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Divine Providence and the Growth of the Kingdom of God

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on God the Father
General Audience, Wednesday, 25 June 1986 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish  

"1. As in the previous catechesis, also today we draw on the abundant reflections of Vatican II on the historical condition of modern man. On the one hand, he is sent by God to have dominion over creation and subdue it, and on the other, he himself, as a creature, is subject to the loving presence of God the Father, Creator and Provider.

Today more than at any other time, man is particularly sensitive to the greatness and autonomy of his task as investigator and ruler of the forces of nature. One must however note that there is a serious obstacle in the development and progress of the world. It is constituted by sin and by the closure which it implies, that is, by moral evil. The conciliar Constitution Gaudium of Spes provides ample witness to this. The Council stated: "Although he was made by God in a state of holiness, from the very onset of his history man abused his liberty, at the urging of the evil one. Man set himself against God and sought to attain his goal apart from God" (GS 13).

Hence, as an inevitable consequence, "while human progress is a great advantage to man, it brings with it a strong temptation. For when the order of values is jumbled and bad is mixed with the good, individuals and groups pay heed solely to their own interests, and not to those of others. Thus it happens that the world ceases to be a place of true brotherhood. In our own day, the magnified power of humanity threatens to destroy the race itself" (GS 37). Modern man is rightly aware of his own role, but, "if the expression, the independence of temporal affairs, is taken to mean that created things do not depend on God, and that man can use them without any reference to their Creator, anyone who acknowledges God will see how false such a meaning is. For without the Creator the creature would disappear. For their part, however, all believers of whatever religion always hear his revealing voice in the discourse of creatures. When God is forgotten, however, the creature itself grows unintelligible" (GS 36).

2. We especially recall a text which enables us to grasp the "other dimension" of the world's historical evolution at which the Council was always looking. The Constitution states: "God's Spirit, who with a marvelous providence directs the unfolding of time and renews the face of the earth, is not absent from this development" (GS 26). To overcome evil is at the same time to will man's moral progress, whereby human dignity is safeguarded, and to give a response to the essential requirements for a "more human" world. In this perspective God's kingdom which is developing in history finds in a certain way its "matter" and the signs of its effective presence.

The Second Vatican Council has emphasized with great clarity the ethical significance of evolution, showing how the ethical ideal of a "more human" world is in line with the Gospel teaching. While making a precise distinction between the development of the world and the history of salvation, it sought at the same time to point out in all their fullness the bonds that exist between them: "While earthly progress must be carefully distinguished from the growth of Christ's kingdom, to the extent that the former can contribute to the better ordering of human society, it is of vital concern to the kingdom of God. For after we have obeyed the Lord, and in his Spirit nurtured on earth the values of human dignity, brotherhood and freedom, and indeed all the good fruits of our nature and enterprise, we will find them again, but freed of stain, burnished and transfigured, when Christ hands over to the Father: 'a kingdom eternal and universal, a kingdom of truth and life, of holiness and grace, of justice, love and peace.' On this earth that kingdom is already present in mystery. When the Lord returns it will be brought into full flower" (GS 39).

3. The Council affirmed the conviction of believers when it proclaimed: "The Church recognizes that worthy elements are found in today's social movements, especially an evolution toward unity, a process of wholesome socialization and of association in civic and economic realms. The promotion of unity belongs to the innermost nature of the Church, for she is, 'thanks to her relationship with Christ, a sacramental sign and an instrument of intimate union with God, and of the unity of the whole human race.' Thus she shows the world that an authentic union, social and external, results from a union of minds and hearts, namely from that faith and charity by which her own unity is unbreakably rooted in the Holy Spirit. For the force which the Church can inject into the modern society of man consists in that faith and charity put into vital practice, not in any external dominion exercised by merely human means" (GS 42). For this reason a profound bond and even an elementary identity is created between the principal sectors of the "world's" history and evolution and the history of salvation. The plan of salvation sinks its roots in the most real aspirations and in the finalities of humanity. Redemption also is continually directed toward humanity "in the world." The Church always comes in contact with the "world" in the sphere of these aspirations and finalities of humanity. In like manner the history of salvation runs its course in the riverbed of the world's history, considering it in a certain way as its own. And vice versa—the real conquests of humanity, the authentic victories of the world's history, are also the "substratum" of the kingdom of God on earth (cf. Card. Karol Wojtyla, At the Sources of Renewal, Study on the implementation of the Second Vatican Council, Collins, London, 1981, pp. 166-l78).

4. In this regard we read in the Constitution Gaudium et Spes: "Human activity, to be sure, takes its significance from its relationship to man. Just as it proceeds from man, so it is ordered toward man.... Rightly understood this kind of growth is of greater value than any external riches which can be garnered. A man is more precious for what he is than for what he has. Similarly, all that men do to obtain greater justice, wider brotherhood, a more humane disposition of social relationships has greater worth than technical advances.... Hence, the norm of human activity is this: that in accord with the divine plan and will, it harmonize with the genuine good of the human race, and that it allow men as individuals and as members of society to pursue their total vocation and fulfill it" (cf. GS 35; cf. also GS 59). The same document also states: "This social order requires constant improvement. It must be founded on truth, built on justice and animated by love; in freedom it should grow every day toward a more humane balance. An improvement in attitudes and abundant changes in society will have to take place if these objectives are to be gained. God's Spirit, who with a marvelous providence directs the unfolding of time and renews the face of the earth, is not absent from this development" (GS 26).

5. The adaptation to the guidance and action of the Spirit of God in the unfolding of history is brought about through the continual appeal and the consistent and faithful response to the voice of conscience: "In fidelity to conscience, Christians are joined with the rest of men in the search for truth, and for the genuine solution to the numerous problems which arise in the life of individuals from social relationships. Hence the more right conscience holds sway, the more persons and groups turn aside from blind choice and strive to be guided by the objective norms of morality" (GS 16).

With realism the Council recalled the presence, in the actual human situation, of the most radical obstacle to the true progress of man and humanity—moral evil, sin, as a result of which "man is split within himself. As a result, all of human life, whether individual or collective, shows itself to be a dramatic struggle between good and evil, between light and darkness. Indeed, man finds that by himself he is incapable of battling the assaults of evil successfully, so that everyone feels as though he is bound by chains" (GS 13). The whole of human history has been the story of "a monumental struggle against the powers of darkness [which] pervade the whole history of man. The battle was joined from the very origins of the world and will continue until the last day, as the Lord has attested (cf. Mt 24:13; 13:24-30; 36-43). Caught in this conflict, man is obliged to wrestle constantly if he is to cling to what is good, nor can he achieve his own integrity without great efforts and the help of God's grace" (GS 37).

6. In conclusion we can say that, if the growth of God's kingdom is not identified with the evolution of the world, it is nonetheless true that the kingdom of God is in the world, and first of all in man, who lives and works in the world. The Christian knows that with his commitment for the progress of history and with the help of God's grace he cooperates in the growth of the kingdom, toward the historical and eschatological fulfillment of the plan of divine Providence.

After the Catechesis, Pope John Paul II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Je suis heureux d’accueillir ici tous les pèlerins de langue française, je salue spécialement les religieuses Franciscaines missionnaires de Marie et les Filles de la Sagesse qui se ressourcent à Rome.

* * *

J’ai remarqué la présence d une chorale de Dakar, qui porte le nom des Martyrs de l’Ouganda. Vous terminez, chers amis, votre tournée de chant en Italie, où je suis sur que vous avez apporté à vos auditeurs une grande joie, une élévation de leur âme et une occasion de fraternité par-dessus les frontières, qui manifeste les richesses multiformes dans l’unique Eglise du Christ. Que le Seigneur vous comble de sa lumière et de sa force - comme les célèbres martyrs africains dont nous fêtons le centenaire - pour vous aider à porter le témoignage de la foi et de l’amour.

* * *

Nous avons aussi parmi nous la délégation du Patriarcat maronite qui a accompagné à Rome Sa Béatitude Nasrallah Pierre Sfeir. J’ai déjà pu m’entretenir longuement avant-hier avec ces Frères venus en visite “ad limina”. Aujourd’hui je salue autour d’eux la communauté libanaise de ceux qui habitent et travaillent à Rome. Chers amis, vous savez tous la sollicitude que le successeur de Pierre, l’Eglise qui est à Rome et, je peux dire, l’ensemble de l’Eglise catholique, éprouvent pour votre patrie ensanglantée et déchirée. Nous voulons, non seulement que se taisent les armes, que la paix se consolide dans la justice, mais que le Liban continue à être un pays pluraliste et développe toujours davantage cette valeur qui le caractérise, qu’il reste ouvert aux apports de civilisations différentes et capable de les harmoniser dans le respect des tradition des diverses communautés, en gardant son originalité. Nous demandons à nos fils catholiques d’être au premier rang de ces artisans de paix. Nous adjurons tous ceux qui exercent un pouvoir dans la région de favoriser ce dessein humain qui correspond à la volonté de Dieu. Pour ma part, je ne cesse de prier à vos intentions: que le Seigneur fortifie en vous l’espérance et l’engagement de vos frères pour la paix!

A vous, comme à tous les autres pèlerins de langue française, notamment aux groupes de France et de Suisse, je demande de vous souvenir de la foi des Apôtres Pierre et Paul qui ont fondé cette Eglise de Rome et que nous célébrerons dimanche.

Et je confie à votre prière les voyage apostolique que j’entreprendrai la semaine prochaine en Colombie. De tout coeur, je vous bénis. 

Ad alcuni gruppi di espressione inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I wish to extend a special word of welcome to the pilgrims coming from Indonesia. And I greet most cordially the Gustaf Vasa Chamber Choir from Stockholm.

It is a joy to welcome the priests and religious who are present at today’s audience, in particular the Missionary Sisters of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Servants of the Holy Spirit. I assure you of the deep gratitude of the Church for your public witness to the Gospel. For such witness is an essential part of the work of evangelization. And if we wish to bear witness to Christ in a convincing way, our minds and hearts must be rooted in him. We must have a real love for Christ, our Saviour and Lord, the Bridegroom of our souls. May the Lord grant you the grace to be always joyful servants in the Church.

I offer warm greetings to all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims, especially those coming from England, Scotland, Sweden, Indonesia and the United States.

May the Lord bless you all.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca 

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Herzlich grüße ich mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung alle anweseden Pilger deutscher Sprache. Ich erbitte euch Gottes Licht und Führung, damit ihr euch eurer Verantwortung als Christen in der Welt von heute neu bewußt werdet und das Wirken der Kirche zum Wohl der Menschen durch Gebet, Wort und Tat nach Kräften unterstützt. Von Herzen erteile ich euch meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola

Con particular afecto saludo ahora a los peregrinos de América Latina y de España aquí presentes, de modo especial a las Religiosas del Instituto “Pureza de María Santísima” así como a los profesores y alumnos de la Escuela Universitaria “Don Bosco”, de Madrid, del Colegio “San Francisco Javier”, de Elche, y a las peregrinaciones de Cenicero (La Rioja), Bilbao, Gerona y San Sebastián. Deseo agradeceros vuestra presencia en este encuentro, que debe suponer para todos, según los dones concedidos por Dios, un aliciente para seguir colaborando fraternalmente en esa labor importante para los seguidores de Cristo: la construcción del Reino de Dios, Reino de paz, de justicia y de amor.

* * *

No quisiera finalizar estas breves palabras sin dirigir un cordial saludo al grupo de periodistas y técnicos de la Cadena Radial Colombiana “Caracol”, que tienen el encargo de cubrir periodísticamente los preparativos del nuevo viaje apostólico que, Dios mediante, me dispongo a realizar la próxima semana a la querida tierra de Colombia. Ante todo mi profundo agradecimiento por el ejemplar trabajo profesional que estáis realizando para que la Palabra del Papa llegue a todos los rincones y hogares de vuestra amadísima Nación. En la espera de poder estar pronto entre los hijos colombianos, a vosotros y a todos los que me están escuchando, a través de vuestras ondas, ruego uniros en mi oración al Señor para que esta visita pastoral mía sea una ocasión para descubrir y vivir con más fidelidad y generosidad los valores cristianos.¡Hasta pronto!

A todos imparto mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ad un gruppo proveniente dal Brasile 

Saúdo em particular um grupo proveniente do Brasil: estudiosos e técnicos, que estão a frequentar um curso de atualização sobre “condições externas do desenvolvimento”.

Sede bem-vindos! É-me grata a vossa presença aqui. Levai deste encontro a lembrança avivada do que a Igreja sempre repete, fiel a Jesus Cristo: o desenvolvimento tem um ponto de referência imprescindível, que é o homem, com todas as suas dimensões. Mas o desenvolvimento integral das pessoas requer o desenvolvimento solidário da humanidade, pelos caminhos da paz e da fraternidade. Que Deus vos ajude sempre e vos abençoe, assim como aos que vos são queridos e à vossa pátria!

Ai pellegrini polacchi 

Witam pielgrzymów z parafii Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa z Krakowa - Płaszowa, księża sercanie; z parafii św. Jadwigi z Dębicy, diecezja tarnowska; z parafii św. Szczepana z Katowic-Bogucic; z dekanatu Biłgoraj, diecezja lubelska; z parafii św. Krzyża z Zamościa, diecezja lubelska; pielgrzymkę młodzieży akademickiej i rodzin z duszpasterstwa akademickiego św. Anny w Warszavie; neoprezbiterów diecezji ptockiej; kaplanów diecezji płockiej; pielgrzymów z parafii św. Józefa z Włocławka; kapłanów diecezji chełmińskiej z księdzem biskupem Andrzejem Śliwińskirn; pielgrzymów z parafii św. Krzyża w Tczewie, diecezia chełmińska; z parafii Świętej Trójcy w Kwidzyniu, diecezja warmińska; z parafii Dobrego Pasterza w Poznaniu; z parafii Chrystusa Króla w Jarocinie Poznańskim, archidiecezja gnieźnieńska; z parafii św. Stanisława Kostki ze Szczecina; grupę katolików świeckich z Chełma, diecezia lubelska. Szczególnie serdecznie witam pielgrzymkę chorych i niepełnosprawnych z Gorzova Wielkopolskiego; prócz tego uczestników grup turystycznych PKS, Orbisu, Sport-Tourist oraz Turysty . . .

Witając wszystkich zgromadzonych tutaj pielgrzymów z Polski, w szczególny sposób zwracam się do chorych, do których będzie jeszcze osobne słowo wspólnie do wszystkich chorych w języku włoskim, także i do przybyszów z Poznania z Wielkopolski. Trudno bowiem w tym roku u końca czerwca nie pamiętać o tak zwanych “wypadkach poznańskich” sprzed trzydziestu lat. Trudno nie polecać Bogu osób, które w tych wypadkach poniosły śmierć i trudno równocześnie nie prosić. Opatrzności ażeby ta ofiara, a także wymowa tych wydarzeń miała znaczenie dla przyszsłości, dla tego - o czym również mówi Sobór - ażeby życie na naszej polskiej ziemi stawało się coraz bardziej godne człowieka, godne Polaka, godne chrześcijanina. 

Ai giovani 

Un cordiale saluto rivolgo a voi, giovani presenti a questa Udienza. Vi auguro di cuore che le prossime vacanze estive siano una propizia occasione per prendere il meritato riposo dopo le fatiche dello studio, ma ancor più per dare spazi più vasti alla riflessione ed alla preghiera, all’approfondimento della fede, mediante la lettura meditata del Vangelo, e per testimoniare inoltre un generoso impegno di dedizione verso i fratelli, in particolare gli infermi ed i bisognosi, partecipando alle varie iniziative del “Volontariato”. 

Agli ammalati 

Un affettuoso ricordo desidero dedicare a tutti voi, Fratelli e Sorelle colpiti dalla malattia, in particolare al “Gruppo Maria Laura” di Cagliari, che siete qui per ricevere una parola di fiducia e di incoraggiamento al fine di poter proseguire il vostro difficile e doloroso cammino con fede e con serenità spirituale.

Nel cuore della Chiesa voi rappresentate la porzione privilegiata e feconda, in quanto siete intimamente e profondamente uniti al mistero della Croce di Cristo, che nell’offerta al Padre ha procurato agli uomini la redenzione e la libertà dal peccato e dalla morte.

A voi, va l’assicurazione della mia costante preghiera, nella quale unisco il ricordo dei vostri genitori e familiari, degli amici, dei sacerdoti, delle religiose e tutte le persone che con grande affetto ed instancabile dedizione vi assistono. 

Agli sposi novelli 

Un fervido augurio rivolgo a tutti voi, sposi novelli, che in questi giorni avete solennemente consacrato il vostro amore nel sacramento del Matrimonio, diventando il segno visibile dell’unione misteriosa fra Cristo e la Chiesa.

Sia la vostra nascente famiglia sempre illuminata dalla fede, animata dalla speranza e confortata dalle virtù tipiche del vostro stato, quali la mutua fedeltà, dedizione ed affetto, di modo che essa possa essere come una “Chiesa in miniatura”.

A tutti voi la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

© Copyright 1996 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana