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The Father bears witness to the Son

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on Jesus Christ
General Audience, Wednesday 27 May 1987 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. The Gospel - and the whole New Testament - bear witness to Jesus Christ as Son of God. This is a central truth of the Christian faith. Professing belief in Christ as Son "of the same substance" as the Father, the Church follows faithfully this Gospel witness. Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the strict and precise meaning of the word. He is therefore generated in God, and not created by God and subsequently accepted as adopted Son. This testimony of the Gospel (and of the whole New Testament) on which the faith of all Christians is based, finds its definitive source in God the Father who bears witness to Christ as his Son.

We already spoke about this in the previous reflection in referring to the texts of the Gospel according to Matthew and Luke. "No one knows the Son except the Father" (Mt 11:27); "No one knows who the Son is except the Father" (Lk 10:22).

2. This unique and fundamental testimony which flows from the eternal mystery of the Trinitarian life is particularly expressed in the Synoptic Gospels, first of all in the account of Jesus' baptism in the Jordan, and then in the account of Jesus' transfiguration on Mount Tabor. Both events deserve attentive consideration.

3. In Mark's Gospel we read, "In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan. And when he came up out of the water, immediately he saw the heavens opened and the Spirit descending upon him like a dove; and a voice came from heaven, 'You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased'" (Mk 1:9-11). According to Matthew's account, the voice from heaven directs its words not directly to Jesus, but to those who were present at his baptism in the Jordan, "This is my beloved Son" (Mt 3:17). In Luke's text (cf. Lk 3:22) the tenor of the words is identical with that of Mark.

4. We are therefore witnesses of a trinitarian theophany. The voice from heaven, which addresses the Son in the second person, "You are" (Mark and Luke), or speaks of him in the third person, "This is" (Matthew), is the very voice of the Father, which in a certain sense presents his own Son to those who had come to the Jordan to hear John the Baptist. Indirectly he presents him to the whole of Israel. Jesus is he who comes in the power of the Holy Spirit, the anointed of the Holy Spirit, that is, the Messiah, the Christ. He is the Son with whom the Father is well pleased, the beloved Son. This predilection, this love, suggests the presence of the Holy Spirit in the trinitarian unity, even though in the theophany of the baptism in the Jordan this is not yet sufficiently clear.

5. The testimony contained in the voice from heaven occurred precisely at the beginning of the messianic mission of Jesus of Nazareth. It will be repeated at the moment which precedes the passion and the paschal event which concludes his entire mission—the moment of the transfiguration. Notwithstanding the similarity of the two theophanies, there is a clear difference, which derives mainly from the context of the narratives. At the baptism in the Jordan Jesus is proclaimed Son of God before the entire people. The theophany of the transfiguration was made solely to some chosen persons; not even the apostles were introduced as a group, but only three of them, Peter, James and John. "(After six days)...Jesus took with him Peter and James and John, and led them up a high mountain by themselves; and he was transfigured before them." This transfiguration was accompanied by the apparition of Elijah with Moses, and they were talking to Jesus. When the three apostles overcame their fright at such an event, they expressed the desire to prolong it and to continue gazing at it ("it is good for us to be here"). Then "a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, 'This is my beloved Son; listen to him'" (Mk 9:2-7). This is Mark's account. Similarly in Matthew, "This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased; listen to him" (Mt 17:5). In Luke, however, "This is my Son, my chosen; listen to him!" (Lk 9:35).

6. The event described by the Synoptics took place when Jesus had already made himself known to Israel through his signs (miracles), his deeds and his words. The Father's voice is as it were a confirmation from on high of that which was already maturing in the consciousness of the disciples. Jesus desired that on the basis of his signs and words, faith in his divine mission and sonship should be born in the consciousness of his hearers in virtue of the intimate revelation granted to them by the Father himself.

7. Particularly significant from this point of view was Jesus' reply to Peter after his profession of faith near Caesarea Philippi. On that occasion Peter said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Mt 16:16). Jesus answered him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven" (Mt 16:17). One knows how important Simon Peter's profession was. For it is essential to know that the profession of the truth about the divine sonship of Jesus of Nazareth—"You are the Christ (the Messiah), the Son of the living God"—comes from the Father. Only the Father "knows the Son" (Mt 11:27), only the Father knows "who the Son is" (Lk 10:22), and only the Father can convey this knowledge to humanity. This is precisely what Christ says in his reply to Peter. The truth about Christ's divine sonship uttered by the apostle, and first matured within him in his consciousness, comes from the depth of God's self-revelation. In this moment all the analogical meanings of the expression "Son of God," already known in the Old Testament, are completely transcended. Christ is the Son of the living God, the Son in the proper and essential meaning of this word—he is "God from God."

8. The voice which the three apostles hear during the transfiguration on the mountain (which later tradition identifies with Mount Tabor) confirms the conviction expressed by Simon Peter in the vicinity of Caesarea (according to Mt 16:16). In a certain sense it confirms "externally" what the Father has already "revealed internally." If the Father now confirms the interior revelation about Christ's divine sonship, "This is my beloved Son, listen to him," it seems that he wishes to prepare those who had already believed in him for the events of the Passover which is drawing near, for his humiliating death on the cross. It is significant that "as they were coming down the mountain" Jesus commanded them, "Tell no one the vision, until the Son of Man is raised from the dead" (Mt 17:9, also Mk 9:9; and to a certain extent Lk 9:21). The theophany on the mountain of the transfiguration of the Lord is thus situated in relationship with Christ's paschal mystery.

9. Following this one can understand the significant passage of John's Gospel (12:20-28) which recounts a fact which occurred after the raising of Lazarus, when on the one hand admiration for Jesus increases, and on the other, the threats confronting him become more dangerous. Christ then speaks of the grain of wheat which must die in order to produce more fruit. Then he concludes significantly, "Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? 'Father, save me from this hour'? No, for this purpose I have come to this hour. Father, glorify your name. Then a voice came from heaven, 'I have glorified it and I will glorify it again'" (cf. Jn 12:27-28). This voice expresses the Father's reply which confirms Jesus' previous words, "The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified" (Jn 12:23).

The Son of Man who is approaching his paschal hour is precisely he of whom the voice from on high proclaimed at the baptism and the transfiguration, "My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased...the chosen...." This voice contains the witness of the Father to the Son. The author of the Second Letter of Peter, gathering together the personal testimony of the chief of the apostles, writes to strengthen the Christians in a moment of harsh persecution. "(Jesus Christ)...received honor and glory from God the Father and the voice was borne to him by the majestic glory, 'This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased,' we heard this voice from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain" (2 Pet 1:16-18)."

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

Ai pellegrini francesi

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

cet encouragement, je l’adresse à tous les pèlerins ici présents: aux religieuses de Kermaria, aux laïcs de l’action catholique des milieux indépendants qui sont appelés à rendre témoignage dans leur milieu de vie, aux jeunes filles du Centre Madeleine Daniélou qui viennent ici, comme les autres jeunes, fortifier leur foi et leur sens de l’Eglise, aux Chevaliers et aux Dames de l’une des Lieutenances canadiennes de l’Ordre du Saint-Sépulcre, qui s’emploient aux œuvres d’assistance, aux autres visiteurs de divers diocèses, régions ou cités de France ou du Canada, à tous les pèlerins de langue française, que je bénis de grand cœur.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

i offer a warm welcome to the participants in the Fourteenth Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Study of the Lumbar Spine. I thank you for your presence here today and for the esteemed medical service which you offer to the human family. As physicians and medical professionals you serve others through physical healing, a service that corresponds well to the words of Saint John: “Let us not love in word or speech but in deed and in truth" (1 Gv 3, 18). I hope that your specialized study and discussions will help you to make an even greater contribution to the good of your fellow men and women. May God, the Author of life, bless you abundantly in your work.

I also greet most cordially the ecumenical group from Denmark and the members of the Catholic Women’s League of Manila in the Philippines.

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 I welcome, too, the participants in the Fifth International Conference on High Temperature and Energy-Related Materials.

And it is a joy to extend heartfelt greetings to the many Religious and priests who are present today, in particular to the Capuchin Friars from English-speaking countries who are taking part in a permanent formation course on Capuchin-Franciscan Spirituality and History. Just as Saint Francis had a deep love for Christ and the Church, so I pray that you will also find peace and happiness through your faithfulness to the great vocation which you have received.

To all the English-speaking visitors and pilgrims, I extend a hearty welcome, especially to those coming from England, Ireland, Denmark, the Philippines and the United States. May the Risen Saviour bless you with hope and joy.

Ai fedeli di lingua tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Erneuern auch wir, liebe Brüder und Schwestern, heute mit Petrus unseren Glauben an die Gottheit Jesu Christi: ”Du bist der Messias, der Sohn des lebendigen Gottes!“ Tun wir das bei dieser Audienz hier in der Nähe des Petrusgrabes, zu der ich euch alle sehr herzlich begrüße. Mein brüderlicher Willkommensgruß gilt allen anwesenden Gruppen und Einzelpilgern, besonders den zahlreichen Jugendlichen. Die Mitglieder der ”Katholischen Deutschen Studentenverbindung im CV Arminia Heidelberg“ beglückwünsche ich zur Feier ihres hundertjährigen Bestehens. Ebenso grüße ich namentlich die Angehörigen des Lions-Clubs Kurpfalz und ermutige sie in ihrem karitativen und sozialen Einsatz in der Heimat und in Ländern der Dritten Welt.

Einen besonders herzlichen Gruß richte ich an die Teilnehmer des großen Steyler Rompilgerzuges. Euer Besuch in der Ewigen Stadt erfolgt anläßlich des 150. Geburtstages des Gründers der Steyler Missionsgesellschaft, des seligen Pater Arnold Janssen. Ihr wollt dadurch seine große Bedeutung für den Missionsauftrag der Kirche in unserer Zeit unterstreichen. Schon Papst Paul VI. hat bei der Seligsprechung von Pater Janssen 1975 ausdrücklich betont, daß sein Werk undenkbar sei ohne den großen Beitrag missionsbewußter Laien. Als Förderer und Leser der ”Stadt Gottes“ sowie als großzügige Wohltäter und Missionsfreunde unterstützt ihr das Leben und Wirken der Steyler Missionäre in über 50 Ländern der Erde. Aufrichtig ermutige ich euch in diesem euren Einsatz für die Weltmission und erbitte euch daraus reiche Gnaden.

Von Herzen erteile ich euch und allen Pilgern deutscher Sprache meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Mi saludo cordial se dirige ahora a todos los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española presentes en esta audiencia. En particular, a las Superioras Mayores de las Religiosas Escolapias reunidas en Roma con ocasión de su Conferencia General y a las peregrinaciones procedentes de Guatemala y de la diócesis de Coatzacoalcos (México).

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

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Witam wszystkich obecnych z księdzem biskupem Czesławem Dominem z Katowic, uczestnikiem “Caritas internationalis” witam pielgrzymów z parafii Świętej Rodziny z Katowic; z diecezji kieleckiej; z parafii św. Elżbiety-Wrocław; z parafii Opatrzności Bożej i Matki Bożej Pocieszenia-Wrocław; z parafii św. Wojciecha -Koszalin; prócz tego pielgrzymkę Polonii australijskiej z duszpasterswa Księży Chrystusowców; pielgrzymkę Polonii z Bostonu; pielgrzymkę Stowarzyszenia Polaków z okręgu Kent w Anglii; prócz tego grupę Towarzystwa Ziemi Drohiczyńskiej; grupę kolejarzy z Czbestochowy; nauczycieli z Bydgoszczy; kolejarzy z Katowic i Krakowa; uczestników grup turystycznych oraz innych pielgrzymów z kraju i emigracji nie objętych tymi grupami . . . Życzę błogosławieństwa Bożego dla was, dla waszych rodzin, parafii, środowisk, diecezji, dla całej naszej Ojczyzny, którą w krótkim czasie mam nawiedzić.

Ai gruppi di lingua italiana

Desidero ora porgere il mio saluto alle Superiore Maggiori della Congregazione delle Suore dell’Apostolato Cattolico - Pallottine, qui presenti per un loro convegno sull’attuale missione del loro Istituto.

* * *

Saluto con loro anche il gruppo delle Suore Figlie di Sant’Anna, che partecipano al corso annuale di formazione permanente. A tutte il mio compiacimento unito all’auspicio che tali vostre riunioni servano a rinvigorire il fervore della consacrazione ed a dare un nuovo impulso agli impegni delle vostre comunità.

* * *

Il mio pensiero va poi al Presidente ed ai membri del Centro Studi di “ Speleologia scientifica ” che hanno compiuto una spedizione nel cratere del Vesuvio. La loro è stata una missione interessante, quanto rischiosa, per controllare lo stato di attività di quel vulcano. Ora essi si accingono ad una analoga missione sullo Stromboli.

Ad essi va il mio cordiale augurio per un felice successo nelle loro imprese, che mirano a favorire la tutela delle popolazioni presenti nelle zone esposte a rischi.

A tutti la mia Benedizione.

Ai giovani

Un cordiale pensiero desidero rivolgere ai giovani ed alle giovani presenti a questa Udienza: Carissimi! Il vostro pellegrinaggio a Roma, e in particolare alle tombe degli Apostoli e dei Martiri rinvigorisca la vostra fede in Cristo, Figlio di Dio fatto uomo, morto per i nostri peccati e risorto per la nostra giustificazione. Sia Egli la luce e la via per la vostra giovinezza e per tutta la vostra vita!

Agli ammalati

Un affettuoso saluto va ora ai Fratelli e alle Sorelle colpiti dalla infermità: la vostra presenza è per tutti noi motivo di profonda solidarietà e invito alla riflessione sul senso cristiano della nostra esistenza, posta sotto il dominio del dolore e della malattia. Ma la fede illumina le zone d’ombra di tale mistero per indicarci la strada maestra, nella quale possiamo incontrare e seguire Cristo portando, come Lui, la nostra croce, per essere in tale modo suoi autentici discepoli. Unite le vostre sofferenze alla Passione di Gesù, per partecipare, con Lui, alla sua opera redentrice.

Vi ringraziamo per tale vostra meritoria disponibilità e ci affidiamo alle vostre preghiere.

Agli sposi novelli

A voi, sposi novelli,  che in questi giorni avete consacrato il vostro amore di fronte a dio e alla Chiesa nel sacramento del Matrimonio, rivolgo fervidi voti augurali perché la vostra nascente famiglia sia sempre animata e confortata dalla fede nella Provvidenza divina e dia alle altre comunità familiari un esempio luminoso di autentica vita cristiana, di amore e di solidale apertura verso gli altri.

Su tutti e tutte invoco dal Signore, per la materna intercessione della Vergine Santissima, l’abbondanza dei favori e conforti celesti ed imparto di cuore la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

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