Pope: upholding the Commandments not out of fear, but to encounter Jesus
In his Wednesday General Audience, Pope offers his thoughts on the "propaedeutic value of the Law" according to the Apostle Paul. In a video message, he urges people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and make vaccines truly accessible worldwide. Vaccination is "An act of love [. . .] for oneself” and “all peoples”.
Vatican City (AsiaNews) – Pope Francis today delivered his thoughts in his weekly General Audience, in the Paul VI Hall before a few thousand faithful. In his address, the pontiff noted that the Commandments must be upheld, not out of fear, but as the way to encounter Christ.
In his series of catechises dedicated to the Letter to the Galatians, the pontiff focused on the topic of the propaedeutic value of the Law (Gal 3:23-25). Speaking about the image of the pedagogue proposed by Paul, Francis noted that “The Apostle seems to suggest that Christians divide the history of salvation in two parts, and also his personal story. There are two periods: before becoming believers in Christ Jesus and after receiving the faith.
Beginning with Jesus' death and resurrection, “there is a ‘before’ and an ‘after’ with regard to the Law itself”. It remains, but in another way, “because it could no longer be justified by itself once the Lord had come”.
Previously, history was determined by being “under the Law”, an expression that Paul uses for the first time precisely in the Letter to the Galatians.
“The underlying meaning implies the idea of a negative servitude, typical of slaves: to be ‘under’. The Apostle makes it explicit by saying that when one is ‘under the Law’ it is as if one is ‘watched’ and ‘locked up’, a kind of preventive custody. This period, says Saint Paul, has lasted a long time – from Moses, to the coming of Jesus - and is perpetuated as long as one lives in sin.”
“In summary, the Law leads to the definition of the transgression and to making people aware of their own sin.” Being “under the law” still means being “with the door open to sin”. This explains Paul’s image of the pedagogue.
“In the scholastic system of antiquity, the pedagogue did not have the function we attribute to him today, namely that of supporting the education of a boy or a girl. At the time he was instead a slave whose task was to accompany the master’s son to the teacher and then bring him home again.
“In this way he was to protect his ward from danger and watch over him to ensure he did not behave badly. His function was rather disciplinary. When the boy became an adult, the pedagogue ceased his duties.”
This is precisely what should happen to Christians through their encounter with Jesus.
“The Torah, that is, the Law, was an act of magnanimity by God towards His people. After the election of Abraham, the other great act was the Law: laying down the path to follow. It certainly had restrictive functions, but at the same time it had protected the people, it had educated them, disciplined them and supported them in their weakness, especially by protecting them from paganism”. But “it is a function that is limited in time.”
This obviously does not mean that we can say: “’We believe in Jesus Christ and do what we want’. No! The Commandments exist, but they do not justify us. [. . .] The Commandments must be observed, but they do not give us justice [. . .]. The merit of faith is receiving Jesus. The only merit: opening the heart. [. . .] We must observe them, but as an aid to the encounter with Jesus Christ.”
All this affects our lives. “It is good for us to ask ourselves if we still live in the period in which we need the Law, or if instead we are fully aware of having received the grace of becoming children of God so as to live in love. How do I live? In the fear that if I do not do this, I will go to hell? Or do I live with that hope too, with that joy of the gratuitousness of salvation in Jesus Christ? It is a good question. And also the second: do I disregard the Commandments? No. I observe them, but not as absolutes, because I know that it is Jesus Christ who justifies me.”
Before the General Audience this morning, the Holy See released a video message from Pope Francis. In it, he joins the “It is up to you” international campaign to reiterate the importance of vaccination against COVID-19.
“Being vaccinated with vaccines authorised by the competent authorities is an act of love. And contributing to ensure the majority of people are vaccinated is an act of love. Love for oneself, love for one’s family and friends, love for all people.
“Love is also social and political, there is social love and political love; it is universal, always overflowing with small gestures of personal charity capable of transforming and improving societies”.
“I pray to God that everyone may contribute their own small grain of sand, their own small gesture of love; no matter how small, love is always great.”