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Love Is Victorious in the Struggle Between Good and Evil

112 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 27 June 1984 - in Italian & Spanish

"1. During these past weeks, in commenting on the Song of Songs, I emphasized how the sacramental sign of matrimony is constituted on the basis of the language of the body, which man and woman express in the truth that is proper to it. Under this aspect, today I intend to analyze some passages from the book of Tobit.

In the account of the wedding of Tobiah with Sarah, besides the expression "sister"—through which there seems to be a fraternal character rooted in spousal love—another expression is also found, likewise analogous to those in the Song.

As you will recall, in the spouses' duet, the love which they declare to each other is "stern as death" (Sg 8:6). In the book of Tobit we find a phrase which, in saying that he fell deeply in love with Sarah and "his heart became set on her" (Tb 6:19), presents a situation confirming the truth of the words about love "stern as death."

2. For a better understanding, we must go back to some details that are explained against the background of the specific nature of the book of Tobit. We read there that Sarah, daughter of Raguel, had "already been married seven times" (Tb 6:14), but all her husbands had died before having intercourse with her. This had happened through the work of a demon, and young Tobiah too had reason to fear a similar death.

So from the very first moment Tobiah's love had to face the test of life and death. The words about love "stern as death," spoken by the spouses in the Song of Songs in the transport of the heart, assume here the nature of a real test. If love is demonstrated as stern as death, this happens above all in the sense that Tobiah and, together with him, Sarah, unhesitatingly face this test. But in this test of life and death, life wins because, during the test on the wedding night, love, supported by prayer, is revealed as more stern than death.

3. This test of life and death also has another significance that enables us to understand the love and the marriage of the newlyweds. Becoming one as husband and wife, they find themselves in the situation in which the powers of good and evil fight and compete against each other. The spouses' duet in the Song of Songs seems not to perceive completely this dimension of reality. The spouses of the Song live and express themselves in an ideal or abstract world, in which it is as though the struggle of the objective forces between good and evil did not exist. Is it not precisely the power and the interior truth of love that subdues the struggle that goes on in man and around him?

The fullness of this truth and this power proper to love seems nevertheless to be different. It seems to tend rather to where the experience in the book of Tobit leads us. The truth and the power of love are shown in the ability to place oneself between the forces of good and evil which are fighting in man and around him, because love is confident in the victory of good and is ready to do everything so that good may conquer. As a result, the love of the spouses in the book of Tobit is not confirmed by the words expressed by the language of loving transport as in the Song of Songs, but by the choices and the actions that take on all the weight of human existence in the union of the two. The language of the body here seems to use the words of the choices and the acts stemming from the love that is victorious because it prays.

4. Tobiah's prayer (Tb 8:5-8), which is above all a prayer of praise and thanksgiving, then one of supplication, situates the language of the body on the level of the essential terms of the theology of the body. It is an "objectivized" language, pervaded not so much by the emotive power of the experience as by the depth and gravity of the truth of the experience.

The spouses profess this truth together, in unison before the God of the covenant: "God of our fathers." We can say that under this aspect the language of the body becomes the language of the ministers of the sacrament, aware that in the conjugal pact the mystery that has its origin in God himself is expressed and realized. Their conjugal pact is the image—and the original sacrament of the covenant of God with man, with the human race—of that covenant which took its origin from eternal Love.

Tobiah and Sarah end their prayer with the following words: "Call down your mercy on me and on her, and allow us to live together to a happy old age" (Tb 8:7).

We can admit (on the basis of the context) that they have before their eyes the prospect of persevering in their union to the end of their days—a prospect that opens up before them with the trial of life and death, already during their wedding night. At the same time, they see with the glance of faith the sanctity of this vocation in which—through the unity of the two, built upon the mutual truth of the language of the body—they must respond to the call of God himself which is contained in the mystery of the Beginning. This is why they ask: "Call down your mercy on me and on her."

5. The spouses in the Song of Songs, with ardent words, declare to each other their human love. The newlyweds in the book of Tobit ask God that they be able to respond to love. Both the one and the other find their place in what constitutes the sacramental sign of marriage. Both the one and the other share in forming this sign.

We can say that through the one and the other the "language of the body," reread in the subjective dimension of the truth of human hearts and in the "objective" dimension of the truth of living in union, becomes the language of the liturgy.

The prayer of the newlyweds in the book of Tobit certainly seems to confirm this differently from the Song of Songs, and even in a way that is undoubtedly more deeply moving."

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

Ai pellegrini di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

 J’adresse un salut cordial aux professeurs et aux étudiants de la Faculté de Droit canonique de Paris. Et je souhaite la bienvenue à tous les pèlerins de France, de Suisse et des autres pays de langue française, notamment les jeunes. De tout cœur, je vous bénis.

Ai gruppi di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

i would like to extend a warm welcome to the group of priests from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and to the Philadelphia Boys Choir and Chorale.

* * *

I extend cordial greetings to the representatives of the Mishkan Tefila Jewish Congregation of Chestnut Hill. I know that you are celebrating the centenary of your Congregation, and I pray that this celebration may give you a new impulse to serve the Almighty always with an undivided heart in prayer and in service to your fellow man.

* * *

I offer a special greeting to the young people who have come from the Archdiocese of Saint Andrews and Edinburgh. I am grateful for your visit to Rome. Your presence here today is a happy reminder of my pastoral visit to Scotland two years ago. I pray that your pilgrimage will bring each of you closer to our Lord Jesus Christ and fill your hearts with his peace and joy. I would repeat to you today what you heard me say before: "I came to Britain to call you to Christ, to invite you to pray".

And I wish to greet all the English-speaking visitors, in particular those coming from England, Scotland, Ireland, South Africa, Indonesia, Japan, Australia and the United States.

Ai pellegrini di lingua tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung grüße ich sehr herzlich alle heutigen Audienzteilnehmer deutscher Sprache: die Gruppen und Einzelpilger, besonders die Priester und Ordensleute sowie die Gruppe von Abgeordneten und Staatssekretären aus dem Land Niedersachsen. Allen Rombesuchern erbitte ich in der Ewigen Stadt geistlich fruchtbare Tage und neue Zuversicht und Glaubensmut für ihre vielfältigen Aufgaben in der Heimt. Dafür erteile ich allen anwesenden Pilgern von Herzen meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai numerosi fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Y ahora un particular saludo a las Hermanas Agustinas Misioneras, de Gavá, a las que agradezco su visita. Doy también la bienvenida a los grupos procedentes de varias parroquias de España, así como a los grupos de estudiantes venidos de Alcira, de Vic, Barcelona, Burriana, Fuente de Cantos y Molins de Rey. Con mi cordial recuerdo para los peregrinos franciscanos venidos de Colombia, mientras a todos los hispanohablantes os bendigo de corazón.

Ai numerosi pellegrini polacchi

Drodzy Rodacy!

1. Wspólnie z Episkopatem i całym Kościołem w Polsce, wspólnie z moim umiłowanym Narodem, modlę się, dziękując Bogu w pierwszą rocznicę mojej drugiej pielgrzymki do Ojczyzny, w czerwcu ubiegłego roku.

Biskupi Polscy dają temu wyraz w Komunikacie z Konferencji Plenarnej odbytej w Radomiu w czasie uroczystości św. Kazimierza.

Jeszcze raz więc dziękuję Pani Jasnogórskiej, że dane mi było uczestniczyć w jubileuszu 600-lecia Jej obecności na Jasnej Górze, że dane mi było zaprosić Ją wraz z Synem, Jezusem Chrystusem, na dalsze lata tejże obecności wśród nowych pokoleń Polaków.

2. W Komunikacie z ostatniej Konferencji Biskupi Polscy wyrażają zaniepokojenie liczbą nowych aresztowań z motywów politycznych, nie przestając podejmować w związku z tym stałych wysiłków. Postulują “tworzenie nowego klimatu politycznego, który usunąłby źródła napięć i represji”.

Z Episkopatem Polskim i całym społeczeństwem dziełę troskę wyrażoną w Komunikacie. Jak najgoręcej pragnę dla mojej Ojczyzny “uzdrowienia sytuacji” i właściwego “klimatu” w całym życiu publicznym.

3. Niech wszyscy Święci polscy, a zwłaszcza ostatni, św. Maksymilian Kolbe, oraz beatyfikowani w Polsce: bł. Rafał Kalinowski, bł. Brat Albert Chmielowski, bł. Urszula Ledóchowska wstawiają się za swych Rodaków, zwłaszcza w czasach trudnych i decydujących. Niech pomagają nam w dochodzeniu do tego moralnego “zwycięstwa”, o jakim była mowa w czasie zeszłorocznej pielgrzymki.

Ai fedeli italiani

Saluto ora con viva cordialità tutti e singoli gli italiani, qui presenti.

In particolare i pellegrini dell’Ospedale Luigi Sacco di Vitalba, della parrocchia di San Pietro Apostolo in Tagliano di Castelli Calepino, di Fornace di Trento e di Caloziocorte. Cari fratelli e sorelle, benedico volentieri la campana, che avete qui portato e che avete offerto al Santuario mariano di Fornace di Trento, perché sia invito ad elevare il pensiero e il cuore a Dio e alla Madonna. nel compiacermi per la vostra iniziativa, vi esorto a perseverare nell’impegno di fedele adesione a Cristo e di filiale affidamento a Maria Santissima. Per tutti formo l’auspicio di prosperità cristiana e di ogni bene; ne è pegno la Benedizione Apostolica, che di cuore vi imparto, estendendola a quanti vi sono cari.

* * *

Saluto poi i partecipanti al 13° Convegno nazionale dell’Unione Parroci e Vicari Cooperatori d’Italia dei Frati Minori. Cari fratelli, mi fa piacere sapervi generosamente impegnati nel ministero liturgico, catechetico e caritativo che la parrocchia esige, per essere sempre più l’ambiente dell’uomo redento da Cristo. Mentre vi esorto a continuare con dedizione il vostro servizio ecclesiale, auspico che siate sempre autentici annunciatori della Buona Novella, con quella povertà e letizia, di cui fu ed è esempio grande San Francesco d’Assisi. Vi sia di sostegno la mia Benedizione.

 * * *

Mi rivolgo ora ai giovani, presenti a quest’Udienza. Carissimi, molti di voi, terminato l’anno scolastico, hanno già iniziato le vacanze estive, che consentono di praticare nuove amicizie e di conoscere nuove località. Fate vostri gli ideali di Cristo, il quale vuol essere per tutti motivo di gioia, di quella gioia vera che non può essere data dalle sole cose materiali. Approfittate del tempo libero di cui disponete anche per intensificare la vostra amicizia con il Signore, attraverso i Sacramenti e la preghiera. Vi benedico di cuore.

* * *

Un saluto anche per voi, carissimi fratelli ammalati. La vicina ricorrenza del Sacro Cuore di Gesù e la Solennità di San Pietro e di San Paolo siano per voi occasione propizia per rafforzare il vostro amore a Dio e alla Chiesa. Vi invito inoltre ad offrire al Signore i vostri dolori affinché l’ammalato sia sempre al centro dell’attenzione delle famiglie cristiane e delle organizzazioni sociali, e venga così evidenziato il valore della sofferenza umana, nel rispetto della dignità della persona ammalata. A tutti voi una parola di vivo incoraggiamento. Vi benedico di cuore.

* * *

Saluto infine gli sposi novelli. Carissimi, la conoscenza, la stima e la fiducia reciproca, la comune fede in Cristo Gesù e un comune ideale da realizzare, vi hanno portato al grande Sacramento del Matrimonio. Fate tesoro del dono ricevuto nel sacramento, aiutatevi a mantenere viva la fede, nutrendola con i Sacramenti e l’assidua preghiera. Guardo con profonda fiducia alle vostre famiglie: siano esse una “vera chiesa domestica” per la gioia vostra, per il bene della società e di tutta la Chiesa. Portate alle vostre case la mia Benedizione.

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