TRUE HUMAN LOVE REFLECTS THE DIVINE
Pope John Paul II
Given on 25 September 1993 in Asti, Italy

Dear Married Couples,

1. It gives me great joy to meet you in this cathedral, where you frequently gather with your Bishop and priests for the Married Couples' Mission in which you are involved, and which will end at Pentecost next year. I am even more delighted to be doing so in the company of Cardinal Angelo Sodano, an illustrious son of your land.

I greet dear Bishop Severino Poletto, your dynamic Pastor, and I thank him for the words he has addressed to me. I also greet the married couples who, on your behalf, have expressed sentiments of devoted affection to me, explaining the interesting pastoral enterprise in which you are involved. You are aiming at strengthening your links with Christ, deepening his message by paying special attention to "the Gospel of marriage."

Your experience is very timely. The Church and the world today more than ever need married couples and families who generously let themselves be schooled by Christ.

The many sad aspects of our time and the unprecedented forms of violence that unfortunately mark it are ultimately explained by the closure of hearts to God's love. How urgent then is the task of believers, above all of Christian families, to restore to today's society the necessary anchoring of faith and love in the safe haven of God's word.

The love experienced within the family offers a favourable climate where that personal relationship with God which is the source of authentic individual and community renewal can take root and develop.

Obviously this implies that it is genuine love. Often, unfortunately, in the hedonistic culture we experience today, it is rather its caricature and even its betrayal that are labeled with the name of love. Appropriately, the biblical passage just proclaimed is, in two instances, concerned with clarifying the true meaning of love.

2. "In this way the love of God was revealed to us: God sent his only Son into the world so that we might have life through him" (1 Jn 4:9).

Here is love at its source. Love is the gift of self. It means emptying oneself to reach out to others. In a certain sense, it means forgetting oneself for the good of others. Authentic human love reflects within itself the logic of the divine. In this perspective, the duty of conjugal fidelity can be fully grasped. "You are everything to me, I give myself totally to you, for ever": this is the commitment that springs from the heart of every person who is sincerely in love.

Fidelity! Next to this comes fruitfulness, another typical aspect of the relationship between spouses. Is there not a link between the demographic decline and the alarming phenomenon of a considerable number of couples between whom love so easily withers and dies?

Dear married couples, do not be afraid! You are living the greatness of love animated by the generous desire to see it spread and virtually incarnated in the faces of your children. When a couple refuses to collaborate with God to transmit the gift of life, they have great difficulty in finding in themselves the resources to sustain mutual understanding.

3. The biblical text continues: "In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us" (1 Jn 4:10).

God's love is totally gratuitous. Such therefore should be the love of a couple and the relationship between the members of a family. By virtue of love the parents will be able to devote their best energies to the work of bringing up their children, assuring them of consistent guidance and surrounding them with caring and respectful affection. In turn, the children will find in love the deepest motivation for a responsible, docile and grateful attitude towards their parents. Love drawn from God's heart spurs the whole family to find the time to attend to the elderly, to devote themselves to the sick, to be involved in the difficult situations around them, including regional problems and the more general problems of the nation. The family does not live its vocation to the full if it is not open to the needs of the community. When its members seal themselves off in a sort of group selfishness, they automatically deprive themselves of the opportunity to grow in love and thus to experience true joy.

4. Dear married couples, the presence of so many of you and your children fills my heart with emotion. Allow me to embrace you with affection. At the end of our meeting I should like to leave you two "assignments" in the Lord's name.

I draw one from the recommendation contained in the First Letter of Peter: "Come to him, [Christ] a living stone" (1 Pet 2:4). Yes, dear brothers and sisters, make sure that Christ the Lord is your teacher and also your children's.

It is from him that you should draw the right criteria for direction and discernment in every situation. Forcefully resist the divorce mentality that disrupts God's plan for marriage as an indissoluble covenant of love.

Do not let into your homes that permissive culture which allows everything, even the suppression of life before it blossoms or before it declines and comes to an end naturally.

5. The other assignment concerns your responsibility to proclaim the Gospel. Be evangelizing communities, able to transmit and radiate the Gospel! Is not this the goal of the Married Couples' Mission in which you are involved? Have the courage of the Gospel!

I bless you, dear friends, and I encourage you to continue in your providential initiative, hoping that the missionary concern that motivates you will continue to shape the entire pastoral activity of the Diocese.

Dear brothers and sisters! I entrust each one of you, your children, your families, your projects, to the love of the Father, and I invoke the protection of your patron saints and the motherly intercession of our Lady on your homes.

My blessing to all of you! I must say that the expression "Married Couples' Mission" is very thought-provoking because usually, when we think of mission and missionaries, we are referring to those who go to distant lands. Sometimes married couples do too.

Instead today, after the Second Vatican Council, we are very aware of the mission that involves all Christians. We are all missionaries and the family's mission is irreplaceable. It is irreplaceable if we consider it as the fundamental cell of that larger society, for the Church, for evangelization and for the new evangelization.

We also know from experience and from tradition, how much all of us, Bishops, Cardinals and the Pope himself, owe to our family, to our parents, our teachers in the faith, in human and Christian nobility and in the virtues. We are indebted to them, and first and foremost to God, but we are also indebted to our many brothers and sisters, and above all to our parents who gave us life and raised us. Human life must be reared not only in the physical and biological dimension, but also in the spiritual.

This is the irreplaceable evangelization that takes place in the family and to which you are called. This is why, although you do not travel to distant lands, you are the apostles, evangelizers and missionaries of your own families.

For this, the missionary spirit is necessary, the very spirit of the Apostles but also of our parents and grandparents, who knew how to make the family a domestic Church. This is a lovely expression that we have inherited from the Fathers of the Church. We have the universal Church, the diocesan and the parish Church, but the domestic Church is irreplaceable.

I hope that all of you, fathers, mothers, and all your children, will form this domestic Church to be a community mission. It happens through this communion of individuals which is specific to the family, between the couple and then between the generations.

I thank you for this meeting, I entrust you to the protection of the Holy Family, a family in which the Son of God was born and brought up as a man, as a human child. This is a wonderful reality. Be devoted to the Holy Family, Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I entrust all those present and all the families of your city and your Diocese to them.


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