bendigo de corazón.

Saúdo com muito afecto os peregrinos de língua portuguesa que aqui se encontrem eventualmente, desejando a todos felicidades e muita paz em vossas famílias. Deus Omnipotente e Misericordioso vos conceda a graça de manifestar nesta Quaresma, mediante a penitência e a caridade fraterna, a decisão de vos unir definitivamente a Ele na vida futura. Com a minha Bênção Apostólica.

Witam pielgrzymów Z Polski, pozdrawiam księży biskupów: bpa Pacyfika Dydycza z Drohiczyna, bpa Henryka Tomasika z . Siedlec, bpa Alojzego Orszulika z Łowicza. Ponadto pozdrawiam: z Rzeszowa - Liceum Sióstr Prezentek, z Torunia - parafię sw. Józefa, z całej Polski pracowników i wolontariuszy Ośrodków Opieki Paliatywnej, szkoły podstawowe z Radlina, Polupina i Dąbia oraz ze Starachowic - Chór Nauczycielski « Concentus ».

Wiecie, że ten rok ostatni przygotowań do Wielkiego Jubileuszu jest poświęcony Bogu Ojcu: Bogu jako Ojcu i Bogu Ojcu. Ojciec Pana naszego Jezusa Chrystusa, tajemnica Bożego ojcostwa i Bożego synostwa wprowadza nas w same głębie naszej wiary. Tajemnica Boga Trójcy: Ojciec, Syn i Duch Święty.

Chrystus często posługiwał się tym słowem. Mówił do Boga: « Ojcze, Ojcze mój, Abba! » zwłaszcza w momentach najbardziej dramatycznych. Tak było w Ogrojcu: « Ojcze, Ojcze mój, Abba! jeśi może być, niech odejdzie ode mnie ten kielich ». I tak było na Kalwarii: « Ojcze, odpuść im, bo nie wiedzą, co czynią »; « Ojcze, w ręce Twoje oddaję Ducha mojego ».

Nauczył nas Chrystus modliść się « Ojcze nasz » i tak też czynimy. Starajmy się - mówiąc te słowa - mieć wielką świadomość, głęboką świadomość tego, co się w nich do głębi zawiera, właśnie głęboką świadomość tego, co wyraża aramejski wyraz Abba wypowiedziany w Ogrojcu, wypowiedziany na Kalwarii. Wtedy i nasze « Ojcze nasz » będzie miało tę Chrystusową głębię, do której jesteśmy wszyscy zaproszeni i wezwani

Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua croata

Saluto cordialmente i fedeli della Parrocchia della Santissima Trinità in Precko a Zagreb. Benvenuti!

Carissimi, con l’auspicio che la fede, che vi ha portati qui, cresca e porti abbondanti frutti, imparto la Benedizione Apostolica a ciascuno di voi, alle vostre famiglie e all’intera Comunità parrocchiale.

Siano lodati Gesù e Maria!

Traduzione italiana del saluto in lingua ceca

Un cordiale benvenuto ai ragazzi del Coro della Parrocchia di Zidlochovice.

Domenica scorsa ci sono state proposte le parole del Vangelo di Matteo: “Questi è il Figlio mio prediletto, nel quale mi sono compiaciuto. Ascoltatelo!” (Mt 17, 1-9). Obbedendo a Gesù diveniamo partecipi della vera Trasfigurazione, quella eterna.

Vi imparto di cuore la Benedizione Apostolica.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

* * *

Rivolgo ora un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, ai fedeli dell'Arcidiocesi di Bari-Bitonto, guidati dall'Arcivescovo Monsignor Andrea Mariano Magrassi, qui convenuti per ricordare il quindicesimo anniversario della mia visita alla loro Comunità diocesana. Carissimi, vi ringrazio per la vostra presenza così numerosa e vi assicuro la mia preghiera perché si rafforzi in voi il fermo desiderio di annunciare a tutti Gesù Cristo, unico Salvatore del mondo.

Saluto, inoltre, il pellegrinaggio dell'Azione Cattolica della Diocesi di Sora-Aquino-Pontecorvo, con il Vescovo Monsignor Luca Brandolini. Cari fratelli e sorelle, mentre vi esprimo apprezzamento per questa iniziativa in preparazione al Grande Giubileo dell'Anno Duemila, auspico di cuore che essa valga a rafforzare il vostro impegno di testimonianza cristiana nella società.

Saluto, poi, il personale del Centro Alti Studi della Difesa, gli ingegneri e gli architetti dei Vigili del fuoco, i membri dell'Associazione Cuochi Baresi e quelli dell'Associazione Memoria, come pure il Consiglio Nazionale della Federazione Maestri del Lavoro d'Italia.

Rivolgo, altresì, un affettuoso pensiero ai bambini della Regione di Chernobyl, ospiti a Forlimpopoli, e domando al Signore di proteggere voi, cari ragazzi, e quanti generosamente vi ospitano.

Cordiale come sempre, infine, è il mio saluto ai giovani, ai malati e agli sposi novelli. In particolare, ai numerosi gruppi di studenti e di ragazzi, molti fra i quali sono venuti a Roma per fare la loro professione di fede in Cristo, in occasione della prima comunione o della cresima.

Cari ragazzi e ragazze, preparatevi ad affrontare le importanti tappe della vita con impegno spirituale, edificando ogni vostro progetto sulle solide basi della fedeltà a Dio in tutte le circostanze.

Cari malati, siate sempre consapevoli che contribuite in modo misterioso alla costruzione del Regno di Dio, offrendo generosamente le vostre sofferenze al Padre celeste in unione a quelle di Cristo.

E voi, cari sposi novelli, sappiate quotidianamente edificare la vostra famiglia nell'ascolto di Dio, nel fedele reciproco amore e nell'accoglienza dei più bisognosi, seguendo l'esempio della Santa Famiglia di Nazaret.

A tutti la mia affettuosa benedizione.

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