Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Law and Freedom

Homily of Pope Benedict XVI
Mass with Former Students of the "Ratzinger Sch├╝lerkreis"

August 30, 2009

Science tells us many things and is useful to us in many aspects, but wisdom is knowledge of the essential -- knowledge of the reason of our existence and of how we must live so that life is lived in the right way.

The reading taken from Deuteronomy (Dt 4:1-2, 6-8) points out the fact that wisdom, in the end, is identical to the Torah -- to the Word of God that reveals to us what is essential, for whose end and in whose way we must live. Hence the Law does not appear as slavery, but is -- similar to what Psalm 119 says -- cause of great joy: We do not grope in darkness, we do not wander in vain in search of what might be right, we are not like sheep without a shepherd that do not know the right way. God has manifested Himself. He, Himself, shows us the way. We know His will and with it, the truth that matters in our life.

God says two things to us: On one hand, that He has manifested Himself and shows us the right way; on the other, that God is a God who listens, who is close to us, who answers us and guides us. With this we also touch the subject of purity: His will purifies us, his closeness guides us. . . .

The Letter of James speaks of the perfect Law of freedom and means by that a new and deeper understanding of the Law that the Lord has given us. For James, the Law is not an exigency that asks too much of us, that is before us from outside and that can never be satisfied. . . . The Law is no longer a prescription for persons who are not free, but is contact with the love of God -- being introduced to form part of the family, act that makes us free and "perfect." . . .

The Law, as word of love, is not a contradiction to freedom, but a renewal from within through friendship with God. Something similar is manifested when Jesus, in His address about the vine, says to His disciples: "You are already made clean by the word which I have spoken to you" (John 15:3). And the same appears again later in the priestly prayer: You are sanctified in the truth (cf. John 17:17-19).

Thus we now find the right structure of the process of purification and of purity: We are not the ones who create what is good -- this would be a simple moralism -- instead, it is Truth that comes to meet us. He Himself is the Truth, the Truth in person. Purity is a dialogic event. It begins with the fact that He comes to meet us -- he, who is Truth and Love -- takes us by the hand, and is fused with our being. In the measure in which we allow ourselves to be touched by Him, in which the encounter becomes friendship and love, we are, stemming from His purity, pure persons and then persons who love with His love, persons who introduce others in His purity and His love.

Augustine summarized all this process in this beautiful expression: "Da quod iubes et iube quod vis" -- grant what you command and then command what you will.

We now wish to take this petition to the Lord and to pray: Yes, purify us in the truth. You be the Truth that purifies us. Through our friendship with you, may we come to be free and thus truly children of God, make us capable of sitting at your table and of spreading in this world the light of your purity and goodness. Amen.
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