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“Commandments exist, but what justifies us is Jesus Christ”: Pope Francis

Pope Francis at the general audience on Aug. 18, 2021. Vatican Media

Pope Francis said Wednesday that Catholics must observe the commandments with the knowledge that justification comes from Jesus Christ.

“Do we believe in Jesus Christ and do what we want? No,” Pope Francis said in his weekly catechesis on Aug. 18.

“The Commandments exist, but they do not justify us. What justifies us is Jesus Christ … And what do we do with the Commandments? We must observe them, but as an aid to the encounter with Jesus Christ,” the pope said in Paul VI Hall.

The pope offered a reflection on St. Paul’s teaching on the Jewish law as a pedagogue in the Letter to the Galatians 3:23-25.

“The Apostle seems to suggest to Christians to divide the history of salvation, and also his personal story, into two periods: before becoming believers in Christ Jesus and after having received faith,” Francis said.

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“At the center is the event of the death and resurrection of Jesus, which Paul preached in order to inspire faith in the Son of God, the source of salvation.”

/ Vatican Media
/ Vatican Media

Pope Francis explained that St. Paul believed that the function of the Jewish law was positive, but limited in time.

“The Torah, that is, the Law, was an act of magnanimity by God towards His people. After the election of Abraham, the other great act was the Law: fixing the way to go forward,” he said.

“It certainly had restrictive functions, but at the same time it had protected the people, it had educated them, disciplined them and supported them in their weakness, especially by protecting them from paganism; there were so many pagan attitudes in those times.”

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Pope Francis began a cycle of catechesis on St. Paul’s Letter to the Galatians on June 23. This was his fifth reflection on the epistle this summer.

St. Paul wrote his letter to Christian converts in the Roman province of Galatia around the year 53 or 54 AD, according to Catholic Biblical scholars. The central theological question of the Letter to the Galatians is justification: How is a person saved?

“Saint Paul, who loved Jesus and clearly understood what salvation was, has taught us that the ‘children of the promise’ – that is all of us, justified by Jesus Christ - are no longer bound by the Law, but are called to the demanding lifestyle of the freedom of the Gospel,” Pope Francis said.

/ Vatican Media
/ Vatican Media

The pope said that St. Paul’s teaching on justification is very important and deserves to be considered carefully. 

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“It will do us good to ask ourselves if we are still living in the period in which we need the Law, or if instead we are well aware that we have received the grace of having become children of God so as to live in love,” he said.

“How do I live? In fear that if I do not do this I will go to hell? Or do I also live with that hope, with that joy of the gratuitousness of salvation in Jesus Christ? … Do I disregard the Commandments? No. I observe them, but not as absolutes, because I know that what justifies me is Jesus Christ.

/ Vatican Media.
/ Vatican Media.