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The Church witnesses to Gospel hope

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Church
General Audience, Wednesday 27 May 1992 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. The Church is a witness to the life of Christ and in Christ, as we saw in the previous catechesis, the Church is also a witness of hope, of that gospel hope which finds its source in Christ. Indeed, in the Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes Vatican II says of Christ: "The Lord is the goal of human history...the center of the human race, the joy of every heart and the answer to all its yearnings" (GS 45). In this text the Council quotes the words of Paul VI, who said in an address that Christ is "the focal point of the desires of history and civilization" [1] . As we see, the hope which the Church witnesses to has vast dimensions; we can even say it is immense.

2. It is primarily a question of hope for eternal life. This hope corresponds to the desire for immortality which the human person has in his heart in virtue of the soul's spiritual nature. The Church preaches that earthly life is the "passing" to another life, to life in God, where "there shall be no more death" (Rev 21:4). Because of Christ, who--as St. Paul says--is "the firstborn from the dead" (Col 1:18; cf. 1 Cor 15:20), because of his resurrection, human beings can live in expectation of the eternal life proclaimed and brought by him.

3. It is a question of hope for happiness in God. We are all called to this happiness, as the command of Christ reveals to us: "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature" (Mk 16:15). On another occasion Jesus assured his disciples: "In my Father's house there are many dwelling places" (Jn 14:2). He said he was leaving them on earth and going to heaven to "prepare a place for that where I am you also may be" (Jn 14:3).

4. It is a question of hope in being with Christ "in the Father's house" after death. The Apostle Paul was full of this hope, to the point of saying, "I long to depart this life and be with Christ," and "that is far better" (Phil 1:23). "We are courageous," he also wrote, "and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord" (2 Cor 5:8). Christian hope also assures us that the "exile in the body" will not last and that our hope in the Lord will be fulfilled with the resurrection of the body at the end of the world. Jesus gives us this certitude and he relates it to the Eucharist: "Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day" (Jn 6:54). It is a true and proper resurrection of the body, with the full reintegration of individual persons into the new life of heaven. It is not a reincarnation understood as a return to life on the same earth in different bodies. In the revelation which Christ preached and to which the Church gives witness, the hope of resurrection is placed in the context of "a new heaven and a new earth" (Rev 21:1), in which the "new life" which people share with the incarnate Word will find its full realization.

5. If the Church gives witness to this hope--hope for eternal life, for the resurrection of the body, for eternal happiness in God--she does so as an echo of the apostles' teaching, especially that of St. Paul who said that Christ himself is the source and basis of this hope. "Christ Jesus our hope," the Apostle says (1 Tim 1:1). He also writes that in Christ "the mystery hidden from ages and from generations past...has been manifested to his holy ones, to whom God chose to make known the riches of the glory of this mystery; it is Christ...the hope for glory" (Col 1:26-27). The prophecy of hope, then, is based on Christ, and on him depends the simultaneous growth of new life in him and of hope in eternal life.

6. Although the hope which comes from Christ has its ultimate goal beyond all temporal limits, it nevertheless permeates the life of Christians in time. St. Paul states: "In him [Christ] you also, who have heard the word of truth, the Gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption as God's possession, to the praise of his glory" (Eph 1:13-14). God is actually the one "who gives us Christ and who anointed us.... He has also put his seal upon us and given the Spirit in our hearts as a first installment" (2 Cor 1:21-22). Hope, therefore, is a gift of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, because of whom the human person even now lives in eternity. He lives in Christ as a sharer in the eternal life which the Son receives from the Father and gives to his disciples (cf. Jn 5:26; 6:54-57; 10:28; 17:2). St. Paul says that this is the hope which "does not disappoint" because it draws on the power of God's love which "has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Rom 5:5). The Church is a witness to this hope. She proclaims it and brings it as a gift to individuals who accept Christ and live in him, and to the whole human race, to whom she must and wants to make known the "Gospel of the kingdom" (Mt 24:14), according to Christ's will.

7. Even in the face of the difficulties of this life and the painful experiences of misconduct and failure in human history, hope is the source of Christian optimism. Certainly, the Church cannot close her eyes to the many kinds of evil in the world. Nevertheless, she knows how to rely on Christ's victorious presence and she inspires her long and patient activity with this certainty, ever mindful of what her Founder declared in his farewell speech to the apostles: "I have told you this so that you might have peace in me. In the world you will have trouble, but take courage; I have conquered the world" (Jn 16:33). From the certainty of this victory of Christ, which expands in history on a profound level, the Church draws that supernatural optimism in looking at the world and at life which the gift of hope translates into action. She is trained by history to resist and to continue in her work as the minister of Christ crucified and risen, but in virtue of the Holy Spirit whom she hopes will always bring new spiritual victories, instilling in souls and spreading through the world the Gospel leaven of grace and truth (cf. Jn 16:13). The Church wants to hand on to her members and, as much as possible, to all people, this Christian optimism, born of trust, courage and farsighted perseverance. She makes her own the words of the Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Romans: "May the God [the giver] of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom 15:13). The God of hope is "the God of endurance and encouragement" (Rom 15:5).

8. In fact, the Church in every age can make her own the memorable words of St. Francis Xavier, which were inspired by the grace at work in him: "I do not remember ever having had so many and such continual spiritual consolations, as on these islands [the Moluccas, where, amid great difficulties, the missionary saint was preaching the Gospel]. I walked at great length on these islands, which were surrounded by enemies and populated with friends who were not exactly sincere, in lands without any remedy for physical illness or any human help in preserving life. Those islands should not be called the 'Islands of the Moor,' but the 'Islands of Hope in God'" [2] .

We can say that the world into which Christ has brought his paschal victory has become, through the power of his redemption, the "island of divine hope."

[1]   Address of February 3, 1965
[2]   Epist. S. Francisci Xaverii, in Monumenta Missionum Societatis Iesu, vol. I (Rome 1944) p. 380

After the Catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai pellegrini venuti dalla Francia

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

J’accueille avec plaisir les pèlerins de langue française présents ce matin. En particulier, j’adresse un cordial salut à la délégation des syndicats chrétiens belges de l’alimentation et je leur souhaite bon travail au cours de leur visite en Italie.

Je suis heureux de saluer les amis Musulmans des Focolari, venus d’Afrique, du Proche-Orient et d’autres régions, pour participer à une rencontre spirituelle à Castelgandolfo. Que le Dieu unique leur accorde de poursuivre leur action au service de la paix et de la bonne entente entre tous les croyants! Mes vœux et mes encouragements vont aussi aux délégués de la Jeunesse étudiante catholique internationale et du Mouvement international des Etudiants catholiques, qui préparent le rassemblement œcuménique de São Paulo.

Aux rédacteurs et aux amis du journal diocésain de Belley-Ars, la “Voix de l’Ain”, qui va fêter son centième anniversaire, je souhaite de poursuivre leur utile mission d’information à la lumière de l’Evangile.

A vous tous, j’accorde de grand cœur ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai fedeli di espressione inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

I wish to welcome the members of the General Chapter of the Missionary Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, including the newly-elected Superior General and Council. I also greet the members of the Ecumenical Global Gathering of Youth and Students. To the group from Sabah, Malaysia, I express my gratitude for their song and dance. Upon all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at today’s Audience, especially the groups from England, Singapore, India, the Philippines, Canada, the United States and the Cayman Islands, I cordially invoke the grace and peace of the Risen Lord.

Ai fedeli di espressione tedesca

Liebe Schwestern und Brüder!

Mit dieser kurzen Betrachtung grübe ich alle deutschsprachigen Pilger und Besucher sehr herzlich. Mein besonderer Willkom mensgrub gilt der Pilgergruppe des Bischöflichen Werkes ”Missio“ Aachen sowie den Abiturienten des Gymnasium Johanneum in HomburgSaar und ihren Lehrern.

In dem Wunsch, dab Ihr stets von christlicher Hoffnung erfüllt sein möget, die ein Geschenk des Heiligen Geistes ist, erteile ich Euch, Euren lieben Angehörigen daheim sowie allen, die uns in diesem Augenblick geistlich verbunden sind, von Herzen meinen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli provenienti dalla Spagna

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Deseo ahora presentar mi saludo afectuoso a los peregrinos y visitantes de lengua española.

En particular, a los peregrinos procedentes de Toledo (España), que se encuentran en Roma para participar en la Santa Misa en Rito Hispano-Mozárabe que tendré el gozo de celebrar mañana, solemnidad de la Ascensión del Señor.

Saludo igualmente a los miembros de la Confraternidad Sacerdotal “Operarios del Reino de Cristo”, a la peregrinación de la diócesis de Autlán (México), encabezada por su Obispo, y a la peregrinación de la Agencia Informativa Católica Argentina.

Mi cordial bienvenida a todas las personas, familias y grupos procedentes de España y de los diversos Países de América Latina, en especial, de Chile, Venezuela y Colombia.

Mientras encomiendo al Señor a vosotros y a vuestras familias, os imparto de corazón la Bendición Apostólica.

¡Alabado sea Jesucristo!

Ai pellegrini di espressione portoghese

Amadíssimos Irmãos e Irmãs,

Saúdo agora cordialmente e abençoo todos os peregrinos de língua portuguesa, nomeadamente a Legião de Maria do Patriarcado de Lisboa; a Associação “Massolin di Fiori” composta pelos imigrantes italianos radicados no Brasil e um grupo de brasileiros de São Paulo e do Rio de Janeiro. Que Cristo Nosso Senhor, que é a nossa vitória, nos envie a luz do Espírito Santo, para que nos convençamos da grandeza do Seu poder quando nos diz: “Tende confiança, Eu venci o mundo”.25 Vamos pedir-Lhe que aumente a nossa fé, para que iluminando a inteligência e fortalecendo a vontade, nos ensine que na vida tudo tem um sentido divino, porque se insere no âmago da chamada que nos leva à casa do Pai.

Ai fedeli polacchi

Pozdrawiam wszystkich uczestników tej audiencji przybyłych z Polski. Poprzednio zostały wymienione poszczególne grupy.

Wszystkich pozdrawiam w imię Jezusa Chrystusa zmartwychwstałego, bo czas, którym żyjemy, to okres wielkanocny. W tym też imieniu Jezusa Chrystusa zmartwychwstałego Kościół żyje zawsze nadzieją. Można wręcz powiedzieć, że wśród wszystkich przeciwności - jakich nie szczędzi świat, doczesność - wśród wszystkich doświadczeń i udręczeń, które z tym się łaczą, Kościół pozostaje jakby zbawcząwyspą nadziei dla człowieka i dla ludzkości. Jest to nadzieja życia wiecznego, poświadczona zmartwychwstaniem Chrystus, nadzieja nieśmiertelności. Ta nadzieja nieśmiertelności poświadczona zmartwychwstaniem Chrystusa przenosi się także w wymiary doczesności. Możemy na ten temat z naszych własnych dziejów wiele powiedzieć.

Wiemy, że Chrystus - Chrystus ukrzyżowany i zmartwychwstały - nie przestawał być znakiem nadziei dla naszych przodków przez całe minione stulecie, a także w ostatnim okresie, niezbyt krótkim. Wiemy, że z tego znaku Chrystusa - który niesie Kościół, który głosi Kościół - czerpaliśmy nawet siłę heroiczną. Wystarczy wymienić chociażby postać ks. Jerzego Popiełuszki, nie mówiac już o wielkim Prymasie Tysiąclecia, którego rocznica odejścia doPana przypada właśnie w tych dniach. Trzeba, żebyśmy nie odrywali się od tego źródła, żebyśmy się nie dawali odepchnąć od tego źródła nadziei, którym jest Chrystus i Kościół, żebyśmy się nie dali zwieść. Tego życzę wszystkim moim rodakom: i tu obecnym, i żyjącym w Polsce i na całym świecie. Świat oczekuje od nas, że będziemy świadkami Chrystusa zmartwychwstałego, Chrystusa ukrzyżowanego i zmartwychwstałego, że potrafimy dać świadectwo o tej nadziei, która jest w nas.

Ai fedeli di lingua italiana

Saluto tutti i gruppi di lingua italiana presenti a questa Udienza. In particolare saluto gli Allievi Ufficiali di Complemento della Scuola del Genio. Cari giovani, vi auguro che possiate scoprire il valore dell’autentica disciplina, che plasma la volontà, orientandola ad agire secondo le esigenze della verità e del bene comune. Preparatevi con sereno entusiasmo alle prime responsabilità, seguendo come vostra Guida e Maestro il Cristo, Redentore dell’uomo.

Rivolgo, poi, il mio benvenuto al folto gruppo internazionale dell’“Armée de Marie”, che in questo mese di maggio sta vivendo un intenso itinerario attraverso alcuni Santuari mariani italiani. Lasciatevi sempre educare dalla Madre del Signore, pellegrina della fede e della speranza; portate nei vostri Paesi il tesoro spirituale, che avete accumulato in questi giorni.

Rivolgo pure il mio particolare saluto ai ragazzi disabili, ospiti della “Casa del Sole” di Mantova, ai loro genitori ed educatori e alle Suore Clarisse, che li assistono con la loro preghiera. Carissimi, come già ebbi modo di dirvi l’anno scorso, in occasione della mia visita a Mantova, abbiate la certezza che il Signore abita con voi, che siete suoi prediletti a motivo della sofferenza. Abbiate il senso della preghiera, perché solo con essa si alimenta la fede, nella cui luce tutto si può comprendere ed accogliere. Sappiate vedere la vostra Casa come luogo di accoglienza e di fraternità.

Ai giovani, agli ammalati e agli sposi novelli

Rivolgo, infine, un pensiero affettuoso ai giovani, ai malati e agli sposi novelli.

Cari giovani, in questo tempo, in cui il mistero pasquale si con centra sempre più sul dono e sull’azione dello Spirito Santo, vi invito a ricordare le parole dell’Apostolo Paolo: “L’amore di Cristo ci spinge” (2 Cor. 5, 14). Sì, in ogni tappa ed in ogni situazione della vita, imparate a trovare nell’amore di Cristo la spinta per le vostre scelte.

E voi, cari ammalati, accogliete l’invito dell’Apostolo a “non scoraggiarvi”, perché “se anche il nostro uomo esteriore si va disfacendo, quello interiore si rinnova di giorno in giorno” (2 Cor. 4, 16). Sappiate rinnovarvi interiormente ogni giorno con atti di speranza e di amore verso il Signore crocifisso e risorto.

Cari sposi, vivete la vostra unione in Cristo. “Se uno è in Cristo, è una creatura nuova” (Ibid. 5, 17). Invoco il dono dello Spirito del Risorto su tutti i vostri passi, perché il vostro cammino sia segnato dalla vera gioia cristiana.

A tutti la mia benedizione apostolica.

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