ROME – Obedience to God’s commandments should flow from a personal relationship with the Father and from a place of gratitude for the good things he has done in one’s life, Pope Francis said Wednesday.
“The Christian life is above all the grateful response to a generous Father,” the pope said June 27, continuing a weekly reflection on the Ten Commandments.
“Gratitude is a characteristic trait of the heart visited by the Holy Spirit; to obey God we must first remember his benefits.”
“Whoever does not let those benefits fall into oblivion, is oriented towards good virtue and to every work of justice,” he said, quoting St. Basil.
Speaking at the final general audience before his two-month summer break, Francis asked Catholics to perform a small exercise, asking themselves, in the silence of their hearts, “How much has God done for me? How many beautiful things has God done for me?”
Christians must exercise their memories to remember “how generous is our Heavenly Father!” he continued, criticizing Christians who focus only on following “duties,” while reporting that they do not have a personal relationship with God, “our Father.”
Referencing the Book of Exodus, when the Israelites were brought first through the Red Sea before reaching Mount Sinai, where Moses received the Ten Commandments, he said “Christian formation is not based on willpower, but on the acceptance of salvation, on letting oneself be loved: first the Red Sea, then Mount Sinai.”
“Putting the law before the relationship does not help the journey of faith,” Francis said, asking how Catholics can teach young people to desire to be a Christian and live a Christian life if the first reference is always to “obligations, commitments, consistency, and not… liberation?”
“Christian formation is not based on willpower, but on the acceptance of salvation, on letting oneself be loved,” he said.
The pope pointed to the words of God when he gave Moses the first commandment – “I am the Lord your God.” These words denote the importance of relationship with God, he said, who is not a stranger, but “your God.”
This can enlighten a Catholic’s whole reading of the Ten Commandments, he explained, because it is in the same vein as Jesus’ words in the Book of John: “As the Father has loved me, I have loved you.”
The reason that a Christian’s good works may fail or be ineffective is because instead of starting from the love of the Father, or from gratitude, he or she begins from themselves, Francis said.
Before the start of the general audience, Francis visited the Pope Paul VI hall, where the sick and disabled watched the audience away from the summer sun and heat.
During the stop, Francis greeted, in particular, a delegation from the Special Olympics and pilgrims from an organization called, “Deaf Catholic Youth Initiative of the Americas.” He wished them all fruitful visits to Rome and that they would “grow in love for Christ and for one another.”
“The Lord has a special place in his heart for those with any kind of disability, and so does the Successor of Saint Peter!” he said. “I hope that your time in Rome will be spiritually enriching and strengthen your witness to God’s love for all his children.”