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Christ appeals to the heart of man

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on the Theology of the Body - 24
General Audience, Wednesday 16 April 1980 - in French, German, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. As the subject of our future reflections—at the Wednesday meetings—I wish to develop the following statement of Christ, which is part of the Sermon on the Mount: "You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt 5:27-28). This passage seems to have a key meaning for the theology of the body, like the one in which Christ referred to the "beginning," which served as the basis of the preceding analyses. We then realized how wide was the context of a sentence, or rather of a word, uttered by Christ. It was a question not only of the immediate context, which emerged in the course of the conversation with the Pharisees, but of the global context. We could not penetrate that without going back to the first chapters of Genesis (omitting what refers there to the other books of the Old Testament). The preceding analyses have shown what an extensive content Christ's reference to the "beginning" involves.

The statement to which we are now referring, Matthew 5:27-28, will certainly introduce us not only to the immediate context in which it appears. It will also introduce us to its wider context, the global context, through which the key meaning of the theology of the body will be revealed to us. This statement is one of the passages of the Sermon on the Mount in which Jesus Christ fundamentally revises the way of understanding and carrying out the moral law of the old covenant. It refers, in order, to the following commandments of the Decalogue: the fifth, "You shall not kill" (cf. Mt 5:21-26); the sixth, "You shall not commit adultery" (cf. Mt 5:27-32)—it is significant that at the end of this passage there also appears the question of the "certificate of divorce" (cf. Mt 5:31-32), already mentioned in the preceding chapter—and the eighth commandment, according to the text of Exodus (cf. Ex 20:7): "You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn" (cf. Mt 5:33-37).

Significant, above all, are he words that precede these articles— and the following ones—of the Sermon on the Mount, the words in which Jesus declares: "Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them" (Mt 5:17). In the sentences that follow, Jesus explains the meaning of this opposition and the necessity of the fulfillment of the law in order to realize the kingdom of God: "Whoever...does them [these commandments] and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 5:19). "The kingdom of heaven" means the kingdom of God in the eschatological dimension. The fulfillment of the law fundamentally conditions this kingdom in the temporal dimension of human existence. However, it is a question of a fulfillment that fully corresponds to the meaning of the law, of the Decalogue, of the individual commandments. Only this fulfillment constructs that justice which God the legislator willed. Christ the Teacher urges us not to give such a human interpretation to the whole law and the individual commandments contained in it that it does not foster the justice willed by God the legislator: "Unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Mt 5:20).

2. In this context there appears Christ's statement according to Matthew 5:27-28, which we intend to take as the basis for the present analyses, considering it together with the other statement in Matthew 19:3-9 (and Mark 10) as the key to the theology of the body. Like the other one, this one has an explicitly normative character. It confirms the principle of human morality contained in the commandment, "You shall not commit adultery." At the same time, it determines an appropriate and full understanding of this principle, that is, an understanding of the foundation and at the same time of the condition for its adequate fulfillment. The latter is to be considered precisely in the light of the words of Matthew 5:17-20, already quoted, which we have just drawn attention to. On the one hand, it is a question here of adhering to the meaning that God the legislator enclosed in the commandment, "You shall not commit adultery." On the other hand, it is a question of carrying out that "justice" on the part of man. This justice must superabound in man himself, that is, it must reach its specific fullness in him. These are the two aspects of fulfillment in the evangelical sense.

3. We find ourselves in this way at the heart of ethos, that is, in what can be defined as the interior form, almost the soul, of human morality. Contemporary thinkers (e.g., Scheler) see in the Sermon on the Mount a great turning point in the field of ethos. A living morality in the existential sense is not formed only by the norms that invest the form of the commandments, precepts and prohibitions, as in the case of "You shall not commit adultery." The morality in which there is realized the meaning of being a man—which is, at the same time, the fulfillment of the law by means of the "superabounding" of justice through subjective vitality—is formed in the interior perception of values, from which there springs duty as the expression of conscience, as the response of one's own personal "ego." At the same time ethos makes us enter the depth of the norm itself and descend within the human subject of morality. Moral value is connected with the dynamic process of man's intimacy. To reach it, it is not enough to stop at the surface of human actions. It is necessary to penetrate inside.

4. In addition to the commandment, "You shall not commit adultery," the Decalogue has also, "You shall not covet your neighbor's wife."(2) In the Sermon on the Mount, Christ connects them with each other, in a way: "Everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." However, it is not so much a question of distinguishing the scope of those two commandments of the Decalogue as of pointing out the dimension of the interior action, referred to also in the words: "You shall not commit adultery." This action finds its visible expression in the "act of the body," an act in which the man and the woman participate against the law of matrimonial exclusiveness. The casuistry of the books of the Old Testament aimed at investigating what constituted this "act of the body" according to exterior criteria. At the same time, it was directed at combating adultery, and opened to the latter various legal "loopholes." In this way, on the basis of the multiple compromises "for hardness of heart" (Mt 19:8), the meaning of the commandment as willed by the legislator underwent a distortion. People kept to legalistic observance of the formula, which did not superabound in the interior justice of hearts. Christ shifts the essence of the problem to another dimension when he says: "Everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (According to ancient translations, the text is: "...has already made her an adulteress in his heart," a formula which seems to be more exact).

In this way, therefore, Christ appeals to the interior man. He does so several times and under different circumstances. In this case it seems especially explicit and eloquent, not only with regard to the configuration of evangelical ethos, but also with regard to the way of viewing man. Not only the ethical reason, but also the anthropological one makes it advisable to dwell at greater length on the text of Matthew 5:27-28, which contains the words Christ spoke in the Sermon on the Mount."


Ai pellegrinaggi provenienti da diverse diocesi di Francia

J’ai plaisir à saluer quelques pèlerinages importante de France, que leurs Evêques ont pris soin d’accompagner. Je reconnais au premier rang le cher Cardinal Renard. Il s’agit des diocèses de Lyon et de Saint-Etienne, de Bayonne, d’aire et Dax: que cette démarche communautaire au tombeau des Apôtres Pierre et Paul, témoins du Christ ressuscité, fortifie votre foi en ce temps pascal et votre attachement à l’Eglise. Oui, aimez l’Eglise comme la Mère qui vous a initiés à l’Evangile, qui sans cesse, comme Marie, vous réintroduit sur les chemins du Christ, qui a produit les saints et les saintes dont la foi et la charité nous attirent et soulèvent nos vies au-dessus de la banalité ou de la médiocrité.

J’adresse un encouragement amical aux nombreux jeunes de Périgueux et de Sarlat, comme aux autres jeunes: forts de toutes les capacités que Dieu a déposées en vous, ambitionnez de les mettre au service d’une grande cause, celle de la foi, celle du service de vos frères.

Je salue afin avec émotion les pèlerins du Centre hospitalier de Saint-Brieuc, et spécialement les infirmes de tout âge. Merci de cette démarche très méritoire, que vous préparez depuis longtemps. Le Pape compte sur votre prière, sur l’offrande de votre croix pour le salut de vos frères. Il vous souhaite à vous-mêmes de trouver, avec le dévouement fraternel des personnes qui vous soignent ou qui vous accompagnent, le courage de vivre, la sérénité, la paix et l’espérance qui sont des dons de Dieu.

A tous, mon affectueuse Bénédiction Apostolique.

Ai seminaristi del Collegio Nordamericano di Roma

I am pleased to have here today a group of students from the North American College who are to be ordained deacons tomorrow. You will be admitted to a ministry of service to those in need, and the greatest need is to hear God’s word: as the prophet Amos said, "not a famine of bread, nor thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the Lord". May God assist you in fulfilling your ministry. May he bless you and all the members of your families.

Al pellegrinaggio di Osnabrück

Einen besonders herzlichen Willkommensgruß richte ich heute an die Jubiläumswallfahrt der Diözese Osnabrück zu ihrem 1200 jährigen Bestehen unter der Leitung ihres Diözesanbischofs und Weihbischofs, Msgr. Wittler und Msgr. Siegel. Ein solch denkwürdiges Jubiläum ist in der Tat ein Anlaß zur Besinnung, zum Dank und Lobpreis Gottes, denen ihr durch diese Pilgerreise zu den Gräbern der Apostelfürsten in der Ewigen Stadt sichtbaren Ausdruck verleiht. Der Patron eurer Bischofskirche St. Peter verbindet euer Bistum in einer besonderen Weise mit dem Zentrum der Christenheit. Der christliche Glaube, den die ersten Glaubensboten in eurem Land verkündet und alle nachfolgenden Generationen euch in Treue bis auf den heutigen Tag uberliefert haben, ist derselbe Glaube, den Petrus bekannt und hier in Rom durch sein Lebensopfer besiegelt hat:"Du bist Christus, der Sohn des lebendigen Gottes". Dieses Glaubenszeugnis ist heute euch anvertraut. An eurem Glaubensmut und missionarischen Eifer liegt es, liebe Brüder und Schwestern, ob derselbe christliche Glaube auch heute lebendig bleibt, ob er auch euer Leben, die Gesellschaft un die Welt von heute wie ein Sauerteig durchdringt und im Geiste Christi verwandelt. An eurer Glaubenstreue wird es liegen, ob derselbe Glaube unversehrt an eure Nachkommen und an die folgenden Generationen weitergegeben wird. Mögen euch diese Romwallfahrt und die Jubiläumsfeier eures Bistums in eurem Glauben bestärken und zu einem immer entschlosseneren christlichen Lebenszeugnis ermutigen! Dazu erbitte ich euch auf die Fürsprache eures Diözesanpatrons, des hl. Josef, Christi besonderen Gnadenbeistand und erteile euch und eurem ganzen Bistum von Herzen den Apostolischen Segen.

Al gruppo di pellegrini della parrocchia di Komen

Prisrčno pozdravljam skupino romarjev ki so tu med iz župnije Komen na primorskem Krasu. Zelim vam, predragi, da bi to današnje srečanje utrdilo v vas duha vere, upanja in ljubezni, v krščansko pričevanje med vašimi slovenskimi rojaki. Moj blagoslov spremlja vas in vse vaše drage.

Al pellegrinaggio dell’Arcidiocesi di Reggio Calabria e della Diocesi di Bari

Rivolgo un saluto particolarmente affettuoso al pellegrinaggio dell’Arcidiocesi di Reggio Calabria e della Diocesi di Bova, accompagnato dal comune Arcivescovo Aurelio Sorrentino.

Carissimi, so che avete intrapreso insieme il vostro viaggio in spirito di fede e di devozione, per visitare le tombe degli Apostoli Pietro e Paolo e rendere omaggio a chi di Pietro è l’attuale Successore sulla Sede episcopale romana. Ve ne ringrazio, e sono contento per queste vostre intenzioni genuinamente cristiane. Da parte mia, vi auguro di conservare e di far crescere sempre più una salda e feconda comunione col Signore, che si rifletta opportunamente nella vostra vita quotidiana. A lui vi raccomando di cuore, mentre vi concedo la propiziatrice Benedizione Apostolica, che vi chiedo di portare anche a tutti i vostri cari, in segno della mia benevolenza.

Al pellegrinaggio della città di Subiaco

E’ pure presente un pellegrinaggio della città di Subiaco, guidato dall’Abate Stanislao Andreotti. Esso è costituito da alcuni Gruppo di Cantori, di provenienza anche internazionale, partecipanti alla "Prima rassegna delle corali nel quadro delle celebrazioni del XV centenario di San Benedetto", oltre che dal personale del laboratorio-scuola "San Benedetto", e dai bambini dell’Asilo "Maria Immacolata".

Carissimi, tutti vi saluto e vi ringrazio per la vostra presenza che è particolarmente significativa in questo anno benedettino. Voi avete appreso la lezione fondamentale del grande Santo di Norcia, che anche a Subiaco ha legato il proprio nome: quella, cioè, di lavorare e di pregare; e voi pregate cantando al Signore. Possiate fare di tutta la vostra vita una vera armonia tra queste due componenti.

Mi compiaccio, poi, dell’iniziativa di erigere in Subiaco una degna statua a San Benedetto; e tutti Vi benedico di cuore.

Ai giovani

Un saluto, pieno di affetto, indirizzo a tutti i giovani presenti a questa Udienza, fra i quali prevalgono gli studenti. A voi, che portate nel cuore le vostre speranze e quelle del mondo intero, in questo clima pasquale desidero rivolgere le parole di San Paolo: "Se siete risorti con Cristo, cercate le cose di lassù, dove si trova Cristo assiso alla destra di Dio". Per voi giovani, che cosa significa e comporta il "cercare le cose di lassù?". Non significa certamente che dovreste estraniarvi dalle "cose di quaggiù", cioè dai problemi che riguardano la vita concreta, quotidiana dell’uomo; vuol dire, invece, dare una prospettiva, un senso "cristiano" a tutta la realtà umana, nella quale siete coinvolti: al vostro studio, al vostro lavoro, alla vostra vita associativa, alla vostra vita sentimentale, ed anche al vostro divertimento, di modo che possiate sempre diffondere la gioia pasquale che trabocca dal vostro cuore.

Agli ammalati

Né possono dimenticare, in questa circostanza, i carissimi fratelli ammalati, ai quali, facendomi interprete dei sentimenti di tutti i partecipanti a questo incontro, voglio dire una parola di incoraggiamento e di certezza cristiana.

A voi, che portate nel vostro cuore e nel vostro corpo i segni della Passione, ricordo in questo momento le parole rivolte da Gesù ai discepoli che andavano ad Emmaus, scoraggiati ed avviliti per la tragica fine del loro Maestro: "Non bisognava che il Cristo sopportasse queste sofferenze per entrare nella sua gloria?". Questa affermazione illumina potentemente non soltanto la vicenda umana di Gesù, ma anche la vita di voi tutti, che siete segnati dalla stigmate dell’infermità. Unite le vostre sofferenze a quelle di Gesù; offritele come sacrificio puro alla Trinità Santissima per il bene della Chiesa e dell’umanità. Mentre noi tutti ci affidiamo alle vostre preghiere, vi diciamo anche il nostro commosso "grazie" per la vostra continua testimonianza di fede e di speranza.

Agli sposi

Ed a voi, novelli Sposi, lieti per la vostra vicendevole donazione totale e definitiva compiuta nel sacramento del Matrimonio, rivolgo il fervido augurio di tutto il Popolo di Dio: mantenete per tutta la vita la freschezza e l’entusiasmo di questi giorni, ricordando sempre che, sulla terra, voi siete il segno concreto e visibile di quel misterioso, immenso amore che unisce Cristo alla sua Sposa, la Chiesa. Il Signore vi darà la sua grazia, la sua forza, la sua gioia perché possiate costruire la vostra famiglia "cristiana" nel timore di Dio, nell’amore reciproco, nell’apertura verso gli altri.

A tutti la mia Benedizione Apostolica, segno del mio affetto.