CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy, JULY 16, 2003 ( The deepest reason for happiness a person can have is to know he is loved by God with a mother's love, says John Paul II.

The Pope expressed this conviction today when reflecting on the canticle of Isaiah 66:10-14, with some 2,000 pilgrims who attended the general audience held at the papal summer residence here, where the Holy Father is spending his holidays.

"As a mother comforts her son, so will I comfort you," God says in the biblical passage commented on by the Pope.

Earlier, in the Book of Isaiah, in Chapter 49, the Lord asks: "Can a woman forget her infant, be without tenderness of the child of her womb? Even should she forget, I will never forget you."

The poetic composition begins by describing the joy of the people of Israel when Jerusalem regains peace and prosperity.

This joy, produced by this "life surrounded by maternal tenderness," is described by the prophet with an affectionate image: "You shall be carried in her arms, and fondled in her lap."

This "maternal tenderness" that the biblical author describes in Jerusalem "will be the tenderness of God himself," the Pope said as he reviewed the canticle.

This is the reason for the most profound happiness, he said, when explaining why the composition begins with three imperatives: "rejoice," "exult" and "rejoice with her in joy."

Seeing the joy described by the prophet in Jerusalem, and the very joy that the scene causes in God, the Holy Father concluded that it is also easy to understand the happiness experienced by the children of the Church.

The Pope was continuing his series of midweek reflections on the Psalms and canticles of the Old Testament.