When meeting with some 4,000 pilgrims at the midweek general audience, the Pope used the canticle of the Jewish sage Sirach, written between 190 and 180 B.C., to offer an intense description of divine justice.
"The God of the Bible is not indifferent before evil," the Holy Father said. "And although his ways are not our ways, his times and plans are different to ours, yet he places himself on the side of the victims and appears as severe judge of the violent, the oppressors, the victorious who have no mercy."
"However, his intervention does not seek destruction," the Pope explained. "In showing his power and his faithfulness in love, he can also generate in the conscience of the evildoer a shudder that will lead him to conversion."
John Paul II was continuing his yearlong series of meditations on the Psalms and the canticles of the Old Testament, which make up parts of the Liturgy of the Hours.
On this occasion, John Paul II chose a passage from the Book of Sirach (36:1-5,10-13) in which the "Bible reveals itself as a dialogue between God and humanity, a meeting that is put under the seal of the divine word, grace and love." The book is also known as Ecclesiasticus.
It is a "supplication to God to intervene in favor of Israel against the foreign nations that oppress it. In the past, God revealed his holiness when he punished the faults of his people, placing them in the hands of their enemies. Now the believer asks God to show his greatness by suppressing the power of the oppressors and installing a new era of messianic overtones," the Holy Father continued.
"In a certain sense, it can be considered as a model of prayer to be used at a time of persecution and oppression, as was the case when the author lived, under the rather harsh and severe dominion of Syrian-Hellenic foreign sovereigns," the Pope said.
"In the Bible, the lament of those who suffer never ends in desperation, but is always open to hope. It is based on the certainty that the Lord does not abandon his children," the Holy Father stressed.
"From all eternity God has a plan of love and salvation for all creatures, called to become his people," John Paul II concluded.