JESUS OF NAZARETH IS HEART OF CHRISTIAN FAITH
Pope John Paul II
Angelus, September 15, 1996

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. The spread of atheism is "one of the most serious problems of our time" (Gaudium et spes, n. 19). But in making this severe judgement, the Council itself observed that atheism, rather than a rejection of God, is sometimes a rejection of a false image of him. All those who have the grace of faith are therefore bound to offer a shining and credible testimony of it, showing the authentic face of God and of religion (ibid.).

The Christian East and West converge in holding that although God somehow lets himself be reached by way of the intellect, he comes to us more often by the way of love. Eastern spirituality in particular stresses that our thoughts and words can never, so to speak, "capture" the mystery of God. Before him there can only be adoring silence. On the other hand, God gave himself to his creature through his Son made man and the Holy Spirit who works in our hearts. In Christ, God emerged from his silence, revealing himself as the Unity of the three divine Persons and calling us to intimate communion with him.

2. As can be seen, before being a doctrine, Christianity is an "event", indeed, a Person: it is Jesus of Nazareth. He is the heart of the Christian faith. Hosts of saints, monks and mystics have left everything to enjoy intimacy with him. But Christ can also be met on the world's highways. The great Dostoyevsky, in a letter recalling the incredulity and doubt which marked so many moments in his life, offers this moving witness: "Those are the moments when I composed a creed: to believe that there is nothing more beautiful, more profound, more loving, more reasonable and more perfect than Christ, and that not only is there nothing but--I say it to myself with a jealous love--one cannot have anything" (Letter to Mrs. Von Visine, 20 February 1854). In turn, Semen Frank, a recent Russian thinker, reflecting on the enigma of suffering writes: "The idea of a God who came down into the world, who voluntarily suffers and shares in human and cosmic suffering, the idea of a God-man who suffers, is the only possible theodicy, the only convincing justification of God" (Dieu est avec nous, Paris 1955, p. 195).

This is the message which Christians of the West and of the East, ever closer together, at the approach of the third millennium, are called to proclaim. I would like to repeat, as I wrote in my Apostolic Letter Orientale lumen: ''The Cross of Christ must not be emptied of its power because if the Cross of Christ is emptied of its power, man no longer has roots, he no longer has prospects: he is destroyed! This is the cry of the end of the 20th century. It is the cry of Rome, of Moscow, of Constantinople. It is the cry of all Christendom: of the Americas, of Africa, of Asia, of everyone. It is the cry of the new evangelization" (n. 3).

3. May the Blessed Virgin, whose intimate sharing in the Cross of her Son is commemorated by the Church precisely today, help us develop an ever more personal, deep and consistent love for Jesus Christ. May our proclamation of him not consist in empty words. May they be words full of life, the words of men and women profoundly transformed, because they have received the grace of a hope that does not disappoint, and they account for it by living in love for God and for their brothers and sisters.


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