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Gospel values and duties of the human heart

44 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 15 October 1980 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. During our Wednesday meetings, we have analyzed in detail the words of the Sermon on the Mount, in which Christ referred to the human heart. As we now know, his words are exacting. Christ said: "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 reference to the heart throws light on the dimension of human interiority, the dimension of the inner man, characteristic of ethics, and even more of the theology of the body. Desire rises in the sphere of the lust of the flesh. It is at the same time an interior and theological reality, which is experienced, in a way, by every "historical" man. And it is precisely this man—even if he does not know the words of Christ—who continually asks himself the question about his own heart. Christ's words make this question especially explicit: is the heart accused, or is it called to good? Toward the end of our reflections and analyses we now intend to consider this question, connected with the sentence of the Gospel, so concise and yet categorical at the same time, so pregnant with theological, anthropological, and ethical content.

A second question goes hand in hand with it, a more practical one: how can and must he act, the man who accepts Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount, the man who accepts the ethos of the Gospel, and, in particular, accepts it in this field?

2. This man finds in the considerations made up to now the answer, at least an indirect one, to two questions. How can he act, that is, on what can he rely in his inner self, at the source of his interior or exterior acts? Furthermore, how should he act, that is, in what way do the values known according to the scale revealed in the Sermon on the Mount constitute a duty of his will and his heart, of his desires and his choices? In what way are they binding on him in action and behavior, if, accepted by means of knowledge, they already commit him in thinking and, in a certain way, in feeling? These questions are significant for human praxis, and indicate an organic connection of praxis itself with those. Lived morality is always the ethos of human practice.

3. It is possible to answer the aforesaid questions in various ways. In fact, various answers are given, both in the past and today. This is confirmed by an ample literature. In addition to the answers we find in it, it is necessary to consider the infinite number of answers that concrete man gives to these questions by himself, the ones that his conscience, his awareness and moral sensitivity give repeatedly, in the life of everyone. In this sphere an interpenetration of ethos and praxis is carried out. Here the individual principles live their own life (not exclusively "theoretical"). This not only concerns the norms of morality with their motivations which are worked out and made known by moralists. It also concerns the ones worked out—certainly not without a link with the work of moralists and scientists—by individual men, as authors and direct subjects of real morality, as co-authors of its history. On this the level of morality itself also depends, its progress or its decadence. All this reconfirms, everywhere and always, that historical man to whom Christ once spoke. He proclaimed the good news of the Gospel with the Sermon on the Mount, where he said among other things: "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).

4. Matthew's enunciation is stupendously concise in comparison with everything that has been written on this subject in secular literature. Perhaps its power in the history of ethos consists precisely in this. At the same time it must be realized that the history of ethos flows in a multiform bed, in which the individual currents draw nearer to, or move further away from, one another in turn. Historical man always evaluates his own heart in his own way, just as he also judges his own body. So he passes from the pole of pessimism to the pole of optimism, from puritan severity to modern permissiveness. It is necessary to realize this, in order that the ethos of the Sermon on the Mount may always have due transparency with regard to human actions and behavior. For this purpose it is necessary to make some more analyses.

5. Our reflections on the meaning of the words of Christ according to Matthew 5:27-28 would not be complete if they did not dwell—at least briefly—on what can be called the echo of these words in the history of human thought and of the evaluation of ethos. The echo is always a transformation of the voice and of the words that the voice expresses. We know from experience that this transformation is sometimes full of mysterious fascination. In the case in question, the opposite happened. Christ's words have been stripped of their simplicity and depth. A meaning has been conferred far removed from the one expressed in them, a meaning that even contradicts them. We have in mind here all that happened outside Christianity under the name of Manichaeism,(1) and that also tried to enter the ground of Christianity as regards theology itself and the ethos of the body. Manichaeism arose in the East outside the biblical environment and sprang from Mazdeistic dualism. It is well known that, in its original form, Manichaeism saw the source of evil in matter, in the body, and therefore condemned everything that is corporeal in man. Since corporeity is manifested in man mainly through sex, the condemnation was extended to marriage and to conjugal life, as well as to other spheres of being and acting in which corporeity is expressed.

6. To an unaccustomed ear, the evident severity of that system might seem in harmony with the severe words of Matthew 5:29-30, in which Christ spoke of "plucking out one's eye" or "cutting off one's hand," if these members were the cause of scandal. Through the purely material interpretation of these expressions, it was also possible to obtain a Manichaean view of Christ's enunciation, in which he spoke of a man who has "committed adultery in his looking at a woman lustfully." In this case, too, the Manichaean interpretation aims at condemning the body, as the real source of evil, since the ontological principle of evil, according to Manichaeism, is concealed and at the same time manifested in it. The attempt was made, therefore, to see this condemnation in the Gospel, and sometimes it was perceived, where actually only a particular requirement addressed to the human spirit had been expressed.

Note that the condemnation might—and may always be—a loophole to avoid the requirements set in the Gospel by him who "knew what was in man" (Jn 2:25). History has no lack of proofs. We have already partially had the opportunity (and we will certainly have it again) to show to what extent such a requirement may arise solely from an affirmation—and not from a denial or a condemnation—if it has to lead to an affirmation that is even more mature and deep, objectively and subjectively. The words of Christ according to Matthew 5:27-28 must lead to such an affirmation of the femininity and masculinity of the human being, as the personal dimension of "being a body." This is the right ethical meaning of these words. They impress on the pages of the Gospel a peculiar dimension of ethos in order to impress it subsequently on human life.

We will try to take up this subject again in our further reflections."

After the catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages:

All’equipaggio dello "yacht" reale "Britannia"

A special word of greeting to the officers and men of the Royal Yacht Britannia and of the Frigate Apollo, who are here in connection with the visit of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II. I express the hope that your own visit will be an enjoyable one, and that you will draw spiritual inspiration from it. May God bless you and your families at home.

A un pellegrinaggio interdiocesano del Kenya

With memories of my wonderful visit to Kenya, I greet all the members of the interdiocesan group from that country. May your pilgrimage to the Holy Land and to Rome help to confirm you in your apostolic faith and in your love for Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of the world. When you return home, I ask you to take my greetings back to your loved ones and to all Kenya.

A vari gruppi di lingua tedesca

Besonders grüße ich die große Pilgerfahrt der Katholischen Frauengemeinschaft aus dem Bistum Essen mit ihrem Bischof Franz Hengsbach und heiße ebenso herzlich willkommen auch die Mitglieder des "Vereins katholischen Adels Rheinland und Westfalen". Ich freue mich über euren Besuch in der Ewigen Stadt und empfehle eurem Gebet an den Gräbern der Apostel vor allem das wichtige Anliegen der gegenwärtigen Bischofssynode. Die christliche Familie bedarf heute mehr denn je unser aller Solidarität und unseres Gebetes.

* * *

Herzlich beglück Wünsche ich sodann die anwesenden Neupriester aus dem Päpstlichen Kollegium Germanikum-Hungarikum mit den Angehörigen zu ihrem großen Gnadentag. Von Christus, dem ewigen Hohenpriester, erbitte ich euch ein persönlich erfülltes und segensreiches priesterliches Leben und Wirken. Stehet treu zu eurem Jawort am Weihealtar, wo euch Christus in einer besonderen Weise zu seinen Freunden gemacht hat.

* * *

Einen weiteren Willkommensgruß richte ich an den Bonner Schubert-Chor anläßlich seines 25jährigen Bestehens und an den großen Pilgerzug des Cäcilienverbandes aus dem Erzbistum Paderborn. Seid wie durch euren Gesang auch durch euer Leben stets Boten der Freude zur Ehre Gottes und zur geistlichen Erbauung eurer Mitmenschen. Mit diesem Wunsch verbinde ich zugleich meinen herzlichen Dank für den schönen Gesang während dieser Generalaudienz.

* * *

Schließlich grüße ich noch aufrichtig die Mitglieder der Vereinigung christlicher Unternehmer Österreichs zu ihrer ersten Rompilgerfahrt. Ich wünsche euch aus der Begegnung mit den heiligen Stätten eine Vertiefung eures Glaubens und reiche Gnade für eure verantwortungsvolle Aufgabe in der Gesellschaft. Zugleich erteile ich euch und allen anwesenden Pilgern mit der Bitte um Gottes besonderen Schutz und Beistand von Herzen den Apostolischen Segen.

Ai vari aderenti ai movimenti neo-catecumenali di Paesi dell’America Latina

Se halla presente en esta Audiencia un grupo de sacerdotes, matrimonios y catequistas de los movimientos neocatecumenales de varios Países de Centroamérica.

Os saludo con afecto, amados hermanos y hermanas, que os dedicáis a una tarea a la que la Iglesia atribuye una gran importancia: la edificación en la fe de la comunidad eclesial a través de una catequesis sistemática, sólida, progresiva. Dedicaos con generosidad a esa labor tan necesaria; sed fieles a la vivencia personal del mensaje cristiano y a la transmisión a los demás. Bendigo vuestro propósito de íntima comunión con vuestros Pastores, vuestro trabajo, personas, familias y comunidades eclesiales.

Ai membri della Marina Militare del Venezuela

Un saludo cordial para la peregrinación de miembros de la Marina Venezolana, a quienes acompaña en esta Audiencia el Director Nacional de los Capellanes de las Fuerzas Armadas, Monseñor Marcial Augusto Ramírez Ponce, Obispo Auxiliar de Caracas.

Me alegro de vuestra presencia, con la que habéis querido dar testimonio de vuestros sentimientos de fe y de gratitud al Señor. Que en vuestro servicio diario a la Patria veáis siempre una llamada a ser mensajeros conscientes e incansables de paz y fermento de vida cristiana entre vuestros compañeros y en vuestras familias. A todos os bendigo de corazón.

Ai partecipanti al I Convegno Nazionale dei Medici italiani dei trasporti

Un saluto particolarmente cordiale giunga ai partecipanti al Primo Convegno Nazionale, indetto dal Collegio dei medici Italiani dei Trasporti. Mentre vi ringrazio per questo vostro gesto di stima e di devozione, vi esprimo pure il mio vivo compiacimento per l’opera scientifica e sociale che svolgete in tale settore e vi auguro di perfezionare sempre più tale vostro impegno riguardante la problematica sanitaria nei vari generi di trasporto: ferroviario, stradale, marittimo, aereo e fluviale. La carità cristiana sia sempre il vostro ideale, che vi accompagni nelle vostre attività. Vi aiuti la mia Benedizione, che volentieri imparto a voi e ai vostri familiari.

Ai giovani

Il mio saluto va ora ai giovani, presenti a questa Udienza con la nota caratteristica della loro esuberanza.

Carissimi, in un’epoca che pare carente di ideali, sappiate attingere qui, presso la Tomba di S. Pietro, la forza ed il coraggio per vivere il più grande degli ideali, quello della fede cristiana. Vivete con entusiasmo questa fede, nella scuola e nel mondo del lavoro, capaci come siete voi di cose grandi anche quando costano sacrificio e rinuncia. Il Papa ha tanta fiducia in voi e vi è vicino con la sua preghiera.

Ai malati

Anche a voi, cari ammalati, che avete superato con sacrificio i disagi per essere presenti a questa Udienza, giunga il mio saluto affettuoso.

Nei momenti della vita quotidiana, nei quali sentite forte la tentazione dello scoraggiamento, ricordate che il Signore è accanto a voi, è vostro amico. Ce lo ricorda nei suoi scritto S. Teresa d’Avila, Dottore della Chiesa, che oggi festeggiamo: "Chi ha come amico Gesù Cristo e segue sempre un capitano così magnanimo come lui, può certo sopportare ogni cosa; Gesù infatti aiuta e dà forza, non viene mai meno ed ama sinceramente".

Il Papa vi incoraggia ad essere fedeli a questa amicizia con Gesù e vi benedice di cuore.

Agli sposi novelli

Infine, a tutte le coppie di giovani sposi qui presenti, una parola di augurio e di felicitazione.

La vostra presenza assume particolare significato di speranza per la Chiesa, in questi giorni nei quali il Sinodo dei Vescovi sta dedicando la sua attenzione e il suo lavoro al tema della famiglia.

Rispondete con generosità alla vostra vocazione e impegnatevi perché il vostro amore abbia sempre la caratteristica della donazione, nei momenti sereni e nei momenti della difficoltà. Io vi accompagno nel vostro cammino con la preghiera e con la mia Benedizione.


1) Manichaeism contains and brings to maturation the characteristic elements of all gnosis, that is, the dualism of two coeternal and radically opposed principles and the concept of a salvation which is realized only through knowledge (gnosis) or self-understanding. In the whole Manichaean myth there is only one hero and only one situation which is always repeated: the fallen soul is imprisoned in matter and is liberated by knowledge.
The present historical situation is negative for man, because it is a provisional and abnormal mixture of spirit and matter, good and evil, which presupposes a prior, original state, in which the two substances were separate and independent. There are, therefore, three "Times": initium, or the original separation; the medium, that is, the present mixture; and the finis, which consists in return to the original division, in salvation, implying a complete break between Spirit and Matter.
Matter is, fundamentally, concupiscence, an evil instinct for pleasure, the instinct of death, comparable, if not identical, with sexual desire, libido. It is a force that tries to attack Light; it is disorderly movement, bestial, brutal and semiconscious desire.
Adam and Eve were begotten by two demons; our species was born from a series of repelling acts of cannibalism and sexuality and keeps signs of this diabolical origin, which are the body, which is the animal form of the "Archons of hell" and libido, which drives man to copulate and reproduce himself, that is, to keep his luminous soul always in prison.
If he wants to be saved, man must try to liberate his "living self" (nous) from the flesh and from the body. Since Matter has its supreme expression in concupiscence, the capital sin lies in sexual union (fornication), which is brutality and bestiality, and makes men instruments and accomplices of Evil for procreation.
The elect constitute the group of the perfect, whose virtue has an ascetic characteristic, practicing the abstinence commanded by the three "seals": the "seal of the mouth" forbids all blasphemy and also commands fasting, and abstention from meat, blood, wine and all alcoholic drinks; the "seal of the hands" commands respect of the life (the "Light") enclosed in bodies, in seeds, in trees, and forbids the gathering of fruit, the tearing up of plants, the taking of the life of men and of animals; the "seal of the womb" prescribes total continence. Cf. H. Ch. Puech: Le Manicheisme; son fondateur—sa doctrine (Paris: Musée Guimet, LVI, 1949), pp. 73-88; H. Ch. Puech, Le Manichéisme, "Histoire des Religions," Encyclopédie de la Pleiade II (Gallimard: 1972), pp. 522-645; J. Ties, "Manichéisme," Catholicisme hier, aujourd'hui, demain, Vol. 34 (Lille: Letouzey-Ané, 1977), pp. 314-320).

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