Pope Francis says "...freedom inspired by love leads towards the poor, recognizing the face of Christ in their faces." FULL TEXT + Video at Catechesis


Paul VI Audience Hall - Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Catechesis on the Letter to the Galatians: 12. Freedom is realised in love

Dear brothers and sisters, good morning!

In these days we are talking about the freedom of faith, listening to the Letter to the Galatians. But I was reminded of what Jesus was saying about the spontaneity and freedom of children, when this child had the freedom to approach and move as if he were at home... And Jesus tells us: “You too, if you do not behave like children, you will not enter the Kingdom of Heaven”. The courage to approach the Lord, to be open to the Lord, not to be afraid of the Lord: I thank this child for the lesson he has given us all. And may the Lord help him in his limitation, in his growth because he has given this testimony that came from his heart. Children do not have an automatic translator from the heart to life: the heart takes the lead. Thank you.

The Apostle Paul, with his letter to the Galatians, gradually introduces us to the great novelty of faith. Slowly, step by step… that is the novelty of faith. It is truly a great novelty, because it does not merely renew a few aspects of life, but rather it leads us into that “new life” that we have received with Baptism. There the greatest gift, that of being children of God, has been poured out upon us. Reborn in Christ, we have passed from a religiosity made up of precepts – we have moved on from a religiosity made up of precepts - to a living faith, which has its centre in communion with God and with our brothers and sisters, that is, in love. We have passed from the slavery of fear and sin to the freedom of God’s children. Here, again, is the word freedom …

Today we will try to understand better what the heart of this freedom is for the Apostle, what the core of this is. Paul affirms that it is anything but an “opportunity for the flesh” (Gal 5:13): freedom, therefore, is not a libertine way of living, according to the flesh or following the instincts, individual desires or one’s own selfish impulses; no, on the contrary, the freedom of Jesus leads us to be, the Apostle writes, “servants of one another” (ibid.). But is this slavery? Yes, freedom in Christ has an element of slavery, a dimension that leads us to service, to living for others. True freedom, in other words, is fully expressed in love. Yet again, we find ourselves faced with the paradox of the Gospel: we are freed by serving, not in doing whatever we want. We are free in serving, and freedom comes from there; we find ourselves fully to the extent to which we give ourselves. We find ourselves fully to the extent to which we give ourselves, to which we have the courage to give ourselves; we possess life if we lose it (cf. Mk 8:35). This is pure Gospel.

But how can this paradox be explained? Because it is a paradox! The Apostle’s answer is as simple as it is demanding: “through love” (Gal 5:13). There is no freedom without love. The selfish freedom of doing what I want is not freedom, because it turns in on itself, it is not fruitful. Through love: it is Christ’s love that has freed us and it is love that also frees us from the worst slavery, that of the self; therefore, freedom increases with love. But beware: not with self-centred love, with the love of a soap opera, not with the passion that simply looks for what we want and like: not with that, but with the love we see in Christ, charity – this is the love that is truly free and freeing. It is the love that shines out in gratuitous service, modelled on that of Jesus, who washes the feet of his disciples and says: “I have given you an example, that you also should do as I have done to you” (Jn 13:15). Serving one another.

Therefore, for Paul freedom is not “doing what you want and what you like”: no. This type of freedom, without a goal and without points of reference, would be an empty freedom, a freedom of the circus: it is not good. And indeed, it leaves emptiness within: how often, after following instinct alone, do we realise that we are left with a great emptiness inside and that we have used badly the treasure of our freedom, the beauty of being able to choose true goodness for ourselves and for others. True freedom always frees us, whereas when we exercise that freedom of what we like and don’t like, we remain empty, in the end. Only this freedom is complete, genuine, and inserts us into real everyday life.

In another letter, the first to the Corinthians, the Apostle responds to those who support an incorrect idea of freedom. “All things are lawful!” Ah, all things are lawful, they can be done. No: it is a mistaken idea. “Yes, but not all things are helpful”, would be the reply. “All things are lawful but not all things are helpful!”, Paul answers. “All things are lawful, yes, but not all things build up”, retorts the Apostle. He then adds: “Let no one seek his own good, but the good of his neighbour” (1 Cor 10:23-24). This is the rule for unmasking any type of selfish freedom. In addition, to those who are tempted to reduce freedom only to their own tastes, Paul puts before them the need for love. Freedom guided by love is the only one that sets others and ourselves free, that knows how to listen without imposing, that knows how to love without coercing, that builds and does not destroy, that does not exploit others for its own convenience and does good without seeking its own benefit. In short, if freedom is not at the service – this is the test – if freedom is not in the service of good, it runs the risk of being barren and not bearing fruit. If freedom is not in the service of good, it does not bear fruit. On the other hand, freedom inspired by love leads towards the poor, recognising the face of Christ in their faces. Therefore, this service to one another allows Paul, writing to the Galatians, to emphasise something that is by no means secondary: in this way, speaking of the freedom that the other Apostles gave him to evangelise, he underlines that they recommended only one thing: to remember the poor (cf. Gal 2:10). It is interesting, what the apostles said when after the ideological battle between Paul and the apostles, they agreed: “Go ahead, go ahead and do not forget the poor”, that is, may your freedom as a preacher be a freedom in the service of others, not for yourself, to do as you please.

We know, however, that one of the most widespread modern conceptions of freedom is this: “my freedom ends where yours begins”. But here the relationship is missing! It is an individualistic vision. On the other hand, those who have received the gift of freedom brought about by Jesus cannot think that freedom consists in keeping away from others, as if they were a nuisance; the human being cannot be regarded as cooped up in alone, but always part of a community. The social dimension is fundamental for Christians, and it enables them to look to the common good and not to private interest.

Especially in this historic moment, we need to rediscover the communitarian, not individualistic, dimension of freedom: the pandemic has taught us that we need each other, but it is not enough to know this; we need to choose it in a tangible way, to decide on that path, every day. Let us say and believe that others are not an obstacle to my freedom, but rather they are the possibility to fully realise it. Because our freedom is born from God’s love and grows in charity. Thank you.


Special Greetings

Je salue cordialment les personnes de langue française, particulièrement les étudiants du Studium de Notre-Dame de vie, les members de l'équipe Notre-Dame, les jeunes de Bons-en-Chablais and les fidèles de la paroisse de Martigny en Suisse. Demandons la grâce d'être comblés de l'amor de Dieu afin de faire de notre maison commune a lieu où chacun puisse vivre dignement en ayant accès aux ressources que nousofferent le Créateur. A tous, but Bénédiction!

I cordially greet the French-speaking people, in particular the students of the Studium de Notre-Dame de Vie, the members of the Equipe Notre-Dame, the young people of Bons-en-Chablais and the faithful of the parish of Martigny in Switzerland. We ask for the grace to be filled with God's love to make our common home a place where everyone can live in dignity with access to the resources that the Creator has given us. To all, my blessing! ]

I greet the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors taking part in today's Audience, especially the groups from the United States of America. Upon all of you, and your families, I invoke the joy and peace of the Lord. May God bless you!

Einen herzlichen Gruß richte ich an die Pilger und Besucher deutscher Sprache. Streben wir danach, immer wie Christus zu leben, im Dienst für die anderen und im Lob und Dank an Gott, den Vater unseres Lebens und den Schöpfer des Weltalls. Der Herr leite und behüte euch auf allen Wegen.

I address a cordial greeting to the German-speaking pilgrims. Let us always try to live like Christ, in service to others and in praise and gratitude to God, the Father of our life and Creator of the universe. May the Lord guide and protect you on your path .]

I cordially greet los peregrinos de lengua española. Veo que allí están the Ministras de los Enfermos, the hijas de la Madre Torres Acosta. Estas monjitas se pasan las noches cuidando enfermos y duermen un rato de día. Son un ejemplo de lo que es servicio hasta el fin, with abnegación de sí mismas. Sigan por ese camino. Gracias por lo que hacen. Pidamos a Jesús —modelo de caridad y servidor de todos— que nos libere de nuestras esclavitudes y nos ayude a ser auténticamente libres, impulsándonos a love with gestos concretos de misericordia y caridad. Que Dios los bendiga. Muchas gracias.

Saúdo com afeto os fiéis de língua portuguesa, desejando que em vossos corações esteja always present or love, especially pelos mais pobres. Assim somos verdadeiramente livres! Que Deus vos abençoe and vos proteja de todo o mal!

I affectionately greet the Portuguese-speaking faithful, wishing that love may always be in your hearts, especially towards the poorest. So we are truly free! May God bless you and protect you from all evil! ]

أُحيّي المؤمنِين الناطقين باللغة العربيّة. Climbing لنقل ونحن واثقون إنّ الآخرين ليسوا عقبة أمام حرّيّتي ، ولكنّهم إمكانيّة لتحقيقها تحقيقًا كملًا. لأنّ حرّيّتنا تُولدُ من محبّة الله وتنمو في المحّبّة. بارككم الرّبّ جميعًا وحماكم دائمًا من كلّ شرّ!

I greet the Arabic-speaking faithful. The pandemic has taught us that we need each other, but knowing it is not enough, we need to choose it concretely every day. We say and believe that others are not an obstacle to my freedom, but the possibility to fully realize it. Because our freedom is born from the love of God and grows in charity. The Lord bless you all and always protect you from all evil! ]

Serdecznie pozdrawiam obecnych tu Polaków. Drodzy bracia i siostry, pojutrze przypada liturgiczne wspomnienie św. Jana Pawła II. Jego opiece zawierzam was, wasze rodziny i cały naród polski. Zawsze miejcie w pamięci to, co wam powiedział: „« Któż nas maże odłączyć od miłości Chrystusowej? ». (…) Bądźcie czujni, aby was nic od tej miłości nie odłączyło. Żadne fałszywe hasła, błędne ideologies ani pokusa pójścia na kompromis z tym, co nie jest z Boga. Odrzućcie wszystko, co tę jedność niszczy i osłabia ”(2.06.1997). Z serca wam błogosławię!

I cordially greet the Poles present here. Dear brothers and sisters, the day after tomorrow is the liturgical memorial of Saint John Paul II. I entrust you, your families and the entire Polish people to his protection. Always remember what he said to you: "" Who will separate us ... from the love of Christ? ". (...) Be vigilant, so that nothing separates you from this love: no false slogan, no wrong ideology, no yielding to the temptation to compromise with what is not of God. Reject all that destroys and weakens communion with Christ "(2.06.1997). I heartily bless you! ]

* * *

I extend a cordial welcome to the Italian-speaking pilgrims. I greet the Chapter members of the Servants of Mary Ministers of the Sick and I hope for the entire Congregation a renewed and generous commitment to evangelical witness. Then I greet the faithful of the parishes of San Pellegrino in Reggio Emilia and those of Santa Maria Assunta in Scigliano. I hope that your stay in Rome will contribute to making love and fidelity to Christ grow in the soul of each one.

Finally, my thoughts go, as usual, to the elderly, the sick, the young and the newlyweds. In this month of October the Church exhorts us to pray for the missions and to accept Christ's invitation to be his active collaborators. Give the Lord your generous availability and offer your sufferings so that the saving plan of the heavenly Father may be fulfilled.

My blessing to all.

FULL TEXT + Image Source: Vatican.va - Screenshot