By Cindy Wooden
VATICAN CITY (CNS) — Obedience to God’s commandments must be the response to his limitless love, but it is not a condition for his love and for the salvation he offers through Jesus, Pope Francis said.
Celebrating the feast of St. Teresa of Avila Oct. 15, Pope Francis said that when Jesus was alive, when the early Christian community was growing, and today as well, there are “doctors of the law” who think that they can know who is and is not saved by the apparent way they obey certain commandments.
“It would do us good today to ask ourselves: Do I believe the Lord has saved me freely?” the pope said. Or “do I believe that I do not deserve my salvation and that if I merit anything it is through Jesus Christ and what he has done for me?”
“Let’s ask these questions today; only that way will we be faithful to that great merciful love, the love of a father and mother, because even God says that he is like a mother to us,” the pope said at the Mass in the chapel of his residence.
God’s love is expansive, boundless and limitless, the pope said. “We should not let ourselves be fooled by the ‘doctors’ who limit this love.”
The gratuitous gift of God’s son, his death and resurrection, is a mystery that is and always has been difficult for human beings to understand, the pope said.
One must obey the commandments and do what Jesus said to do, Pope Francis insisted, but this is “my response” to God’s offer of salvation, not a condition for it.
Looking at the day’s Gospel reading, Luke 11:47-52, Pope Francis said Jesus used strong and “very harsh” language when speaking of the “doctors of the law.” Jesus tells them, “‘You have taken away the key of knowledge. You yourselves did not enter and you stopped those trying to enter,’ meaning the key of the gratuitousness of salvation.”
The doctors of the law “thought the only way one could save oneself was by obeying all the commandments and that whoever could not do that was condemned,” the pope said. Their teaching “limited the horizons of God and made God’s love small, small,” in effect, reducing it to a human size.
The commandments must be observed, the pope said, but it is important to remember that they are summarized as “love God and love your neighbor.”
Jesus himself taught that all the commandments are found within the commandment of love because “the source is love, the horizon is love. If you have closed the door and thrown away the key of love, you will never live up to the gratuitousness of the salvation you have received.”