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On Pilgrimage to the Father’s house

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the History of Salvation
General Audience, Wednesday 16 December 1998 - in English, French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. “I came from the Father and have come into the world; again, I am leaving the world and going to the Father” (Jn 16:28).

With these words of Jesus, today we begin a new cycle of catecheses focused on the figure of the God the Father, thus following the thematic guide offered by Tertio millennio adveniente in preparation for the Great Jubilee of the Year 2000.

In the first year’s cycle, we reflected on Jesus Christ the one Saviour. Indeed, as a celebration of the Son of God’s entry into human history, the Jubilee has a strong Christological tone. We meditated on the meaning of time, which reached its focal point in the Redeemer’s birth 2,000 years ago. While this event inaugurates the Christian era, it also opens a new phase of renewal for humanity and the universe, in expectation of Christ’s last coming.

Then, in the catecheses of the second year of preparation for the Jubilee, our attention was turned to the Holy Spirit whom Jesus sent from the Father. We reflected on him in the work of creation and in history, as Person-Love and Person-Gift. We emphasized his power, which draws out of chaos a cosmos rich in order and beauty. Divine life is communicated in him, and with him history becomes the way to salvation.

We now want to spend the third year of preparation for the now imminent Jubilee as a pilgrimage to the Father's house. Thus we set out on the journey which, starting from the Father, leads creatures back to the Father, in accordance with the loving plan fully revealed in Christ. The journey to the Jubilee must become a great act of praise to the Father (cf. Tertio millennio adveniente, n. 49), so that in him the whole Trinity may be glorified.

2. The starting point for our reflection are the words of the Gospel which show us Jesus as the Son and Revealer of the Father. His teaching, his ministry, his very style of life, everything in him refers to the Father (cf. Jn 5:19, 36; 8:28; 14:10; 17:6). The Father is the centre of Jesus’ life, and Jesus in turn is the only way which gives us access to him. “No one comes to the Father, but by me” (Jn 14:6). Jesus is the meeting-point of human beings with the Father, who is made visible in him: “He who has seen me has seen the Father; how can you say, 'Show us the Father?'. Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me?” (Jn 14:9-10).

The most expressive manifestation of Jesus' relationship with the Father is his condition after the Resurrection, the summit of his mission and the foundation of new and eternal life for those who believe in him. But the union between the Son and the Father, like that between the Son and believers, comes through the mystery of the “lifting up” of Jesus, according to a characteristic expression of John’s Gospel. With the term “lifting up”, the Evangelist indicates both the crucifixion and the glorification of Christ; both are reflected on the believer: “So must the Son of man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life. For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (Jn 3:14-16).

This “eternal life” is no less than the participation of believers in the very life of the risen Jesus and consists in their insertion into the movement of love uniting the Father and the Son, who are one (cf. Jn 10:30; 17:21-22).

3. The deep communion in which the Father, the Son and believers meet includes the Holy Spirit, for he is the eternal bond that unites the Father and the Son and involves human beings in this ineffable mystery of love. Given to them as the “Consoler”, the Spirit “dwells” in the disciples of Christ (cf. Jn 14:16-17), making the Trinity present.

According to the Evangelist John, Jesus says to his disciples, precisely when he is promising to send the Paraclete: “In that day you will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you” (Jn 14:20).

It is the Holy Spirit who introduces man into the mystery of the Trinitarian life. “The Spirit of truth” (Jn 15:26; 16:13), he acts deep within believers, making the Truth that is Christ shrine in their minds.

4. St Paul also stresses our orientation to the Father through the Spirit of Christ who dwells in us. For the Apostle this is a true sonship, which enables us to call God the Father by the same familiar name that Jesus used: Abba (cf. Rom 8:15).

All creation is involved in this new dimension of our relationship with God, and “waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God” (Rom 8:19). Creation has also “been groaning in travail together until now” (Rom 8:22), in expectation of the total redemption that will re-establish and perfect the harmony of the cosmos in Christ.

In describing this mystery which unites human beings and all creation with the Father, the Apostle expresses the role of Christ and the action of the Spirit. It was through Christ, “the image of the invisible God” (Col 1:15), that all things were created.

He is “the beginning, the first-born from the dead” (Col 1:18). In him “all things are united, things in heaven and things on earth” (cf. Eph 1:10), and it is his task to deliver them to the Father (cf. 1 Cor 15:24), so that God may be “everything to everyone” (1 Cor 15:28). This journey of humanity and the world to the Father is sustained by the power of the Holy Spirit, who helps us in our weakness and “intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Rom 8:26).

Thus the New Testament introduces us very clearly into this movement which flows from the Father and back to the Father. Let us consider it with special attention in this final year of preparation for the Great Jubilee.

"Dear Brothers and Sisters,
We have just begun the year of preparation for the Great Jubilee dedicated to God the Father. In this year the whole Church is called to set out on a great pilgrimage to the Father’s house, so that the Jubilee will truly be a great hymn of praise to the Father who sent his Son into the world as our Redeemer.

Jesus lived his earthly life in perfect union with the Father, and he is the only way to the Father. Through the mystery of the Cross and Resurrection, we are given access to the life of the Risen Christ and are inserted into the movement of love joining the Father and the Son.

The eternal bond uniting the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit. He dwells in Christ’s disciples, making the Father and the Son present in them and introducing them into the mystery of the Trinitarian life. Saint Paul teaches us that the Holy Spirit enables us to call God “Abba” - “Father”, as Jesus did. The Spirit helps us in our weakness and “intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words” (Rm 8:26). He strengthens us on our journey to the Father. May this final year of preparation for the Jubilee enable all Christians to experience more fully what it means to be the adopted sons and daughters of God.

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

Je salue avec plaisir les pèlerins de langue française. Je leur souhaite d'accueillir dans la joie et dans la paix du cœur la venue du Christ, Sauveur des hommes. À tous je donne de grand cœur la Bénédiction apostolique.
It is always a joy to welcome groups from Scandinavia and today I am happy to welcome the students from Friaborgsskolan in Sweden. I extend a special greeting to the group from India of Daughters of the Presentation of Mary in the Temple. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors, especially from the United States of America, I invoke the joy and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ. To all of you, a Happy Christmas!
Mit diesen Gedanken grüße ich die Pilger und Besucher, die aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache nach Rom gekommen sind. Unter ihnen heiße ich die Pilgergruppe der Hausmusik der Pfarrei Sankt Margareth aus Altkirchen besonders willkommen. Euch allen, Euren lieben Angehörigen daheim und allen, die mit uns über Radio Vatikan und das Fernsehen verbunden sind, erteile ich von Herzen den Apostolischen Segen.
Saludo con afecto a los peregrinos de lengua española venidos de España, así como de diversos países de Latinoamérica. Os invito a participar con intensidad en esta última etapa de preparación al Gran Jubileo, que ha de terminar con un gran acto de alabanza al Padre. A todos os bendigo de corazón.

Muchas gracias.
Saúdo com afecto os peregrinos de língua portuguesa aqui presentes, nomeadamente os brasileiros provindos de diversas regiões do país. Desejo-lhes todo o bem, com as graças e luzes do Espírito Santo, em frutuosa preparação espiritual de um santo Natal. Com a minha Bênção Apostólica.

* * * * *

Mi rivolgo ora ai pellegrini di lingua italiana. In particolare, ai Superiori ed agli alunni del Seminario Vescovile di Caserta, ai quali assicuro un ricordo nella preghiera, perché possano essere sempre fedeli al Signore, che li chiama al suo diretto servizio.

Saluto, poi, il folto gruppo della Comunità etiopica ortodossa di Roma. Cari Fratelli e Sorelle, in questi giorni che ci preparano al Natale mi sento molto vicino a voi ed alle vostre famiglie. Vi ringrazio per i regali che mi avete portato e che vengono dall'Etiopia. Essi sono segni eloquenti di comunione nella preghiera e nella carità. Vi incarico di far giungere ad Abuna Paulos, Patriarca ortodosso d'Etiopia, il mio fraterno saluto.

Mi dirigo, inoltre, ai promotori ed ai partecipanti all'incontro della Federazione Italiana Gioco Calcio, per le celebrazioni del primo centenario di Fondazione. Con tanta cordialità saluto i rappresentanti delle varie Federazioni Europee e della squadra "World Stars" selezionata dalla FIFA, insieme ai delegati della Federazione Italiana Gioco Calcio, del Comitato organizzatore per il Centenario e della Nazionale italiana. Il mio più fervido augurio è che questa importante manifestazione sia un'occasione propizia per porre in luce il significato vero dello sport al servizio dei giovani, dell'intesa fra i popoli e della pace. Saluto gli organizzatori, gli artisti e tutti coloro che prendono parte al tradizionale derby del Cuore ed auspico che questa manifestazione sportiva sia di stimolo e di incoraggiamento per rafforzare in ciascuno i valori della fratellanza, dell'amicizia e della solidarietà.

Il mio pensiero va, infine, agli Ufficiali, ai Sottufficiali e agli Allievi del Centro di Addestramento e di Sperimentazione Artiglieria Contraerei di Sabaudia ed ai loro familiari; ai fedeli della Parrocchia dei Santi Martiri Giorgio e Cristina in Bolsena, al gruppo di pattinaggio artistico da Roseto degli Abruzzi, da Castelnuovo Vomano e da Martinsicuro, come pure agli zampognari venuti per allietare quest'incontro con i tipici canti natalizi.

Con grande affetto abbraccio voi, cari giovani, cari ammalati e cari sposi novelli.

In questo tempo di Avvento, il Signore così ci invita per bocca del profeta Isaia: "Volgetevi a me e sarete salvi" (45,22).

Voi, cari ragazzi e ragazze, che provenite da tante scuole e parrocchie d'Italia, accogliete questa esortazione e fate spazio nel vostro cuore a Gesù che viene.

Apritegli il vostro spirito anche voi, cari ammalati, perché possiate trovare nell'incontro con il Redentore conforto e consolazione.

E voi, cari sposi novelli, fate del messaggio d'amore del Natale la regola di vita della vostra famiglia.

A tutti imparto di cuore la mia Benedizione.

Con profondo dolore, ho appreso la notizia del crollo improvviso di un intero palazzo, avvenuto nel cuore della notte, qui a Roma, nel quartiere Portuense. Oltre agli ingenti danni materiali, si lamentano numerosi morti. Mentre esprimo il mio vivo cordoglio, invoco dal Signore misericordia per le vittime e conforto per i parenti duramente colpiti da così grave ed improvvisa perdita. Iddio, che l'odierna Liturgia ci invita ad invocare perché "ci sostenga nelle fatiche di ogni giorno", aiuti tutti ad accettare con rassegnazione anche questa prova, fidando nella vita che perdura al di là della morte. Voglia Egli accogliere nella sua pace quanti sono stati repentinamente sottratti all'affetto dei loro cari.

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