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The Call to Be Imitators of God and to Walk in Love

88 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 4 August 1982 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. During our talk last Wednesday I quoted the fifth chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians (vv. 22-25). Now after an introductory glance at this classic text, one should examine the way in which this passage—so important both for the mystery of the Church and of the sacramental character of marriage—is situated in the immediate context of the whole letter.

While realizing that there are a number of problems discussed among biblical scholars as regards the authorship, the date of composition, and those to whom the letter was addressed, one must note that the Letter to the Ephesians has a very significant structure. The author begins this letter by presenting the eternal plan of the salvation of man in Jesus Christ.

"God the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ...has chosen us in him that we should be holy and blameless before him. He destined us in love to be his sons through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of his will, to the praise of his glorious grace which he freely bestowed on us in the Beloved. In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his a plan for the fullness of time to unite all things in him..." (Eph 1:3, 4-7, 10).

The author of the Letter to the Ephesians, after having presented in words full of gratitude the plan which, from eternity, is in God, and at a certain time is already fulfilled in the life of humanity,  beseeches the Lord that men (and directly those to whom the letter is addressed) may fully know Christ as head: "He has made him the head over all things for the Church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all" (1:22-23). Sinful humanity is called to a new life in Christ, in which the pagans and the Hebrews should join together as in a temple (cf. 2:11-21). The Apostle preaches the mystery of Christ among the pagans, to whom he especially addresses himself in his letter, bending "the knee before the Father" and asking him to grant them "according to the riches of his glory to be strengthened with might through his Spirit in the inner man" (3:14, 16).

2. After this profound and moving revelation of Christ in the Church, in the second part of the letter the author passes to more detailed instructions. These are aimed at defining the Christian life as a vocation flowing from the divine plan, which we have previously spoken of, namely, from the mystery of Christ in the Church. Here also the author touches various questions which are always valid for the Christian life. He makes an exhortation for the preservation of unity, underlining at the same time that this unity is constructed on the multiplicity and diversity of Christ's gifts. To each one is given a different gift, but all, as Christians, must "put on the new nature created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness" (4:24). To this is linked the categorical summons to overcome vices and to acquire the virtues corresponding to the vocation which all have obtained through Christ (cf. 4:25-32). The author writes: "Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for sacrifice" (5:1-2).

3. In the fifth chapter of the Letter to the Ephesians these directives become more detailed. The author severely condemns pagan abuses, writing: "For once you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord; walk as children of light" (5:8). And then: "Therefore do not be foolish but understand what the will of the Lord is. Do not get drunk with wine [referring to the book of Proverbs 23:31]...but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart" (5:17-19). The author of the letter wishes to illustrate in these words the climate of spiritual life which should animate every Christian community. At this point he then goes on to consider the domestic community, namely, the family. He writes: "Be filled with the Spirit...always and for everything giving thanks in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to God the Father. Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ" (5:20-21). Thus we enter precisely into that passage of the letter which will be the theme of our special analysis. We might easily observe that the essential content of this classic text appears at the meeting of the two principal guidelines of the entire Letter to the Ephesians: the first, that of the mystery of Christ which, as the expression of the divine plan for the salvation of man, is realized in the Church; the second, that of the Christian vocation as the model of life of the baptized individual, and of the single communities, corresponding to the mystery of Christ, or to the divine plan for the salvation of man.

4. In the immediate context of the passage quoted, the author of the letter seeks to explain in what way the Christian vocation thus understood should be realized and manifested in the relations between all members of the family; therefore, not merely between the husband and wife (treated of precisely in the passage of 5:21-33 which we have chosen), but also between parents and children. The author writes: "Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. Honor your father and mother (this is the first commandment with a promise) that it may be well with you and that you may live long on the earth. Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord" (6:1-4). Following that, he speaks of the duty of servants in regard to their masters and, vice versa, of masters in regard to servants, that is, in regard to the slaves (cf. 6:5-9). This is to be referred also to the directives concerning the family in the broad sense. The family, indeed, comprised not only the parents and children (according to the succession of generations), but included also in the wide sense, the servants or slaves of both sexes.

5. Thus, then, the text of the Letter to the Ephesians which we proposed as the object of a deeper analysis is found in the immediate context of the teaching on the moral obligations of the family society (the so-called "Haustaflen" or domestic codes according to Luther's definition). We find similar instructions also in other letters (e.g., in Colossians 3:18-24, and in First Peter 2:13; 3:7). Moreover, this immediate context forms part of our passage, inasmuch as the classic text which we have chosen treats of the reciprocal duties of husbands and wives. However, one must note that per se the passage of the Letter to the Ephesians 5:21-33 deals exclusively with married couples and marriage, and what regards the family also in the broad sense is already found in the context. First, however, before undertaking a more detailed analysis of the text, it should be added that the whole letter ends with a stupendous encouragement to the spiritual battle (cf. 6:10-20), with brief recommendations (cf. 6:21-22) and with a final farewell (cf. 6:23-24). That call to the spiritual battle seems to be based logically on the line of argument of the entire letter. It is the explicit fulfillment of its principal guidelines.

Having thus before our eyes the overall structure of the entire Letter to the Ephesians, we shall seek in the first analysis to clarify the meaning of the words: "Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ" (5:21), addressed to husbands and to wives."

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

Ai fedeli di espressione francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Soyez les bienvenus! Vous les prêtres, en ce jour de la fête du saint Curé d’Ars; vous les religieux et religieuses; vous les laïcs chrétiens, parents et jeunes. Pour vos vacances d’été, vous avez choisi de visiter Rome, de vous familiariser avec ses monuments, son histoire, son art, son peuple, et en même temps avec le centre de l’Eglise. Vous voici rassemblés devant la basilique Saint-Pierre, près du tombeau de l’Apôtre qui est venu ici témoigner de sa foi au Christ, au prix de sa vie. Et l’Eglise, aujourd’hui, comme hier, se réunit autour de son Successeur.

Pour ma part, je porterai dans ma prière toutes vos intentions. Et je voudrais aider les pèlerins du mercredi à mieux saisir le mystère du Christ, le mystère de l’Eglise qui est née du Christ, et le mystère de chacun de vos foyers unis par le sacrement de mariage. Pour cela, dans mon discours en italien, j’ai analysé la magnifique lettre de l’Apôtre Paul aux chrétiens d’Ephèse, que je vous invite à relire. Il dit aux maris et aux femmes: “Soyez soumis les uns aux autres dans la crainte du Christ”. Mais cela ne se comprend bien que dans la perspective chrétienne exposée dans l’ensemble de la lettre: Dieu a voulu sauver les hommes du péché, les rendre saints et même les adopter comme des fils, autour de son Fils unique. Pour cela, il a établi le Christ Jésus, ressuscité, à la tête de l’Eglise, qu’on peut appeler son “Corps”, puisqu’il l’a aimée et s’est livré pour elle. Les baptisés, qui ont l’honneur d’être les membres de ce Corps, sont appelés à imiter le Christ, à “revêtir l’homme nouveau”, à se conduire en fils de lumière, à vivre de l’Esprit Saint. Tous les rapports familiaux sont alors marqués par cet esprit de respect, de soumission, de générosité et de délicatesse dans l’amour. Cela suppose certes un combat spirituel, car on doit faire effort pour ne pas se modeler sur les mœurs du temps, dans un climat de foi et de prière. Mais alors, quelle est belle, la famille qui a compris et qui vit cet idéal! Tel est mon souhait pour chacun de vous, avec ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear brothers and sisters,

I am happy to have you here with me this evening in Saint Peter’s Square. I welcome you warmly and I ask God to guide and guard you always. These weeks we are reflecting during the general audience on the teaching of Saint Paul on marriage, in particular what he says in his letter to the Ephesians. It is a letter that begins by presenting God’s eternal plan for saving us in Jesus Christ. We are called to a new life in Christ. Each one is to put on the new self that has been created in God’s way, in the goodness and holiness of the truth. Towards the end of the letter Saint Paul deals with the particular obligations of the family, including the relations between husband and wife. The context of this teaching thus includes the mystery of Christ as the central point in God’s plan of salvation, and the call that we have all received to live a life of holiness.

* * *

I wish to speak a special word of greeting to two groups. One is composed of people from Korea. I pray God to bless you and the Church in your country, which is preparing to celebrate its twohundredth anniversary. The other group is made up of young people from many countries who are participating in the International Festival of Youth Orchestras and Performing Arts. You are bringing joy and beauty into your own lives and those of others. Keep that joy and that beauty always in your hearts. May you bring to others variety, happiness and inspiration.

Ad alcuni pellegrini provenienti dal Giappone

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai dilettissimi pellegrini appartenenti alla “Preghiera per la pace” di Tokyo, alla “Luce del cuore” di Kyoto e alla “Università Nanzan” di Nagoya, Benvenuti!

Sono molto lieto per la vostra visita. Vi ringrazio per tale attenzione.

Impartisco di cuore la mia benedizione apostolica a voi e ai vostri familiari. Estendete questa mia benedizione apostolica, con i frutti spirituali dei vostri pellegrinaggi e viaggi, a tutti i giapponesi, con la protezione della “Regina Pacis”! Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai fedeli di espressione tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!
Euch allen ein herzliches Willkommen zur heutigen Audienz.

Im Fortgang unserer Überlegungen über die Ehe richten wir heute unsere Aufmerksamkeit auf den Epheserbrief als ganzes. Seine Struktur und sein Lehrgehalt sind von großer Bedeutung. Nach dem Lobpreis auf den Heilsplan Gottes am Anfang des Briefes bitter der Autor den Herrn, daß alle Menschen Christus als ihr Haupt anerkennen. Denn die ganze sündige Menschheit ist zu einem neuen Leben in Christus berufen. Daraus ergeben sich im folgenden konkrete Verhaltensregeln für das Leben der Menschen. Der Autor ermahnt die Christen, die Laster zu überwinden und die Tugend zu üben. Er sagt: ”Ahmt Gott nach als seine geliebten Kinder und übt die Liebe, weil uns auch Christus geliebt . . . hat“ (Eph. 5, 1).

Im fünften Kapitel wendet sich der Autor dann die Familie zu und fordert: ”Einer ordne sich dem andern unter in der gemeinsamen Ehrfurcht vor Christus“ (Ibid. 5, 21). Dies gilt für alle Glieder der Familie: im Verhältnis zwischen den Eheleuten und zwischen den Eltern und Kindern. In diesem thematischen Zusammenhang findet sich schließlich der ”klassische“ Text über die Ehe, wo der Autor des Epheserbriefes den Ehebund mit dem Liebesbündnis zwischen Christus und des Kirche vergleicht. Diesen bedeutsamen Text werden wir später noch eingehend erörtern.

Von Herzen erteile ich euch und euren Angehörigen in der Heimat meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini di espressione spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Saludo con particular afecto a los peregrinos de lengua española aquí presentes.

En el curso de nuestra reflexión de miércoles pasado, leímos algunas frases de la Carta a los Efesios. Hoy, nos disponemos a examinar cómo este texto “clásico” se sitúa en el contexto inmediato de la Carta entera.

No olvidemos, ante todo, que la Carta a los Efesios tiene una estructura particular. El autor comienza por presentar el plan eterno de salvación del hombre en Jesucristo, cuando dice que: “. . . Dios . . . nos predestinó a la adopción de hijos suyos por Jesucristo, conforme al beneplácito de su voluntad” (Eph. 5, 22-23). A continuación, después de presentarnos el misterio de Cristo en la Iglesia, señala varias cuestiones sumamente valiosas para la vida cristiana, entre las que cabe destacar la exhortación a mantener la unidad.

Una vez expuestos estos elementos, podemos detenernos en esa parte de la Carta que será tema de nuestra reflexión. En ella constatamos que este texto “clásico” de la Carta a los Efesios se presenta en la confluencia de dos hilos conductores principales: el primero, el del misterio de Cristo que, como expresión del plan divino de salvación del hombre, se realiza en la Iglesia; y el segundo, el de la vocación cristiana, como modelo personal de vida para cada bautizado y para cada comunidad, que corresponde al misterio de Cristo, o sea al plan divino de salvación del hombre.

A todos mi cordial Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

Amadíssimos peregrinos e ouvintes de língua portuguesa: sede bem-vindos a esta Audiência e que Deus vos encha dos Seus bens!

Continuando o tema de reflexão destes encontros semanais - na perspectiva de uma teologia do corpo humano - retomamos a Epístola aos Efésios, para nela enquadrar o texto sobre os deveres da vida em família: “Sede submissos uns aos outros, no temor de Cristo!”.

A Carta aos Efésios apresenta o plano eterno da Salvação do homem, em Jesus Cristo, Cabeça da Igreja que é o seu Corpo, na qual a humanidade é chamada por Deus a viver uma “vida nova”, animada pelo Espírito Santo. E é para levar esta “vida nova” que servem as directrizes dadas ao longo do escrito: um conjunto de normas morais para todo o homem, situado na comunidade cristã e na família.

É em Igreja e na família, de facto, que o homem deve realizar a vocação cristã - de baptizado e de ser social - num constante “combate” espiritual. Para vencer, ele precisa de ser “fortalecido pelo Senhor, pelo vigor do seu poder”, alcançado mediante “toda a espécie de orações e de súplicas”.

Com o pensamento em prece, por todas as famílias cristãs, pelas vossas famílias, dou-vos a Bênção Apostólica.

Ai giovani di origine slovacca

Saluto il bel gruppo dei giovani slovacchi, i loro genitori e dirigenti. Si sono incontrati nel tradizionale campo estivo organizzato dall’Istituto Slovacco dei santi Cirillo e Metodio. Oggi vi trovate nella Città Eterna. Attingete alle tradizioni apostoliche di essa per rinnovare la vostra fede nonché la fedeltà alla Sede Apostolica. Vi accompagni la mia benedizione.

La preghiera alla Madonna di Jasna Góra

Pani Jasnogórska!

Dziś, w pierwszych dniach sierpnia, pragnę spotkać się wobec Twego Wizerunku z mymi Rodakami w rozpamiętywaniu wydarzeń sprzed trzydziestu ośmiu lat: powstanie warszawskie.

Już drugie pokolenie przejmuje pamięć tego wydarzenia, w którym raz jeszcze wyraziła się wobec świata nasza wola życia w wolności - nawet za cenę największych ofiar: za cenę śmierci.

Iluż ich wtedy zginęło śmiercią samotnych bohaterów! A wraz z nimi prawie że zginęło miasto: stolica Polski.

Do wszystkich ofiar ostatniej wojny Naród nasz dołączył tę ostateczną hekatombę.

Królowo Polski! Wspomiñam dziś wraz z Rodakami powstanie warszawskie. Przynoszę przed Twoje Oczy tę walkę, ofiarę i śmierć - i błagam:

ocal mój Naród przed podobnym wyniszczeniem!

Ocal wszystkich! Ocal młode pokolenie!

A równocześnie:

daj nam zachować tę samą miłość ojczyzny, tę samą gotowość służenia sprawie jej niepodległości i pokoju, jaka objawiła się w tamtym pokoleniu.

Matko! Może nigdy, tak jak teraz, nie trzeba było, abyś wzięła w swe Macierzyńskie Dłonie serca i myśli Polaków. Abyś wzięła w swe Dłonie losy mojego Narodu.

Ed ecco la traduzione italiana della preghiera del Papa alla Madonna di Jasna Góra.

Signora di Jasna Góra!

Oggi, nei primi giorni d’agosto, desidero incontrarmi, dinanzi alla tua Effigie, con i miei connazionali nella riflessione sugli avvenimenti di 38 anni fa: l’insurrezione di Varsavia.

Già la seconda generazione accoglie il ricordo di questo avvenimento, in cui ancora una volta si è manifestata dinanzi al mondo la nostra volontà di vivere in libertà - anche a prezzo dei più grandi sacrifici: a prezzo della morte.

Quanti sono periti allora con la morte degli eroi solitari! Ed insieme a loro quasi “è perita” la città: la capitale della Polonia.

A tutte le vittime dell’ultima guerra la nostra Nazione ha aggiunto questa definitiva ecatombe.

Regina della Polonia! Evoco oggi insieme con i miei connazionali l’insurrezione di Varsavia. Porto davanti agli occhi tuoi questa lotta, sacrificio e morte - ed imploro:

Trai in salvo la mia Nazione da una simile distruzione!

Trai in salvo tutti! Trai in salvo la giovane generazione!

E contemporaneamente:

dacci di conservare lo stesso amore patrio, la stessa prontezza di servire la causa della sua indipendenza e della pace, che si è manifestata in quella generazione.

Madre, forse mai più come oggi ci fu bisogno che tu prenda nelle tue mani materne i cuori e le menti dei polacchi.

Che tu prenda nelle tue mani il destino della mia Nazione.

Ai giovani

Saluto con particolare affetto i vari gruppi di giovani, i quali, con la loro gioia e il loro ottimismo, sono venuti a rallegrare, come di consueto, questo incontro in piazza san Pietro.

Carissimi, profittate di questo periodo delle vacanze estive per ritemprare le vostre energie possibilmente al contatto con la natura la quale mentre ricrea le forze, eleva lo spirito a Dio, creatore di tutte le bellezze di cui è adornata la terra.

Vi accompagni sempre la mia speciale benedizione apostolica.

Agli ammalati

Anche a voi, cari ammalati, rivolgo un pensiero speciale, per assicurarvi della mia affezione e della mia incessante preghiera. Siate forti e perseveranti nelle prove, ben consapevoli che se Gesù ha scelto la via della Croce per ridare all’umanità la speranza, ciò vuol dire che tale via, che è anche la vostra, incontra la predilezione di Dio, che purifica col dolore le anime più generose.

Vi sia di conforto la mia benedizione apostolica.

Agli sposi novelli

Il mio sguardo si volge ora agli sposi novelli. Auspico che il vostro matrimonio, fondato sull’amore e sulla grazia propria del Sacramento che avete ricevuto, sia sempre rispondente al disegno di Dio sulla famiglia. Sia, la vostra, una famiglia cristiana sempre serena, unita, pronta ad accogliere le nuove vite, secondo lo spirito del Vangelo.

A questo fine vi assicuro la mia preghiera e vi imparto la benedizione apostolica.

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