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Jesus Christ, Son of Man

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
General Audience, Wednesday 29 April 1987 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. Jesus Christ, Son of man and of God: this is the culminating theme of our reflections on the identity of the Messiah. It is the fundamental truth of the Christian revelation and of the faith: the humanity and divinity of Christ, on which we shall have to reflect more fully later. For the present we shall complete our analysis of the messianic titles already present in some way in the Old Testament, and we shall see in what sense Jesus attributes them to himself.

As regards the title "Son of Man," it is significant that Jesus made frequent use of it when speaking of himself. The others called him "Son of God," as we shall see in the following reflection. He, however, defined himself as "Son of Man," whereas no one else called him this, except the deacon Stephen before his stoning (cf. Acts 7:56) and the author of the Book of Revelation in two texts (cf. Rev 1:13; 14:14).

2. The title "Son of Man" is from the Book of the Prophet Daniel in the Old Testament. The following is the text which describes a vision which the prophet had at night: "I saw visions in the night, and behold, with the clouds of heaven there came one like a Son of Man, and he came to the Ancient of Days and was presented before him. And to him was given dominion and glory and kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve him; his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom is one that shall not be destroyed" (Dan 7:13-14).

When the prophet seeks an explanation of this vision, he receives the following reply: "the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom for ever, for ever and ever.... And the kingdom and the dominion and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven shall be given to the people of the saints of the Most High" (Dan 7:18-27). The text of Daniel concerns a single person and the people. We note immediately that that which refers to the person of the Son of Man is found in the angel's words in the annunciation to Mary, "He shall reign forever...and his kingdom shall have no end" (Lk 1:33).

3. When Jesus called himself "Son of Man," he used an expression deriving from the canonical tradition of the Old Testament and which is found also in the Jewish apocrypha. It must be noted, however, that the expression "Son of Man" (ben-adam) had become in the Aramaic of Jesus' time an expression to mean simply "man" (bar ethas). Therefore, in calling himself "Son of Man," Jesus was able to conceal as it were behind the veil of the common meaning of the term its messianic significance in prophetic teaching. It is not by chance, however, that though the statements about the Son of Man appear especially in the context of the earthly life and passion of Christ, they are also found in reference to his eschatological elevation.

4. In the context of the earthly life of Jesus of Nazareth we find texts such as: "Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests: but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head" (Mt 8:20); and also: "The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners'" (Mt 11:19). On other occasions Jesus' words assume a character more strongly indicative of his power, such as when he said, "The Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath" (Mk 2:28). On the occasion of the cure of the paralytic who had been let down through an opening in the roof, Christ stated as it were in a challenging tone, "But that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins, I say to you--he said to the paralytic--rise, take up your pallet and go home" (Mk 2:10-11). Elsewhere Jesus stated, "For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to his generation" (Lk 11:30). On another occasion there were the prophetic words shrouded in mystery: "The days are coming when you will desire to see one of the days of the Son of Man, and you will not see it" (Lk 17:22).

5. Some theologians note an interesting parallel between Ezekiel's prophecy and the statements of Jesus. The prophet wrote that God said to him: "Son of man, I send you to the people of Israel...who have rebelled against me.... You shall say to them, 'Thus says the Lord God'" (Ez 2:3-4). "Son of man, you dwell in the midst of a rebellious house, who have eyes to see, but see not, who have ears to hear, but hear not" (Ez 12:2). "And you, O son of man...shall set your face toward the siege of Jerusalem...and you shall prophesy against the city" (Ez 4:1-7). "Son of man, propound a riddle and speak an allegory to the house of Israel" (Ez 17:2).

Echoing the words of the Prophet, Jesus taught, "The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost" (Lk 19:10). "For the Son of Man also came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Mk 1:45; cf. also Mt 20:29). The "Son of Man...when he comes in the glory of his Father," will be ashamed of whoever is ashamed of him and of his words (cf. Mk 8:38).

6. The identity of the Son of Man appears in the twofold aspect of representative of God, herald of the kingdom of God, and the prophet calling people to conversion. In addition, he is the representative of the people, one who shares their earthly condition and sufferings in order to redeem and save them according to the Father's plan. As he himself said when speaking to Nicodemus, "As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up, that whoever believes in him may have eternal life" (Jn 3:14-15).

Jesus repeated this clear announcement of the passion: "And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again" (Mk 8:31). No less than three times we find this forecast in Mark's Gospel (cf. 9:31; 10:33-34), and on each occasion Jesus spoke of himself as "Son of Man."

7. Before the tribunal of Caiaphas Jesus used the same term in reference to himself. In reply to the question, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?" he answered, "I am; and you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven" (Mk 14:62). These words echo Daniel's prophecy on the "Son of Man who comes with the clouds of heaven" (Dan 7:13) and Psalm 110 which sees the Lord seated on the right hand of God (cf. Ps 110:1).

8. Jesus repeatedly spoke of the lifting up of the "Son of Man," but he did not conceal from his hearers that this includes the humiliation of the cross. To the objections and incredulity of the people and of the disciples who well understood the tragic nature of his allusions and who even asked him, "How can you say that the Son of Man must be lifted up? Who is this Son of Man?" (Jn 12:34), Jesus replied: "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own authority but speak thus as the Father taught me" (Jn 8:28). Jesus asserted that his "lifting up" by means of the cross would constitute his glorification. A little later he added, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified" (Jn 12:23). It is significant that on the departure of Judas from the upper room, Jesus said, "Now is the Son of Man glorified, and in him God is glorified" (Jn 13:31).

9. This constitutes the content of life, passion, death and glory of which the prophet Daniel had offered a faint outline. Moreover, Jesus did not hesitate to apply to himself the character of eternal and unending kingship which Daniel had assigned to the work of the Son of Man, when in the prophecy of the end of the world he proclaimed, "Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory" (Mk 13:26; cf. Mt 24:30). It is in this eschatological perspective that the Church's work of evangelization must take place. Jesus let it be known, "You will not have gone through all the towns of Israel, before the Son of Man comes" (Mt 10:23). And he asked himself the question, "When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Lk 18:8).

10. If as Son of Man Jesus fulfilled by his life, passion, death and resurrection the messianic plan outlined in the Old Testament, at the same time he took his place with that same name as a true man among men, as a son of a woman, Mary of Nazareth. By means of this woman, his mother, he the "Son of God," is simultaneously "Son of Man," true man as attested by the Letter to the Hebrews: "He has truly been made one of us, like us in all things except sin" (Heb 4:15; cf. GS 22)."

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

Ai fedeli di lingua francese

Je salue avec joie tous les pèlerins de langue française, notamment de France et du Canada.

J'ai noté le nombreux pèlerinage diocésain d’Avignon, ceux de diverses paroisses, les groupes de malades ou handicapés, de personnes âgées, d’enfants, de jeunes, ou les groupements professionnels, de cheminots, de gendarmes, de cadres, les associations spirituelles. Je recommande à votre prière le voyage pastoral que j’entreprends demain en République Fédérale d’Allemagne. Et je vous bénis de tout cœur.

Ad alcuni gruppi di visitatori di espressione inglese

I would like to extend a special welcome to the members of the Anglican pilgrimage from Backwell. My cordial greetings also go to the group of pilgrims from Zimbabwe.

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I offer a particular word of welcome and congratulations to the Class of 1937 of the North American College who are celebrating their Fiftieth Anniversary of Ordination to the Priesthood. Together with them, I extend warmest greetings to the Fourth Year students of the North American College who will be ordained deacons tomorrow in Saint Peter’s Basilica. Dear brothers, may you always be known for your fidelity to Christ and the Gospel, a fidelity which is possible only if you are men of prayer. As I said in my Holy Thursday Letter to Priests, “As sharers in the priesthood of Christ, which is inseparably connected with his sacrifice, we too must place at the foundation of our priestly existence the cornerstone of prayer. It will enable us to harmonize our lives with our priestly service, preserving intact the identity and authenticity of this vocation”. May you always be faithful messengers of the Cross and Resurrection of Christ.

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And to all the English-speaking visitors, especially those from England, Norway, Denmark, Zimbabwe and the United States I offer a cordial welcome and I ask the Risen Lord to bless you with his grace and peace.

Ai numerosi pellegrini tedeschi

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung grüße ich herzlich alle anwesenden Pilger und Besucher aus den deutschsprachigen Ländern. Mein brüderlicher Gruß gilt besonders der Gruppe von Priestern aus der Diözese Rottenburg-Stuttgart, die anläßlich ihres fünfundzwanzigjährigen Priesterjubiläums in Rom weilen. Christus, der Gute Hirt, bleibe stets euer Vorbild. Er stärke euch weiterhin in eurem priesterlichen Dienst und beschenke euch darin mit wahrer Freude. Ebenso grüße ich die ökumenische Pilgergruppe aus Ulm. Ich erbitte euch in diesen Tagen an den Gräbern der Apostel und der Märtyrer der frühen römischen Christengemeinde, daß ihr den vielfältigen Reichtum unseres christlichen Glaubens tiefer erkennt und euch mit neuer Bereitschaft für die Einheit aller Christen einsetzt.

Zum Schluß empfehle ich meine bevorstehende Pastoralreise nach Deutschland auch ganz besonders eurem Gebet und erteile euch und all euren Lieben in der Heimat von Herzen den Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini di espressione spagnola

Deseo ahora presentar mi más cordial saludo a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española.

En particular, saludo al grupo de Religiosos Franciscanos, misioneros en diversos países de América Latina; os aliento en vuestra labor evangelizadora en favor de los amados hijos del llamado Continente de la Esperanza.

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Igualmente saludo a las Religiosas Carmelitas misioneras aquí presentes, así como a las peregrinaciones parroquiales procedentes de España; a los grupos de estudiantes con sus profesores y a la peregrinación de la Diócesis de Jujuy (Argentina).

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A todas las personas, familias y grupos provenientes de los diversos países de América Latina y de España imparto con afecto mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Serdecznie pozdrawiam wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski, a także przestawicieli Polonii, w szczególności z parafii Podwyższenia Krzyża Świętego i Matki Bożej Uzdrowienia Chorych -Katowice; z parafii św. Józefa- Przemyśl, księża salezjanie; z parafii św. Franciszka z Asyżu-Łódź; z parafii św. Praksedy z Dokudowa, diecezja siedlecka; z parafii Matki Bożej Pocieszenia-Poznań; z parafii św. Krzyża-Leszno; z parafii Wniebowzięcia Matki Bożej - Kościan, archidiecezja poznańska; z parafii św. Wojciecha-Bnin; z parafii św. Jadwigi-Grodzisko Wielkopolskie, archidiecezja poznańska; członków Towarzystwa Przyjaciół KUL-u z Warszawy; 100 osobową pielgrzymkę Polonii amerykańskiej, jako też uczestników grup turystycznych Orbisu i Turysty . . . Witając serdecznie wszystkich pielgrzymów z Polski oraz z Polonii amerykańskiej, pragnę równocześnie połaczyć się w sposób szczególny, uroczysty z Kościołem w Polsce w ciągu tych dni patronalnych, które teraz Kościoł w Polsce przeżywa, poczynając od uroczystości św. Wojciecha, proprzez Królową Polski na Jasnej Górze, aż do uroczystości św. Stanisława w Krakowie. Łącząc się w duchu w ten sposób z całym Kościołem, życzę, ażeby ci święci patronowie nie przestali przewodzić naszemu Narodowi w niełatwych drogach, po których w ciągu swojej tysiącletniej już historii dąży do zachowania własnej tożsamości, własnej godności, własnej wolności i własnego miejsca i znaczenia wśród ludów Europy i całego świata.

Ad alcuni gruppi italiani

Desidero ora salutare cordialmente il gruppo dei presidenti e incaricati diocesani della Federazione Nazionale del Clero Italiano, un’istituzione ecclesiale che celebra quest’anno il settantesimo anniversario della sua fondazione, e ha per scopo l’assistenza morale, sociale, culturale ed economica del clero italiano. Dunque un’opera assai utile ed importante, per la quale auguro sempre nuovi fecondi risultati in rapporto ai bisogni ed alle aspettative della Chiesa del nostro tempo. Benedico di cuore i sacerdoti associati, che sono qui presenti.

* * *

Un caro ed affettuoso saluto ai ragazzi del coro “ Castello d’Oro ” di Mirandola in Provincia di Modena: essi allietano oggi questo nostro incontro! A voi, cari ragazzi e ragazze, al direttore del coro ed ai vostri cari che vi accompagnano, l’espressione della mia gioia per la vostra presenza e le mie congratulazioni. Il vostro cantare sia sempre un inno di lode a Dio! Con la mia Benedizione.

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Un saluto ed un augurio al gruppo di adulti e di giovani della parrocchia di Liscate, in provincia di Milano, giunti qui per ringraziare il Signore per aver ottenuto un nuovo oratorio. In segno di gratitudine a Lui, essi intendono tornare a casa a piedi portando una fiaccola che mi hanno chiesto di accendere. Mi compiaccio, cari fratelli, per questo vostro gesto grandemente significativo, e vi benedico di cuore.

* * *

La parrocchia di Cristo Re di Rimini intende festeggiare il XXV anniversario di fondazione con l’indizione di una missione mariana, durante la quale si porterà per le vie della parrocchia una statua della Madonna. I rappresentanti di questa parrocchia hanno recato qui la sacra immagine affinché io la benedica. Accolgo ben volentieri la richiesta, nella certezza che questa bella iniziativa darà un significativo contributo all’Anno Mariano che sta per iniziare. Vi benedico tutti di cuore.

* * *

Ben volentieri intendo accendere e benedire la fiaccola che mi è stata portata da un altro gruppo qui presente: la delegazione della Croce Bianca di Biassono, provincia di Milano, un’associazione di volontariato che opera nel campo del pronto soccorso e della pubblica assistenza. La delegazione sta celebrando il X anniversario di fondazione. La fiaccola verrà riportata a piedi a Biassono. Rallegramenti anche per questa iniziativa ed auguri vivissimi per l’attività della vostra associazione, mentre di cuore vi benedico.

* * *

Desidero rivolgere un saluto anche alla Scuola Media Cattolica Libera di Busto Arsizio nell’Arcidiocesi di Milano, che celebra il X anniversario della sua attività didattico-formativa.

Cari insegnanti ed alunni, ringrazio per la vostra visita e vi esorto a cercare sempre una preparazione culturale radicata sulla fede, col proposito di formare anime generose, desiderose di approfondire la verità e di spendersi in avvenire per il bene della società.

A tutti voi ed alle vostre famiglie la mia Benedizione.

Ai giovani

Con particolare affetto saluto voi, giovani, che lieti e fiduciosi vi aprite a Cristo per affrontare il compito della vita. Assimilandovi al Risorto, il discernimento della propria vocazione e la realizzazione compiuta del disegno di Dio su di voi non saranno più un’esitante ricerca, ma una belle fatica del crescere in Lui.

Il Padre di ogni misericordia, con la grazia pasquale, vi doni la consapevolezza di essere veri figli di adozione, portati dentro la vita divina, e non servi, che il padrone tiene ai margini della propria esistenza. E lo Spirito Santo aumenti in voi il vigore della fede e della carità, che alimentano propositi ed azioni conformi al volere divino.

Vi accompagno con l’Apostolica Benedizione.

Agli ammalati

Rivolgo ora, una parola di saluto e di conforto a voi, malati. Mentre auguro che il Risorto vi doni la certezza che la sofferenza delle membra vive del suo corpo acquista in Lui forza redentiva, vi esorto a guardare l’esempio di Maria, che ci accingiamo a venerare in modo speciale nel prossimo mese di maggio a Lei dedicato e nel prossimo anno mariano.

Vi chiedo poi di ricordare in modo particolare al Signore la visita pastorale che sto per compiere in alcune diocesi della Germania Federale. Nel corso della mia visita avrò la gioia di proclamare beati Edith Stein, in religione Suor Teresa Benedetta della Croce, e il sacerdote gesuita Rupert Mayer.

A voi tutti la mia affettuosa Benedizione.

Agli sposi novelli

Infine rivolgo un pensiero affettuoso e beneaugurante agli sposi novelli, qui presenti, e a trenta coppie di coniugi della Parrocchia Maria Ausiliatrice di Margherita di Savoia che celebrano il XXV anniversario di matrimonio e sono venuti a Roma con il Consiglio pastorale e altri componenti di quella Parrocchia che festeggia quest’anno il XXV della propria fondazione.

Carissimi, mediante la celebrazione del sacramento del matrimonio non solamente avete posto in Dio la radice del vostro amore, ma vi siete consacrati al Signore per un servizio santo, nell’assidua testimonianza del mistero di carità che unisce Cristo alla sua Chiesa.

Con l’auspicio che il Risorto vi doni concordia piena e letizia perfetta, imparto di cuore a voi e a tutti i rappresentanti della suddetta parrocchia la Benedizione Apostolica.

Per la “Giornata dell’Università Cattolica”

Domenica prossima sarà celebrata in Italia la Giornata dell’Università Cattolica, che avrà come tema: “Esperienza religiosa e cultura”: un argomento tanto bello ed importante per la maturazione della fede e della vita cristiana. Sentitevi tutti partecipi, come cattolici, a questo appuntamento del nostro cammino ecclesiale e spirituale.

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