God Prefers to Save, Not Condemn, Says Pope at Audience

Focuses on Psalm 80(81) in Address

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VATICAN CITY, APRIL 24, 2002 (Zenit.org).- Dialogue between God and people has its contrasts because of sin, but the Almighty´s «last word» is «never judgment and punishment, but love and forgiveness,» says John Paul II.

That was the Pope´s message when he dedicated today´s general audience address to reflect on Psalm 80(81). The Psalm is noteworthy for the tone of affection with which God seeks man´s love: «Listen, my people. … If only you will obey me, Israel!»

John Paul II was continuing his series of meditations on the Psalms and Old Testament canticles. The Psalm chosen today has two key elements. On one hand is «the divine gift of freedom, which was offered to oppressed and unhappy Israel.»

The biblical text makes reference to the Jewish people´s release from the slavery of Egypt, but at the same time is a symbol of the full deliverance that God offers every man and woman, the Pope explained.

The other decisive element of this Psalm is that «biblical religion is not a solitary monologue of God, an action of his that is destined to be inert,» the Holy Father stressed.

«Instead, it is a dialogue, a word followed by a response, a gesture of love that calls for acceptance,» the Pope said.

«Above all, the Lord invites [Israel] to the faithful observance of the first commandment, the foundation of the whole Decalogue, namely, faith in the only Lord and Savior, and the rejection of idols,» John Paul II emphasized.

«Unfortunately, God must attest with bitterness to the numerous infidelities of Israel,» he said. «The road in the desert, to which the Psalm alludes, is full of these acts of rebellion and idolatry, which reached a climax in the representation of the golden calf.»

The last part of the Psalm carries a melancholic tone, the Holy Father noted.

«This melancholy, however, is inspired by love and linked to a lively desire to fill the Chosen People with goods,» the Pope stressed, recalling the promises of happiness God made to Israel. The «Lord evidently seeks to obtain the conversion of his people, a response of sincere and effective love to his generous love.»

This relation of love, John Paul II said, giving the Psalm a Christian reading, finds its summit in the salvation brought by Christ.

«As is always the case in the history of salvation, the last word in the contrast between God and the sinful people is never judgment and punishment, but love and forgiveness,» the Pope said.

«God does not wish to judge and condemn, but to save and deliver humanity from evil,» and the liturgy is «the privileged place in which to hear the divine appeal to conversion and to return to the embrace of God,» he concluded.

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