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Pope Francis on Fulfillment of the Law: Beyond Formal Observance

Jesus Offers Grace to Live Commandments in ‘Profound and Totalizing Way’

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Following the Law is about more than complying, more than just obeying; it is about fulfilling the Law in a much deeper way.

«And Jesus is aware that it’s not easy to live the Commandments in this profound and totalizing way,» the Pope said.  «So He offers us the help of His love: He came into the world not only to give fulfillment to the Law but also to give us His Grace, that that we can do the Will of God, loving Him and brothers.»

That was the focus of Pope Francis’ commentary February 16, 2020, before praying the noonday Angelus with the large crowds of pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square. Basing his comments on the Gospel reading of the day, Matthew’s account of the Sermon on the Mount, the Holy Father explained Jesus’ desire to «help His listeners to have the right approach to the prescriptions of the Commandments given to Moses, exhorting them to be available to God who educates us to true freedom and responsibility through the Law.»

«Let’s not forget this: to live the Law as an instrument of freedom, which helps me to be freer, which helps me not to be a slave of passions and of sin.,» Francis said. «We think of the wars, we think of the consequences of wars, we think of that child who died of cold in Syria day before yesterday — so many calamities, so many. This is the fruit of passions and the people that make war don’t know how to control their passions. They fail to fulfill the Law. When one yields to temptations and passions, one is not lord and protagonist of one’s life but becomes incapable of managing it with determination and responsibility.»

The Holy Father pointed out that in the Sermon on the Mount Jesus uses the examples of things encountered often in life: murder, adultery, divorce, and oaths. He says that the Law prohibits these things but for a deeper meaning than often thought.

«He encourages us to move from a formal observance of the Law to a substantial observance, accepting the Law in our heart, which is the center of the intentions, decisions, words, and gestures of each one of us. It is from the heart that good and evil actions come.

«By accepting God’s Law in the heart, one understands that when one doesn’t love one’s neighbor, one kills oneself and others in some way, because hatred, rivalry, and division kill fraternal charity, which is the basis of interpersonal relationships. And this is true for what I’ve said of wars and also of gossip because the tongue kills.»

The Holy Father’s Full Commentary


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Jim Fair

Jim Fair is a husband, father, grandfather, writer, and communications consultant. He also likes playing the piano and fishing. He writes from the Chicago area.

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