|John Paul II / Passion for Christ and for
Christianity Is the Realization of Man as Man
A passion for Christ, “center of the cosmos and of history,” and therefore a passion for man. Enthusiasm for the mission, because people today “put more trust in witnesses than in teachers.” Proof of the fact that faith is reasonable. Our Lady, the method God chose to make Himself known
(March 4, 1979)
1. The redeemer of man, Jesus Christ, is the center of the universe and of history. To Him go my thoughts and my heart in this solemn moment of the world that the Church and the whole family of present-day humanity are now living.
God entered the history of humanity and, as a man, became an actor in that history, one of the thousands of millions of human beings but at the same time Unique!
7. Our spirit is set in one direction; the only direction for our intellect, will, and heart is toward Christ our Redeemer, toward Christ, the Redeemer of man. We wish to look toward Him because there is salvation in no one else but Him, the Son of God, repeating what Peter said: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life.”
10. In the mystery of the Redemption, man becomes newly “expressed” and, in a way, is newly created. He is newly created! “The man who wishes to understand himself thoroughly–and not just in accordance with immediate, partial, often superficial, and even illusory standards and measures of his being– must, with his unrest, uncertainty, and even his weakness and sinfulness, with his life and death, draw near to Christ. The name for that deep amazement at man’s worth and dignity is the Gospel–that is to say, the Good News. It is also called Christianity. This amazement determines the Church’s mission in the world and, perhaps even more so, “in the modern world.” This amazement, which is also a conviction and a certitude–at its deepest root it is the certainty of faith, but in a hidden and mysterious way it vivifies every aspect of authentic humanism–is closely connected with Christ. It also fixes Christ’s place–so to speak, His particular right of citizenship–in the history of man and mankind. The Church’s fundamental function in every age and particularly in ours is to direct man’s gaze, to point the awareness and experience of the whole of humanity toward the mystery of God, to help all men to be familiar with the profundity of the Redemption taking place in Christ Jesus.
13. When we penetrate by means of the continually and rapidly increasing experience of the human family into the mystery of Jesus Christ, we understand with greater clarity that there is at the basis of all these ways that the Church of our time must follow, in accordance with the wisdom of Pope Paul VI, one single way: it is the way that has stood the test of centuries and it is also the way of the future. Jesus Christ is the chief way for the Church. He Himself is our way “to the Father’s house” and is the way to each man. On this way leading from Christ to man, on this way on which Christ unites Himself with each man, nobody can halt the Church. This is an exigency of man’s temporal welfare and of his eternal welfare. Out of regard for Christ and in view of the mystery that constitutes the Church’s own life, the Church cannot remain insensible to whatever serves man’s true welfare, any more than she can remain indifferent to what threatens it.
Accordingly, what is in question here is man in all his truth, in his full magnitude. We are not dealing with the “abstract” man, but the real, “concrete,” “historical” man. We are dealing with “each” man, for each one is included in the mystery of the Redemption and with each one Christ has united Himself forever through this mystery.
14. Each man in all the unrepeatable reality of what he is and what he does, of his intellect and will, of his conscience and heart, is the primary route that the Church must travel in fulfilling her mission: he is the primary and fundamental way for the Church, the way traced out by Christ Himself, the way that leads invariably through the mystery of the Incarnation and the Redemption.
This man is the way for the Church–a way that, in a sense, is the basis of all the other ways that the Church must walk because man–every man without any exception whatever–has been redeemed by Christ, and because with man–with each man without any exception whatever–Christ is in a way united, even when man is unaware of it.
18. In this way, turning to man and his real problems, his hopes and sufferings, his achievements and falls, this too also makes the Church as a body, an organism, a social unit perceive the same divine influences, the light and strength of the Spirit that come from the crucified and risen Christ, and it is for this very reason that she lives her life.
21. The full truth about human freedom is indelibly inscribed on the mystery of the Redemption. The Church truly serves mankind when she guards this truth with untiring attention, fervent love, and mature commitment and when in the whole of her own community she transmits it and gives it concrete form in human life through each Christian’s fidelity to his vocation. This confirms what we have already referred to, namely that man is and always becomes the “way” for the Church’s daily life.
(March 25, 1987)
10. Mary receives life from Him to whom she herself, in the order of earthly generation, gave life as a mother. The liturgy does not hesitate to call her “mother of her Creator” (Liturgy of the Hours, August 15th), and to hail her with the words which Dante Alighieri places on the lips of St. Bernard: “daughter of your Son” (Divine Comedy, Paradise, XXXIII, 1).
11. In the salvific design of the Most Holy Trinity, the mystery of the Incarnation constitutes the superabundant fulfillment of the promise made by God to man after original sin, after that first sin whose effects oppress the whole earthly history of man (cf., Gen 3:15). And so there comes into the world a Son, “the seed of the woman” who will crush the evil of sin in its very origins: “He will crush the head of the serpent.” Mary, Mother of the Incarnate Word, is placed at the very center of that enmity, that struggle which accompanies the history of humanity on earth and the history of salvation itself. This election is more powerful than any experience of evil and sin, than all that “enmity” which marks the history of man. In this history, Mary remains a sign of sure hope.
13. “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word” (Lk 1:38). This fiat of Mary–“let it be to me”–was decisive, on the human level, for the accomplishment of the divine mystery …. It made possible, as far as it depended upon her in the divine plan, the granting of her Son’s desire. Mary uttered this fiat in faith. In faith, she entrusted herself to God without reserve and “devoted herself totally as the handmaid of the Lord to the person and work of her Son” (Lumen Gentium, 56). And as the Fathers of the Church teach, she conceived this Son in her mind before she conceived Him in her womb: precisely in faith! Thanks to this motherhood, Jesus, the Son of the Most High(cf., Lk 1:32), is a true son of man. He is “flesh,” like every other man: He is “the Word [who] became flesh” (cf., Jn 1:14). He is of the flesh and blood of Mary!
Mary is present at Cana in Galilee as the Mother of Jesus, and in a significant way she contributes to that “beginning of the signs” which reveal the messianic power of her Son. Mary places herself between her Son and mankind in the reality of their wants, needs, and sufferings. She puts herself “in the middle”–that is to say, she acts as a mediatrix not as an outsider, but in her position as mother. She knows that as such she can point out to her Son the needs of mankind and, in fact, she “has the right” to do so. Her mediation is thus in the nature of intercession: Mary “intercedes” for mankind.
51. The whole of creation, and more directly man himself, cannot fail to be amazed at this gift in which he has become a sharer, in the Holy Spirit: “God so loved the world that He gave His only Son”(Jn 3:16). At the center of this mystery, in the midst of this wonderment of faith, stands Mary.
52. The mystery of the Incarnation is an unending and continuous transformation between falling and rising again, between the man of sin and the man of grace and justice. The Advent liturgy in particular is at the very heart of this transformation and captures its unceasing “here and now” when it exclaims: “Assist your people who have fallen yet strive to rise again”!
These words apply to every individual, every community, to nations and peoples, and to the generations and epochs of human history, to our own epoch, to these years of the millennium which is drawing to a close: “Assist, yes assist, your people who have fallen”!
This is the invocation addressed to Mary, the “loving Mother of the Redeemer,” the invocation addressed to Christ, who through Mary entered human history.
(December 7, 1990)
4. The Church’s universal mission is born of faith in Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, also as a result of the changes which have taken place in modern times and the spread of new theological ideas, some people wonder: Is missionary work among non-Christians still relevant? Has it not been replaced by inter-religious dialogue? Is not human development an adequate goal of the Church’s mission? Does not respect for conscience and for freedom exclude all efforts at conversion? Is it not possible to attain salvation in any religion? Why then should there be missionary activity?
7. The urgency of missionary activity derives from the radical newness of life brought by Christ and lived by His followers. Proclaiming Christ and bearing witness to Him, when done in a way that respects consciences, does not violate freedom. Faith demands a free adherence on the part of man, but at the same time faith must also be offered to him, because the “multitudes have the right to know the riches of the mystery of Christ.”
11. What then should be said of the objections already mentioned regarding the mission ad gentes? While respecting the beliefs and sensitivities of all, we must first clearly affirm our faith in Christ, the one Savior of mankind, a faith we have received as a gift from on high, not as a result of any merit of our own.
The temptation today is to reduce Christianity to merely human wisdom, a pseudo-science of well-being. In our heavily secularized world, a “gradual secularization of salvation” has taken place, so that people strive for the good of man, but man who is truncated, reduced to his merely horizontal dimension. We know, however, that Jesus came to bring integral salvation, one which embraces the whole person and all mankind, and opens up the wondrous prospect of divine filiation.
26. Even before activity, mission means witness and a way of life that shines out to others (cf., Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, 41-42: l.c. 31-33).
27. At the beginning of the Church, the mission ad gentes, while it had missionaries dedicated “for life” by a special vocation, was in fact considered the normal outcome of Christian living, to which every believer was committed through the witness of personal conduct and through explicit proclamation whenever possible.
42. People today put more trust in witnesses than in teachers (cf., Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi,
41: l.c. 31 f.), in experience than in teaching, and in life and action than in theories. The witness of a Christian life is the first and irreplaceable form of mission: Christ, whose mission we continue, is the “witness” par excellence (Rev 1:5; 3:14).
The first form of witness is the very life of the missionary, of the Christian family, and of the ecclesial community, which reveal a new way of living.
Fides et Ratio
(September 14, 1998)
Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart a desire to know the truth–in a word, to know Himself–so that, by knowing and loving God, men and women may also come to the fullness of truth about themselves.
7. At the origin of our life of faith there is an encounter, unique in kind, which discloses a mystery hidden for long ages (cf., 1 Cor 2:7; Rom 16:25-26) but which is now revealed: “In His goodness and wisdom, God chose to reveal Himself and to make known to us the hidden purpose of His will (cf., Eph 1:9), by which, through Christ, the Word made flesh, man has access to the Father in the Holy Spirit and comes to share in the divine nature”(Dei Verbum, 2). This initiative is utterly gratuitous, moving from God to men and women in order to bring them to salvation. As the source of love, God desires to make Himself known; and the knowledge which the human being has of God perfects all that the human mind can know of the meaning of life.
12. History therefore becomes the arena where we see what God does for humanity. God comes to us in the things we know best and can verify most easily, the things of our everyday life, apart from which we cannot understand ourselves.
In the Incarnation of the Son of God, we see forged the enduring and definitive synthesis which the human mind of itself could not even have imagined: the Eternal enters time, the Whole lies hidden in the part, God takes on a human face. Seen in any other terms, the mystery of personal existence remains an insoluble riddle. Where might the human being seek the answer to dramatic questions such as pain, the suffering of the innocent and death, if not in the light streaming from the mystery of Christ’s Passion, Death, and Resurrection?
14. Revelation has set within history a point of reference which cannot be ignored if the mystery of human life is to be known.
32. On the one hand, the knowledge acquired through belief can seem an imperfect form of knowledge, to be perfected gradually through personal accumulation of evidence; on the other hand, belief is often humanly richer than mere evidence, because it involves an interpersonal relationship and brings into play not only a person’s capacity to know but also the deeper capacity to entrust oneself to others, to enter into a relationship with them which is intimate and enduring. Human perfection, then, consists not simply in acquiring an abstract knowledge of the truth, but in a dynamic relationship of faithful self-giving with others. It is in this faithful self-giving that a person finds a fullness of certainty and security. At the same time, however, knowledge through belief, grounded as it is on trust between persons, is linked to truth: in the act of believing, men and women entrust themselves to the truth which the other declares to them.
34. What human reason seeks “without knowing it”(cf., Acts 17:23) can be found only through Christ; what is revealed in Him is “the full truth”(cf., Jn 1:14-16) of everything which was created in Him and through Him and which therefore in Him finds its fulfillment (cf., Col 1:17).
46. As a result of the crisis of rationalism, what has appeared finally is nihilism. As a philosophy of nothingness, it has a certain attraction for people of our time. Its adherents claim that the search is an end in itself, without any hope or possibility of ever attaining the goal of truth.
107. I ask everyone to look more deeply at man, whom Christ has saved in the mystery of His love, and at the human being’s unceasing search for truth and meaning. Different philosophical systems have lured people into believing that they are their own absolute master, able to decide their own destiny and future in complete autonomy, trusting only in themselves and their own powers. But this can never be the grandeur of the human being, who can find fulfillment only in choosing to enter the truth, to make a home under the shade of Wisdom and dwell there. Only within this horizon of truth will people understand their freedom in its fullness and their call to know and love God as the supreme realization of their true selves.