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Motherhood comes from God

Pope John Paul II's Catechesis
General Audience, Wednesday, 6 March 1996 - in Italian & Spanish

"1. Motherhood is a gift from God. "I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord!" (Gn 4: 1), Eve exclaims after giving birth to Cain, her first-born son. With these words, the Book of Genesis presents the first motherhood in human history as a grace and joy that spring from the Creator's goodness.

2. The birth of Isaac is similarly described, at the origin of the chosen people.

God promises Abraham, who has been deprived of children and is now advanced in years, descendants as numerous as the stars of heaven (cf Gn 15:5). The promise is welcomed by the patriarch with the faith that reveals God's plan to this man: "He believed the Lord; and he reckoned it to him as righteousness" (Gn 15: 6).

This promise was confirmed in the words spoken by the Lord on the occasion of the covenant he made with Abraham: "Behold, my covenant is with you, and you shall be the father of a multitude of nations" (Gn 17:4).

Extraordinary and mysterious events emphasize how Sarah's motherhood was primarily the fruit of the mercy of God, who gives life beyond all human expectation: "I will bless her, and moreover I will give you a son by her; I will bless her, and she shall be a mother of nations; kings of peoples shall come from her" (Gn 17:15-16).

Motherhood is presented as a decisive gift of the Lord. The patriarch and his wife will be given a new name to indicate the unexpected and marvellous transformation that God is to work in their life.

3. The visit of the three mysterious persons, whom the Fathers of the Church interpreted as a prefiguration of the Trinity, announced the fulfilment of the promise to Abraham more explictly: "The Lord appeared to him by the oaks of Mamre, as he sat at the door of his tent in the heat of the day. He lifted up his eyes and looked, and behold, three men stood in front of him" (Gn 18:1-2). Abraham objected: "Shall a child be born to a man who is a hundred years old? Shall Sarah, who is ninety years old, bear a child?" (Gn 17:17; cf. 18:11-13). The divine guest replies: "Is anything too hard for the Lord? At the appointed time I will return to you, about this time next year, and Sarah shall have a son" (Gn 18:14; cf. Lk 1:37).

The narrative stresses the effect of the divine visit, which makes fruitful a conjugal union that had been barren until then. Believing in the promise, Abraham becomes a father against all hope, and "father in the faith" because from his faith "descends" that of the chosen people.

4. The Bible relates other stories of women released from sterility and gladdened by the Lord with the gift of motherhood. These are often situations of anguish, which God's intervention transforms into experiences of joy by receiving the heartfelt prayers of those who are humanly without hope. "When Rachel saw that she bore Jacob no children", for example, "she envied her sister; and she said to Jacob, 'Give me children, or I shall die!'. Jacob's anger was kindled against Rachel, and he said, 'Am I in the place of God, who has withheld from you the fruit of the womb?'" (Gn 30:1-2).

But the biblical text immediately adds: "Then God remembered Rachel, and God hearkened to her and opened her womb. She conceived and bore a son" (Gn 30:22-23). This son, Joseph, would play a very important role for Israel at the time of the migration to Egypt.

In this as in other narratives, the Bible intends to highlight the marvellous nature of God's intervention in these specific cases by stressing the initial condition of the woman's sterility; however, at the same time, it allows us to grasp the gratuitousness inherent in all motherhood.

5. We find a similar process in the account of the birth of Samson. The wife of Manoah, who had never been able to conceive a child, hears the Lord's announcement from the angel: "Behold, you are barren and have no children; but you shall conceive and bear a son" (Jgs 13:3). The conception, unexpected and miraculous, announces the great things that the Lord will do through Samson.

In the case of Hannah, Samson's mother, the special role of prayer is underlined. Hannah suffers the humiliation of being barren but she is full of great trust in God, to whom she turns insistently, that he may help her to overcome this trial. One day, at the temple, she makes a vow: "Oh Lord of hosts, if you will indeed look on the affliction of your maidservant, and remember me, and not forget your maidservant, but will give to your maidservant a son, then I will give him to the Lord all the days of his life" (1 Sm 1: 11).

Her prayer was answered: "The Lord remembered her" and "Hannah conceived and bore a son, and she called his name Samuel" (1 Sm 1:19-20). Keeping her promise, Hannah offered her son to the Lord: "For this child I prayed; and the Lord has granted me my petition which I made to him. Therefore I have lent him to the Lord; as long as he lives, he is lent to the Lord" ((1 Sm. 1:27-28). Given by God to Hannah and then given by Hannah to God, the little Samuel becomes a living bond of communion between Hannah and God.

Samuel's birth is thus an experience of joy and an occasion for thanksgiving. The First Book of Samuel contains a hymn known as Hannah's Magnificat, which seems to anticipate Mary's: "My heart exults in the Lord; my strength is exalted in the Lord" (I Sm 2: 1).

The grace of motherhood granted to Hannah by God through her ceaseless prayer, filled her with a new generosity. Samuel's consecration is the grateful response of a mother who, recognizing in her child the fruit of God's mercy, returns his gift, entrusting the child she had so longed for to the Lord.

6. In the accounts of miraculous motherhood which we have recalled, it is easy to discover the important place the Bible assigns to mothers in the mission of their sons. In Samuel's case, Hannah has a determining role in deciding to give him to the Lord. An equally decisive role is played by another mother, Rebecca, who procures the inheritance for Jacob (Gn 27). That maternal intervention, described by the Bible, can be interpreted as the sign of being chosen as an instrument in God's sovereign plan. It is he who chooses the youngest son, Jacob, to receive the paternal blessing and inheritance, and therefore as the shepherd and leader of his people.... It is he who by a free and wise decision, determines and governs each one's destiny (Wis 10:10-12).

The Bible's message regarding motherhood reveals important and ever timely aspects: indeed, it sheds light on the dimension of gratuitousness, which is especially apparent in the case of barren women, God's particular covenant with woman and the special bond between the destiny of the mother and that of the son.

At the same time, the intervention of God, who, at important moments in the history of his people, causes certain barren women to conceive, prepares for belief in the intervention of God who, in the fullness of time, will make a Virgin fruitful for the Incarnation of his Son."

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

Agli studenti italiani:

1. Benvenuti nella Basilica di San Pietro! Vi accolgo tutti con affetto, cominciando dai più piccoli, tra i quali saluto in particolare i bambini dell'Istituto « Unitas Catholica » di Reggio Calabria e gli Alunni del Circolo didattico « Imbriani » di Napoli. Tra gli adolescenti, poi, saluto i quattordicenni del decanato di Vimercate, in diocesi di Milano, che sono venuti a Roma per fare qui, vicino alla tomba dell'apostolo Pietro, la loro professione di fede.

Che cosa significa « fare la professione di fede »? Significa affermare di credere in Dio e in Gesù Cristo, confermando così gli impegni assunti con il Battesimo. Quando si è battezzati da piccoli, come nel caso vostro, sono i genitori e i padrini a fare la professione di fede a nome del neonato. Ma adesso che siete cresciuti e avete conosciuto personalmente Gesù e il Vangelo, ecco che voi stessi siete chiamati a confermare il dono ricevuto professando la fede in modo consapevole e libero. Poterlo fare qui, nel luogo dove San Pietro ha versato il suo sangue ed è stato sepolto, è una grazia che vi esorto a far fruttare nella vostra vita.

2. Il tempo di Quaresima che stiamo vivendo invita tutti i cristiani a ripensare al proprio Battesimo, non come ad un fatto passato, ma come ad una realtà spirituale sempre viva e presente. Per voi ragazzi e ragazze il Battesimo è come una roccia stabile e sicura, sulla quale potete costruire la casa della vostra vita senza paura. Nessuna tempesta potrà mai farla cadere, se, come dice il Vangelo, non vi limiterete ad ascoltare la parola di Gesù, ma la metterete in pratica (Cfr. Matth. 7, 24-27).

3. L'apostolo Pietro, che si chiamava Simone, fu da Gesù soprannominato Pietro, cioè « Roccia », perché la sua fede doveva essere il fondamento su cui costruire la Chiesa. Ecco, carissimi, vi trovate proprio davanti alla tomba di quel pescatore di Galilea che Cristo chiamò a seguirlo e incaricò di « pascere le sue pecorelle »: questo stesso luogo vi chiama e vi sprona ad impegnarvi nel seguire sempre Gesù con fede sincera e generosa, come quella del suo grande Apostolo.

È questo anche il mio augurio per ciascuno di voi. Lo accompagno con una speciale Benedizione, che estendo ai vostri familiari.

Ai pellegrini di lingua francese

Chers frères et soeurs, j 'accueille avec plaisir les pèlerins de langue française, notamment le groupe des Anciens des chantiers de jeunesse, les membres des Fraternités monastiques et tous les jeunes ici présents. Je vous souhaite de continuer à préparer la fête de Pâques par un bon Carême. Sur chacun d'entre vous, j'invoque l'abondance des Bénédictions divines.

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I extend a particular welcome to the Shintoist Delegation from Japan, under the leadership of the Reverend Kuniaki Kuni and the Reverend Kenji Okamoto. I greet the participants in the International Congress on Environment and Climate, which includes delegations from UNESCO and the European Community. Upon all the visitors from England, Denmark, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Japan, and the United States I invoke the grace and peace of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Ad alcuni studenti danesi

Hjertelig velkommen til Rom. I studerer kommunikation og massemedia. Den moderne teknik hjälper oss at overvinde de fysiske begrensninger de besvärer vores hverdag. Formedelst den moderne teknik kan i også hjälpe andre at utvide deres horizont gjennem att gi dem en god og objektiv indsigt om omverdenen. En hjertelig hilsen ligevel til ungdomerne fra St. Anna's katolske skole i København. Gud velsigne jer alle og hele Danmark!

Ai pellegrini di lingua tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder! Mit diesen Erläuterungen grüße ich Euch alle, liebe deutschsprachige Pilger und Besucher, sehr herzlich. Einen besonderen Willkommensgruß richte ich an die Pilgergruppe des Pensionistenverbandes Österreichs. Mit dem innigen Wunsch, in dieser österlichen Bußzeit mögen wir uns in rechter Weise auf das Osterfest vorbereiten, erteile ich Euch, Euren lieben Angehörigen und Freunden in der Heimat sowie allen, die uns verbunden sind, von Herzen den Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas, saludo con afecto a los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española. En especial al grupo de empleados de la Sociedad Farmacéutica CEPA, de Madrid; a los alumnos del Instituto « Dante Alighieri », de Rosario (Argentina), y a los peregrinos chilenos, así como a los demás, procedentes de otros países de Latinoamérica. Al desear a todos que la Cuaresma os ayude para una buena preparación a la fiesta de la Pascua, os imparto de corazón mi Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

Caríssimos Irmãos e Irmãs, SAÚDO COM AFECTO todos os ouvintes de língua portuguesa. Desejo a todos felicidades; e que todos levem de Roma uma consciência de Igreja mais clara e a fé no seu divino Fundador, Jesus Cristo, mais viva e operante. E peço a Nossa Senhora que os proteja e aos que lhes são queridos, ao dar-lhes a Bênção.

Ad un gruppo di giovani croati

Draga hrvatska mladeži iz Bosne i Hercegovine, srdačno vas pozdravljam. Dobro došli! Оtvorite svoje srce Isusu Kristu kako bi zajedno s njim, na čvrstim temeljima bogate i plementite višestoljetne krščanske baštine vaših krajeva, molgi graditi budučnost dostojnu čovjeka. Isus Krist vas na pragu trećega tisućljeća i nakon krvavoga rata koji je opustošio vašu domovinu poziva da, pod vodstvom svojih biskupa, budete glasnici i svjedoci Evan elja blaženstava. Od srca udjeljujem poseban apostolski blagoslov vama ovdje nazočnima, vašim obiteljima, te poglavito izbjeglicama i prognanicima koji očekuju povratak u svoj zavičaj. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

Ai fedeli cechi

Srdečně zdravím skupinu poutníků z Kyjova! Chvála Kristu! Putujeme postní dobou, která nás přivádí k velikonocům. Lidské pokolení je stále ještě pod vlivem utrpení a poznamenáno smrtí; my však důvěřujeme v Bożí milost. S její pomocí můžeme dosáhnout slávy vzkříšení. Drazí bratři a sestry, s odvahou a důvěrou vložme své naděje na Boha. Ze srdce vám uděluji své Apoštolské Požehnání!

Ai pellegrini slovacchi

Srdečne pozdravujem slovenskch pútnikov z Nitry a Velkých Vozokán, z Hel'py a Trnavy, ako aj skupinu učitel'ov z Červeného Hrádku. Drahi bratia a sestry, v pôstnom obdobi častejšie myslime na umučenie Pána Jeiša, ktorý zomrel za nás. Ukrižovaný Spasitel' je výrečným obrazom velkého Božieho milosrdenstva. Čim vicc budeme o ňom rozjimať, tým vrúcnejšia bude naša láska k Bohu a úprimnejšia naša láska k bližnym. Obraz Milosrdného Jeiša, ktorý zanesiete na Slovensko, i moje Apoštolské Požehnanie, ktoré vám zo srdca udel'ujem, - nech vás posilňuje v kresťanskej nádeji a činorodej láske. Pochválen bud' Ježiš Kristus.

Ai fedeli magiari

Isten hozott Benneteket, kedves székesfehérvári zarándokok. E nagyböjti időben segítsen az Úr bennünket, hogy hallgatva szeretett Fia szavára, teljes szívvel megtérjünk, higyjünk az evangéliumban és így megtisztult lélekkel készüljünk a Húsvét ünnepére. Ezt kérem Nektek és az otthoni testvéreknek imámban és a szentmisében. Apostoli Áldásommal. Dicsértessék a Jézus Krisztus!

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Pozdrawiam pielgrzymów z Polski. Serdecznie witam księdza biskupa Albina z Krakowa, prócz tego następujące grupy: z Krakowa - Liceum Sióstr Prezentek, ze Skawiny - parafię Miłosierdzia Bożego, z Białegostoku - pielgrzymkę archidiecezjalną, z Droszewa w diecezji kaliskiej - parafię Wszystkich Świętych, z Kalisza - nauczycieli i młodzież liceum ogólnokształcącego z księżmi orionistami, rodziny z Polskiej Misji Katolickiej z Niemiec z Hamburga, grupę Polaków z Neapolu i innych jeszcze uczestników audiencji z kraju i z emigracji, nie objętych tymi grupami. Dzisiejsza katecheza była poświęcona macierzyństwu, oczywiście w perspektywie macierzyństwa dziewiczego Maryi, ale wskazywała na te przedziwne wydarzenia w Starym Testamencie, które niejako przygotowywały świadomość Ludu Bożego do takiego właśnie macierzyństwa niezwykłego, dziewiczego, poczynając od Abrahama, którego żona, Sara, za sprawą Boga samego wydała na świat jego syna Izaaka. I dalej różne przykłady ze Starego Testamentu, które wskazujq na to samo, że mianowicie macierzyństwo jest darem Bożym. Macierzyństwo, rodzicielstwo jest darem Bożym. I trzeba go upraszać od Boga. Oczywiście szczytem tej tajemnicy macierzyństwa jest wcielenie, tajemnica wcielenia, poczęcie dziewicze i narodzenie Jezusa Chrystusa. Ale w życiu każdego człowieka, wżyciu każdej rodziny, w życiu każdej matki, macierzyństwo też jest zawsze darem Bożym, który trzeba otoczyć wielką czcią, miłością i modlitwą Wszystkim życzę błogosławieństwa Bożego na Wielki Post i na Wielkanoc. Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus!

Ai fedeli di lingua italiana

Carissimi bambini, ragazzi e giovani! Porgo un cordiale benvenuto ai pellegrini di lingua italiana, in particolare ai Religiosi ed alle Religiose, ai quali auguro ogni bene per le rispettive comunità e congregazioni. Saluto poi i fedeli delle varie parrocchie, come pure gli altri gruppi presenti, invocando per tutti pace e cristiana prosperità.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Rivolgo ora il mio pensiero a voi, cari giovani, malati e sposi novelli. Il tempo di Quaresima che stiamo vivendo costituisce un appello concreto alla conversione, in preparazione alla Pasqua. Invito voi, cari giovani, ad affrontare questo cammino con il cuore e la mente illuminati dalla parola di Dio. A voi, cari malati, suggerisco di meditare sulla passione del Signore, per sentirne i benefici in ogni momento difficile. Esorto infine voi, cari sposi novelli, ad una intensa preghiera comune, affinché la vita domestica sia sempre allietata dalla presenza del Signore.


© Copyright 1996 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana