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The moral nobility of woman

Pope John Paul II's Catechesis
General Audience, Wednesday, 10 April 1996 - in Italian & Spanish

"1. The Old Testament and the Judaic tradition are full of acknowledgements of woman's moral nobility, which is expressed above all in an attitude of trust in the Lord, in prayer to obtain the gift of motherhood and in imploring God for Israel's salvation from the assaults of its enemies. Sometimes, as in Judith's case, this quality is celebrated by the entire community, becoming the object of common admiration.

Beside the shining examples of the biblical heroines, the negative witnesses of some women are not lacking: such as Delilah who destroys Samson's prophetic ability (Jgs 16:4-21), the foreign women who in Solomon's old age turn the king's heart away from the Lord and make him worship other gods (1 Kgs 11:1-8), Jezebel who kills all "the prophets of the Lord" (I Kgs 18:13) and has Naboth killed, to give his vineyard to Ahab (I Kgs 21), and Job's wife who insults him in his misfortune and spurs him to rebel (Jb 2:9).

In these cases, the woman's conduct is reminiscent of Eve's. However, the prevailing outlook in the Bible is that inspired by the Proto-Gospel, which sees in woman an ally of God.

2. In fact, if foreign women were accused of turning Solomon away from his devotion to the true God, the Book of Ruth presents us instead with the most noble figure of a foreign woman: Ruth, the Moabite, an example of piety to her relatives and of sincere and generous humility. Sharing Israel's life and faith, she was to become David's great-grandmother and an ancestor of the Messiah. Matthew, inserting her in Jesus' genealogy (Mt 1:5), makes her a sign of universality and a proclamation of God's mercy which extends to all humanity.

Among Jesus' forebears, the first Evangelist also mentions Tamar, Rahab and Uriah's wife, three sinful but not wicked women who are listed among the female ancestors of the Messiah, in order to proclaim that divine goodness is greater than sin. Through his grace, God causes their irregular matrimonial situations to contribute to his plans of salvation, thereby also preparing for the future.

Another model of humble dedication, different from Ruth's, is represented by Jephthah's daughter, who agrees to pay for her father's victory over the Ammonites with her own death (Jgs 11:34-40). Lamenting her cruel destiny, she does not rebel but gives herself up to death in fulfilment of the thoughtless vow made by her parent in the context of primitive customs that were still prevalent (cf. Jer 7:31; Mi 6:6-8).

3. Although sapiential literature frequently alludes to woman's defects, it perceives in her a hidden treasure: "He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favour from the Lord" (Prov 18:22), says the Book of Proverbs, expressing convinced appreciation of the feminine figure, a precious gift of the Lord.

At the end of the same book the portrait of the ideal woman is sketched. Far from representing an unattainable model, she is a concrete image born from the experience of women of great value: "A good wife who can find? She is far more precious than jewels..." (Prov 31:10).

Sapiential literature sees in woman's fidelity to the divine covenant the culmination of her abilities and the greatest source of admiration. Indeed, although she can sometimes disappoint, woman transcends all expectations when her heart is faithful to God: "Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised" (Prov 31:30).

4. In this context, the Book of the Maccabees, in the story of the mother of the seven brothers martyred during Antiochus Epiphanes' persecution, holds up to us the most admirable example of nobility in trial.

After describing the death of the seven brothers, the sacred author adds: "The mother was especially admirable and worthy of honourable memory. Though she saw her seven sons perish within a single day, she bore it with good courage because of her hope in the Lord. She encouraged each of them in the language of their fathers. Filled with a noble spirit, she fired her woman's reasoning with a man's courage", thus expressing her hope in a future resurrection: "Therefore the Creator of the world, who shaped the beginning of man and devised the origin of all things, will in his mercy give life and breath back to you again, since you now forget yourselves for the sake of his laws" (2 Me 7:20-23).

Urging her seventh son to submit to death rather than disobey the divine law, the mother expresses her faith in the work of God who creates all things from nothing: "I beseech you, my child, to look at the heaven and the earth and see everything that is in them, and recognize that God did not make them out of things that existed. Thus also mankind comes into being. Do not fear this butcher, but prove worthy of your brothers. Accept death, so that in the time of mercy I may get you back again with your brothers" (2 Mc 7:28-29).

She then gives herself up to a bloody death, after suffering torture of the heart seven times, witnessing to steadfast faith, boundless hope and heroic courage.

In these figures of woman, in whom the marvels of divine grace are manifest, we glimpse the one who will be the greatest: Mary, Mother of the Lord."

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

Ai pellegrini di lingua francese

Chers frères et soeurs, J 'accueille cordialement les pèlerins de langue française ici présents. J'offre aux membres de l'Union mondiale des Enseignants catholiques mes voeux pour leur importante mission. J'encourage de tout coeur les séminaristes de Liège dans leur marche vers le sacerdoce. Je souhaite un bon pèlerinage à Rome aux enfants de choeur et aux grands clercs de Luxembourg, venus avec leur Archevêque, Monseigneur Fernand Franck. De même j'encourage dans leur démarche de foi les jeunes de Montréal, ceux des Lycées Sainte-Marie de Blois et de Neuilly, des Aumôneries d'Orléans, et de tous les groupes présents. Entrez dans la joie pascale et, pleins d'espérance, soyez prêts à participer activement à la vie de l'Église! J e vous donne de grand coeur la Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters, I am pleased to offer special greetings to the group of past pupils of the Pontifical Irish College, in Rome, to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of their priestly ordination, and to the newly ordained Deacons from the Pontifical Irish and Scots Colleges: may Christ's victory over sin and death ever strengthen you in your ministry of grace and hope. Upon all the English-speaking visitors, especially those from England, Scotland, Ireland, Sweden, Norway, Japan and the United States, I invoke joy and peace in the Risen Saviour.

A due gruppi di studenti norvegesi e svedesi

Jag önskar er en glad Påsk! Gud välsigne er och hela Norge och Sverige!

Ai fedeli di espressione linguistica tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder! In österlicher Freude grüße ich Euch alle, die Ihr aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache nach Rom gekommen oder durch Radio Vatikan mit uns verbunden seid. Besonders grüße ich die Teilnehmer an der Jugend-Oster-Romwallfahrt der Diözese Regensburg und alle Jugend- und Ministrantengruppen. Auch den Domchor und die Domkantorei des Paderborner Domes heiße ich herzlich willkommen sowie die Priester aus der Diözese Regensburg, die ihr 25jähriges Weihejubiläum feiern. Euch allen und Euren Lieben daheim erteile ich von Herzen den Apostolischen Segen.

Ai pellegrini belgi

ЕEN ZALIG PASEN aan alle pelgrims afkomstig uit de Lage Landen. « Brandde ons hart niet in ons, zoals Hij onderweg met ons sprak en de Schriften ontsloot »? (Luc. 24, 32) De Heer is werkelijk verrezen! Moge Hij altijd in uw leven de eerste plaats innemen! Van harte verleen ik U allen de Apostolische Zegen.

Ai fedeli di lingua spagnola

Queridos hermanos y hermanas, Saludo ahora con afecto a todos los peregrinos de lengua española. En particular a los miembros de las distintas parroquias, colegios y asociaciones españolas aquí presentes, así como a los grupos de peregrinos de México, Paraguay y Argentina. Que la sociedad de nuestros días, iluminada por Cristo resucitado, sepa reconocer y apreciar el verdadero espíritu femenino en las manifestaciones de la convivencia ciudadana, y trabaje para superar toda forma de discriminación, violencia y explotación. Con estos sentimientos, os deseo una muy feliz Pascua de Resurrección, y de corazón os imparto la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini di lingua portoghese

Caríssimos Irmãos e Irmãs, As minhas saudações cordiais e votos de felicidades, alegria e paz, Jesus Cristo, nossa Páscoa aos presentes vindos de diversas partes do Brasil, de modo especial os descendentes de imigrantes italianos da paróquia de Fastro di Arsié (Belluno), hoje radicados no Rio Grande do Sul; e o grupo de portugueses da Diocese de Portalegre-Castelo Branco, e da paróquia de Cambres de Lisboa. Grato pela vossa presença, quero encorajar a fé que vos trouxe a Roma, a vossa fé pascal; que ela se traduza em boas obras, dando testemunho de que « ressuscitastes » com Cristo, para uma « vida nova » como baptizados. Que Deus vos abençoe!

Ai fedeli croati

SRDAČNO POZDRAVLJAM sjemeništarce iz Zagreba, Splita i Sinja, zatim studente i učenike iz Zagreba, Rijeke, Splita, Sinja, Ivanić Grada i Djakova, te vjernike Zupe sv. Ivana Evandjelista iz Zagreba i profesore iz Maloga Lošinja. Dobro došli! Predragi, źelim vam da vas u vašemu źivotu uvijek prate mir i svjetlo uskrsloga Krista te svima od srca udjeljujem Apostolski Blagoslov. Hvaljen Isus i Marija!

Ai pellegrini cechi

Milí poutníci z čech a Moravy! Тaké vy zakoušíte, jak je dnes clověk ohrožován « kulturou smrti ». Jak se jí bránit? Kristus zvítězil nad smrtí. Pevná Víra ve zmtrvýchvstalého Krista dává každému sílu čelit všem pochybám, ale i jistotu, že jdeme vstříc věčnému životu. Z ní vyvěrá velikonoční radost — a tu vám přeji. Z celého srdce žehnám vám í vašim drahým doma. Chvála Kristu!

Ai fedeli sloveni

POZDRAVLJAM ROMARJE iz Slovenije: pevski zbor « Pomlad » iz Novega mesta, folklorno skupino « Pastirčki » in bogoslovce iz Ljubljane. Naj Vas velikonočno Gospodovo vstajenje telesno in duhovno prenovi, da boste s čistim in veselim srcem oznanjali Kristusovo veselo sporočilo.

Ai pellegrini lituani

Garbė Jėzui Kristui! Džiaugiosi galimybe pasveikinti grupę maldininkų iš Lietuvos. Brangieji! Didingas ir šviesus prisikėlusiojo Kristaus paveikslas tebūnie viso jūsų Tautos nueito kelio jvaizdis ir tikslas, tekviečia jus ir toliau, palikus tamsos ir šešėlių karalystę, išgyventi, bei skleisti atpirktos ir išlaisvintos būties džiaugsmą. Laiminu jus, jūsų artimuosius ir visą jūsų Tėvynė Lietuvą, ypatingu Bažnyčios Ganytojo Palaiminimu. Telydi jus visur skaidri velykinio laikotarpio nuotaika! Alleluja!

Ai fedeli ungheresi

Аhúsvéti öröm e napjaiban szeretettel köszöntelek Benneteket, kedves székesfehérvári zarándokok és Titeket, budapesti « Fiatal Énekesek ». Isten szent Fia által legyőzte a halált és kitárta előttünk az örökkévalóság kapúját. Krisztus feltámadását ünnepelve kérjük az Úrat, teremtsen ujjá minket Szentlelke erejével, hogy mi is új életre támadjunk. Ezt esdem imámban Tinéktek, Szeretteiteknek és minden otthoni testvérnek. Apostoli Aldásommal. Dicsértessék a Jézus Krisztus!

Ai pellegrini polacchi

SERDECZNIE WITAM pielgrzymów z Polski. W szczególności pozdrawiam: kapłanów z archidiecezji krakowskiej, z diecezji bielsko-żywieckiej i sosnowieckiej z okazji 15-lecia i 10-lecia święceń; siostry Służebnice Ducha Świętego - werbistki z Polski i Słowacji; z Piastowa - parafię salwatorianów; parafię z Rui w diecezji legnickiej; ze Skarżyska-Ka miennej - dzieci niepełnosprawne; z Poznania - chór uniwersytecki; z Manhattanu w Stanach Zjednoczonych - parafię św. Stanisława Kostki; z Eitlbrunn - parafię św. Michała Archanioła. Pozdrawiam ponadto pielgrzymów: z Częstochowy - księży pallotynów, z Zielonej Góry - liceum katolickie, z Zakopanego - technikum hotelarskie, z Tczewa, Opola, z San Giuseppe Vesuviano w Italii i Polaków z Chicago.

Dzisiejsza katecheza jest dalszym ciągiem katechez poświęconych Matce Bożej, a w szczególności Matce Bożej w perspektywie Starego Testamentu. Przypomniane zostały postaci niewiast heroicznych, świętych, które niejako przygotowywały do Tej największej, jaką miała być Matka Chrystusa. W okresie wielkanocnym Ją też szczególnie pozdrawiamy, śpiewając albo odmawiając antyfonę: « Ciesz się, Królowo Niebieska, wesel się, Pani Anielska. Wszyscy Ci dziś winszujemy, z weselem wyśpiewujemy, że Syn Twój już zmartwychwstały, wstąpił w niebo do swej chwały, któregoś Ty godna była, byś Go na ręku nosiła ». Niech będzie pochwalony Jezus Chrystus!

Ai fedeli italiani

Mi rivolgo ora ai pellegrini di lingua italiana presenti a questa Udienza generale. Saluto con particolare affetto i Diaconi della Compagnia di Gesù, che hanno ricevuto l'Ordinazione diaconale ieri, ed i loro familiari, provenienti da diverse nazioni. Carissimi, vi auguro di essere fedeli servitori del Vangelo, conformandovi, per intercessione di sant'Ignazio di Loyola, sempre più a Cristo, « che non è venuto per essere servito, ma per servire e dare la sua vita in riscatto per molti » (Matth. 20, 28).

Accolgo con gioia i numerosi gruppi parrocchiali, tra i quali i fedeli provenienti dalla Parrocchia di San Martino Vescovo in Chieti, che ricordano i cinquant'anni di vita e di attività della loro Comunità parrocchiale. Benedico inoltre volentieri il pane confezionato dai ragazzi e dagli insegnanti di Biancavilla (Catania), affinché possa essere spezzato come gesto di comunione tra i diversi popoli.

Il mio cordiale benvenuto va poi ai Membri del Consiglio Mondiale dell'Unione Mondiale degli Educatori Cattolici. Carissimi, nell'attuale momento storico voi vi assumete un compito quanto mai urgente e delicato: quello di formare le nuove generazioni, indicando le solide basi sulle quali costruire la loro esistenza. La vostra azione educativa sia sempre sostenuta ed animata dagli ideali cristiani.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Saluto infine, come di consueto, i giovani, i malati e gli sposi novelli presenti a questa Udienza, che si svolge nella luce e nella gioia della Pasqua. Rivolgo un pensiero speciale ai giovani, tra i quali sono lieto di salutare le numerose scolaresche venute a Roma per coronare il loro cammino di formazione catechetica mediante la professione di fede presso le tombe degli Apostoli. Cari ragazzi, sappiate testimoniare con l'entusiasmo e la generosità proprie della vostra giovane età la vostra fedeltà al Vangelo seguendo sempre Cristo, luce del mondo.

A voi, cari malati, auguro di far crescere nel vostro cuore la luce consolante dell'annuncio pasquale, che invita a scoprire in Gesù, crocifisso e risorto, il valore salvifico della sofferenza e del dolore accettati ed offerti per amore.

Esorto voi, sposi novelli, a fare della vostra famiglia una chiesa domestica illuminata dalla luce di Cristo risorto, accogliendo generosamente la vita che Egli vorrà affidarvi.


© Copyright 1996 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana