Pope Francis General Audience

 

 

Wednesday September 12, 2018
On the Commandments & The Day of Rest, Prophecy of Freedom
‘We are slaves of ourselves and we can’t love, because love is always towards others’
 
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
 
In today’s catechesis we turn again to the third Commandment, that of the day of rest. The Decalogue, promulgated in the Book of Exodus, is repeated in the Book of Deuteronomy in an almost identical manner, with the exception of this Third Word, where a precious difference appears: whereas in Exodus the reason for rest is the blessing of Creation, in Deuteronomy, instead, the end of slavery is commemorated. On this day the slave must rest as his master, to celebrate the memory of the Passover of liberation.
 
In fact slaves, by definition, can’t rest. However, so many types of slavery exist, be they interior or exterior.  There are the external constrictions such as oppressions, lives kidnapped by violence and by other types of injustice. Then there are the interior prisons, which are, for example, psychological blockages, complexes, limitations of character and others. Is there rest in these conditions? In any case, can an imprisoned or oppressed man be free? And can a person tormented by interior difficulties be free?
 
In fact, there are persons that, even in prison, live great freedom of spirit. We think, for example, of Saint Maximilian Kolbe, or of Cardinal Van Thuan, who transformed dark oppressions into places of light. There are as well persons marked by great interior fragilities that, however, know the rest of mercy and are able to transmit it. God’s mercy liberates us. And when one encounters God’s mercy, one has great interior freedom and one is also capable of transmitting it. Therefore, it’s very important to open oneself to God’s mercy so as not to be slaves of ourselves.
 
So, what is true freedom? Does it consist, perhaps, in the freedom of choice?  This is certainly a part of freedom, and we commit ourselves so that it’s assured to every man and woman (Cf. Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 73). However, we know well that to be able to do what one wants isn’t enough to be truly free, and not even happy. True freedom is much more.
 
In fact, there is a slavery that chains more than a prison, more than a panic crisis, more than an imposition of any kind: the slavery of one’s ego. There are those people that spend the whole day looking at themselves in the mirror to see the ego. And one’s ego has a higher stature than one’s body. They are slaves of the ego. The ego can become a tormentor that tortures man wherever he is and procures for him the most profound oppression, that which is called “sin,” which isn’t the trivial violation of a code, but failure of the existence and condition of slaves (Cf. John 8:34). In the end, sin is to say and do ego. “I want to do this and I don’t care if there’s a limit, if there is a Commandment, I don’t even care if there is love.”
 
Regarding the ego, for example, we think of human passions: the greedy, the lustful, the avaricious, the irascible, the envious, the slothful, the arrogant — and so on —  are slaves of their vices, which tyrannize and torment them. There is no truce for the greedy, because the throat is the hypocrisy of the stomach, which is full but which makes us think that it’s empty. The hypocritical stomach makes us greedy. We are slaves of a hypocritical stomach. There is no truce for the greedy and the lustful that must live of pleasure; the anxiety of possession destroys the greedy, always piling up money, hurting others; the fire of wrath and the worm of envy ruins relationships. Writers say that envy makes the body and soul yellow, as when a person has hepatitis: he/she becomes yellow. The envious have a yellow soul, because they can never have the freshness of the health of the soul. Envy destroys. The sloth that dodges all labour makes one incapable of living. Egocentrism — that ego of which I spoke – arrogant, excavates a profound trench between oneself and others.
 
Dear brothers and sisters, who then is the real slave? Who is he that knows not rest? Who is incapable of loving! And all these vices, these sins, this egoism distance us from love and make us incapable of loving. We are slaves of ourselves and we can’t love, because love is always towards others.
 
The Third Commandment, which invites to celebrate liberation in rest, is for us Christians a prophesy of the Lord Jesus, who breaks the interior slavery of sin to render man capable of loving. True love is true freedom: it detaches from possession, rebuilds relationships, is able to welcome and value one’s neighbour, transforms every effort into joyful gift and renders one capable of communion. Love renders one free even in prison, even if one is weak and limited.
 
This is the freedom we receive from our Redeemer, Our Lord Jesus Christ.
 
 
Original text: Italian
ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester
 
 

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