Pope´s Address at Wednesday General Audience

Explains Christian View of Power

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VATICAN CITY, JUNE 6, 2001 (Zenit.org).- Here is a translation of John Paul II´s address at today´s general audience.

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1. «Blessed may you be, O Lord, God of Israel our father» (1 Chronicles 29:10). This intense canticle of praise, which the first Book of the Chronicles puts on David´s lips, makes us relive the outburst of joy with which the community of the ancient covenant greeted the great preparations made for the construction of the temple, the fruit of the common effort of the king and of so many who spent themselves with him. They virtually competed in generosity, because this was called for by a dwelling that «will not be for a man, but for the Lord God» (1 Chronicles 29:1).

Rereading that event after centuries, the chronicler intuits David´s feelings and those of the whole people, their joy and admiration for all those who had made their contribution: «the people rejoiced because these had given willingly, for with a whole heart they had offered freely to the Lord; David the king also rejoiced greatly» (1 Chronicles 29:9).

2. Such is the context in which the canticle is born. However, it does not dwell, except briefly, on human satisfaction, but centers attention immediately on the glory of God: «Yours, O Lord, is the grandeur … yours the kingdom ….» The great temptation that is always lurking, when works are carried out for the Lord, is that of placing oneself at the center, almost feeling like creditors of God. David, instead, attributes everything to the Lord. It is not man, with his intelligence and strength, who is the first architect of all that is done, but God himself.

Thus David expresses the profound truth that everything is grace. In a certain sense, all that was placed at the disposition of the temple, was nothing but a restitution, and very meager at that, of all that Israel had received in the invaluable gift of the covenant established by God with the Fathers. Along the same line, David credits the Lord with everything that has constituted his fortune, either in the military or the political and economic field. Everything comes from him!

3. Herein lies the contemplative thrust of these verses. It seems that the author of the Canticle does not have enough words to confess the greatness and power of God. He sees him first of all in the special paternity shown to Israel, «our Father.» And this is the first title that elicits the praise «now and always.»

In the Christian recital of these words, we cannot forget that this paternity revealed itself fully in the Incarnation of the Son of God. It is he, and only he, who can speak to God calling him, in the proper sense and affectionately, «Abba» (Mark 14:36). At the same time, through the gift of the Spirit, we participate in his filiation, which makes us «sons in the Son.» The blessing of ancient Israel by God the Father acquires for us the intensity that Jesus manifested to us, when teaching us to call God «our Father.»

4. The view of the biblical author then extends from the history of salvation to the whole cosmos, to contemplate the greatness of God the creator: «For all in heavens and on earth is yours.» And again: «You are exalted as head over all.» As in Psalm 8, the man praying our Canticle looks up toward the immense expanse of the heavens, then he looks down in wonder on the immensity of the earth, and sees everything under the dominion of the Creator. How can God´s glory be expressed? Words pile up, in a kind of mystical pursuit: greatness, power, glory, majesty, splendor; and then, again, force and power. Everything that man experiences as beautiful and great must be referred to him who is the origin of everything and governs all. Man knows that everything he possesses is a gift from God, as David underlines further on in the Canticle: «But who am I, and who are my people, that we should have the means to contribute so freely? For everything is from you, and we only give you what we have received from you» (1 Chronicles 29:14).

5. This background of reality as gift of God helps us combine the feelings of praise and thanksgiving of the Canticle with the authentic spirituality of «offering» that Christian liturgy makes us live, especially in the eucharistic celebration. It is what emerges from the double prayer with which the priest offers the bread and wine destined to become the Body and Blood of Christ: «Through your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made. It will become for us the bread of life.» The prayer is repeated for the wine. Similar sentiments are suggested either in the Byzantine Divine Liturgy or the old Roman Canon, when the eucharistic anamnesis express the awareness of offering as a gift to God the things received from him.

6. One final application of this vision of God is completed in the Canticle by looking at the human experience of wealth and power. Both these dimensions emerged while David prepared what was necessary to build the temple. That which is a universal temptation could have been a temptation for him: to act as if he were absolute arbiter of what he possessed, to make it a source of pride and of abuse toward others. The prayer articulated in this Canticle refers man to his state as «a poor one,» who receives everything.

The kings of this earth, then, are no more than images of the divine royalty: «Yours is the kingdom, Lord.» The wealthy cannot forget the origin of their goods: «From you come wealth and glory.» The powerful must know how to recognize God, source «of very greatness and power.» The Christian is called to read these expressions, contemplating with exultation the risen Christ, glorified by God, «far above all rule and authority and power and dominion» (Ephesians 1:21). Christ is the real King of the universe.

[Translation by ZENIT]

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