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Spontaneity is truly human when it is the mature fruit of conscience

48 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 12 November 1980 - in French, Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. Today we resume our analysis on the relationship between what is ethical and what is erotic. Our reflections follow the pattern of the words Christ spoke in the Sermon on the Mount, with which he referred to the commandment "You shall not commit adultery." At the same time he defined lust (looking lustfully) as "adultery committed in the heart." We see from these reflections that ethos is connected with the discovery of a new order of values. It is necessary to rediscover continually in what is erotic the nuptial meaning of the body and the true dignity of the gift. This is the role of the human spirit, a role of an ethical nature. If it does not assume this role, the attraction of the senses and the passion of the body may stop at mere lust devoid of ethical value. Then man, male and female, does not experience that fullness of eros, which means the aspiration of the human spirit toward what is true, good and beautiful, so that what is erotic also becomes true, good and beautiful. Therefore it is indispensable that ethos should become the constituent form of eros.

2. The above-mentioned reflections are closely connected with the problem of spontaneity. It is often thought that ethos itself takes away spontaneity from what is erotic in man's life and behavior. For this reason detachment from ethos is demanded "for the benefit" of eros. Also the words of the Sermon on the Mount would seem to hinder this "good." But this opinion is erroneous and, in any case, superficial. Obstinately accepting it and upholding it, we will never reach the full dimensions of eros. That inevitably has repercussions in the sphere of praxis, that is, in our behavior and also in the concrete experience of values. Whoever accepts the ethos of Matthew 5:27-28 must know that he is also called to full and mature spontaneity of the relations that spring from the perennial attraction of masculinity and femininity. This spontaneity is the gradual fruit of the discernment of the impulses of one's own heart.

3. Christ's words are severe. They demand from man that, in the sphere in which relations with persons of the other sex are formed, he should have full and deep consciousness of his own acts, and above all of interior acts. They demand that he should be aware of the internal impulses of his heart, so as to be able to distinguish them and qualify them maturely. Christ's words demand that in this sphere, which seems to belong exclusively to the body and to the senses, that is, to exterior man, he should succeed in being an interior man. He should be able to obey correct conscience, and to be the true master of his own deep impulses, like a guardian who watches over a hidden spring. Finally he should draw from all those impulses what is fitting for purity of heart, building with conscience and consistency that personal sense of the nuptial meaning of the body, which opens the interior space of the freedom of the gift.

4. Well, if man wishes to respond to the call expressed by Matthew 5:27-28, he must learn, with perseverance and consistency, what the meaning of the body is, the meaning of femininity and masculinity. He must learn this not only through an objectivizing abstraction (although this, too, is necessary), but above all in the sphere of the interior reactions of his own heart. This is a "science," which cannot be learned only from books, because it is a question here in the first place of deep knowledge of human interiority.

In the sphere of this knowledge, man learns to distinguish between what composes the multiform riches of masculinity and femininity in the signs that come from their perennial call and creative attraction, and what bears only the sign of lust. These variants and nuances of the internal movements of the heart can, within a certain limit, be confused with one another. However, it must be said that interior man has been called by Christ to acquire a mature and complete evaluation, leading him to discern and judge the various movements of his heart. It should be added that this task can be carried out and is worthy of man.

In fact, the discernment which we are speaking of has an essential relationship with spontaneity. The subjective structure of man shows, in this area, a specific richness and a clear distinction. Consequently, a noble gratification, for example, is one thing, while sexual desire is another. When sexual desire is linked with a noble gratification, it differs from desire pure and simple. Similarly, as regards the sphere of the immediate reactions of the heart, sexual excitement is very different from the deep emotion with which not only interior sensitivity, but sexuality itself reacts to the total expression of femininity and masculinity. It is not possible here to develop this subject further. But it is certain that, if we affirm that Christ's words according to Matthew 5:27-28 are severe, they are also severe in the sense that they contain within them the deep requirements concerning human spontaneity.

5. There cannot be such spontaneity in all the movements and impulses that arise from mere carnal lust, devoid as it is of a choice and of an adequate hierarchy. It is precisely at the price of self-control that man reaches that deeper and more mature spontaneity with which his heart, mastering his instincts, rediscovers the spiritual beauty of the sign constituted by the human body in its masculinity and femininity. Since this discovery is enhanced in the conscience as conviction, and in the will as guidance both of possible choices and of mere desires, the human heart becomes a participant in another spontaneity, of which "carnal man" knows nothing or very little. There is no doubt that through Christ's words according to Matthew 5:27-28, we are called precisely to such spontaneity. Perhaps the most important sphere of praxis —concerning the more interior acts—is precisely that which gradually prepares the way toward such spontaneity.

This is a vast subject which will be opportune for us to take up another time in the future, when we will dedicate ourselves to showing what the real nature of the evangelical purity of heart is. We conclude for the present, saying that the words of the Sermon on the Mount, with which Christ called the attention of his listeners—at that time and today—to lust (looking lustfully), indirectly indicate the way toward a mature spontaneity of the human heart. This does not suffocate its noble desires and aspirations, but on the contrary frees them and, in a way, facilitates them.

Let what we said about the mutual relationship between what is ethical and what is erotic, according to the ethos of the Sermon on the Mount, suffice for the present."

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

Ai partecipanti alla Conferenza Internazionale sui cibi tratti dal mare

I am happy to welcome the participants of the International Seafood Conference being held in Rome. Your efforts to increase seafood production are indeed a praiseworthy endeavour in a world which often faces severe shortages in food supplies. And thus I applaud these efforts. At the same time I would urge you to consider ways and means of directly assisting those who suffer from famine. This is a difficult but crucial moral problem for our global community today. But in responding to it we are heeding the word of God, which exhorts us to be mindful of our neighbour’s needs. I hope that your discussion during these days will not only aid your work in seafood production but enrich your individual lives as well.

Al pellegrinaggio organizzato dal settimanale cattolico tedesco "Leben und Erziehen"

Einen besonderen Gruß richte ich an die diesjährige große Romwallfarth der Lesergemeinschaft der Zeitschrift"Leben und Erziehen"aus der Diözese Aachen.

Der Titel dieser verdienstvollen Publikation gibt mir die Anregung, euch die Botschaft der letzten Bischofssynode über die christliche Familie sehr ans Herz zu legen: lest und studiert sie, damit sie in euren Familien Frucht bringen kann und euch in die Lage versetzt, auch anderen Familien Stütze und Halt zu werden!

Der Segen Gottes begleite euch bei dieser wichtigen Aufgabe!

Ai partecipanti al corso del Segretariato Unitario di "Animazione Missionaria"

Rivolgo ora il mio saluto ai partecipanti al Corso indetto dal Segretariato Unitario di Animazione Missionaria. Figli carissimi, è vostro intento essere presenti, con un contributo specifico, nei luoghi e momenti qualificanti delle scelte pastorali della Chiesa italiana, al fine di aprirle ad un sempre più ampio respiro missionario. Nel manifestarvi il mio compiacimento per tali propositi, desidero incoraggiarvi a proseguire nell’impegno di approfondire l’intesa tra i vostri Istituti, per coordinarne sempre meglio le iniziative, facendone un’espressione di operante comunione ecclesiale. Vi conforti la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Alle Superiore delle Religiose che svolgono apostolato nelle carceri femminili italiane

Sono presenti all’Udienza le Superiore delle Religiose, che svolgono il loro apostolato nelle carceri italiane. Nel rivolgervi il mio saluto, Figlie carissime, mi valgo volentieri della circostanza per rinnovare l’espressione del mio apprezzamento nei confronti dell’opera preziosa delle vostre Consorelle, che quotidianamente si spendono in un servizio premuroso e paziente, di grande valore umano e cristiano. A loro ed a voi, che qui le rappresentate, la mia propiziatrice Benedizione Apostolica.

Ai giovani

La mia attenzione va ora a tutti i giovani qui presenti, e in particolare agli studenti insigniti del titolo di "Alfieri del lavoro" per le qualità morali ed intellettuali dimostrate durante il corso dei loro studi. Carissimi, il significativo riconoscimento che premia il vostro impegno di questi anni, sia per voi stimolo ad avanzare con coerenza sulla strada di una generosa dedizione al dovere, che la fede validamente illumina ed orienta. Nel rivolgere altresì un particolare pensiero al gruppo "Volontarie del Movimento dei Focolari", che in questi giorni hanno partecipato ad un incontro presso il centro Mariapoli di Rocca di Papa, vi benedico tutti di cuore.

Agli ammalati

Anche a voi, cari ammalati, il mio saluto, non meno cordiale. Per tutti Gesù Cristo è venuto nel mondo, è morto ed è risorto; a voi, provati dalla sofferenza, Gesù rivolge con maggiore attenzione e premura i suoi doni di coraggio e di fortezza; voi gli siete più cari.

Sia grande la vostra fede e confidente la vostra preghiera! Vi conforti la mia Benedizione, che è per voi e per quanti sono con voi, nel vostro affetto e nelle vostre necessità.

Agli sposi novelli

Carissimi sposi novelli, di cuore vi porgo felicitazioni ed auguri per la vostra nuova vita. La grazia divina, che il Sacramento del Matrimonio ha cominciato a effondere nella vostra anima, illumini e nobiliti, giorno per giorno, la vostra convivenza. Implorate nella preghiera la grazia del Signore, imploratela insieme, perché essa vi aiuti a conservare e ad arricchire il valore sublime del vostro amore perché vi aiuti a guidare rettamente i figli che il buon Dio vorrà concedervi, perché regnino sempre, nella vostra famiglia, la concordia e la serenità. Accompagna questi voti la mia Benedizione.

Salutando il folto gruppo di pellegrini polacchi, il Santo Padre improvvisa il seguente discorso:

Pragnę dzisiaj wobec was tu obecnych wyraić moją radość z tego, co się dokonało w ostatnich dniach w naszej Ojczyźnie: z tego rozumnego i dojrzałego porozumienia, do jakiego doszło pomiędzy władzami a powstającymi związkami zawodowymi, Niezależnymi Związkami Zawodowymi, które w oparciu o zatwierdzony statut rozpoczynają swoją działalność. Pragnę także tym nowym instytucjom związlowym, w których skupia się tak ogromna liczba moich rodaków, ludzi pracy, zarówno fizycznej, jak i umysłowes, przesłać z całego serca błogosławieństwo.

Pragnę równocześnie, ażeby ta dojrzałość, która w ciągu ostatnich miesięcy cechowała postępowanie naszych rodaków, zarówno społeczeństwa, w szczególności świata pracy, iak i yładz, dalej była naszym udziałem i żeby Polska dalej znajdowała oparcie w tych siłach ducha, które przez Chrystusa, przez Jego Ewangelię, przez Jego Krzyż i przez Jego Matkę stały się wielkim dziedzictwem naszej Ojczyzny. Pragnę, żebyście wy, obecni tutaj, te moje najlepsze życzenia, wyrazy i modlitwy przekazali wszystkim rodakom w Ojczyźnie a także i poza jej granicami.

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