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The Kingdom of God, Not the World, Is Man's Eternal Destiny

85 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 14 July 1982 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. During our previous considerations in analyzing the seventh chapter of the First Letter to the Corinthians, we have been striving to gather together and understand the teachings and advice that St. Paul gives to the recipients of his letter about the questions concerning marriage and voluntary continence (or abstention from marriage). Declaring that one who chooses marriage does well and one who chooses virginity does better, the Apostle refers to the passing away of the world—that is, of everything that is temporal.

It is easy to see that the argument from the perishable and transient nature of what is temporal speaks with much greater force in this case than reference to the reality of the other world. The Apostle here expresses himself with some difficulty. Nevertheless, we can agree that at the basis of the Pauline interpretation of the subject of marriage-virginity, there is found not so much the very metaphysics of accidental being (therefore fleeting), but rather the theology of a great expectation, of which Paul was a fervent champion. The world is not man's eternal destiny, but the kingdom of God. Man cannot become too attached to the goods that are linked to a perishable world.

2. Marriage also is tied in with the form of this world which is passing away. In a certain sense, here we are very close to the perspective Christ opened in his statement about the future resurrection (cf. Mt 22:23-32; Mk 12:18-27; Lk 20:27-40). Therefore according to Paul's teaching, the Christian must live marriage from the point of view of his definitive vocation. Marriage is tied in with the form of this world which is passing away and therefore in a certain sense imposes the necessity of being locked in this transiency. On the other hand, abstention from marriage could be said to be free of this necessity. For this reason the Apostle declares that one who chooses continence does better. Although his argumentation follows this course, nevertheless he decidedly stresses above all (as we have already seen) the question of "pleasing the Lord" and "being anxious about the affairs of the Lord."

3. It can be admitted that the same reasons speak in favor of what the Apostle advises women who are widowed: "A wife is bound to her husband as long as he lives. If the husband dies, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord. But in my judgment she is happier if she remains as she is. And I think that I have the Spirit of God" (1 Cor 7:39-40). Therefore, she should remain a widow rather than contract a new marriage.

4. Through what we discover from a thoughtful reading of the Letter to the Corinthians, especially chapter seven, the whole realism of the Pauline theology of the body is revealed. In the letter the Apostle proclaims: "Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you" (1 Cor 6:19). Yet at the same time he is fully aware of the weakness and sinfulness to which man is subjected, precisely by reason of the concupiscence of the flesh.

However, this awareness in no way obscures for him the reality of God's gift. This is shared by those who abstain from marriage and also by those who take a wife or husband. In the seventh chapter of the First Letter to the Corinthians we find clear encouragement for abstention from marriage, the conviction that whoever decides on this abstention, does better. But we do not find any foundation for considering those who live in marriage as carnal and those who instead choose continence for religious motives as spiritual. In both the one and the other way of living—today we would say in one and the other vocation—the "gift" that each one receives from God is operative, that is, the grace that makes the body a "temple of the Holy Spirit." This gift remains, in virginity (in continence) as well as in marriage, if the person remains faithful to his gift and, according to his state, does not dishonor this temple of the Holy Spirit, which is his body.

5. In Paul's teaching, contained above all in the seventh chapter of the First Letter to the Corinthians, we find no introduction to what will later be called Manichaeism. The Apostle is fully aware that—insofar as continence for the sake of the kingdom of God is always worthy of recommendation—at the same time grace, that is, "one's own gift from God," also helps married couples. It helps them in that common life in which (according to the words of Gn 2:24) they are so closely united that they become one body. This carnal common life is therefore subject to the power of their own gift from God. The Apostle writes about it with the same realism that marks his whole reasoning in the seventh chapter of this letter: "The husband should give to his wife her conjugal rights, and likewise the wife to her husband. For the wife does not rule over her own body, but the husband does; likewise, the husband does not rule over his own body, but the wife does" (verses 3-4).

6. It can be said that these statements are a clear comment in the New Testament on the words scarcely recorded in the Book of Genesis (cf. Gn 2:24). Nevertheless, the words used here, especially the expressions "rights" and "does not rule," cannot be explained apart from the proper context of the marriage covenant, as we have tried to clarify in analyzing the texts of the Book of Genesis. We will attempt to do it even more fully when we speak about the sacramentality of marriage, drawing on the Letter to the Ephesians (cf. Eph 5:22-33). At the proper time it will be necessary to return to these significant expressions, which have passed from Paul's vocabulary into the whole theology of marriage.

7. For now we will continue to direct our attention to the other sentences in the same passage of the seventh chapter of the First Letter to the Corinthians, in which the Apostle addresses these words to married couples: "Do not refuse one another except perhaps by agreement for a season, that you may devote yourselves to prayer. But then come together again, lest Satan tempt you through lack of self-control. I say this by way of concession, not of command" (1 Cor 7:5-6). This is a very significant text, and it will perhaps be necessary to refer to it again in the context of our meditations on the other subjects.

In all of his argumentation about marriage and continence, the Apostle makes a clear distinction, as Christ does, between the commandment and the evangelical counsel. It is very significant that St. Paul feels the need to refer also to a "concession," as to an additional rule, above all precisely in reference to married couples and their mutual common life. St. Paul clearly says that conjugal common life and the voluntary and periodic abstinence by the couple must be the fruit of this gift of God which is their own. He says that the couple themselves, by knowingly cooperating with it, can maintain and strengthen that mutual personal bond and also that dignity conferred on the body by the fact that it is a "temple of the Holy Spirit who is in them" (1 Cor 6:19).

8. It seems that the Pauline rule of "concession" indicates the need to consider all that in some way corresponds to the very different subjectivity of the man and the woman. Everything in this subjectivity that is not only of a spiritual but also of a psychosomatic nature, all the subjective richness of man which, between his spiritual being and his corporeal, is expressed in the sensitivity whether for the man or for the woman—all this must remain under the influence of the gift that each one receives from God, a gift that is one's own.

As is evident, in the seventh chapter of the First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul interprets Christ's teaching about continence for the sake of the kingdom of heaven in that very pastoral way that is proper to him, not sparing on this occasion entirely personal accents. He interprets the teaching on continence and virginity along parallel lines with the doctrine on marriage. He keeps the realism that is proper to a pastor, and at the same time the proportions that we find in the Gospel, in the words of Christ himself.

9. In Paul's statement we can find again that fundamental structure containing the revealed doctrine about man, that even with his body he is destined for future life. This supporting structure is at the basis of all the Gospel teaching about continence for the sake of the kingdom of God (cf. Mt 19:12). But at the same time there also rests on it the definitive (eschatological) fulfillment of the Gospel doctrine on marriage (cf. Mt 22:30; Mk 12:25; Lk 20:36). These two dimensions of the human vocation are not opposed to each other, but are complementary. Both furnish a full answer to one of man's fundamental questions, the question about the significance of "being a body," that is, about the significance of masculinity and femininity, of being "in the body" a man or a woman.

10. What we usually define here as the theology of the body is shown to be something truly fundamental and constitutive for all anthropological hermeneutics. At the same time it is equally fundamental for ethics and for the theology of the human ethos. In each one of these fields we must listen attentively to the words of Christ, in which he recalled the beginning (cf. Mt 19:4) or the heart as the interior, and at the same time historical place of meeting with the concupiscence of the flesh. But we must also listen attentively to the words through which Christ recalled the resurrection in order to implant in the same restless heart of man the first seeds of the answer to the question about the significance of being flesh in the perspective of the other world."

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

Ai pellegrini di lingua francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs.

Poursuivant notre méditation hebdomadaire, je viens de rappeler en italien que saint Paul, tout tendu vers Dieu et la vie future en Lui, conseillait de s’abstenir du mariage pour se préoccuper uniquement du Seigneur, sans être partagé en raison des devoirs familiaux. Il ajoutait toutefois que, s’il est “mieux” d’agir ainsi, celui qui choisit le mariage fait “bien”, mais il ne doit pas s’attacher aux réalités de ce monde qui passera: ce qui compte avant tout, c’est de plaire au Seigneur, c’est de laisser agir le don, la grâce que chacun de nous reçoit et qui fait de notre corps le temple de l’Esprit Saint. Cette grâce aide les époux à vivre pleinement leur union tout en restant fidèles à Dieu.

Saint Paul est cependant réaliste car il connaît les faiblesses de la personne humaine, et les conseils qu’il donne tiennent compte de cette faiblesse. Mais il affirme qu’en coopérant avec la grâce qui est en eux, les époux peuvent maintenir et renforcer leurs liens personnels réciproques tout en respectant la dignité que confère à leurs corps le fait d’être des temples de l’Esprit Saint. Toute la richesse, aussi bien spirituelle que psycho-somatique, de la personne humaine doit rester sous l’influence du don que chacun reçoit de Dieu.

* * *

Chers jeunes de la paroisse de Nieuwkerken au diocèse de Gand, je tiens à vous adresser un merci chaleureux pour votre visite, d’autant plus que vous avez le mérite d’accomplir votre pèlerinage à bicyclette. Je vous souhaite de conserver toujours l’esprit sportif et de transposer sans cesse votre goûte de l’effort et de l’endurance au niveau de la conquête de valeurs morales et spirituelles indispensables à l’authentique construction de vos personnalités. C’est pour vous aider sur ce chemin, que je vous bénis spécialement, ainsi que vos familles et votre paroisse.

* * *

J’exprime également ma cordiale gratitude pour leur aimable visite aux quatre cents participants des championnats du monde d’Escrime, venus à Rome de quarante nations. Appréciant la valeur éducative d’un sport qui développe l’agilité et l’adresse, le réflexe et la maîtrise de soi, je forme à ce plan des vœux pour tous et chacun d’entre vous. Je souhaite aussi que votre rencontre internationale se déroule dans une atmosphère de profonde sympathie humaine, certainement bénéfique pour l’entente fraternelle des peuples. Puisse enfin votre séjour en cette ville, spécialement marquée par l’histoire bi-millénaire du christianisme, éveiller ou réveiller au plus profond de vous-mêmes la dimension spirituelle de toute vie humaine, nécessairement accompagnée de la volonté et du bonheur de servir le monde d’aujourd’hui.

* * *

A tous les groupes venus de France ou de pays d’expression française, déjà nommés tout à l’heure, à ceux qui sont venus en famille, je dis un merci du cœur pour leur réconfortante visite. Jeunes et adultes, soyez tous de fervents disciples du Christ et des membres actifs de son Eglise! Je suis heureux de vous bénir.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear brothers and sisters,

During the past weeks we have been reflecting on Saint Paul’s teaching on marriage and voluntary continence. We have been striving to understand his reasons for stating that the person who chooses marriage does “well”, and the person who chooses virginity or celibacy does “better”. At the basis of the Apostle’s whole treatment of marriage and voluntary continence there is the theology of a great expectation. Saint Paul stresses the fleeting character of the world, and the fact that the Kingdom of God is the eternal destiny of man, not the world. Man cannot became too attached to goods linked to a perishable world. For Saint Paul, the person who realizes the fleeting character of the world and freely chooses celibacy has a special opportunity to please the Lord and to be concerned for the things of the Lord. At the same time, the Apostle makes it clear that both vocations involve a gift from God, a grace whereby the body is, and remains, a temple of the Holy Spirit, both in celibacy and in marriage, provided the individual is faithful to the gift he has received from God.

* * *

I extend a special welcome to the visitors from South Africa. It is my hope and prayer that your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles will be the occasion for you to find renewed joy and strength for your Christian lives.

* * *

A warm greeting goes also to the pilgrims from Korea returning from a visit to Lourdes. And to all of you assembled here from various parts of the world I offer a word of friendship, together with my blessing and my prayers.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Ich grüße euch alle herzlich: die genannten Gruppen und auch die nichtgenannten, die Familien und Einzelpilger aus Deutschland, Österreich, der Schweiz, aus Belgien und den Niederlanden.

In unseren heutigen Überlegungen bemühen wir uns weiter um das Verständnis der Lehre des hl. Paulus über die Ehe und die Ehelosigkeit ”um des Himmelreiches willen“. Wegen der Vergänglichkeit der Welt hält es der Apostel für ratsamer und ”besser“, aus Liebe zum Herrn auf die Ehe zu verzichten. Die ewige Berufung des Menschen ist nicht diese Welt, sondern das Reich Gottes. Deshalb ist es vorzuziehen, sich ohne eheliche Bindung vor allem darum zu sorgen, ”wie man dem Herrn gefalle“.

Die paulinische Theologie des Leibes ist jedoch von großen Realismus geprägt. Er nennt den menschlichen Leib ”Tempel des Heiligen Geistes“, weiß aber zugleich auch um dessen Schwäche und Sündhaftigkeit wegen der sinnlichen Begierde. Paulus kennt nicht nur eine Berufung zur Ehelosigkeit ”um des Himmelreiches willen“, sondern auch eine Berufung zur Ehe. Denn jeder hat von Gott, so ist er überzeugt, sein ganz persönliches Gnadengeschenk. Deshalb ermahnt der Apostel auch die Eheleute, entsprechend ihrer besonderen Berufung zu leben, indem er ihnen sagt: ”Der Mann soll seine Pflicht gegenüber der Frau erfüllen wie die Frau gegenüber dem Mann . . . Entzieht euch einander nicht, außer im gegenseitigen Einverständnis und nur eine Zeit lang, um für das Gebet frei zu sein“ (1 Cor. 7, 3 ss.). Die Eheleute sollen wieder zusammenkommen, wenn sie nicht enthaltsam leben können. Das versteht der hl. Paulus jedoch nicht als ein Gebot, sondern als ein ”Zugeständnis“.

Mit besten Wünschen für einen schönen Aufenthalt in der Ewigen Stadt erteile ich allen hier anwesenden Pilgern von Herzen meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

* * *

Besonders herzlich grüße ich die Schülergruppe aus Sursee in der Schweiz. Ich freue mich mit euch und allen Schülern hier über die wohlverdienten Ferien. In den Ferien ist das Leben eure Schule: lernt euch selber kennen, begegnet euren Mitmenschen bewußter und laßt euch ein auf die Begegnung mit DEM, der euch näher ist als jeder Kamerad und als ihr selbst!

Ai fedeli di espressione spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

En mis anteriores reflexiones he comentado el contenido de las enseñanzas y consejos que da San Pablo a los fieles de Corinto respecto al matrimonio y a la continencia voluntaria por el reino de los cielos. El Apóstol afirma que quien elige el matrimonio “hace bien”, pero el que escoge la virginidad “hace mejor”. Al expresar esto, Pablo tiene presente la temporalidad del ser humano y la caducidad del mundo. Se ve con toda claridad el fundamento de la teología de la gran esperanza, pues el destino del hombre es el Reino de Dios.

De todo lo dicho, no se puede sostener que el mismo Pablo considere a los casados personas “carnales” y a los que, por motivos religiosos, han elegido la virginidad “espirituales”, pues en ambas vocaciones actúa el “don” que cada uno recibe de Dios, la gracia, y que hace que el cuerpo se convierta en “templo del Espíritu Santo”. Si el hombre es fiel a la propia vocación no deshonra en absoluto este templo del Espíritu Santo que es su cuerpo. En la enunciación paulina se encuentra claramente expuesta la estructura de la doctrina revelada sobre el hombre, que está destinado en cuerpo y alma a la vida futura.

Me es grato saludar ahora a todos los peregrinos de lengua española presentes en esta Audiencia; a todos, junto con vuestros seres queridos, os bendigo de corazón.

* * *

Deseo saludar asimismo al grupo de jóvenes mexicanas, de 15 años. A la vez que os imparto mi Bendición, os invito a ser signo de amor y esperanza cristianas entre la juventud de vuestra querida Nación.

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

Saúdo com afecto em Cristo os ouvintes de língua portuguesa,

Continuamos a meditar, com São Paulo, sobre a dignidade do corpo humano, sujeito à pecaminosidade, por força da concupiscência. Mas em vista do Reino dos céus, tanto para os que se unem em matrimónio - que fazem “bem” - como para os que abraçam a continência perfeita - que fazem “melhor” - há o dom de Deus, a graça, que faz com que o corpo se torne “templo do Espírito Santo”, a ser sempre honrado.

Divisando além duma metafísica do transitório - da imagem deste “mundo que passa” - o Apóstolo apresenta a teologia de uma “grande expectativa”, que existe para todos, no “outro mundo que não passa”: o destino final de toda a pessoa humana. Também o matrimónio, e não apenas a virgindade ou o celibato “por amor do Reino dos céus”, deve ser vivido à luz desta vocação definitiva do homem.

São Paulo, sem maniqueísmo, fala do corpo do homem e da mulher, conforme foi plasmado por Deus “ao princípio”, em fidelidade à palavra de Cristo no Evangelho. Com tacto de pastor e com realismo, explica as diversas situações pessoais, sem contrapor, mas distinguindo o estado matrimonial do estado de continência, à luz da vida futura, incutindo a esperança, fundada na realidade da ressurreição com Cristo, para “a vida que não passa”.

* * *

Saúdo agora, de um modo especial, um grupo de Senhoras presentes, vindas do Brasil, antigas alunas das Irmãs Doroteias da Frassinetti.

Quisestes vir a Roma e encontrar-vos hoje com o Papa: sede bem-vindas! Desejo-vos que a peregrinação à Cidade Eterna deixe como fruto, em vossos corações, um estímulo a viver a fé que professais, aqui testemunhada, até ao derramamento do sangue, pelos Apóstolos e Mártires, em fidelidade a Cristo. A semente lançada em vossas almas, durante o tempo de formação, é graça, destinada a germinar e desabrochar em vida e testemunho cristão. “Dai gratuitamente o que gratuitamente recebestes”, em resposta ao amor de Deus.

A todos que me ouvis, e a quantos vos são queridos, desejo as maiores felicidades e as graças divinas, com a Bênção Apostólica.

Agli sloveni

Saluto cordialmente i pellegrini sloveni presenti tra noi, giunti a Roma in tre gruppi: uno dalla Jugoslavia, e cioè i fedeli della parrocchia di Braslovce (diocesi di Maribor) col loro parroco; gli altri due dalla diocesi di Gurk in Carinzia, e precisamente gli studenti del ginnasio sloveno di Klagenfurt e la gioventù cattolica di Zelezna Kapla (Eisenkappel).

Desidererei che tutti, col loro comportamento e con zelo apostolico testimoniassero il Cristo “via, verità e vita” e lo irradiassero ciascuno nel proprio ambiente.

Agli studenti raccomando particolarmente di utilizzare con cura il tempo, destinato alla formazione culturale e alla maturazione spirituale, perché l’assunzione delle responsabilità nella Chiesa e nella società - quando verrà il tempo - non li trovi impreparati.

Alla gioventù cattolica vorrei ripetere, che il Santo Padre vi vuole particolarmente bene e ha fiducia in voi, come vi vuole bene e ripone la sua fiducia in voi la santa Chiesa, conscia di quali ideali e di quali sacrifici è capace questa gioventù.

A tutti dal profondo del cuore imparto la benedizione apostolica, della quale siano partecipi anche i vostri cari a casa, specialmente i bambini e i malati.

Preghiera alla Madonna di Jasna Góra

Pani Jasnogórska!

Od sześciu stuleci weszłaś w naszą historię i pomagasz nam ją tworzyć.

Tworzyć historię to znaczy pracować z pokolenia na pokolenie na rzecz tożsamości własnego narodu. W historii wyraża się ciągłość i tożsamość.

Na sześćetlecie chcemy Ci podziękować za to, że przez tyle pokoleń byłaś obecna w naszych dziejach, pomagając nam zachować ciągłość i tożsamość.

Dziękujemy Ci zwłaszcza za okresy trudne, których nie brakowało w przeszłości.

Współczesność zaś - to, co mieści się w granicach życia ostatnich pokoleń Polaków - jest naznaczona szczególnym trudem.

Wystarczy przypomnieć jeszcze raz sześć milionów ofiar ostatniej wojny: fronty, obozy koncentracyjne, więzienia. To wszystko, aby obronić podstawowe prawa narodu - i prawa każdego człowieka.

Nikt nie może o tym zapominać. Nie mogą też o tym zapominać drudzy: z daleka czy z bliska.

Ty, Pani Jasnogórska, przypominaj wszystkim, że trzeba, mówiąc o Polsce, zachować szacunek dla narodu, który ma prawo żyć swym własnym życiem.

Ty, Pani Jasnogórska, przemawiaj do sumienia wszystkich, świadcz o prawach ludzi i narodu, bo Ty - jak Matka - tworzysz z nami naszą historię od stuleci.

Questa la traduzione italiana delle parole del santo Padre.

Signora di Jasna Góra!

Da sei secoli sei entrata nella nostra storia e ci aiuti a farla.

Fare la storia vuol dire lavorare di generazione in generazione in favore dell’identità della propria Nazione. Nella storia si manifestano la continuità e l’identità.

Nel seicentesimo anniversario vogliamo ringraziarti per il fatto che nel corso di tante generazioni sei stata presente nella nostra storia, aiutandoci a conservare la continuità e l’identità.

Ti ringraziamo in particolare per i periodi difficili che non sono mancati nel passato.

E la contemporaneità - ciò che si racchiude nei limiti della vita delle recenti generazioni dei polacchi - è marcata da una particolare fatica. Basta ricordare ancora una volta i sei milioni di vittime dell’ultima guerra: fronti, campi di concentramento, carceri. Tutto ciò per difendere i fondamentali diritti della Nazione - i diritti di ogni uomo.

Non lo può dimenticare nessuno. Non lo possono dimenticare gli altri: i lontani e i vicini.

Tu, Signora di Jasna Góra, ricordi a tutti che bisogna parlare della Polonia, mantenere il rispetto per la Nazione, che ha diritto a vivere la sua propria vita.

Tu, Signora di Jasna Góra, parli alla coscienza di tutti, rendi testimonianza dei diritti degli uomini e della Nazione, perché tu - come Madre - fai con noi la nostra storia da secoli.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Rivolgo un saluto particolare ai giovani; e desidero in modo speciale menzionare gli Allievi Ufficiali della Scuola di Applicazione di Torino. Vi sono poi gli Alunni dei Seminari Minori di alcune Nazioni di Europa, ospiti in questi giorni del centro Mariapoli del Movimento dei Focolari. Vi ringrazio tutti per la vostra presenza, che è indice di fede e di cordiale affetto e, mentre vi auguro la pace e la letizia nel Signore, vi esorto ad amare e seguire sempre sinceramente la Verità.

* * *

La mia parola di conforto e di partecipazione va ora ai cari ammalati qui presenti, nel ricordo di san Camillo de Lellis, di cui oggi celebriamo la festa liturgica. Mentre vi esprimo il mio costante e profondo affetto nel Signore, vi esorto anche a rivolgere spesso e con fervore le vostre preghiere al santo degli infermi, che meditando su Gesù sofferente e Buon Samaritano, ha saputo dare una visione così luminosa e consolante del dolore nei disegni della Provvidenza.

Egli vi ottenga la pazienza ed il coraggio di vivere con amore e fiducia la vostra prova!

* * *

E vi accompagni sempre la mia benedizione! Infine, saluto ancora con gioia e con simpatia gli Sposi novelli, che sono venuti in pellegrinaggio qui a Roma, alla Sede di Pietro! Avete ricevuto il “grande sacramento” del Matrimonio, che realizza in modo concreto l’amore creatore di Dio! Siatene sempre degni per mezzo di una intensa vita spirituale e siate fieri di portare nella società moderna il vostro amore fedele, puro, fiducioso e sereno.

Il mondo ha bisogno soprattutto della vostra testimonianza!

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