In catechesis on end of the Decalogue, pope explains that if the heart is not free, any other freedom is of little use
Pope Francis wrapped up his catechesis on the Commandments, considering the final Words: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife … or anything that belongs to your neighbor,” which, he observed “are implicit in the commandments on adultery and theft” already covered.
“So,” Pope Francis asked, “what is the function of these words? Are they mere summary? Or are they something more?”
In fact, the pope went on to explain, these final admonitions get at the heart of the whole Decalogue: “This last Word highlights the fact that all transgressions arise from a common root: evil desires. All sins are born of an evil desire. All of them.”
Francis reminded the audience that the Commandments delineate the “boundary of life.” Beyond these boundaries, “man destroys himself and his neighbor, breaking down his relationship with God.”
And the whole path pointed out by the Commandments, he said, “would have no use if it did not reach this [final] level, the heart of man.”
“The point of arrival – the final commandment – of this journey is the heart, and if the heart is not freed, the rest serves little,” he said.
Francis said our challenge in life is to free the heart from “all these evil and ugly things” so that we are not reduced to “an existence of slaves and not of sons.”
“Often,” he warned, “behind the Pharisaic mask of asphyxiating correctness, something ugly and unresolved is hidden.”
We must instead allow ourselves to be unmasked by these commandments on desire, because they show us our poverty, to lead us to a holy humiliation. Each one of us can ask himself: but which ugly desires come to me often? Envy, greed, gossip? … Each one of us can ask himself this, and it will do him good. Man needs this blessed humiliation, that which enables him to discover that he cannot free himself alone …
Francis cautioned that we can’t fall into the idea of thinking that we ourselves can correct our evil desires.
“It is futile to think of purifying our heart in a titanic effort of will alone: this is not possible,” he said. “We must open ourselves to the relationship with God, in truth and in freedom: Only in this way can our efforts be fruitful, because there is the Holy Spirit, Who carries us forward.”
We don’t save ourselves
The task of the Biblical Law is not that of deluding man that a literal obedience leads him to an artificial and, moreover, unattainable salvation. The task of the Law is to bring man to his truth, that is, to his poverty, which becomes authentic openness, personal openness to the mercy of God, Who transforms and renews us. God is the only one capable of renewing our heart, as long as we open our hearts to Him: This is the only condition; He does everything, but we have to open our heart.
So these last Commands of the Decalogue “educate us all to acknowledge that we are mendicants,” Francis said. “They help to place us before the disorder of our heart, to stop living selfishly and to become poor in spirit, genuine in the presence of the Father, letting ourselves be redeemed by the Son and instructed by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the teacher Who guides us: Let us allow ourselves to be helped. We are mendicants, let us ask for this grace.”
Yes, blessed are those who cease to delude themselves, believing they can save themselves from their own weakness without the mercy of God, which alone can heal. Only God’s mercy can heal the heart.
Blessed are those who recognize their own evil desires and, with a repentant and humiliated heart, do not stand before God and other men as though they were righteous, but rather as sinners.
It is beautiful, what Peter says to the Lord: “Depart from me, Lord; for I am a sinful man.” This is a beautiful prayer: “Depart from me, Lord; for I am a sinful man.”
See the Holy Father’s series on The Commandments here: