VATICAN CITY, OCT. 10, 2001 ( Amid world tensions, John Paul II used his general-audience address today to make a heartfelt appeal for hope in God.

The Pontiff dedicated the audience to reflect on Chapter 31 of the Book of Jeremiah, a passage full of hope and confidence in the future.

The "Book of Consolation," as the Jews called this passage, refers to Israel´s difficult years during the Assyrian occupation. In this context, the saying becomes an invitation to unlimited joy, expressed in a future of abundance in the precious goods of that period.

"The Bible is not about abstract spirituality," the Pope said. "The promised joy does not just affect man´s inner being, as the Lord looks after human life in all its dimensions. Jesus himself did not fail to underline this aspect, inviting his disciples to trust Providence also for material needs."

The canticle shows that "God wants to make the whole man happy," the Holy Father said.

In spite of the Jews´ exile in Babylon, God did not fail to keep his promise, the Pope said. "Once again, because of their infidelity, the people were to blame for this delusion," he said.

"Although the promise was not fulfilled then, because of the children´s lack of correspondence, the love of the Father remains in all its touching tenderness," John Paul II said.

"This love is the golden thread that unifies the phases of the history of Israel, in its joys and sorrows, its successes and failures," he continued. "God does not lessen his love, and the punishment itself is but an expression of it, assuming a pedagogic and salvific meaning."

Hence, God´s promise of happiness is never betrayed -- if anything, it is deferred, as it "will come sooner or later, despite all the frailties of men," the Pope stressed.

The promise was fulfilled "with the death and resurrection of Christ and the gift of the Spirit," and it will culminate with the Lord´s return at the end of time, he added.

"In the light of such certainties, Jeremiah´s ´dream´ continues to be a real historical opportunity, conditioned by the faithfulness of men and, above all, a final goal, guaranteed by the faithfulness of God and already inaugurated by his love, in Christ," John Paul II concluded.