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Jesus Christ reveals the Trinity

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
General Audience, Wednesday 19 August 1987 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. The core of the catecheses concerning Jesus Christ rests on the central theme of revelation: ”Jesus Christ, the man born of the Virgin Mary, is the Son of God. The Gospels and the other books of the New Testament pinpoint this fundamental Christian truth, which we have sought in the preceding catecheses to illustrate by investigating its various aspects. This testimony of the Gospels is reflected in the Church's solemn teaching in the Councils, which is expressed in the creeds, (first of all the Nicene-Constantinopolitan). Likewise, it is also expressed in the Church's constant ordinary teaching, in the liturgy, in prayer and the spiritual life which she promotes and directs.

2. The truth concerning Jesus Christ, Son of God, constitutes the self-revelation of God, the keynote of the doctrine which unveils the inexpressible mystery of one God in the Blessed Trinity. According to the Letter to the Hebrews, when God, "in our own time...has spoken to us through his Son" (Heb 1:2), he revealed the reality of his personal life - that life wherein he remains an absolute unity in the divinity, while at the same time it is the Trinity, the divine communion of the three Persons. The Son, "who came from the Father and entered the world" (cf. Jn 16:28) testified directly to this communion. The Son alone testified, none other. The Old Testament, when God "spoke through the prophets" (Heb 1:1), knew nothing of this personal mystery of God. Undoubtedly, certain elements of the Old Testament revelation constituted a preparation for what we have in the Gospels. Nevertheless, only the Son was capable of introducing us to this mystery. Since "no one has seen God," no one knew the mystery of his inner life. The Son alone knew it. "It is only the Son, who is nearest to the Father's heart, who has made him known" (Jn 1:18).

3. In the course of the preceding catecheses it was possible to consider the principal aspects of this revelation, thereby affording us the opportunity to contemplate with complete clarity the truth about the divine sonship of Jesus Christ. As we now conclude this cycle of meditations, it is helpful to recall some of the salient events in which we find revealed the mystery of the Father and of the Holy Spirit, together with the truth concerning the divine sonship of the Son of Man—the Son of Mary.

The first in chronological order is the moment of the annunciation at Nazareth. According to the angel, he who would be born of the Virgin is the Son of the Most High, the Son of God. In these words God is revealed as Father, and the Son of God is presented as the person who would be born through the work of the Holy Spirit. "The Holy Spirit will come upon you" (Lk 1:35). Thus, the annunciation narrative contains the Trinitarian mystery—Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This mystery is also present in the theophany during the baptism of Jesus in the Jordan, when the Father by means of a voice from above, testified to the Son as being "the beloved." The voice was accompanied by the Spirit "descending like a dove and coming down on him" (Mt 3:16). This theophany is not unlike a "visual" confirmation of the words of the prophet Isaiah, to which Jesus referred at Nazareth as he began his messianic activity. "The Spirit of the Lord has been given to me, for he has anointed me; he has sent me" (Lk 4:18; cf. Is 61:1).

4. In the development of his mission we find the words which Jesus himself used to introduce his listeners to the mystery of the divine Trinity. In particular there is that joyous declaration noted in Matthew's Gospel (cf. 11:25-27) as also in St. Luke (cf. 10:21-22). We refer to it as joyous since we read in the text of St. Luke: "It was then that, filled with joy by the Holy Spirit" (Lk 10:21), Jesus said, "I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and of earth, for hiding these things from the learned and the clever and revealing them to mere children. Yes, Father, for this is what it has pleased you to do. Everything has been entrusted to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, just as no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son wishes to reveal him" (Mt 11:25-27).

So, thanks to this "exultation of Jesus in the Holy Spirit", we are introduced into the "profundity of God"—into those profound depths which the Spirit alone can plumb—that inner unity of the life of God, that inscrutable communion of Persons.

5. The words used by Matthew and Luke harmonize perfectly with the various affirmations of Jesus which we find in the Gospel of St. John, as we have already seen in our preceding catecheses. Supreme among such affirmations is that assertion of Jesus which pinpoints his unity with the Father: "The Father and I are one" (Jn 10:30). This concept is repeated and developed in the priestly prayer (cf. Jn 17), and especially throughout the discourse of Jesus in the upper room as he prepared his apostles for his departure that would take place in the course of the paschal events.

6. It is precisely here, in the light of this departure, that Jesus pronounced in a definitive manner, those words which reveal the mystery of the Holy Spirit and his relationship to the Father and the Son. Christ who said, "I am in the Father and the Father is in me" also announced to the apostles the coming of the Holy Spirit whom he asserted is "the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father" (Jn 15:26). Jesus added that he will "pray to the Father" that this Spirit of truth be conferred on the disciples so that he will remain with them forever as "Consoler" (cf. Jn 14:16). He assured the apostles that "the Father will send the Spirit in my name" (cf. Jn 14:26), and "he will be my witness" (cf. Jn 15:26). All this will be verified, Jesus concluded, following his departure during the paschal events, through the passion and resurrection: "If I do go I will send him to you" (Jn 16:7).

7. "On that day you will know that I am in the Father" Jesus declared yet again, implying that through the work of the Holy Spirit the mystery of the unity of the Father and the Son will be fully clarified. "I in the Father—and the Father in me." Such a mystery can be fully illustrated only by the "Spirit who scrutinizes the hidden things of God" (cf. 1 Cor 2:10), where, in the communion of Persons the unity of the divine life of God is constituted. In this way also the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son in relation to the believers and the Church is illuminated by the work of the Holy Spirit. Jesus stated: "On the day (when the apostles will receive the Spirit of truth), you will know (not only) that I am in the Father (but also that) you (are) in me and I am in you" (Jn 14:20). For this reason the Incarnation is the foundation of our divine sonship through Christ; it is the basis of the mystery of the Church as the body of Christ.

8. But here it is important to point out that the Incarnation, even if it refers directly to the Son, is the work of the One and Triune God (cf. Fourth Lateran Council). This is already testified by the message of the annunciation (cf. Lk 1:26-38). Furthermore, by his teaching, Jesus has proposed for our consideration "vistas closed to human reason" (as we read in Gaudium et Spes, 24)—those of the inner life of the one God in the Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Finally, having fulfilled his messianic mission, in departing from his apostles on the fortieth day after the resurrection, Jesus completed in every detail that which he had announced. "As the Father has sent me I also send you" (Jn 20:21). He told them: "Go, therefore, make disciples of all the nations; baptize them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" (Mt 28:19).

In these concluding words of the Gospel prior to the beginning of the Church's evangelizing mission in the world, Jesus Christ gave her the supreme truth of his revelation: the indivisible unity of the Trinity.

From that time forward the Church has raised her voice in adoration and amazement, but always with profound emotion, in unison with John the evangelist at the conclusion of the prologue of the Fourth Gospel: "No one has ever seen God; it is the only Son, who is nearest to the Father's heart, who has made him known" (Jn 1:18).

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

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica francese

Chers pèlerins et visiteurs de langue française,

je suis heureux de vous accueillir ici avec ce message. Je salue spécialement les Filles de Notre-Dame du Sacré-Cœur d’Issoudun, venues à Rome pour le quatorzième chapitre général. Que votre pèlerinage, sous les auspices de Marie, vous donne à toutes un nouvel élan missionnaire pour votre apostolat dans l’Eglise d’aujourd’hui!

Je salue aussi les jeunes du Groupement d’Activités Catholiques Internationales. Que cette rencontre au cœur de l’Eglise universelle renouvelle votre foi et avive votre désir de répandre autour de vous la bonne Nouvelle de l’Evangile!

J’offre également mes vœux aux pèlerins congolais en route vers la Terre Sainte, après avoir visité Lisieux et Lourdes. Que votre périple sur les traces de Notre Seigneur Jésus Christ enrichisse votre foi et vous affermisse dans votre mission de laïcs engagés.

Nous sommes heureux aussi d’accueillir et d’écouter la chorale de la mission des Capucins de Centrafrique, qui vient ici témoigner de sa joie et de sa culture.

A ces groupes, comme à tous les pèlerins présents à cette audience, je donne de grand cśur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ad alcuni pellegrini di espressione linguistica inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I am happy to welcome the pilgrims and visitors present at this audience. In particular, my cordial greeting goes to the Marian Year Pilgrimage to Rome, Lourdes and Fatima sponsored by the Marian Fathers of Stockbridge, Massachusetts. Upon you and all the individuals and groups from various countries of the English-speaking world I invoke God’s choicest blessings in the peace and love of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ai numerosi fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

vaya ahora mi más cordial saludo a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua espańola.

En particular, deseo dar la bienvenida a esta audiencia a todos los jóvenes y a las jóvenes procedentes de España y de los diversos países de América Latina, y les aliento a ser testigos de Cristo, portadores y difusores de su mensaje de verdad, luz y vida en medio del mundo para la salvación de todos los hombres. E1 mundo tiene necesidad de testigos convencidos e intrépidos. Mi saludo quiere llegar también a todos vuestros coetáneos y compañeros de estudio y de trabajo; incluso a aquellos alejados de los ideales cristianos. E1 Papa también piensa en ellos con afecto. A todas las personas, familias y grupos de lengua española imparto con afecto la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai connazionali polacchi

Pozdrawiam serdecznie wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski: z bazyliki Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa w Krakowie, księża jezuici; również wspólnotę akademicką jezuitów, przy tymże kościele, “WAJ”; z parafii Wniebowzięcia Matki Bożej z Katowic; z parafii Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa ze Skarżyska-Kamiennej; kapłanów z Radomia; pielgrzymów z parafii Matki Bożej Miłosierdzia z Radomia; z parafii św. Teresy od Dzieciątka Jezus, Warszawa-Tamka; z parafii Matki Bożej Bolesnej z Gdańska; absolwentów Duszpasterstwa Akademickiego z Gorzowa Wielkopolskiego; z parafii Miłosierdzia Bożego ze Szczecina; również ze Szczecina, pielgrzymkę młodzieży z parafii św. Józefa; kapłanów archidiecezji wrocławskie; na piętnastolecie święceń; młodych współ pracowników misyjnych księży pallotynów z całej Polski; z Raby Wyżnej; pielgrzymkę kapłanów i ich rodzin wraz z wiernymi z Podstolic, archidiecezja krakowska; grupę katolików świeckich z Lublina; pielgrzymkę młodzieży z Kraśnika Lubelskiego, z parafii Wniebowzięcia Matki Bożej; z parafii św. Krzyża i św. Józefa z Tczewa, diecezja cheł mińska; również z Tczewa, z parafii Matki Bożej Matki Kościoła; grupy nauczycieli: z Kętrzyna i Bartoszyc, z Rzeszowa, Mielca i Wrocławia; Logos-Tour z Łodzi; prócz tego grupę młodzieży zorganizowaną przez Biuro Usług Turystycznych Has -Tour, Lublin; zespół pieśni i tańca “Polanin”, z Łodzi; zespół  folklorystyczny Akademii Rolniczo-Technicznej z Olsztyna; wreszcie uczestników grup turystycznych. Wszystkich serdecznie witam . . . Wszystkim wam, którzy przybywacie do Rzymu życzę, ażebyście tutaj szukali i tutaj znaleźli potwierdzenie tej wiary, którą tu przynieśli Apostołowie Piotr i Paweł , i za którą oddali swoje życie.

Ad alcuni gruppi italiani

Sono lieto di rivolgere il mio cordiale saluto a voi sacerdoti della diocesi di Cremona, che avete voluto festeggiare il 40° anniversario di Ordinazione anche con un pellegrinaggio alle Tombe degli Apostoli. Auspico che la permanenza a Roma sia per ciascuno di voi un arricchimento spirituale, così che possiate tornare agli impegni quotidiani col desiderio di meglio servire la Chiesa e di amare sempre più profondamente quanti sono affidati alle vostre cure pastorali.

Carissimi, amministrate con dedizione i misteri di Dio, che danno conforto, grazia e pienezza di vita a quanti li ricevono, e perseverate nella preghiera e nel filiale dialogo con Dio.

Vi accompagno con affetto e, mentre invoco su di voi la protezione di Maria, vi benedico di cuore.

Ai giovani

Rivolgo ora un saluto ai giovani, presenti a questa Udienza. Carissimi, uno degli impegni più seri della vostra condizione è quello di farvi un’idea giusta sul significato della persona umana. La fede dice che l’uomo è creato ad immagine di Dio, il quale gli ha comunicato i suoi beni ed ha su di lui dei piani da realizzare.

Il volto della società futura, che da voi prenderà il suo carattere e il suo stile, dipenderà dalla vostra capacità di affermare e garantire una giusta consapevolezza di tutti gli elementi che compongono la persona umana. Vi chiedo dunque di avere sempre una grande stima della visione cristiana dell’uomo. Essa si incentra nel primato dello spirito, senza nulla togliere ai valori della corporeità, ed insegna a scoprire non solo ciò che l’uomo è, ma anche quello che egli deve e può essere. La sincera meditazione sul valore della vostra persona ed il rispetto per la verità intera sull’uomo vi guidino nella realizzazione del vostro avvenire. Vi benedico di cuore.

Agli ammalati

Il mio pensiero si rivolge ora a tutti gli ammalati, presenti a questo incontro. Vi ringrazio per il sentimento di bontà e di fede che vi ha condotto qui, e vi esorto a rivolgere il vostro sguardo al Cristo Crocifisso. Egli è segno ed immagine dell’amore infinito di Dio verso ogni uomo e voi siete testimoni silenziosi, pazienti, eloquenti della bontà di Dio Padre, il quale nella sofferenza del Figlio suo si china verso ogni creatura che soffre. Il dolore non è un motivo per respingere Dio, ma una ragione per cercarlo al fine di trovare in lui conforto e speranza. La fede vi sorregga in queste convinzioni! A voi, ed a coloro che vi assistono, volentieri imparto la mia Benedizione.

Agli sposi novelli

Un cordiale benvenuto, infine, a tutti gli sposi novelli. Il mio augurio è che Dio, autore della vostra unione sacramentale, conservi in voi tale suo dono per tutta la vostra esistenza, così che la vocazione coniugale raggiunga in voi il suo perfetto compimento. Essa consiste nel riconoscere che dall’amore eterno di Dio nasce la forza di un affetto senza fine per gli sposi cristiani, come eterno è l’amore di Cristo e della Chiesa, e che dallo stesso amore di Dio deriva a voi la missione di collaboratori suoi e di Cristo, nella possibilità di generare nuove vite e di formare nuovi cristiani. Il vostro matrimonio sia una testimonianza vigorosa di questo amore e della sua grazia. A tutti voi la mia Benedizione.

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