There's a slavery worse than prisons of the body or the mind, but there's also a way to escape ...
Pope Francis today took up the theme of the Third Commandment for a second time in this general audience series on the Ten Commandments. While last week he talked about what really brings us rest and repose, today he noted a specific requirement for resting: freedom. Slaves by definition cannot rest, he commented.
The Holy Father explained: “The Decalogue, promulgated in the Book of Exodus, is repeated in the Book of Deuteronomy in an almost identical way, with the exception of this Third Word, where there appears a precious difference: while in Exodus the reason for rest is the blessing of creation, in Deuteronomy instead it commemorates the end of slavery. In this day the slave must rest like the master, to celebrate the memory of the Pasch of liberation.”
Based on this specificity, Francis reflected on the “many types of slavery” that exist, “both exterior and interior.”
There are external constrictions such as oppressions, lives sequestered by violence and by other types of injustice. Then there exist inner prisons, such as psychological obstacles, complexes, limits of character and so on. Does rest exist in these conditions? Can a man who is imprisoned or oppressed remain free? And can a person tormented by inner difficulties be free?
Peter’s Successor noted that some people who have endured these external constrictions find nevertheless a “great freedom of mind.”
“Think, for example, of St. Maximilian Kolbe, or Cardinal Van Thuan, who turned dark oppressions into places of light,” he said.
And there are those who are “marked by great inner fragility but know the repose of mercy and know how to transmit it.”
“God’s mercy frees us,” the pope assured. “And when you encounter God’s mercy, you have a great inner freedom and are also capable of transmitting it. This is why it is so important to open up to God’s mercy, so as not to be slaves to ourselves.”
So then true freedom, the pope continued, is more than freedom of choice. And there is a slavery greater than both these external constrictions and internal fragilities.
“Indeed, there is a slavery that binds more than a prison, more than a panic attack, more than an imposition of any kind: the slavery to one’s own ego,” he warned.
“The ego can become a tyrant who tortures man wherever he is and procures for him the most profound oppression, which is ‘sin,'” he said.
Sin is not a “trivial violation of a code,” said Francis. Instead it is a “failure of existence.” And it is the “condition of slaves.”
Then considering the human passions of sin, the Holy Father noted how the vices are slave drivers, that “tyrannize and torment” their victims.
For example, he spelled out:
There is no respite for the greedy, as greed is the hypocrisy of the stomach, which is full but makes us believe it is empty. There is no respite for the greedy and the lustful who must live with pleasure. The anxiety of possession destroys the miser, who must always accumulate money, harming others. The fire of anger and the worm of envy ruin relationships. The sloth that avoids any effort makes one incapable of living.
Thus, the pope said, “haughty egocentrism – the ego of which I spoke – digs a deep hole between oneself and others.”
“Dear brothers and sisters, who is therefore the true slave?,” Francis asked. “Who is he who knows no rest? He who is not able to love!”
Thus the Third Commandment, Pope Francis said, is “for us Christians the prophecy of the Lord Jesus, who breaks down the interior slavery of sin to make man capable of loving. True love is true freedom: It detaches from possession, reconstructs relationships, knows how to welcome and value others, transforms every effort into a joyful gift, and makes us capable of communion. Love even makes the imprisoned free, even if they are weak and limited. This is the freedom we receive from our Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ.”