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Jesus Christ, son of Israel, chosen people of the Old Covenant

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
General Audience, Wednesday 4 February 1987 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. Of the two genealogies of Jesus mentioned in the previous reflection, that of Matthew's Gospel (cf. 1:1-17) is made out in a descending order, that is, it lists the ancestors of Jesus, son of Mary, beginning from Abraham. The other in St. Luke's Gospel, (cf. 3:23-38) is in ascending order, beginning with Jesus and going back to Adam.

While Luke's genealogy links Jesus with the whole of humanity, Matthew's genealogy makes evident the fact that he was of the offspring of Abraham. It is as a son of Israel, God's Chosen People in the old covenant, to which he directly belongs, that Jesus of Nazareth is fully a member of the great human family.

2. Jesus was born among this people; he grew up in their religion and culture. He was a true Israelite who thought and expressed himself in Aramaic according to the conceptual and linguistic categories of his contemporaries. He followed the customs and usages of his surroundings. As an Israelite he was a faithful heir of the old covenant.

St. Paul highlights this fact when in the Letter to the Romans he writes of his people: "They are Israelites, and to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenant, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ" (Rom 9:4-5). In the Letter to the Galatians he recalls that Christ was "born under the law" (Gal 4:4).

3. Shortly after his birth Jesus was circumcised according to the ritual prescriptions of the Mosaic law, thus becoming officially a member of the people of the covenant: "At the end of eight days, when he was circumcised, he was called Jesus" (Lk 2:21).

The Infancy Gospel, however scarce in details concerning the first part of Jesus' life, mentions however that "his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover" (Lk 2:41), an indication of their fidelity to the law and tradition of Israel. "When he [Jesus] was twelve years old, they went up according to custom" (Lk 2:42). "When they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, without his parents knowing it" (Lk 2:43). After searching for three days "they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions" (Lk 2:46). Superimposed on the joy of Mary and Joseph were his words which they did not understand: "How is it that you sought me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Lk 2:49).

4. Apart from this event, the whole period of the infancy and youth of Jesus is passed over in silence in the Gospel. It is the period of his "hidden life," summarized by Luke in two simple statements: Jesus "went down with them [Mary and Joseph] and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them" (Lk 2:51); and "He progressed steadily in wisdom and age and grace before God and men" (Lk 2:52).

5. We learn from the Gospels that Jesus lived in his own family, in the house of Joseph, who took the place of a father in regard to Mary's son by assisting and protecting him and gradually training him in his own trade of carpenter. The people of the town of Nazareth regarded him as "the carpenter's son" (cf. Mt 13:55). When he began to teach, his fellow citizens asked with surprise: "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?" (Mk 6:3). Besides his mother they mentioned also his "brothers" and his "sisters," that is, those members of his kin ("cousins"), who lived at Nazareth. It was they who, as the evangelist Mark mentions, sought to dissuade Jesus from his activity of teaching (cf. Mk 3:21). Evidently they did not find in him anything to justify the beginning of a new activity. They thought that Jesus was just like any other Israelite, and should remain such.

6. Jesus' public ministry began at the age of thirty when he held his first discourse at Nazareth: "He went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the sabbath day. And he stood up to read; and there was handed to him the book of the prophet Isaiah..." (Lk 4:16-17). Jesus read the passage beginning with the words: "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor..." (Lk 4:18). Jesus then turned to those present and announced: "Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing" (Lk 4:21).

7. In his teaching, which began at Nazareth and extended to Galilee and to Judea as far as the capital, Jerusalem, Jesus made use of the rich religious tradition of Israel. He penetrated it with a new insight, revealed its key values and set out its prophetic perspectives. He did not hesitate to condemn deviations from the plan of the God of the covenant.

In this way he brought about, within the scope of the one and the same divine revelation, the transition from the "old" to the "new," not by abolishing the law but by bringing it to fulfillment (cf. Mt 5:17). It is with this thought that the Letter to the Hebrews opens: "In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son..." (Heb 1:1).

8. This transition from the "old" to the "new" characterizes the whole teaching of the "prophet" of Nazareth. A particularly clear example is the Sermon on the Mount recorded in Matthew's Gospel. Jesus says: "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill....' But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment" (Mt 5:21-22). "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt 5:27-28). "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you..." (Mt 5:43-44).

Teaching in this way, Jesus states at the same time: "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Mt 5:17).

9. This "fulfillment" is a key word which refers not only to the teaching of the truth revealed by God, but also to the whole history of Israel, or of the people of which Jesus is a son. This extraordinary history, guided from the very beginning by the powerful hand of the God of the covenant, finds its fulfillment in Jesus. The plan which the God of the covenant had inscribed from the very beginning in this history, making it the history of salvation, was ordered to the "fullness of time" (cf. Gal 4:4) which is realized in Jesus Christ. The prophet of Nazareth did not hesitate to speak of it from his very first discourse delivered in the synagogue of his own town.

10. Jesus' words recorded in John's Gospel are particularly eloquent, when he said to his opponents: "Your father Abraham rejoiced that he was to see my day..." and in the face of their incredulity: "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" Jesus again more explicitly asserted: "Truly, truly, I say to you before Abraham was, I am" (cf. Jn 8:56-58). It is evident that Jesus affirmed not only that he is the fulfillment of God's salvific plan, inscribed in the history of Israel from the time of Abraham, but that his existence precedes the time of Abraham, even to the point of identifying himself with "He who is" (cf. Ex 3:14). Precisely for this reason, he, Jesus Christ, is the fulfillment of the history of Israel, because he transcends this history by his mystery. Here, however, we touch another dimension of Christology that we shall deal with later.

11. For the present we shall conclude with a final reflection on the two genealogies recorded by the evangelists Matthew and Luke. From them it follows that Jesus is a true son of Israel and that, as such, he belongs to the whole human family. If therefore we see the prophecies of the Old Testament fulfilled in Jesus, a descendant of Abraham, in him, as the descendant of Adam, we can discern, following the teaching of St. Paul, the principle and kernel of the "recapitulation" of all humanity (cf. Eph 1:10)."

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

Ai gruppi di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

i wish to welcome those taking part in the current course of the NATO Defense College. During your studies here in Rome you have the opportunity to meet people from a variety of countries and to broaden your understanding of humanity and culture. I hope that this experience will also help you to come to a fuller appreciation of the growing interdependence of all nations and the urgent need for solidarity and mutual cooperation among all peoples. May your efforts lead to greater peace in the world.

I would also like to greet the group of priests and religious from the Diocese of Pittsburgh. I trust that your pilgrimage to Rome will renew in your hearts your love for Christ and the Gospel. May you always find joy in proclaiming the Good News of salvation.

And to all the English-speaking visitors, especially those coming from the United States, I extend very cordial greetings. God bless you all.

Ad un gruppo di visitatori giapponesi,
membri della religione «Tenri»

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Illustri membri della Religione «Tenri» di Gifu, vi ringrazio di cuore per essere venuti a trovarmi in Vaticano.

Eleviamo a Dio la nostra preghiera per la pace nel mondo, affinché tutti  i popoli possano godere della serenità e di un ordinato sviluppo sociale.

Con questo augurio vi imparto volentieri la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung grüße ich alle heute anwesenden Pilger deutscher Sprache, besonders die zahlreichen Gruppen aus Osterreich. Herzlich willkommen heiße ich die Alumnen des Wiener Priesterseminars sowie die Seminaristen und Diakone aus der Diözese Limburg, die ich auf ihrem Weg zum Priestertum mit besten Wünschen und mit meinem Gebet begleite. Namentlich grüße ich ferner noch die beiden Pilgergruppen aus den Diözesen Eisenstadt und Wien, für deren geistlichen Erneuerungskurs in Rocca di Papa ich Gottes Licht und Beistand erbitte. Diesen sowie allen genannten Gruppen und auch den Einzelpilgern erteile ich von Herzen meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Mi más cordial saludo se dirije ahora a todos los peregrinos que, llegados de distintos lugares de América Latina o España, están presentes en este Encuentro.

Con particular afecto saludo asimismo a las peregrinaciones de México y del Colegio «San José», de Asunción (Paraguay). Como recuerdo de este homenaje de filial devoción al Papa, os animo a dar testimonio de vuestra fe cristiana en todos los momentos de vuestra vida. Que Jesús de Nazareth, el Hijo de Dios, sea siempre vuestro amigo y compañero.


Me es grato saludar, por último, a los peregrinos de la Arquidiócesis de Santiago de Chile. Dentro de poco voy a tener la inmensa dicha de visitar a los amadísimos hijo de la nación chilena, como Pastor de la Iglesia Universal. Pido a Dios, por mediación de la Virgen Santísima, «Reina de la Paz», que los ideales cristianos de reconciliación y amor fraterno, así como de convivencia pacífica, sean una constante realidad en vuestros corazones y en vuestra sociedad.

De corazón imparto a todos mi Benedición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli polacchi

Witam obecnych na tej audiencji pielgrzymów z Polski, z emigracji, w szczególności uczestników grup turystycznych PKS, Orbisu i Turysty . . . Szczęść Boże wszystkim obecnym i wszystkim Rodakom.

Ai fedeli italiani

Saluto tutti i gruppi di lingua italiana, qui convenuti da varie regioni della penisola.

Rivolgo un pensiero particolare al gruppo dei Sacerdoti Cappuccini, che partecipano a Roma ad un corso di formazione permanente, e a quello delle Religiose, appartenenti a diverse Congregazioni, che in questi giorni svolgono presso la Casa “ Mater Ecclesiae ” della Suore Dorotee da Cemmo un corso di aggiornamento spirituale.

Carissimi, vi esprimo apprezzamento ed incoraggiamento per l’impegno che mostrate nello sforzo di rinnovamento interiore alla luce dei documenti conciliari. Vi auguro che dai vostri incontri possiate ricavare uno stimolo per rinsaldare gli ideali religiosi da voi abbracciati e per esprimere in modo sempre più generoso la vostra dedizione ai fratelli.

* * *

Saluto pure i fedeli della Parrocchia di S. Antonio e S. Michele Arcangelo in Monte di Procida, diocesi di Pozzuoli, che sono venuti insieme col loro Parroco, Don Antonio Diana, per far benedire la prima pietra della nuova Chiesa parrocchiale, essendo stata la precedente distrutta dal terremoto del 1980.

Volentieri benedico la Pietra da voi qui recata, insieme alle altre due destinate alla fondazione di chiese in territorio di missione, e vi esorto a considerare sempre la vostra parrocchia un vero focolare spirituale che vi trovi uniti nelle preghiere e nella solidarietà verso i bisogni altrui. I Santi Antonio e Michele Arcangelo ai quali è affidata la vostra comunità, intercedano sempre per voi e per le vostre famiglie.

* * *

Un cordiale saluto va anche agli artisti e al personale del Circo “ Nando Orfei ”, i quali prima di lasciare Roma hanno voluto prendere parte a questa Udienza ed offrire un saggio della loro bravura.

Vi ringrazio per la vostra presenza e vi auguro ogni successo nella vostra attività professionale, destinata a far vivere momenti di serenità e di svago ai bambini e agli adulti. Vi auguro altresì che essa sia sempre apportatrice di una letizia sana e costruttiva.

A tutti imparto la mia Benedizione.

Ai giovani

Mentre rivolgo il mio cordiale saluto a voi, giovani, mi è caro ricordarvi quanto sia importante tener desto e ben indirizzare il desiderio di compimento della vita, del rapporto con Gesù. La fede in Lui è bella e lieta e trasforma le persone che ne vivono, rendendo la loro esistenza una riposta di amore riconoscente all’amore infinito di Dio e un dono di sé agli altri. La Vergine Maria interceda per voi quelle grazie, le quali fanno crescere nella vostra giovane esistenza l’influsso di colui, che solo è l’“Uomo perfetto”: il Cristo.

Condividendo la vostra gioia e speranza, vi accompagno con la mia Benedizione.

Agli ammalati

La mia parola di benvenuto va ora a voi, ammalati, che saluto con speciale affetto. Carissimi, vi sono vicino, auspicando ogni bene per voi. Vi esorto a saper accettare la sofferenza, che ferisce il vostro corpo ed il vostro animo, per amore del Redentore, primo offerente di quel santo e perfetto sacrificio, a cui tutto il popolo cristiano è impegnato a partecipare.

La Madonna vi conceda di riconoscere, nella passione, la gloria del Figlio, perché la sua Croce - da voi in modo particolare condivisa - sia per tutti fonte di pace. La consapevolezza della materna protezione di Maria vi conforti ogni giorno. Di cuore vi imparto la Benedizione Apostolica.

Agli sposi novelli

Con l'augurio che la carità di Cristo sia sempre principio autentico di vita, sul quale è saldamente stabilita la vostra unione matrimoniale, saluto voi, sposi novelli, presenti a questa Udienza. Carissimi, abbiate la certezza che la fedeltà di Dio certamente custodirà la vostra, se ogni giorno responsabilmente farete fiorire la sua grazia, consapevoli che il sacramento nuziale purifica il vostro reciproco amore e lo eleva ad immagine dell’amore del Redentore per la sua Chiesa. Vi sostenga la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Le gravi notizie che giungono da più parti del Medio Oriente sono anche per me motivo di vivissima preoccupazione e di grande dolore.

La guerra tra Iraq e Iran ha assunto dimensioni ancor più drammatiche, quasi da ecatombe. Si parla di decine di migliaia di combattenti falciati ogni giorno sui fronti di battaglia e di altre migliaia di persone inermi - bambini, donne e anziani - vittime di bombardamenti particolarmente intensi sulle città.

Gli inviti a una ricomposizione dignitosa formulati da istanze internazionali e dai paesi amici dell’Iraq e dell’Iran, non sembrano finora trovare ascolto. Sento mio dovere di unirmi alla voce di tutti coloro che si adoperano per far cessare questa tremenda lotta, giustamente solleciti di scongiurare altri eccidi e di aiutare i due popoli vicini a trovare una soluzione equa del micidiale confronto.

Il mio pensiero va anche al Libano, avvolto in un intreccio di sofferenze e di dolori reso più complicato dalla nuova ondata dei sequestri di persone di varie nazionalità e di ogni rango. Penso con affetto e solidarietà alla continuata tragedia di quelle care popolazioni e alle sofferenze dei rapiti - qualcuno dei quali preso mentre svolgeva un’azione altamente umanitaria - e all’angoscia dei loro cari. Mi auguro che sia evitata una temibile catena di azioni e reazioni, che provocherebbe situazioni ancor più difficili e pericoli sempre maggiori per il paese e per la regione.

Preghiamo per questi popoli, per le vittime e per le loro famiglie e per il ritorno incolume dei sequestrati. Invochiamo dal Signore il dono della pace, sempre più necessaria e desiderata.

© Copyright 1996 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana