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Everyone Has His Own Gift from God, Suited to His Vocation

84 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 7 July 1982 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. During last Wednesday's meeting, we tried to investigate the reasoning St. Paul uses in his First Letter to the Corinthians to convince them that whoever chooses marriage does well, while whoever chooses virginity (or continence according to the spirit of the evangelical counsel) does better (cf. 1 Cor 7:38). Continuing this meditation today, let us remember that according to Paul, "the unmarried person is to please the Lord" (1 Cor 7:32).

"To please the Lord" has love as its foundation. This foundation arises from a further comparison. The unmarried person is anxious about how to please God, while the married man is anxious also about how to please his wife. In a certain sense, the spousal character of "continence for the sake of the kingdom of God" is apparent here. Man always tries to please the person he loves. Therefore, "to please God" is not without this character that distinguishes the interpersonal relationship between spouses. On the one hand, it is an effort of the man who is inclined toward God and seeks the way to please him, that is, to actively express his love. On the other hand, an approval by God corresponds to this aspiration. By accepting man's efforts, God crowns his own work by giving a new grace. Right from the beginning, this aspiration has been his gift. "Being anxious how to please God" is therefore a contribution of man in the continual dialogue of salvation that God has begun. Evidently, every Christian who lives his faith takes part in this dialogue.

2. However, Paul observes that the man who is bound by the marriage bond "is divided" (1 Cor 7:34) by reason of his family obligations (cf. 1 Cor 7:34). From this remark it apparently follows that the unmarried person would be characterized by an interior integration, by a unification that would allow him to dedicate himself completely to the service of the kingdom of God in all its dimensions. This attitude presupposes abstention from marriage, exclusively for the sake of the kingdom of God, and a life uniquely directed to this goal. In a different way the "division" can also sneak into the life of an unmarried person. Being deprived of married life on the one hand, and on the other, of a clear goal for which he should renounce marriage, he could find himself faced with a certain emptiness.

3. The Apostle seems to know all this very well. He takes pains to specify that he does not want to lay any restraint on one whom he advises not to marry, but he gives this advice to direct him to what is worthy and keeps him united to the Lord without any distractions (cf. 1 Cor 7:35). These words bring to mind what Christ said to his apostles during the Last Supper, according to the Gospel of Luke: "You are those who have continued with me in my trials [literally, 'in temptations'], and I prepare a kingdom for you, as the Father has prepared for me" (Lk 22:28-29). The unmarried person, "being united to the Lord," can be certain that his difficulties will be met with understanding: "For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sinning" (Heb 4:15). This allows the unmarried person not so much to immerse himself exclusively in possible personal problems, but rather to include them in the great stream of the sufferings of Christ and of his Body, the Church.

4. The Apostle shows how one can be "united to the Lord": what can be attained by aspiring to a constant remaining with him, to a rejoicing in his presence (eupáredron), without letting oneself be distracted by nonessential things (aperispástos) (cf. 1 Cor 7:35).

Paul explains this thought even more clearly when he speaks of the situation of the married woman and of one who has chosen virginity or is widowed. While the married woman must be anxious about "how to please her husband," the unmarried woman "is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, in order to be holy in body and spirit" (1 Cor 7:34).

5. In order to grasp adequately the whole depth of Paul's thought, we must note that according to the biblical concept, holiness is a state rather than an action. It has first of all an ontological character and then also a moral one. Especially in the Old Testament it is a separation from what is not subject to God's influence, from what is profane, in order to belong exclusively to God. Holiness in body and spirit, therefore, signifies also the sacredness of virginity or celibacy accepted for the sake of the kingdom of God. At the same time, what is offered to God must be distinguished by moral purity and therefore presupposes behavior "without spot or wrinkle," "holy and immaculate," according to the virginal example of the Church in the presence of Christ (Eph 5:27).

In this chapter of his First Letter to the Corinthians, the Apostle touches upon the problems of marriage and celibacy or virginity in a way that is deeply human and realistic, keeping in mind the mentality of his audience. Paul's reasoning is to a certain extent ad hominem. In the ambiance of his audience in Corinth, the new world, the new order of values that he proclaims must encounter another "world" and another order of values, different even from the one that the words addressed by Christ reached.

6. If Paul, with his teaching about marriage and continence, refers also to the transience of the world and human life in it, he certainly does so in reference to the ambiance which in a certain sense was programmed for the "use of the world." From this viewpoint, his appeal to "those who make use of the world" is significant, that they do it "as though they had no dealings with it" (1 Cor 7:31). From the immediate context it follows that in this ambiance, even marriage was understood as a way of "making use of the world"—differently from how it had been in the whole Jewish tradition (despite some perversions, which Jesus pointed out in his conversation with the Pharisees and in his Sermon on the Mount). Undoubtedly, all this explains the style of Paul's answer. The Apostle is well aware that by encouraging abstinence from marriage, at the same time he had to stress a way of understanding marriage that would be in conformity with the whole evangelical order of values. He had to do it with the greatest realism—that is, keeping before his eyes the ambiance to which he was addressing himself, the ideas and the ways of evaluating things that were predominant in it.

7. To men who lived in an ambiance where marriage was considered above all one of the ways of "making use of the world," Paul therefore expresses himself with significant words about virginity or celibacy (as we have seen), and also about marriage itself: "To unmarried persons and to widows I say, 'It is good for them to remain as I am. But if they cannot live in continence, let them marry. It is better to marry than to burn'" (1 Cor 7:8-9). Paul had already expressed almost the same idea: "Now concerning the matters about which you wrote, it is well for a man not to touch a woman. But because of the danger of incontinence, each man should have his own wife and each woman her own husband" (1 Cor 7:1-2).

8. Does the Apostle in his First Letter to the Corinthians perhaps look upon marriage exclusively from the viewpoint of a remedy for concupiscence, as used to be said in traditional theological language? The statements mentioned a little while ago would seem to verify this. However, right next to the statements quoted, we read a passage that leads us to see differently Paul's teaching as a whole, contained in the seventh chapter of his First letter to the Corinthians : "I wish that all were as I myself am, [he repeats his favorite argument for abstaining from marriage]—but each has his own special gift from God, one of one kind, and one of another" (1 Cor 7:7). Therefore even those who choose marriage and live in it receive a gift from God, his own gift, that is, the grace proper to this choice, to this way of living, to this state. The gift received by persons who live in marriage is different from the one received by persons who live in virginity and choose continence for the sake of the kingdom of God. All the same, it is a true gift from God, one's own gift, intended for concrete persons. It is specific, that is, suited to their vocation in life.

9. We can therefore say that while the Apostle, in his characterization of marriage on the human side (and perhaps still more in view of the local situation that prevailed in Corinth) strongly emphasizes the reason concerning concupiscence of the flesh, at the same time, with no less strength of conviction, he stresses also its sacramental and charismatic character. With the same clarity with which he sees man's situation in relation to concupiscence of the flesh, he sees also the action of grace in every person—in one who lives in marriage no less than in one who willingly chooses continence, keeping in mind that "the form of this world is passing away."

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

Ai pellegrini di espressione francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Je vous souhaite la bienvenue, à vous qui venez des pays de langue française, et spécialement aux familles, aux malades, aux jeunes.

Dans mon discours en italien, j’ai expliqué la pensée de l’apôtre Paul sur la grandeur du célibat volontaire pour ceux qui veulent se consacrer sans réserve au Seigneur. Il est vrai que tout homme ressent en lui cette aspiration qui le pousse vers Dieu pour lui exprimer son amour, pour lui plaire, et Dieu répond aux efforts de chacun en lui donnant de nouvelles grâces qui l’aident à progresser spirituellement. Mais tandis que la personne mariée est partagée entre deux devoirs - envers sa famille et envers Dieu -, celle qui ne s’est pas mariée à cause du Royaume des cieux est totalement libre et peut donc s’attacher au Seigneur sans partage, s’attacher aux réalités du monde nouveau prêché par le Christ et non aux choses du monde présent qui passe et qui disparaîtra.

Cela ne veut pas dire que l’apôtre méprise le mariage. S’il souhaite que tous soient comme lui, il s’empresse d’ajouter: “Mais chacun reçoit de Dieu son don particulier”. Que chacun soit donc fidèle au don qu’il a reçu, sans oublier la place que Dieu doit tenir dans sa vie personnelle!

Je suis heureux de saluer tous les pèlerins venant de France, de Suisse, du Canada et des autres pays de langue française, et je donne à tous ma Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai pellegrini di lingua inglese

Dear brothers and sisters,

Last week we spoke about the reasons Saint Paul gave for his statement that he who marries does “well”, but he who refrains from marriage does “better”. Today we are continuing this meditation, emphasizing Saint Paul’s thought that the person who has chosen virginity or celibacy, in the spirit of the evangelical counsel, is in a special position to be able “to please the Lord”. At the basis of this conviction, the Apostle is offering the motivation of love. In a certain sense, continence chosen for the sake of the Kingdom of God reflects the spousal aspect of an interpersonal relationship: striving to please the person who is loved. At the same time the celibate person has the opportunity to dedicate himself completely to the service of the Kingdom of God in all its dimensions. Saint Paul is anxious to present to his readers the values of a new order revealed by Christ; but he insists that everyone has his own gift from God. And this gift is adapted to the vocation of each person.

* * *

I am particularly pleased to extend a warm welcome to the group of young people from Greenland. Yes, it is very seldom that the Pope can welcome visitors from your homeland. Please take my greetings back to your families and friends. And may the peace of Christ be in the hearts of everyone in Greenland!

* * *

My greetings go also to the other youth groups, especially to the student chorus of Saratoga High School in the Diocese of San Jose, and to the Atlanta Boys Choir. Thank you for your enthusiasm for singing and for your desire to bring joy to others. Always remember how important music is in uplifting the human heart - all the way to God!

Ai pellegrini di lingua tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Aufrichtig Freue ich mich über euer Kommen und grüße euch alle sehr ehrzlich. Ich wünsche euch schöne und auch religiös erlebnisreiche Tage in der Ewigen Stadt.

Wir setzen heute unsere Erörterung der Lehre des hl. Paulus über Ehe und Ehelosigkeit fort. Der Apostel sagt, daß heiraten gut, unverheiratet bleiben ”um des Himmelreiches willen“ jedoch besser ist. Wer aus diesem Grund nicht heiratet, der ”sorgt sich um die Sache des Herrn, wie er dem Herrn gefalle“. Für ihn wird der Verzicht auf die Ehe zum Ausdruck ungeteilter Liebe und Hingabe an den Herrn. Der Verheiratete hingegen sorgt sich um die Dinge der Welt, wie er der Frau gefalle - und ist deswegen geteilt.

Der Unverheiratete bemüht sich darum, ”heilig zu sein an Leib und Seele“, denn er weiß, daß die Gestalt dieser Welt vergeht. Falls aber ein Unverheirateter nicht enthaltsam leben kann, so rät ihm der hl. Paulus dennoch, er solle lieber heiraten. Denn, so sagt er, ”es ist besser zu heiraten, als sich in Begierde zu verzehren“. Der Apostel ist überzeugt, daß jeder von Gott seine Gnadengabe empfangen hat, der heine so, der andere so. Und richtig lebt, wer entsprechend seiner ganz persönlichen Berufung und Gnadengabe lebt: sei es in der Ehe oder in der Ehelosigkeit ”um des Himmelreiches willen“.

Einen besonderen Willkommensgruß richte ich noch an die Pfarrgruppe aus Schutterwald und Müllen in der Erzdiözese Freiburg. Ich weiß um eure Liebe und Opferbereitschaft für das große Anliegen der Weltmission. Laßt in eurem Eifer nicht nach, denn die Ernte ist groß, die Arbeiter und Mittel jedoch nur wenige. Möge der Herr der Ernte euch und euren Gemeinden die großzügige Hilfe, die ihr Missionaren und Missionshelfern in fernen Landen gewährt, durch seine Gnade reich lohnen.

Euch und allen anwesenden Pilgern aus den Ländern deutscher Sprache erteile ich von Herzen meinen besonderen Apostolischen Segen.

Ai fedeli di espressione spagnola

Amadísimos hermanos y hermanas,

Continuamos nuestra reflexión acerca de la enseñanza de San Pablo sobre la virginidad y el matrimonio. El Apóstol indica que la persona casada se preocupa de agradar al propio cónyuge, mientras que la no casada trata de agradar al Señor, es decir, de expresarle de manera activa su amor. Dios, por su parte, corresponde aceptando el esfuerzo del hombre y dándole nuevas gracias.

La condición de la persona consagrada en el celibato o virginidad merece para ella una particular comprensión por parte del Señor. A esa condición, vista por el Apóstol como un estado de santidad “en el cuerpo y en el espíritu”, ha de corresponder la pureza moral del consagrado por el reino de los cielos.

San Pablo, sin embargo, aun invitando a todos a imitarle en la virginidad, reconoce realistamente el valor de toda vocación de vida, en el celibato o en el matrimonio, ya que cada uno tiene su propio don de Dios, de modos distintos.

Saludo y bendigo a cada persona y grupo de lengua española, de modo particular a los que hoy son más numerosos: los jóvenes, estudiantes y profesores de diversos colegios y parroquias de España y México.

Una palabra especial a la peregrinación franciscana de San Juan de Puerto Rico, presidida por el Señor Cardenal-Arzobispo Luis Aponte Martínez. Que el ejemplo de San Francisco, cuyo octavo Centenario de la muerte os trae a Roma, os inspire la fe y amor al hermano que él vivió tan intensamente.

Ai fedeli di lingua portoghese

Uma saudação cordial aos peregrinos e ouvintes de língua portuguesa, com votos de bem e dos favores de Deus.

Continuamos a reflectir, baseando-nos na Epístola de São Paulo aos Coríntios, sobre a continência perfeita, escolhida “por amor do Reino dos céus”, no celibato ou na virgindade. Quem faz esta escolha é “para agradar a Deus”, no fundo, por um motivo de amor, que estará na continuidade do diálogo da salvação, iniciado por Deus.

Trata-se de uma atitude de amor que assenta na “integração interior” da pessoa, liberta de “divisões” do coração e preocupada primeiro que tudo em “agradar ao Senhor”. Assim, não se deixará imergir nos problemas pessoais, mas vivê-los-á de molde a inseri-los na grande corrente do amor e do sofrimento de Cristo e do seu Corpo, que é a Igreja.

Isto supõe a “santidade”, com as suas componentes de “separação” e de “estado” habitual; isto é, de realidade possuída, como “dom”, a ditar coerência moral, num comportamento marcado pela “pureza” de um modo de estar no mundo e de usar dele, diverso do que sucede no matrimonio. Este, porém, permanece com o seu valor próprio.

Com pensamento afectuoso também nas vossas famílias e pessoas amigas, dou-vos a Bênção Apostólica.

Ai giovani ucraini

Saluto gli studenti ucraini che sono venuti a Roma per i corsi estivi presso il Centro scientifico fondato qui a Roma dal Cardinale Josyf Slipyi, a noi tanto caro.

La vostra permanenza a Roma rafforzi la vostra fede in Cristo Signore; e san Giosafat, vostro conterraneo, le cui reliquie riposano qui in questa Basilica davanti alla quale noi ci troviamo, sia per voi esempio d’amore alla santa Chiesa.

Benedico di cuore tutti voi ed i vostri cari!

Sia lodato Gesù Cristo!

Ai fedeli polacchi

Maryjo, Królowo Polski,
jestem przy Tobie, pamiętam, czuwam.

Nauczyliśmysię W okresie Tysiąclecia Chrztu słow tego apelu. Apel jasnogórski z różnych stron naszej Ojczyzny przemawia do Tej, która dana jest “ku obronie naszego Narodu”.

Wyrażają się w tym apelu serca ludzkie. Wypowiadają swoją gotowość do wszystkiego, co dobre i szlachtne. Stwarza się żywa wspólnota wokół naszej Królowej i Matki.

Polska była zawsze krajem rolniczym. Do pewnego stopnia nie przestała nim być i teraz.

Przy Obrazie Królowej Polski (zwłaszcza w roku Jej jubileuszu) czuwają ludzie pracujący na roli.

Pragnę teraz, kiedy wszystko dojrzewa na polach - i powoli zbliża się okres żniw - zjednoczyć się przed Panią Jasnogórską z Nimi właśnie:

z rolnikami,

z ludżmi polskiej wsi.

Proszę naszą Matkę o “dobre urodzaje i szczęśliwe zbiory”.

Proszę o błogosławieństwo dla tej pracy, która “żywi i broni”.

Ileż jej zawdzięczamy!

Maryjo, Królowo Polski, jestem przy Tobie, pamiętam, czuwam, razem z Tymi, którzy strzegą dziedzictwa polskiej ziemi, którzy żyją z jej urodzaju: którzy “żywią, i bronią” ciała i duszy narodu.

Oby mogli, oby umieli wypełnić swe zadania również za naszy dni!

Queste le parole del Papa in una nostra traduzione italiana.

“Maria, Regina della Polonia, sono vicino a te, mi ricordo di te! veglio!”.

Abbiamo imparato, nel periodo del Millennio del Battesimo, le parole di questo appello. L’appello di Jasna Góra parla da diverse parti della nostra patria a colei che è stata data “per la difesa” della nostra Nazione.

In questo appello si esprimono i cuori umani. Manifestano la loro prontezza a tutto ciò che è buono e nobile. Si crea una viva comunità intorno alla nostra Regina e Madre.

La Polonia è sempre stata un paese agricolo. In una certa misura non ha cessato di esserlo anche adesso.

Presso l’Immagine della Regina della Polonia (in particolare nell’anno del suo giubileo) vegliano gli uomini che lavorano la terra.

Desidero ora, in questo periodo della maturazione dei campi - e piano piano si avvicina il periodo della mietitura - unirmi dinanzi alla Signora di Jasna Góra proprio con loro:

con gli agricoltori,

con gli uomini della campagna polacca.

Prego la nostra Madre per “i buoni raccolti e la felice mietitura”.

Invoco la benedizione per questo lavoro, che “nutre e difende”.

Quanto dobbiamo ad esso! Maria, Regina della Polonia, sono vicino a te, mi ricordo di te, veglio insieme con coloro che custodiscono l’eredità della terra polacca, che vivono del suo buon raccolto: che “nutrono e difendono” il corpo e l’anima della Nazione.

Che possano e sappiano realizzare i loro compiti anche ai nostri giorni!

Ad un piccolo gruppo di sacerdoti novelli ungheresi

Tra i pellegrini di oggi c’è un piccolo gruppo di otto sacerdoti novelli, provenienti dall’Ungheria, dal Seminario di Eger i quali, ordinati sacerdoti nel mese di giugno scorso, desiderano esprimere al successore di Pietro la loro fedeltà ed implorare da lui la benedizione apostolica, per il loro futuro apostolato.

Diletti Figli, vi benedico di cuore e pongo la vostra attività pastorale sotto la protezione della santa Vergine, patrona dell’Ungheria.

Ai gruppi italiani

Rivolgo il mio saluto al folto pellegrinaggio regionale della Sicilia, guidato dal Vescovo Ausiliare di Catania.

Sono contento della vostra odierna presenza, che mi porta l’assicurazione dell’entusiasmo e della fede cristiana di tutta la nobile popolazione sicula. Da parte mia, vi assicuro la mia stima e il mio affetto, mentre sono lieto di augurarvi sempre maggiori traguardi di crescita civile ed ecclesiale. Portate questi miei sentimenti ai vostri conterranei insieme alla mia benedizione, che di cuore imparto a voi tutti.

* * *

Un particolare benvenuto va ai Padri Capitolari dei Canonici Regolari dell’Immacolata Concezione, che hanno recentemente eletto il loro nuovo Superiore Generale nella persona del reverendo Pierre Fouret. Su di lui e su tutti i membri di questa Famiglia religiosa invoco la pienezza delle grazie celesti per una sempre più luminosa testimonianza evangelica.

Saluto ora le numerose religiose presenti, fra le quali desidero menzionare le Suore Operaie della santa Casa di Nazaret, auspicando ogni bene per la loro Congregazione e per la loro attività.

* * *

Intendo anche salutare i numerosi gruppi folkloristici, rappresentanti di sei nazionalità e partecipanti al “IX Festival della Collina”, che si svolge a Latina. Essi sono espressione di fraternità internazionale e perciò meritano lode. Insieme a loro, saluto gli accompagnatori, gli interpreti e gli Organizzatori. A tutti sono lieto di augurare ogni bene nel Signore.

* * *

Desidero salutare tutti i giovani qui presenti, ed in particolare gli aderenti al “Movimento Gen”, i quali, profittando delle vacanze, sono convenuti da ogni parte d’Europa per uno dei loro Congressi annuali.

Carissimi, le vacanze, oltre ad essere un sollievo dalle fatiche del lavoro e dello studio, devono diventare per voi un’occasione propizia per consolidare le scelte dello spirito e il tempo favorevole per rinnovare i vostri impegni di costruttori di una gioventù nuova, con l’aiuto di Colui che “vuole che tutti siano una cosa sola”.

* * *

Saluto poi gli ammalati. Carissimi, sappiate che siete i prediletti del Padre, perché egli vi ha chiamati a riprodurre in modo del tutto particolare l’immagine del suo Figlio, che nella sofferenza ha salvato il mondo. Vi sono vicino con la preghiera e vi accompagno con la mia benedizione.

* * *

Infine rivolgo un pensiero augurale agli sposi novelli. Da poco avete domandato, nella fede al Signore, di accompagnarvi con la sua presenza efficace nel cammino della vita. Egli benedica il vostro amore, affinché sia sempre sincero, totale e fedele.

A tutti i presenti vada la mia benedizione.

Appello per il Libano

Fratelli e sorelle.

Desidero rivolgere anche oggi un invito a pregare per i nostri fratelli che soffrono nel Libano, e particolarmente nella capitale, Beirut.

Da più di tre settimane, alcuni quartieri di quella città sono stretti dalla morsa della guerra; centinaia di migliaia di persone sono a corto di viveri, di acqua, di medicinali e di ciò che è indispensabile per vivere; la capitale è sotto l’incubo degli scontri sanguinosi che potrebbero infuriare nelle sue strade, di casa in casa, se le trattative non giungessero a soluzione.

Purtroppo, dopo tante vittime, distruzioni e privazioni, non è stata ancora raggiunta un’intesa onorevole tra le parti in conflitto. Bisognerebbe affrettare i tempi del negoziato; ogni ora che passa è un nuovo peso e una nuova minaccia di ancor più dure sofferenze che gravano sulle popolazioni inermi.

Preghiamo per le vittime della guerra, per i loro parenti, per i profughi ed i senza tetto. Chiediamo a Dio di voler ispirare i responsabili di tutte le parti: che i Libanesi possano recuperare e consolidare l’unità e l’indipendenza del loro Paese e si concluda rapidamente un accordo che, salvaguardando l’incolumità sia dei civili che dei combattenti, venga incontro alle aspirazioni di giustizia per i Palestinesi, e di sicurezza e di pace per tutti i popoli interessati.

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