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Sin involves the deep deformation of creation

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
General Audience, Wednesday, 27 August 1986 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. After the catecheses on God as One and Three, the provident Creator, Father and Lord of the universe, we open another series of catecheses on God as Savior.

The fundamental reference point for the present catecheses is also found in the formulas of faith, especially in the most ancient of these, which is called the Apostles' Creed, and by the one known as the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed. These are also the best known and most used creeds in the Church, the former especially in the prayer of Christians, and the latter in the liturgy. Both texts have a similar arrangement of their contents, which proceed from the articles that speak of God, the almighty Father, Creator of heaven and earth and of all that is visible and invisible, to the articles that speak of Jesus Christ.

The Apostles' Creed is concise: (I believe) "in Jesus Christ his (i.e., God's) only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary..." etc.

The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed, on the other hand, notably amplifies the profession of faith in the divinity of Christ the Son of God: "Born of the Father before all ages...begotten, not created, of one substance with the Father," who—and this is the passage to the mystery of the incarnation of the Word—"for us men and for our salvation...came down from heaven; by the power of the Holy Spirit...was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man." At this point, both creeds present the components of the paschal mystery of Jesus Christ, and announce his second coming for the judgment.

Both Creeds go on to profess faith in the Holy Spirit. We must therefore emphasize that their essential structure is trinitarian: Father—Son—Holy Spirit. At the same time, they contain the salient elements that constitute the action ad extra of the Most Holy Trinity. They speak first of the mystery of creation (by the Father as Creator) and then of the mysteries of redemption (by the Son as Redeemer), and of the mysteries of sanctification (by the Holy Spirit who makes holy).

2. Thus, following the Creeds, after the cycle of catecheses about the mystery of the creation, or better, about God as Creator of everything, we pass now to a cycle of catecheses that concern the mystery of redemption, or better, God as the Redeemer of man and of the world. These will be the catecheses about Jesus Christ (Christology). Although the work of redemption pertains to the God who is One and Three (like the work of creation), it was brought about in time by Jesus Christ, the Son of God who became man in order to save us.

Let us note at once that in this sphere of the mystery of redemption, Christology is located within anthropology and history. This is because the Son who is consubstantial with the Father and became man by the work of the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin Mary, entered the history of humanity in the context of the whole created cosmos. He became man "for us men (propter nos homines) and for our salvation (et propter nostram salutem)." The mystery of the Incarnation (et incarnatus est) is seen by the creed as part of the redemption. According to revelation and to the faith of the Church, it has therefore a salvific (soteriological) meaning.

3. For this reason, when the creeds locate the mystery of the salvific Incarnation within the setting of history, they touch on the reality of evil, and in the first place the evil of sin. For salvation means above all liberation from evil and, in particular, liberation from sin. However, it is obvious that the scope of this term (salvation) is not reduced to this but embraces the riches of the divine life that Christ has brought to humanity. According to revelation, sin is the principal and fundamental evil. It contains the rejection of God's will, of the truth and holiness of God and of his fatherly goodness, as they are already revealed in the work of creation, and above all in the creation of the rational and free beings who are made "in the image and likeness" of the Creator. It is precisely this "image and likeness" that is used against God, when the rational being of his own free will rejects the finality which God has established for the existence and life of the creature. Sin therefore contains a particularly deep deformation of the created good, especially in a being that, like man, is the image and likeness of God.

4. In its very root, the mystery of the redemption is joined to the reality of man's sin. It follows that when we explain the articles of the creed which speak of Jesus Christ, in whom and by whom God has accomplished salvation, we must confront the theme of sin in this systematic catechesis. Sin is the obscure reality diffused abroad in the world created by God. It lies at the root of all the evil in man, and, one can also say, in what is created. Only in this way can one fully understand the meaning of the fact that, according to revelation, the Son of God became man "for us men" and "for our salvation." The history of salvation presupposes de facto the existence of sin in the history of humanity, created by God. The salvation of which divine revelation speaks is first of all the liberation from the evil that is sin. This is the central truth of Christian soteriology—"propter nos homines et propter nostram salutem descendit de coelis."

Here we must say that, in consideration of the centrality of the truth about salvation in all of divine revelation—and, in other words, in consideration of the centrality of the mystery of redemption—the truth about sin also takes its place in the central nucleus of the Christian faith. Sin and redemption are correlative terms in the history of salvation. We must reflect first of all on the truth about sin, in order to give due meaning to the truth about the redemption wrought by Jesus Christ, which we profess in the creed. One could say that it is the interior logic of revelation and of faith that impels us to concern ourselves in these catecheses above all with sin.

5. We have been prepared for this in a certain measure by the cycle of catecheses on divine Providence. As the First Vatican Council teaches: "God conserves and directs by his providence all that he has created," and the Council quotes the Book of Wisdom: "reaching from one end to the other with might, and governing all things with goodness" (cf Wis 8, 1) (DS 3003) .

When it affirmed this universal care for the things which God conserves and guides with a powerful hand and the tenderness of a Father, this Council stated precisely that divine Providence embraces in a particular way all that the rational and free beings introduce into the work of creation. Now we know that this consists in acts of their faculties, which can be in conformity or in opposition to the divine will; this therefore includes sin.

As we see, the truth about divine Providence allows us to see sin also in a proper perspective; it is in this light that the creeds help us to reflect on it. In reality—let us say this right at the beginning of the first catechesis on sin—the creeds only touch on this theme. But precisely in this, they suggest that we examine sin from the perspective of the mystery of redemption, in soteriology. We can immediately go on to say that the truth about creation, and still more the truth about divine Providence, allows us to approach the problem of evil, and especially the problem of sin, with clarity of vision and precise terms. This is because of the revelation of the infinite goodness of God. The truth about redemption will make us profess, along with the Apostle, "ubi abundavit delictum, superabundavit gratia, where sin increased, grace abounded all the more" (Rom 5:20), because it will let us discover better the mysterious reconciliation in God of justice and mercy, which are the two dimensions of his goodness. We can already say that the reality of sin becomes, in the light of redemption, the occasion for a deeper knowledge of the mystery of God, of the God who is love (cf. 1 Jn 4:16).

Faith enters into an attentive dialogue with the many voices of philosophy, literature, and the great religions, which often speak of the roots of evil and sin, and frequently yearn for the light of redemption. It is precisely on this common ground that the Christian faith seeks to bring the truth and the grace of divine revelation, to the benefit of all.

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

Ai pellegrini di lingua francese

J’accueille ici avec joie tous les pèlerins de langue française présents à cette audience, groupes de jeunes ou groupes paroissiaux, venus retremper leur foi et leur sens de l’Eglise en ce lieu où les Apôtres Pierre et Paul, des martyrs et beaucoup d’autres saints ont donné leur témoignage et où l’Eglise se rassemble, de tout l’univers, autour du Successeur de Pierre. Je salue spécialement les nombreux pèlerins du diocèse de Saint-Dié. Je les encourage à s’entraider, autour de leur Evêque ici présent, Mgr Paul-Marie Guillaume, à affermir et à rayonner leur foi dans toutes les communautés chrétiennes du diocèse, et à faire face aux graves problèmes humains - notamment d’emploi - qui s’y posent. A tous, je donne de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese 

Dear Brother and Sisters,

I am happy to welcome the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this audience. In particular I wish to welcome a group of management personnel from Africa, Asia and the Middle East who are taking part in the course “Consultancy Training for Co-operative Management and Development”, organised by the International Centre for Advanced Technical and Vocational Training of Turin.

* * *

Also my warm greetings go to the psysicians who are participating in the International Sports Medical Symposium. Your Congress is being held in conjunction with the Fifteenth World Tennis Championships for Doctors and I wish to encourage you in your efforts to further promote the beneficial aspects of sport’s activities for the well-being of the human person.

Upon all of you I invoke God’s blessings of peace and joy.

Ai pellegrini di espressione tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Mit dieser kurzen Erinnerung an einige Grundlagen unseres gemeinsamen Glaubens grüße ich noch einmal herzlich alle Besucker deutscher Sprache und erbitte euch mit meinem Segen die weise Führung Gottes auf allen euren Lebenswegen.

Ai pellegrini di lingua spagnola

Dirijo ahora mi más cordial saludo de bienvenida a todos los peregrinos de lengua española.

En particular, saludo a los sacerdotes, religiosos y religiosas aquí presentes y les aliento a una ilusionada entrega a la sublime vocación de servicio y alabanza a que han sido llamados.

A cuantos han venido a Roma, sede del Apóstol Pedro y centro de la catolicidad, les deseo que esta visita a la Ciudad Eterna les confirme en la fe y les anime a un decidido compromiso de testimonio cristiano en sus familias, en los lugares de trabajo, en la sociedad.

Junto con mi afecto, imparto a todas las personas y grupos procedentes de los diversos Países de América Latina y de España mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai fedeli provenienti dalla Polonia 

Pozdrawiam serdecznie wszystkich pielgrzymów, poczynając od księdza biskupa Ozorowskiego z Białegostoku; pielgrzymów z parafii Miłosierdzia Bożego z Krakowa; z parafii Matki Bożej od Cudownego Medalika w Zakopanem-Olczy; duszpasterstwo akademickie z Siedlec; duszpasterstwo akademickie z parafii Matki Bożej Pocieszenia z Wrocławia - redemptoryści; z parafii św. Anny z Zabrza, diecezja opolska; również z diecezji opolskiej - z parafii świetych Piotra i Pawła z Gliwic; z Gdańska - z parafii Opatrznosci Bożej; pielgrzymkę katolików świeckich z Opola; indywidualnych pielgrzymów z kościoła św. Stanisława Kostki w Warszawie wraz z przedstawicielarni 36 pułku Legii Akademickiej; grupę studentów z wyprawy naukowe; “Bari” z Akademii Górniczo-Hutniczej w Krakowie; pielgrzymkę Związku Podhalan “Zakopane” w Wiedniu, jako też uczestników grup turystycznych PTTK, Orbis, PKS z Warszaxvy, grupę Towarzystwa Przyjaźni Polsko-Włoskiej, grupę z Izby Rzemieślniczej w Bydgoszczy oraz grupę z Capalbio . . . Pozdrawiam serdecznie wszystkich obecnych tutaj rodaków, a za waszym pośrednictwem pozdrawiam wszystkich rodaków w Ojczyźnie. 

Ai numerosi pellegrini italiani 

Desidero ora porgere il mio saluto al numeroso gruppo delle Religiose che partecipano alla diciottesima Settimana Biblica Nazionale, organizzata dall’Associazione Biblica Italiana, sul tema delle lettere di San Paolo ai Galati ed ai Romani. Mi compiaccio con voi e desidero sottolineare l’importanza e l’utilità, per lo spirito religioso, di questi corsi di riflessione ed aggiornamento sulla Parola di Dio. 

* * * 

Il mio pensiero va, poi, agli alunni del Seminario di Bergamo, i quali, con i loro Superiori, sono venuti a Roma per riflettere, quasi in una tappa del loro itinerario di formazione, sulla loro fede e sulla loro dedizione verso la Sede di Pietro. Auguro a tutti di perseverare nel grande cammino intrapreso seguendo la chiamata del Signore. 

* * * 

Saluto, quindi, i membri della Associazione Italiana Canto Gregoriano, con il Coro dell’Assunzione, impegnati nella diffusione della conoscenza del canto antico ed ufficiale della Chiesa. Faccio voti per un felice esito delle loro manifestazioni corali. 

* * * 

Saluto infine il gruppo delle Suore delle Poverelle del beato Palazzolo di Bergamo, qui presenti con le loro Superiore Maggiori, per celebrare il venticinquesimo di professione religiosa.

A tutti il mio cordiale augurio di serena prosperità e la mia Benedizione. 

Ai giovani 

Carissimi giovani!

Porgo a voi tutti il mio affettuoso saluto e vi esprimo la mia grande gioia per la vostra presenza ed il vostro entusiasmo.

Oggi la Liturgia ricorda Santa Monica, la madre di Sant’Agostino la cui festa sarà celebrata domani. Sono lieto di dirvi che proprio ieri è stata pubblicata una mia “Lettera Apostolica” che commemora il sedicesimo centenario della conversione al Cristianesimo di questo grande Santo e del suo Battesimo da lui ricevuto a Milano per mano di Sant’Ambrogio. Nel prossimo anno ricorrerà il medesimo centenario della morte di Santa Monica avvenuta ad Ostia, mentre era in procinto di salpare per l’Africa. Essa lasciò la terra dopo aver provato l’immensa gioia del ritorno alla fede del figlio, da lei tanto amato e sempre seguito con ansia materna e cristiana nelle sue complesse vicende. Mentre invoco su di voi, cari giovani, l’intercessione di Santa Monica e di Sant’Agostino, vi esorto a pregarli ed a leggere o a rileggere, le stupende pagine delle “Confessioni” che illustrano la vita e la spiritualità della Santa che oggi onoriamo. 

Agli ammalati 

Carissimi ammalati!

Anche a voi, e soprattutto a voi, e ai vostri familiari e accompagnatori, giunga la mia parola di saluto, di affetto, di conforto, di incoraggiamento alla fiducia nel Signore. Saluto in particolare il numeroso gruppo proveniente da Macerata per ricordare il cinquantesimo anniversario di fondazione della sottosezione della UNITALSI in quella diocesi.

La vostra partecipazione all’Udienza infonda nei vostri animi tanta serenità e forza di accettare sempre con pazienza la volontà di Dio. Pensate a Santa Monica! Quante sofferenze essa patì e quante pene sopportò, prima per il marito Patrizio e poi per il figlio Agostino! Ma alla fine ebbe la suprema consolazione di vederli tutti e due convertiti all’unica vera fede cattolica. Lo stesso Sant’Agostino confessò: “La mia salvezza fu concessa alla lacrime sincere che tutti i giorni mia madre versava”. Grazie a Santa Monica, la Chiesa annovera tra i suoi santi Agostino, sommo filosofo, teologo, letterato!

Abbiate fiducia anche voi nel valore delle vostre sofferenze! Il vostro dolore unito alla Passione redentrice di Cristo, è fonte di salvezza, causa di conversione, stimolo di perseveranza! Tutti vi benedico di cuore. 

Agli sposi novelli 

Carissimi sposi novelli!

Sono molto lieto di rivolgervi il mio saluto e il mio augurio. Siete venuti in pellegrinaggio al sepolcro di Pietro ed a questa Udienza per incominciare il vostro cammino coniugale in perfetta sintonia con la Santa Chiesa, nella sublime prospettiva del matrimonio che è perfezione reciproca e mutuo impegno di santificazione. Benedico con grande affetto i vostri propositi e vi esorto alla fervorosa perseveranza mediante la preghiera e l’Eucaristia. Santa Monica aiuti anche voi a comprendere e a vivere sempre più e sempre meglio i supremi valori della fede, che donano la vera gioia interiore, pur nelle eventuali avversità della vita, e spingono a sentimenti di bontà e di carità.

Siate sempre sereni e felici, nella grazia di Dio! Con la mia Benedizione.

© Copyright 1996 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana