Pope Francis on the 5th Commandment: “Do not kill” (II).
General Audience, Oct. 17, 2018
Dear Brothers and Sisters, good morning!
Today I would like to continue the catechesis on the Fifth Word of the Decalogue, “Do not kill.” We already stressed how this Commandment reveals that in God’s eyes human life is precious, sacred and inviolable. No one can scorn others’ life or one’s own. Man, in fact, bears within him the image of God and is the object of His infinite love, whatever the condition is, in which he is called to existence.
In the Gospel passage, we heard a short while ago, Jesus reveals to us an even more profound meaning of this Commandment. He affirms that, before God’s tribunal, even anger against a brother is a form of murder. Therefore, the Apostle John would write: “Any one who hates his brother is a murderer” (1 John 3:15). However, Jesus doesn’t stop here and, in the same logic, He adds that insult and contempt can also kill. And we are used to insulting, it’s true. And an insult comes to us as if it were a breath. And Jesus says to us: “Stop, because an insult harms, it kills.” Contempt. “But I . . . scorn these people.” And this is a way of killing a person’s dignity. It would be good if this teaching of Jesus entered the mind and heart, and that each one of us said: “I’ll never insult anyone.” It would be a good resolution, because Jesus says to us: “Beware, if you scorn, if you insult, if you hate, this is murder.”
No human code equated such different acts, assigning to them the same degree of judgment. And, consistently, Jesus in fact invites to interrupt the offering of the sacrifice in the temple if one remembers that a brother is offended in our confrontations, to go to seek him and to be reconciled with him. When we go to Mass, we should also have this attitude of reconciliation with the people with whom we’ve had problems, including if we have thought badly of them, if we insulted them. However, very often, while we wait for the priest to come and say the Mass, there is a bit of gossip, speaking badly of others. But this can’t be done. Let us think of the gravity of an insult, of contempt, of hatred: Jesus puts it in the line of killing.
What does Jesus intend to say, by extending to this point the field of the Fifth Word? Man has a noble, very sensitive life, and he possesses a recondite “I” no less important than his physical being. In fact, an inopportune phrase is enough to offend a child’s innocence. A cold gesture is enough to wound a woman. To deny a youth trust is enough to break his heart. To annihilate a man it’s enough to ignore him. Indifference kills. It’s like saying to the other person: ”You are a dead for me,” because you have killed in your heart. Not to love is the first step to kill; and not to kill is the firs step to love. At the beginning of the Bible one reads that terrible phrase that comes out of the mouth of the first murderer, Cain, after the Lord asks him where his brother is, Cain answers: “I don’t know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Genesis 4:9). Killers speak thus: “it doesn’t concern me,” “it’s your own business,” and similar things. Let us try to respond to this question: are we our brothers’ keepers? We certainly are! We are keepers of one another! And this is the path of life; it’s the path of not killing.
Human life needs love. And what is genuine love? It’s that which Jesus showed us, namely, mercy. The love with which we must not fail is one that forgives, which receives one who has done us harm. No one of us can survive without mercy; we are all in need of forgiveness. Therefore, if to kill means to destroy, to do away with, to eliminate someone, then not to kill means to take care of, to appreciate, to include and also to forgive.
No one can deceive himself thinking: I’m OK because I don’t do anything evil.” A mineral and a plant have this type of existence, but not a man — a person — a man or a woman — no. More is asked of a man or a woman. There is good to be done, prepared by each one of us, each one his own, which makes us go all the way.
“Do not kill” is an appeal to love and to mercy; it’s a call to live according to the Lord Jesus, who gave His life for us and resurrected for us. Once we all repeated together, here in the Square, the phrase of a Saint about this. Perhaps it will help us: “Not to do evil is a good thing, but not to do good isn’t good.” We must always do good, go beyond. He, the Lord, who being incarnated, has sanctified our existence; He, who with His Blood, has rendered it inestimable; He, “the author of life” (Acts 3:15), thanks to whom each one is a gift of the Father. In Him, in His love stronger than death, and by the power of the Spirit that the Father gives us, we can receive the Word “Do not kill” as the most important and essential appeal: that is, not to kill is a call to love.
[Original text: Italian] [ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester]