St. Peter's Square
Wednesday, 19 September 2018
Catechesis on the Commandments, 9: Honor your father and your mother
Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!
In the journey within the Ten Words we arrive today at the commandment on the father and the mother. There is talk of the honor due to parents. What is this "honor"? The Hebrew word indicates the glory, the value, to the letter the "weight", the consistency of a reality. It is not a matter of outward forms but of truth. Honoring God, in the Scriptures, means recognizing his reality, reckoning with his presence; this is also expressed in the rites, but above all implies giving God the right place in existence. Honoring the father and the mother therefore means to recognize their importance also through concrete actions, which express dedication, affection and care. But this is not just about this.
The Fourth Word has its own characteristic: it is the commandment that contains an outcome. In fact he says: "Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God has commanded you, so that your days may be prolonged and you may be happy in the land which the Lord your God gives you" (Deut 5:16) . Honoring parents leads to a long happy life. The word "happiness" in the Decalogue appears only linked to the relationship with the parents.
This multi-thousand-year-old wisdom declares what the human sciences have only been able to elaborate for a little over a century: that the imprint of childhood marks the whole of life. It can often be easy to understand if someone has grown up in a healthy and balanced environment. But just to perceive if a person comes from experiences of abandonment or violence. Our childhood is a bit like an indelible ink, expressed in tastes, in ways of being, even if some try to hide the wounds of their origins.
But the fourth commandment says more still. It does not talk about the goodness of parents, it does not require fathers and mothers to be perfect. It speaks of an act of the children, regardless of the merits of the parents, and says something extraordinary and liberating: even if not all parents are good and not all the infants are serene, all children can be happy, because the achievement of a full and happy life depends on the right gratitude to those who have put us into the world.
Let's think about how this Word can be constructive for many young people who come from stories of pain and for all those who have suffered in their youth. Many saints - and many Christians - after a painful childhood lived a luminous life, because, thanks to Jesus Christ, they were reconciled with life. Let's think of that young man who is blessed today, and the next holy month, Sulprizio, who at 19 has finished his life reconciled with so many pains, with so many things, because his heart was serene and never denied his parents. We think of St. Camillus de Lellis, who from a disordered childhood built a life of love and service; to St. Josephine Bakhita, who grew up in a horrible slavery; or to the blessed Carlo Gnocchi, an orphan and poor man; and to the same Saint John Paul II, marked by the loss of the mother at an early age.
Man, from whatever history comes, receives from this commandment the orientation that leads to Christ: in him, in fact, the true Father is revealed, who offers us "to be reborn from above" (cf. Jn 3: 3-8) ). The enigmas of our lives light up when we discover that God has always prepared us for a life of his children, where every act is a mission received from him.
Our wounds are starting to be potential when, by grace, we discover that the real enigma is no longer "why?", But "for whom?", For those who happened to me. In view of which work has God forged me through my history? Here everything is reversed, everything becomes precious, everything becomes constructive. My experience, even sad and painful, in the light of love, how does it become for others, for whom, the source of salvation? Then we can begin to honor our parents with freedom of adult children and with merciful acceptance of their limits. 
Honoring parents: they gave us life! If you have moved away from your parents, make an effort and come back, come back to them; maybe they're old ... They gave you life. And then, among us there is the habit of saying bad things, even bad words ... Please, never, never, never insult the parents of others. Never! Never mother insults her, never insult father. Never! Never! Take this inner decision yourself: from now on I will never insult someone's mother or dad. They gave him life! They must not be insulted.
This marvelous life is offered to us, not imposed: being reborn in Christ is a grace to be welcomed freely (cf. Jn 1: 11-13), and it is the treasure of our baptism, in which, through the work of the Holy Spirit, only one is the Our Father, that of heaven (cf. Mt 23: 9, 1 Cor 8: 6, Eph 4: 6). Thank you!
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I extend a cordial welcome to Italian-speaking pilgrims. I am pleased to welcome the Brothers of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary (Picpus), the Sisters of the Perpetual Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, the Franciscan Sisters of the Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary and the Carmelite Missionaries, who participate in the respective General Chapters; the Seminarians of the Pontifical International Maria Mater Ecclesiae College in Rome and the participants in the International Congress of the Carmelite laity.
I also welcome the National Pilgrimage of the Ordinariate of the Armed Forces and Armed Corps of the Slovak Republic, led by the Military Ordinary, Mgr František Rábek.
I greet the Parishes, in particular those of Turi and San Giovanni Rotondo; the family pastoral group of Modena, accompanied by Archbishop Mons. Erio Castellucci and the blind and partially sighted Italian Union of Castellammare di Stabia.
A particular thought I address to the young, the elderly, the sick and the newlyweds. Whatever history you come from, I urge you, dear ones, to always be courageously oriented towards Christ. Indeed, only in Him is the true Father manifested, who offers us "to be reborn from above". Thank you!
 Cf. St. Augustine, Discourse on Matthew, 72, A, 4: "Christ therefore teaches you to reject your parents and at the same time to love them. However, parents love each other in an orderly manner and in a spirit of faith when they do not prefer God: Those who love - these are the Lord's words - father and mother more than me, are not worthy of me. With these words it almost seems that he warns you not to love them; rather, on the contrary, he admonishes you to love them. In fact, he could have said: "He who loves his father or his mother is not worthy of me". But he did not say so not to speak against the law given by him, since it was he who gave, by means of his servant Moses, the law where it is written: Honor your father and your mother. He has not promulgated a contrary law but has confirmed it; he then taught you the order, did not eliminate the duty of love towards the parents: Who loves father and mother, but more than me. He must love them, therefore, but no more than me: God is God, man is man. Love parents, obey parents, honor parents; but if God calls you to a more important mission, in which the affection for the parents could be an impediment, keep order, do not suppress charity ".