Pope Francis: God’s law brings freedom

Vatican City, Feb 16, 2020 / 06:26 am (CNA).- God gives the grace both to follow his law exteriorly and to accept it in one’s heart, which is what gives true freedom from passion and sin, Pope Francis said in his Angelus address Sunday.

“Let’s not forget this: living the Law as an instrument of freedom, which helps me to be freer, which helps me not to be a slave to passions and sin,” the pope said Feb. 16.

In his catechesis before the Angelus prayer, Pope Francis spoke about the difference between “formal compliance” and “substantive compliance” with the law, which is to accept the law also in one’s “the center of the intentions, decisions, words, and gestures of each of us.”

“Good and bad deeds,” he said, “start from the heart.”

The pope explained that “by accepting the Law of God in your heart, you understand that when you do not love your neighbor, you kill yourself and others to some extent, because hatred, rivalry and division kill the fraternal charity that underlies interpersonal relationships.” This is also true of gossip, he added.

Jesus knows it is not always easy to live the Ten Commandments in this way, “for this reason he offers us the help of his love,” Francis assured.

“He came into the world not only to fulfill the Law,” the pope continued, “but also to give us his Grace, so that we can do the will of God, loving him and our brothers.”

“Everything, everything we can do with the grace of God!”

Jesus, in his sermon on the mount, encourages his followers to have a correct understanding of the law, Francis explained.

“Jesus wants to help his listeners to have a correct approach to the rules of the Commandments given to Moses, urging us to be available to God who educates us to true freedom and responsibility through the Law,” he said.

“It is about living [the law] as an instrument of freedom.”

Pope Francis said: “It is a matter of trusting and entrusting ourselves to him, to his grace, to that gratuitousness that he has given us and to welcome the hand that he constantly extends to us, so that our efforts and our necessary commitment can be supported by his help, full of goodness and of mercy.”

According to the pope, war is also an example of succumbing to one’s passions.

He recalled the death of an 18-month-old girl, who died of cold in a refugee camp in Afrin, Syria Feb. 14.

War has many consequences. “This is the result of passions,” he said. “People who make war cannot control their passions.”

“Today, Jesus asks us to progress on the path of love that he has shown us, and which starts from the heart,” he said.

“This is the way forward to live as a Christian. May the Virgin Mary help us to follow the path traced by her Son, to reach true joy and spread justice and peace everywhere.”


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  1. Well and profoundly said on internalizing the Law as a rule of love. Would that we might accept this on face value. Nevertheless with Pope Francis there is always counterpoint. From: Eduardo Echeverria in Making Sense of Pope Francis II. “Gnosticism is one of the most sinister ideologies” according to Francis, which has a grip on the contemporary minds of many in the Church. Francis describes the characteristic of neo-gnostics to be such that they seek “to domesticate the mystery. They absolutize their own theories and force others to submit to their way of thinking, their own vision of reality to be perfect” (Pope Francis). In contrast to these neo-gnostics, Francis claims, “It is not easy to grasp the truth that we have received from the Lord. And it is even more difficult to express it. So we cannot claim that our way of understanding this truth authorizes us to exercise a strict supervision over others’ lives” (Gaudete et Exsultate, 43). Francis’ skeptical conclusion, if taken seriously, is self-refuting. “Truth is a relationship. Each one receives truth and expresses it from within according to one’s own circumstances” (The Pontiff). Does this apply to the Final Document? How can it not. It references what I previously compared to in ancient China Yin Yang philosophy in which opposites are nominal and consequently complimentary. Similar appeared in the West via Persia and Zoroaster. The complementary balance between good and evil the most absolute of opposites one day to merge in reconciliation. Manes followed Zoroaster in essence Augustine his troubled convert. In practice it’s an intricate theory of reality which appeals to the common unmoored conscience of modern Man. Absolutes aren’t relativism is [Clinton could thus respond It depends on what is is]. We find the effect of this entirely new pontifical religious ideology within the Church. Lack of cohesion structurally in continuous distancing within and morally discordant. This morning I preached on internalizing Christ and Law within taking cue from Jesus: Liberal Rabbi or Incarnate Messiah with accent on Christ conveyed unalloyed, whereas Francis’ self-refutation ideology would convey Christ as relational, understood conscientiously within the individual’s circumstances.

  2. In the movie, The Song of Bernadette (1943), Bernadette is asked by the cure if she knows what a sinner is. Bernadette (academy award winner Jennifer Jones) answers: “A sinner is one who loves evil.” The cure is impressed that she says “loves evil,” rather than only “a person who does evil.”

    A matter of the heart, and yet more, and from this address also Pope Francis’ complete message to “follow his law exteriorly and to accept it in one’s heart.” On this complete point, and to avoid any counterpoint thinking (as possibly in other addresses), St. John Paul II stresses in Veritatis Splendor that it is particular actions which can still be distinct sins against the Ten Commandments. To pretend that the “fundamental option” of the heart, for example, cancels such actual sins is a deception.

    And while we’re at it, on the equally clear meaning of determinate and dogmatic truths, we have this from Pope Paul VI:

    “As for the meaning of dogmatic formulas, this remains ever true and constant in the Church, even when it is expressed with greater clarity or more developed. The faithful therefore must shun the opinion, first, that dogmatic formulas (or some category of them) cannot signify truth in a determinate way, but can only offer changeable approximations to it, which to a certain extent distort or alter it; secondly, that these formulas signify the truth only in an indeterminate way, this truth being like a goal that is constantly being sought by means of such approximations” (from Section 5, Mysterium Ecclesiae, ratified by Pope Paul VI and signed by Cardinal Seper, Prefect of the CDF, May 11, 1973).

    • Peter,
      Thank you for mentioning that.
      I loved watching “The Song of Bernadette.”
      I homeschooled my children for a number of years and a large part of the curriculum was supplemented by classic films like The Song of Bernadette and documentaries like Sir Kenneth Clarke’s “Civilization .”
      There’s a wealth of excellent media resources out there and beyond giving knowledge of the saints and Christendom, older films can also give us a sense of the reverence mostly missing from our presnt era.

    • Good references Peter. Especially Pope Paul VI that I wasn’t aware of. During study of Man and ethical knowledge the question became what defines being human insofar as our intellect. That definition I presumed preeminently encompasses the capacity to identify and distinguish good from evil. It came down to the ability to distinguish the spectrum of opposites confirmed by Aquinas. Animals act instinctively toward a naturally inclined end. Man however can reason beyond natural inclination say hunger and determine differently, the opposite such as giving his meal to someone in greater need. An act that distinguishes our humanness. Dr Echeverria isolates this when referring to “Francis’ skeptical conclusion, if taken seriously, is self-refuting”. Self refutation by denying self evident moral absolutes is the initial step in developing a false conscience and distancing from Christ.

      • And to belabor my point it is the ability to identify opposites and choose what is best particularly moral good v evil that defines free will and true freedom.

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