“The whole journey undertaken in the Decalogue would be of no use if it didn’t arrive at touching this level: man’s heart…we must let ourselves be unmasked by these Commandments on desire because they show us our poverty, in order to lead us to a holy humiliation.”
Pope Francis come to the end of the Ten Commandments during his General Audience on November 21, 2018, and explained their depth and significance beyond a list of what to do and not do. They give us our boundaries, the boundaries that make our hearts pure and prevent self-destruction. And commandments nine and ten are significant, although they seem to echo earlier prohibitions on adultery and theft.
“These are not only the last words of the text but much more: they are the fulfillment of the journey through the Decalogue, touching the heart of all that has been given to us in it.,” Francis explained. “In fact, in hindsight, they don’t add a new content: the indications ‘do not covet the wife [. . . ] or anything that belongs to your neighbor’ is at least latent in the Commandments on adultery and on theft; what, then, is the function of these words?
“Let us keep very present that all the Commandments have the task to indicate the boundary of life, the limit beyond which man destroys himself and his neighbor, spoiling his relationship with God. If you go beyond, you destroy yourself; you also destroy the relationship with God and the relationship with others. The Commandments point this out.”
The Holy Father pointed out that all sin springs from “evil desires…all sins are born from a wicked desire — all. The heart begins to move there, and one enters that wave and ends up in a transgression.”
The danger in the resulting transgression isn’t just that it may be a “legal” violation. It harms oneself and others. The commandments are designed to free the heart.
“This is the challenge: to free the heart from all these wicked and awful things,” Francis said. “God’s precepts can be reduced to being only the beautiful facade of a life, which in any case remains an existence of slaves and not of children. Often, behind the Pharisaic mask of asphyxiating correctness, something awful and unresolved hides.
“Instead, we must let ourselves be unmasked by these Commandments on desire because they show us our poverty, in order to lead us to a holy humiliation. Each one of us can ask him/herself: but what ugly desires come often to me? Envy, greed, gossip? — all these things that come to me from within. Each one can ask him/herself and it will do him/her good.
“Man is in need of this blessed humiliation, that humiliation by which he discovers that he cannot free himself on his own; that humiliation by which he cries to God to be saved. Saint Paul explains it in an insuperable way, precisely in referring to the Commandment not to covet (Cf. Romans 7:7-24).”
The Pope emphasized that the purpose of the Law is not to force man into “literal obedience” but to lead many to truth. For this, we need an open heart.
“The task of the Law is to lead man to his truth, namely, to his poverty, which becomes a genuine opening and personal opening to God’s mercy, which transforms us and renews us,” Francis concluded. “God is the only one able to renew our heart, on the condition that we open our heart to Him: it’s the only condition. He does everything, but we must open our heart to Him.”