The Vatican

"Faith in Jesus Christ frees from the Law and at the same time brings it to fulfillment."

During the general audience, Pope Francis recalled that the commandments are the "pedagogues" that lead us to Jesus, commenting on the Letter of St. Paul to the Galatians.

David Fernández Alonso-August 11, 2021-Reading time: 3 minutes

Photo: ©2021 Catholic News Service / U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The Holy Father Francis began the general audience by greeting the faithful who had come to the Paul VI Hall, and was greeted with great applause.

In today's audience, Pope Francis went on to comment on St. Paul's Letter to the Galatians: ""For what is the law?" (Gal 3,19). This is the question on which, following St. Paul, we want to delve today, in order to recognize the newness of the Christian life animated by the Holy Spirit. The apostle writes: "If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law" (Gal 5,18). However, Paul's detractors maintained that the Galatians would have to follow the Law in order to be saved. The apostle does not agree at all. It is not in these terms that he had agreed with the other apostles in Jerusalem. He well remembers Peter's words when he argued, "Why then do you now tempt God by wanting to put a yoke on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear?" The dispositions that emerged in that "first council" of Jerusalem were very clear, and they said: 'That the Holy Spirit and we have decided not to impose on you more burdens than these indispensable ones: to abstain from what was sacrificed to idols, from blood, from strangled animals and from impurity'".

"When Paul speaks of the Law, he normally refers to the Mosaic Law. This was related to the Covenant that God had established with his people. According to various Old Testament texts, the Torah - the Hebrew term indicating the Law - is the compilation of all those prescriptions and norms that the Israelites must observe, by virtue of the Covenant with God. An effective synthesis of what the Torah can be found in this text of Deuteronomy: "For the LORD will again be pleased with your happiness, as he was pleased with the happiness of your fathers, if you obey the voice of the LORD your God, keeping his commandments and his precepts, which are written in the book of this Law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul" (30:9-10). The observance of the Law guaranteed to the people the benefits of the Covenant and the particular bond with God. By making the covenant with Israel, God had offered them the Torah so that he could understand his will and live in righteousness. On more than one occasion, especially in the books of the prophets, it is noted that the non-observance of the precepts of the Law constituted a real betrayal of the Covenant, provoking the reaction of God's wrath. The link between the Covenant and the Law was so close that the two realities were inseparable".

"In the light of all this, it is easy to understand the good game that those missionaries who had infiltrated among the Galatians would have had in maintaining that adherence to the Covenant also entailed the observance of the Mosaic Law. However, precisely on this point we can discover the spiritual intelligence of St. Paul and the great intuitions that he expressed, sustained by the grace he received for his evangelizing mission".

"The Apostle explains to the Galatians that, in reality, the Covenant and the Law are not indissolubly linked. The first element on which he relies is that the Covenant established by God with Abraham was based on faith in the fulfillment of the promise and not on the observance of the Law, which was not yet there. The Apostle writes: "And I say, A testament already made by God in due form [with Abraham], cannot be annulled by the Law, which comes four hundred and thirty years later [with Moses], in such a way that the promise is annulled. For if the inheritance depended on the Law, it would no longer proceed from the promise, and yet God bestowed upon Abraham his favor in the form of a promise" (Gal 3,17-18). With this reasoning, Paul achieves a first objective: the Law is not the basis of the Covenant because it arrived successively.

"An argument such as this puts to shame those who hold the Mosaic Law to be a constituent part of the Covenant. The TorahIn fact, it is not included in the promise made to Abraham. Having said this, we should not think that St. Paul was opposed to the Mosaic Law. More than once, in his Letters, he defends its divine origin and maintains that it has a very precise role in the history of salvation. But the Law does not give life, it does not offer the fulfillment of the promise, because it is not in a position to fulfill it. Whoever seeks life needs to look to the promise and its fulfillment in Christ".

"Beloved, this first exposition of the apostle to the Galatians presents the radical newness of the Christian life: all who have faith in Jesus Christ are called to live in the Holy Spirit, who liberates from the Law and at the same time brings it to fulfillment according to the commandment of love."

At the end of the audience, a special detail occurred. One of his collaborators handed him a telephone where a phone call awaited him, which he answered right there, in the Paul VI Hall, just after the blessing that ended the general audience.

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