By Hannah Brockhaus
People need the mercy of God and the healing of the Holy Spirit to root out the sin in their lives – they cannot do it on their own, Pope Francis said at the general audience Wednesday.
“It is useless to think of being able to correct oneself without the gift of the Holy Spirit. It is futile to think of purifying our heart in a titanic effort of only our will. This is not possible,” he said Nov. 21.
“We must open ourselves to relationship with God, in truth and in freedom,” he urged, “only in this way can our labors bear fruit. Because it is the Holy Spirit that carries us forward.”
Before the start of the general audience, the pope greeted and blessed an ill woman, who was brought to the square by her family, and accompanied by medical personnel.
In his catechesis, he reflected on the 10th commandment, which says to not covet the house or wife or goods of one's neighbor. In a way, this commandment sounds like the commandments against stealing and against adultery, Francis pointed out.
“Keep in mind,” he said, “that all the commandments have the task of indicating the boundary of life, the limit beyond which man destroys himself and his neighbor, spoiling his relationship with God.”
He explained that the Ten Commandments signal the behavior and actions which will destroy one's self and destroy one's relationship with God and with others, and said in the 10th and final commandment, it is emphasized that all sin comes from a common root: “evil desires.”
Quoting Jesus in the Gospel of Mark, Francis said: “From within, in fact, from the heart of men, come evil purposes: impurity, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, licentiousness, envy, blasphemy, pride, foolishness.”
“A good list, huh?” he commented off-the-cuff, saying he would reread it, “because it will be good for everyone.”
To try to follow the Ten Commandments, therefore, is useless, the pope said, if not accompanied by the desire to also be rid of the evil desires hiding within the heart.
“The last words of the Decalogue educate everyone to recognize themselves as beggars,” he said. “They help us to face the disorder of our heart, to stop living selfishly and become poor in spirit, authentic in the presence of the Father, allowing ourselves to be redeemed by the Son and taught by the Holy Spirit.”
Quoting the beatitudes, he said: “'Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.'”
“Yes, blessed those who stop deluding themselves, believing that they can save themselves from their weakness without the mercy of God, who alone can heal; only the mercy of God heals the heart,” he emphasized.
“Blessed are those who recognize their evil desires, and with a repentant and mortified heart stand before God and men as righteous, but as sinners,” he concluded. “This is a beautiful prayer... These are those who know how to have compassion, who know how to have mercy on others, because they experience it for themselves.”
At the end of the audience, Francis noted the Nov. 21 commemoration of Pro Orantibus Day, which is dedicated to remembering cloistered religious communities.
“It is a most opportune occasion to thank the Lord for the gift of so many people who, in monasteries and hermitages, dedicate themselves totally to God in prayer, in silence, and in hiding,” he said.
Do must not forget these communities in “the affection, the closeness, and the material support of the whole Church!” he urged.