The content of the Law of God is Love and praying “for those who wish us ill” potentiates our being “children of the Father.” With these words, Pope Francis concluded the Homily of the morning Holy Mass at St. Martha’s house, in which he commented on the Gospel of Matthew, on Jesus’ exhortation to his disciples to have true faith in God “Who raises His sun both above the evil and the good.”
So many times, Pope Francis spoke about the two ways of experiencing faith: One is “legalistic” and formal. It consists in adhering to a list of prohibitions and permissions, duties and rights. Whereas the other one is substantial and can be summarized in a single commandment: love your Father and brothers with all your heart and mercy, and pray for your enemies.
On the one hand, there are the Pharisees who offer God’s people a list of behaviors; on the other hand, there is Jesus Christ who is the fulfillment of the Law of God, that is, the supreme commandment and a perfect example of love. Pharisees’ explanation of the law, in the time of Jesus – the Pope said – had “too much theory and case studies”. “We might say that it was a law without the heart of Law, that is, the love God has given us. Therefore, the Lord repeats what was already there in the Old Testament, the greatest commandment; which one? Love God with all your heart, with all your strength, with all your soul, and love your neighbor as yourself.” In the explanation of the Pharisees, “it did not have a crucial importance. Case studies were crucial for them.” “Jesus takes up the true sense of the Law and fulfills it.”
The Holy Father highlighted that Jesus uses “many examples” to propose the Commandments with a new meaning. “Thou shalt not kill” does not only mean the prohibition to take away someone’s physical and bodily life, the Pontiff said; it can also mean “do not insult your brother” and any behavior pattern that translates love into deeds, because love is “more generous than the law”.
Religious commitment to observe the commandments – Pope Bergoglio continued – is not only “commitment to fulfill the Law, but also commitment to heal one’s heart.” “A heart wounded by the original sin – every single person’s heart is wounded by sin – must keep walking along this path of recovery and healing to resemble the Father, Who is perfect: ‘Be perfect as your heavenly Father is.’ It is a path of healing to be children like our Father.”
The way of perfection indicated by Jesus is clear in the passage of today’s Gospel: “You have understood ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you”. This is “the last step” on this path, the more difficult, the Pope said. “May the Lord give us this grace: to pray for our enemies and pray for those who wish us ill, who do not wish us well. Pray for those who hurt and persecute us. And everyone knows the name and surname: pray for everyone… I assure you that this prayer will do two things: it will make this person to improve, because prayer is powerful, whereas our being children of the Father will be more authentic.