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Man is a Subject of Knowledge and Freedom

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on God the Father
General Audience, Wednesday, 23 April 1986 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. "God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them" (Gen 1:27).

The man and the woman were created with equal dignity as persons, as units of spirit and body. They are differentiated by their psycho-physical structures. The human being bears the mark of masculinity or femininity.

2. While it is a sign of diversity, it is also an indication of complementarity. That can be deduced from a reading of the "Yahwist" text, where the man exclaimed upon seeing the woman just created: "This at last is bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh" (Gen 2:23). They are words of gladness and also of enthusiastic rapture of the man on seeing a being essentially like himself. The diversity and, at the same time, the psycho-spiritual complementarity are at the origin of the particular richness of humanity, which is proper to the descendants of Adam through their entire history. From this, marriage takes its origin, instituted by the Creator from the beginning: "Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh" (Gen 2:24).

3. To this text of Genesis corresponds the blessing of fruitfulness mentioned in Genesis 1:28: "Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it...." Contained in the mystery of man's creation, the institution of marriage and the family seems to be linked with the command to "subdue" the earth, entrusted by the Creator to the first human couple.

Man is called to "subdue the earth." But note well - ”to "subdue" it, not to devastate it, because creation is a gift of God and, as such, it must be respected. Man is the image of God not only as male and female, but also because of the reciprocal relation of the two sexes. This reciprocal relation constitutes the soul of the "communion of persons" which is established in marriage and presents a certain likeness with the union of the three Divine Persons.

4. In this regard the Second Vatican Council tells us: "God did not create man a solitary being. From the beginning 'male and female he created them' (Gen 1:27). This partnership of man and woman constitutes the first form of communion between persons. For by his innermost nature man is a social being, and unless he relates himself to others he can neither live nor develop his potential" (GS 12).

Thus creation implies for man both a relationship with the world, and a relationship with the other human being (the man-woman relationship), as well as with others like them. "Subduing the earth" delineates the "relational" character of human existence. The dimensions "with others," "among others" and "for others" are proper to the human person as the "image of God." They establish from the beginning man's place among creatures. To this end man is called into existence as the subject (as the concrete "I"), endowed with intellectual consciousness and freedom.

5. Man's capacity of intellectual knowledge radically distinguishes him from the entire animal world, where the cognitive capacity is limited to the senses. Intellectual knowledge ms man capable of discernment, of distinguishing between truth and non-truth. It does this by opening before him the fields of science, of critical thought, of the methodical search for truth about reality. Man has within himself an essential relation to truth which determines his character as a transcendent being. The knowledge of the truth permeates the whole sphere of the relationship of man with the world and with other human beings. It is the indispensable premise of every form of culture.

6. Bound by an intrinsic relation to the good, the freedom of the human will is joined to intellectual knowledge and to the relation to truth. Human acts bear within themselves the sign of self-determination of the will and of choice. The whole sphere of morality derives from this. Man is capable of choosing between good and evil, sustained in this by the voice of conscience, which impels him to good and restrains him from evil.

Like the knowledge of truth, the capacity of choice—that is, free will—permeates the whole sphere of the relationship of man with the world, especially with other humans, and ventures even beyond.

7. Thanks to his spiritual nature and to his capacity for intellectual knowledge and freedom of choice and action, man is, from the very beginning, in a special relationship with God. The description of creation (cf. Gen 1-3) permits us to observe that the "image of God" is manifested above all in the relation of the human "I" to the divine "You." Man knows God, and his heart and will are capable of uniting themselves with God (homo est capax Dei). Man can say "yes" to God, but he can also say "no." He has the capacity to accept God and his holy will, but also the capacity to oppose it.

8. All this is contained in the meaning of the "image of God" presented to us by the Book of Sirach, among others: "The Lord created human beings out of the earth, and turned them back to it again.... He endowed them with strength like his own, and made them in his own image. He placed the fear of them in all living beings, and granted them dominion over beasts and birds. He made for them tongue and eyes; he gave them ears and a mind for thinking. He filled them with knowledge and understanding, and showed them good and evil.... He set his eye upon their hearts [note the expression!] to show them the majesty of his works.... He has set before them knowledge, a law of life as their inheritance. An everlasting covenant he has made with them, his commandments he has revealed to them" (Sir 17:1, 3-7, 9-10). These words contain a wealth of richness and depth which make us reflect.

9. The Second Vatican Council expressed the same truth about man in language which is both perennial and contemporary. "Only in freedom can man direct himself toward's dignity demands that he act according to a knowing and free choice..." (GS 17). "For by his interior qualities he outstrips the whole sum of mere things. He plunges into the depths of reality whenever he enters into his own heart; God, who probes the heart, awaits him there; there he discerns his proper destiny beneath the eyes of God" (GS 14). "Authentic freedom is an exceptional sign of the divine image within man" (GS 17). True freedom is freedom in truth, inscribed from the beginning in the reality of the "divine image."

10. By virtue of this "image" man, as the subject of knowledge and freedom, is not only called to transform the world according to the measure of his rightful needs. He is not only called to the communion of persons proper to marriage (communio personarum) from which the family begins. He is also called to the covenant with God. He is not merely a creature of the Creator, but also the image of God. He is creature as image of God, and he is image of God as creature. The description of creation in Genesis 1-3 is joined with that of the first covenant of God with man. This covenant (just like creation) is a competely sovereign initiative of God the Creator. It will remain unchanged throughout the history of salvation, until the definitive and eternal covenant which God will make with humanity in Jesus Christ.

11. Man is the suitable subject for the covenant, because he was created "in the image" of God, capable of knowledge and freedom. Christian thought has perceived in man's "likeness" to God the foundation of man's call to participate in the interior life of God—his opening to the supernatural.

In this way, the revealed truth about man, created "in the image and likeness of God," contains not only all that is humanum in him, and therefore essential to his humanity, but potentially also what is divinum, and therefore gratuitous. That is to say, it contains also what God—Father, Son and Holy Spirit—had de facto foreseen for man as the supernatural dimension of his existence, without which man could not attain all the fullness destined for him by the Creator."

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

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Je salue les pèlerins de langue française, notamment les groupes venus de France, adultes de différentes villes, jeunes de lycées et collèges, et aussi du Canada. Je vous souhaite la paix et la joie du temps pascal et je vous bénis de tout coeur.

Ad alcuni gruppi di pellegrini di espressione inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I greet most cordially all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims present at this audience. In a special way, I offer a warm welcome to the groups of Lutheran visitors from Sweden. My greetings also go to those taking part in the International Formation Meeting of Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. In the joy and peace of our Risen Saviour I gladly impart to you all my Apostolic Blessing.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Bruder und Schwestern!

Diese wenigen Worte umreißen auch eure große Berufung. Jeder einzelne von euch ist ein solches ”Abbild Gottes“: das ist euer innerer Reichtum. Haltet ihn in Ehren; achtet ihn in euch selbst und bei jedem anderen Menschen, der vor euch tritt. Zusammen mit dieser ernsten Bitte, die mir mein Amt und mein Herz eingeben, begrüße ich heute neben vielen Einzelbesuchern und kleineren Gruppen besonders die Priester und Gläubigen der Diözesanwallfahrt von Mainz, die zusammen mit ihrem Bischof die Gräber der heiligen Petrus und Paulus besuchen und damit erneut deren Lebenszeugnis von der Auferstehung des Herrn eindringlich erfahren. Ich Grüße sodann die Jabreswallfabrt der Marianischen Burgersodalitat aus Trier, die in so verdienstvoller Weise ihre große Erfahrung im Besuch der heiligen Städten Roms so vielen aufgeschlossenen Pilgern zur Verfügung stellt. Einen herzlichen Gruß schließlich auch den katholischen Frauen aus Jenbach in /Österreich, die sich in der Heimat für einen vielfältigen apostolischen Dienst an ihren Mitchristen ehrenamtlich einsetzen.

Euch allen erbitte ich wahre innere Freude über eure christliche Berufung und weiterhin den nötigen Freimut zu einem katholischen Glaubenszeugnis in Wahrheit und Liebe, nach dem Maßstab des Herrn. Gelobt sei Jesus Christus!

Ai pellegrini di espressione spagnola

Saludo ahora muy cordialmente a todas las personas, familias y grupos de lengua española.

En particular, a las Religiosas Hijas de Jesús que se preparan a emitir los Votos Perpetuos en su Congregación. Que el Señor Resucitado os acompañe siempre en vuestro futuro apostolado.

Saludo igualmente al numeroso grupo de sacerdotes y seglares argentinos pertenecientes al Movimiento de los “Focolari”, a quienes aliento a un renovado testimonio de unidad y caridad cristiana “para que el mundo crea”.

Finalmente, saludo a los feligreses de la Parroquia de Castelló de Ampurias.

A todos los peregrinos procedentes de los diversos Países de América Latina y de España imparto, en la alegría pascual, mi Bendición Apostólica.

A numerosi pellegrini polacchi

Pozdrawiam wszystkich pielgrzymów: z parafii Matki Bożej Pocieszenia z Juszczyny i Stracinki; z parafii św. Krzyża w Zakopanem - archidiecezja krakowska; z diecezji tarnowskiej; z parafii św. Maksymiliana Kolbe z Konina - diecezia włocławska; absolwentki szkoły błogoslowionej Urszuli Ledóchowskiej z Pniew - archidiecezja poznańska; z parafii Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa z Obornik Śląskich - archidiecezja wrocławska; ojcowie salwatorianie; z parafii św. Krzyża z Jeleniej Góry; współpracowników apostolskich księży pallotynów z całej Polski; grupe rzemieślników warszawskich - cech krawiecki; siostry boromeuszki z Mikołowa z przelożona generalną; prócz tegopielgrzymów z polskiej parafii Chrystusa Króla y Londynie; z parafii polskiej w Wuppertalu - Niemcy Zachodnie; uczestników grupy turystycznej - w szczególności kolejarzy z Katowic - Orbisu i PKS-u z całej Polski.

(Po streszczeniu katechezy poświęconej nauce o stworzeniu człowieka Papiez powiedział:)

Myślę, że ta cała prawda o człowieku była głoszona naszym przodkom przed tysiącem lat, między innymi przez św. Wojciecha, którego uroczystośc jako Patrona Polski dzisiaj obchodzimy. Przybył on do Polski z Pragi, był bowiem biskupem Pragi, przybył także z Rzymu, był bowiem wygnańcem, który w Rzymie szukał oparcia. Przybył ako misionarz na dwór Bolesława Chrobrego. Jako misjonarz nad brzegiem Bałtyku poniósł śmierć męczeńską. Stał sie tym ewangelicznym ziarnem, które obumarło, ażeby zrodzić życie. Legł bowiem ten święty z pobratymczego w stosunku do nas narodu czeskiego u fundamentów Koscioła w Polsce, zwłaszcza jego hierarchicznej organizacji. W duchu pielgrzymuiemy nie tylko do Pragi, skąd przybył, ale także do Gniezna, gdzie znajdowaty się jego relikwie, na których budował się Kosciół w Polsce od tysiąca lat. W tym uwielbieniu św. Woiciecha, Patrona Polski łączę się dzisiaj z całym moim narodem w Ojczyźnie i na emigracji.

Ad alcuni pellegrini italiani

Saluto cordialmente il gruppo di Sacerdoti della Piccola opera della Divina Provvidenza del Beato Don Orione. Essi sono a Roma in questi giorni per un corso di aggiornamento concernente la loro responsabilità di educatori nei confronti delle giovani “leve” del loro Istituto. A voi, cari Confratelli nel sacerdozio, il mio augurio che questi giorni possano esservi fruttuosi a preparavi meglio alla vostra missione di formatori di anime. Con la mia Benedizione.

* * *

Un saluto ed un benvenuto ai missionari e missionarie dell’Opera “Piccola Casetta di Nazaret”, della diocesi di Aversa. Il gruppo comprende Sacerdoti, Religiose e benefattori provenienti dalle Filippine, e si accingono alla posa della prima pietra di un Santuario dedicato alla Madonna. Vi ringrazio, cari fratelli e sorelle, per la vostra presenza, formulo sinceri voti per il progresso nella vostra Opera, benedico di cuore voi e la vostra iniziativa, che auspico feconda per lo sviluppo della devozione alla Madre di Dio.

* * *

Ad altri devoti della Vergine Santissima va ora il mio saluto: si tratta del gruppo parrocchiale del Santuario della “Beata Vergine delle Genti” di Strà Val Tidone, della diocesi di Piacenza. Questi cari pellegrini hanno portato qui in piazza una bella statua della Madonna, simile a quella del Duomo di Milano, ed hanno chiesto che il Papa la benedica. Ben volentieri, cari fratelli, compio questo gesto, che vuol essere di buon auspicio, perché, per la mediazione della Madre di Dio, possano scendere abbondanti sulle vostre famiglie e sulla vostra parrocchia le benedizioni e le grazie celesti.

* * *

Rivolgo una parola di incoraggiamento ai membri dell’Associazione Ecologica “Marevivo” di Roma. Essa si propone di contribuire alla soluzione del problema così attuale dell’inquinamento ambientale. A voi, cari Signori, il mio augurio che la vostra attività possa arrecare un beneficio sempre più efficace in un campo così importante della convivenza civile e dell’umano benessere. Benedico di cuore il vostro impegno.

Ai giovani

Un affettuoso saluto desidero rivolgere ai Giovani ed alle Giovani presenti all’odierno nostro incontro. In particolare saluto i vari gruppi scolastici, fra i quali desidero rammentare gli alunni delle Scuole elementari di “Castellammare di Stabia” in provincia di Napoli, e quelli di Mirandola, in provincia di Modena.

In questo periodo pasquale, che fa memoria della Risurrezione di Gesù, formo voti che diate testimonianza, nella vostra vita, nelle vostre aspirazioni, nelle vostre scelte, di essere veramente anche voi “risorti in Cristo”: ciò comporta un continuo impegno per far crescere e sviluppare la vita di grazia, la fede, la speranza e la carità verso Dio e verso il prossimo, per essere degni dei figli adottivi di Dio.

Agli ammalati

Anche a voi, Fratelli e Sorelle che soffrite per la malattia, indirizzo il mio cordiale saluto, in questo clima di gioia per il trionfo di Gesù sulla morte e sul peccato.

E’ a Lui, a Cristo, morto per le nostre colpe e risorto per la nostra giustificazione, che affido i vostri dolori e le vostre infermità.

Vorrei oggi raccomandare in modo speciale alla preghiera vostra e di tutti gli ammalati l’Assemblea Nazionale dell’Azione Cattolica Italiana che inizierà dopodomani.

E’ un avvenimento importante, atteso il ruolo che l’Azione Cattolica è chiamata a svolgere in collaborazione con i Pastori della Chiesa in Italia.

A voi tutti ed ai vostri familiari imparto la mia affettuosa Benedizione.

Agli sposi novelli

Il mio pensiero si rivolge adesso a voi, Sposi novelli, che avete consacrato il vostro amore nel sacramento del matrimonio.

Alla vostra nascente Famiglia cristiana auguro che essa dia sempre la testimonianza di essere una autentica “Chiesa in miniatura”, animata e fecondata dalla fede, che è la guida luminosa nel continuo, quotidiano cammino della vita.

La mia Benedizione Apostolica accompagni voi tutti ora e sempre.

Viva partecipazione al dolore delle persone coinvolte nelle due gravi sciagure, accadute una nello Sri Lanka e l’altra nel Bangladesh, è espressa stamane dal Santo Padre, al termine dell’udienza generale. Queste le parole del Santo Padre.

È con profonda pena che ho appreso delle due gravi sciagure, accadute una nello Sri Lanka, dove il cedimento di una diga ha causato distruzione e morte; l’altra nel Bangladesh, per una violenta tempesta che ha rovesciato un battello carico di circa un migliaio di passeggeri, provocando la morte di una gran parte di essi.

Nell’esprimere la mia viva partecipazione al dolore delle persone coinvolte in tali dolorosi eventi, innalzo a Dio la mia preghiera di suffragio per le numerose vittime. Invoco poi da Dio il conforto per quanti soffrono, per le famiglie afflitte dalla perdita dei loro congiunti, per quanti si trovano in pena perché colpiti nel lavoro o negli affetti.

Auspico che anche in questa circostanza la solidarietà umana possa sovvenire alle indigenze provocate da simili disastri e che la forza della carità possa essere un valido rimedio ai bisogni emergenti ed alla tristezza del male subìto dai nostri fratelli.

© Copyright 1996 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana