On the Fulfillment of the Law

On the Fulfillment of the Law

VATICAN CITY, February 16, 2014 (Zenit.org)

Here is the translation of Pope Francis’ address before and after the recitation of the Angelus to the pilgrims gathered in St. Peter’s Square.

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Dear brothers and sisters, hello!

The Gospel this Sunday is part of the so-called “Sermon on the Mount,” Jesus’ first important preaching. Today the theme is Jesus’ attitude toward the Jewish Law. He says: “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Jesus, then, does not want to eliminate the commandments that the Lord gave through Moses, but to complete fulfillment. And immediately afterwards he adds that this “fulfillment” of the Law requires a greater justice, a more authentic observance. In fact, he tells his disciples: “If your justice does not surpass that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

But what does this “complete fulfillment” of the Law mean? And in what does this greater justice consist? Jesus himself answers us with some examples. Jesus was practical. He always used examples when he spoke to make himself understood. He starts with the 5th commandment of the Decalogue: “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ‘You shall not kill’ … But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment” (Matthew 5:21-22). With this Jesus reminds us that words too can kill! When it is said of person that he has the “tongue of a snake,” what does it mean? It means that his words kill! So, not only should we not try to take our neighbor’s life, we should not pour the poison of anger on him or strike him with calumny. Nor should we speak ill of him. We start gossiping. Gossiping too can kill because it kills a person’s reputation! Gossip is very ugly! At the beginning it can seem pleasant, even entertaining, like sucking on candy. But in the end it fills our hearts with bitterness, and it poisons us too. I will tell you the truth, I am convinced that if each of us were to decide to avoid gossip, in the end we would become a saint! It is a beautiful path! Do we want to become saints? Yes or no? [The people in the piazza respond “Yes!”] Do we want to be attached to gossiping as a habit? Yes or no? [The people in the piazza respond “No!”] So, we are agreed: no more gossiping! Jesus proposes the perfection of love to those who follow him. It is a love whose only measure is to be without measure, to go beyond all calculation. Love of neighbor is an attitude that is so basic that Jesus even says that our relationship with God cannot be sincere unless we are willing to make peace with our neighbor. He puts it this way: So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” (Matthew 5:23-24).

From all of this it is understood that Jesus does not merely stress disciplinary observance and external conduct. He goes to the root of the Law, pointing above all to the intention and so to the heart of man, from where our good or evil actions originate. To act well and honestly juridical norms are not enough, deeper motivations are necessary, which are an expression of a hidden wisdom, God’s Wisdom, which can be received from the Holy Spirit. And we, through faith in Christ, can open ourselves up to the action of the Spirit, who makes us able to live divine love.

In the light of this teaching every precept reveals its full meaning as a demand of love, and all precepts are contained within the greatest commandment: love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself.

[Following the recitation of the Angelus, the Holy Father spoke further to those gathered in St. Peter’s Square:]

I greet with affection all of the Romans and pilgrims present, the families, the parishes, the young people from the many countries of the world.

I especially greet the many faithful from the Czech Republic, who have accompanied their bishops on the “ad limina” visit, and the Spaniards from the Dioceses of Orihuela-Alicante, Jerez de la Frontera and Cádiz y Ceuta.

I greet the parish groups from Calenzano, Aversa and Naples and from Santa Maria Regina Pacis in Ostia and Sant’Andrea Avellino in Rome. I greet the Movimento Giovanile Guanelliano, the young people of the Movimento Arcobaleno of Modena and the choir of Santo Stefano in Caorle.

I greet the group of members of the Italian military.

[Translation by Joseph Trabbic]

I wish everyone a good Sunday and a good lunch! Goodbye!