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Christ calls us to rediscover the living forces of the new man

49 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 3 December 1980 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. At the beginning of our considerations on Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:27-28), we saw that they contain a deep ethical and anthropological meaning. It is a question here of the passage in which Christ recalled the commandment, "You shall not commit adultery," and added, "Everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." We speak of the ethical and anthropological meaning of these words, because they allude to the two closely connected dimensions of ethos and historical man. In the course of the preceding analyses, we tried to follow these two dimensions, always keeping in mind that Christ's words are addressed to the heart, that is, to the interior man. Interior man is the specific subject of the ethos of the body, with which Christ wishes to imbue the conscience and will of his listeners and disciples. It is certainly a new ethos. It is new in comparison with the ethos of the Old Testament, as we have already tried to show in more detailed analyses. It is new also with regard to the state of historical man, subsequent to original sin, that is, with regard to the man of lust. It is, therefore, a new ethos in a universal sense and significance.

It is new in relation to any man, independently of any geographical and historical longitude and latitude.

2. We have already called this new ethos, which emerges from the perspective of Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount, the "ethos of redemption" and, more precisely, the ethos of the redemption of the body. Here we followed St. Paul. In the Letter to the Romans he contrasts "bondage to decay" (Rom 8:21) and submission "to futility" (Rom 8:20)—in which the whole of creation has become participant owing to sin—with the desire for "the redemption of our bodies" (Rom 8:23). In this context, the Apostle spoke of the groans "of the whole creation," which "waits with eager longing..." to "be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God" (Rom 8:20-21). In this way, St. Paul reveals the situation of all creation, especially that of man after sin. The aspiration which—together with the new "adoption as sons" (Rom 8:23)—strives precisely toward "the redemption of the body," is significant for this situation. The redemption of the body is presented as the end, the eschatological and mature fruit of the mystery of the redemption of man and of the world, carried out by Christ.

3. In what sense, therefore, can we speak of the ethos of redemption and especially of the ethos of the redemption of the body? We must recognize that in the context of the words of the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:27-28), which we have analyzed, this meaning does not yet appear in all its fullness. It will be manifested more completely when we examine other words of Christ, the ones, that is, in which he referred to the resurrection (cf. Mt 22:30; Mk 12:25; Lk 20:35-36).

However, there is no doubt that also in the Sermon on the Mount, Christ spoke in the perspective of the redemption of man and of the world (and, therefore, precisely of the redemption of the body). This is the perspective of the whole Gospel, of the whole teaching, of the whole mission of Christ. The immediate context of the Sermon on the Mount indicates the law and the prophets as the historical reference point, characteristic of the People of God of the old covenant. Yet we can never forget that in Christ's teaching the fundamental reference to the question of marriage and the problem of the relations between man and woman referred to the beginning. Such a reference can be justified only by the reality of the redemption. Outside it, there would remain only the three forms of lust or that "bondage to decay," which Paul writes of (Rom 8:21). Only the perspective of the redemption justifies the reference to the "beginning," that is, the perspective of the mystery of creation in the totality of Christ's teaching on the problems of marriage, man and woman and their mutual relationship. The words of Matthew 5:27-28 are set, in a word, in the same theological perspective.

4. In the Sermon on the Mount Christ did not invite man to return to the state of original innocence, because humanity has irrevocably left it behind. But he called him to rediscover—on the foundation of the perennial and indestructible meanings of what is human—the living forms of the new man. In this way a link, or rather a continuity is established between the beginning and the perspective of redemption. In the ethos of the redemption of the body, the original ethos of creation will have to be taken up again. Christ did not change the law, but confirmed the commandment, "You shall not commit adultery." At the same time, he led the intellect and the heart of listeners toward that "fullness of justice," willed by God the Creator and legislator, that this commandment contains. This fullness is discovered, first with an interior view of the heart, and then with an adequate way of being and acting. The form of the new man can emerge from this way of being and acting, to the extent to which the ethos of the redemption of the body dominates the lust of the flesh and the whole man of lust. Christ clearly indicated that the way to attain this must be the way of temperance and mastery of desires, that is, at the very root, already in the purely interior sphere ("Everyone who looks at a woman lustfully..."). The ethos of redemption contains in every area—and directly in the sphere of the lust of the flesh—the imperative of self-control, the necessity of immediate continence and of habitual temperance.

5. However, temperance and continence do not mean—if it may be put in this way—suspension in emptiness: neither in the emptiness of values nor in the emptiness of the subject. The ethos of redemption is realized in self-mastery, by means of temperance, that is, continence of desires. In this behavior the human heart remains bound to the value from which, through desire, it would otherwise have moved away, turning toward pure lust deprived of ethical value (as we said in the preceding analysis). In the field of the ethos of redemption, union with that value by means of an act of mastery is confirmed or re-established with an even deeper power and firmness. It is a question here of the value of the nuptial meaning of the body, of the value of a transparent sign. By means of this the Creator—together with the perennial mutual attraction of man and woman through masculinity and femininity—has written in the heart of them both the gift of communion, that is, the mysterious reality of his image and likeness. It is a question of this value in the act of self-mastery and temperance, to which Christ referred in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:27-28).

6. This act may give the impression of suspension "in the emptiness of the subject." It may give this impression especially when it is necessary to make up one's mind to carry it out for the first time, or, even more, when the opposite habit has been formed, when man is accustomed to yield to the lust of the flesh. However, even the first time, and all the more so if he then acquires the capacity, man already gradually experiences his own dignity. By means of temperance, he bears witness to his own self-mastery and shows that he is carrying out what is essentially personal in him. Furthermore, he gradually experiences the freedom of the gift, which in one way is the condition, and in another way is the response of the subject to the nuptial value of the human body, in its femininity and masculinity. In this way, the ethos of the redemption of the body is realized through self-mastery, through the temperance of "desires." This happens when the human heart enters an alliance with this ethos, or rather confirms it by means of its own integral subjectivity; when the deepest and yet most real possibilities and dispositions of the person are manifested; when the innermost layers of his potentiality acquire a voice, layers which the lust of the flesh would not permit to show themselves. Nor can these layers emerge when the human heart is bound in permanent suspicion, as is the case in Freudian hermeneutics. Nor can they be manifested when the Manichaean anti-value is dominant in consciousness. The ethos of redemption, on the other hand, is based on a close alliance with those layers.

7. Further reflections will give us other proofs. Concluding our analyses on Christ's significant enunciation according to Matthew 5:27-28, we see that in it the human heart is above all the object of a call and not of an accusation. At the same time, we must admit that the consciousness of sinfulness is, in historical man, not only a necessary starting point. It is also an indispensable condition of his aspiration to virtue, to purity of heart, to perfection. The ethos of the redemption of the body remains deeply rooted in the anthropological and axiological realism of revelation. Referring in this case to the heart, Christ formulated his words in the most concrete way. Man is unique and unrepeatable above all because of his heart, which decides his being from within. The category of the heart is, in a way, the equivalent of personal subjectivity. The way of appeal to purity of heart, as it was expressed in the Sermon on the Mount, is in any case a reminiscence of the original solitude, from which the man was liberated through opening to the other human being, woman. Purity of heart is explained, finally, with regard for the other subject, who is originally and perennially co-called.

Purity is a requirement of love. It is the dimension of its interior truth in man's heart."

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

Ai "Fratelli di San Gabriele"

Je salue tout spécialement les Frères de Saint-Gabriel, qui se sont mis dans le sillage de saint Louis-Marie Grignion de Montfort pour un renouvellement spirituel. Vous représentez ici, chers Frères, une Congrégation qui sert l’éducation chrétienne de la jeunesse avec zèle et compétence. Que l’Esprit Saint vous donne sa lumière et sa force pour cette tâche chère à l’Eglise! Que la Vierge Marie vous guide, afin que vous deveniez vous-mêmes les guides avisés de tous ces jeunes en quête, non seulement de savoir et de formation professionnelle, mais du sens chrétien de la vie. Je vous bénis de tout cœur.

Ai "Christian Brothers"

I present my cordial greetings to the Cultural Exchange Mission of the City of Kurume in Japan present at this audience. May your visit serve the cause of international understanding and peace, and further enrich the cultural life of your city, which was one of the first in your country to receive the Christian message. May God bless you all.

My special welcome goes to the group of Christian Brothers who are here today. The Church is deeply grateful for your labours on behalf of the Gospel, and for everything you do to make Jesus the Teacher present in the world today. Remember always that the measure of your effectiveness depends on how totally you "put on Christ", how totally you accept his word into your hearts, how totally you remain in his love. May the Holy Spirit, through his purifying action, enable you to live always for Jesus and his brethren.

Al pellegrinaggio dei rappresentanti delle Confraternite di Siviglia

Saludo ahora cordialmente a los miembros de la peregrinación española del Consejo General de Cofradías de Sevilla.

Os recibo muy gustosamente, queridos hermanos y hermanas, que representáis a tantos otros fieles cofrades de la gran archidiócesis hispalense. Quiero alentaros a un esfuerzo generoso, para que vuestra actividad esté dirigida a plasmar ante todo en vuestra vida personal, familiar y social los verdaderos valores cristianos, a fin de extenderlos luego a los demás, bajo la dirección de vuestros Pastores y en unión con cuantos condividen vuestros ideales.

Con estos deseos os imparto a vosotros y a los miembros de vuestras cofradías la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai membri del Consiglio Generalizio della "Società dell’Apostolato Cattolico"

Rivolgo un cordiale e beneaugurante pensiero al Padre Generale ed al Consiglio generalizio della Società dell’Apostolato Cattolico, che accompagnano i segretari provinciali e regionali per le missioni del loro Istituto, riuniti in questi giorni in congresso. L’incremento spirituale, pastorale e materiale delle missioni, oggetto del vostro studio, è opera grande ed altamente meritoria, su cui si posa lo sguardo di compiacenza e di plauso del divino Redentore. Vi accompagna nel vostro lavoro la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Ai giovani della Polisportiva della Parrocchia romana di Santa Maria della Salute

Saluto con affetto il gruppo di fedeli, tra cui i giovani, i dirigenti della Polisportiva, nonché alcuni membri dell’Associazione cattolica lavoratori cristiani della Parrocchia romana di Santa Maria della Salute guidati dal Parroco. Sono ben lieto, carissimi figli, di benedire l’Immagine della Madonna, che avete portata con voi e che è destinata al tempietto eretto in suo onore nel centro parrocchiale di Primavalle. Formo l’auspicio che il vostro popoloso quartiere si consideri "suddito e devoto" della Vergine santa con sempre maggiore fedeltà all’impegno di testimonianza e di operosità cristiana.

Con la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Ai giovani

Un saluto speciale va ora ai giovani e, in particolare, ai quattrocento fanciulli provenienti dall’Arcidiocesi de L’Aquila, che con la loro gioiosa presenza recano a questa Udienza una nota di entusiasmo e di ottimismo cristiano.

Carissimi, all’inizio del tempo sacro dell’Avvento voi avete voluto compiere questo pellegrinaggio al centro della cristianità, perché la memoria e il patrocinio dei principi degli Apostoli, i quali testimoniarono col sangue la propria fede, vi fossero di stimolo e di aiuto nell’itinerario spirituale, che la Chiesa invita ad intraprendere in questo importante periodo dell’anno liturgico. Vi auguro che questa tappa a Roma segni un rinnovamento interiore ed una crescita della vostra coscienza cristiana e della vostra fede. Per questo vi imparto una particolare Benedizione.

Ai malati

A quanti tra voi soffrono a causa della malattia rivolgo un pensiero affettuoso per dirvi: il Papa è particolarmente vicino a ciascuno di voi, e vi ricorda nella preghiera. Se il Signore non abbandona nessuno, tanto meno potrà dimenticarsi di voi, cari ammalati, che siete i preferiti del Vangelo: "Beati coloro che piangono, perché saranno consolati". Ma voi, a vostra volta, offrite i vostri patimenti, che sono un tesoro prezioso davanti a Dio, per la Chiesa, per la conversione dei peccatori e per la salvezza di tutte le anime. Con la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

Agli Sposi Novelli

Anche a voi, Sposi Novelli, giunga la mia benedicente parola di felicitazione e di augurio per una vita coniugale serena e armoniosa. La grazia propria del Sacramento del Matrimonio vi assista e renda sempre forte ed indistruttibile il vostro amore. Camminate tutti i giorni davanti a Dio ed Egli non vi farà mancare gli aiuti necessari per compiere, da veri cristiani, quei doveri di coniugi e di futuri genitori che la dignità del Sacramento esige. Vi accompagni nella vostra vita la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

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