Pope Francis: God's mercy frees us from slavery to sin

By Hannah Brockhaus

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Pope Francis walks in St. Peter's Square Sept. 12, 2018. Credit: Marina Testino/EWTN.

Attachment to sin and vice is a form of interior slavery which inhibit the ability to love, but true freedom is always found in God’s mercy, Pope Francis said at the general audience Wednesday.

“All these vices, these sins, this selfishness turn us away from love and make us unable to love,” the pope said Sept. 12. “Who is therefore the true slave? Who is he who knows no rest? That [man or woman] who is not able to love!”

But, he continued, “the mercy of God frees us. And when you meet God’s mercy, you have a great inner freedom and you are also able to impart it. This is why it is so important to open ourselves to God’s mercy so as not to be slaves to ourselves.”

Pope Francis reflected on the third commandment, to keep Sundays holy and to rest, noting that in the Book of Deuteronomy, rest is linked with the end of the Israelites’ slavery in Egypt.

There it says, “Remember that you too were once slaves in the land of Egypt, and the Lord, your God, brought you out from there with a strong hand and outstretched arm. That is why the Lord, your God, has commanded you to observe the sabbath day” (Deut. 5:15).

There is both exterior and interior slavery, he explained, listing the examples of oppression, violence and injustice as exterior forms of captivity. For example, St. Maximilian Kolbe and Cardinal Van Thuan are two examples of people who experienced physical imprisonment, but had “great freedom of spirit,” he said, and “turned dark oppressions into places of light.”

On the other hand, Francis said, the kind of oppression that “can bind above all else is the ‘slavery one’s ego.’” Because the ego, which is fixated on the human passions of greed, lust, anger, envy, laziness, and pride, enslaves people to sin and to “their vices, which tyrannize them and torment them.”

And the ego does not care about breaking commandments to get what it wants, he said.

The third commandment, on the other hand, invites Christians to celebrate the freedom found through resting in Christ, who breaks people free from the interior slavery of sin and makes them capable of loving God and others.  

“True love is true freedom: it detaches from possession, reconstructs relationships, knows how to welcome and value others, transforms every effort into a joyful gift and makes [the heart] capable of communion,” he concluded. “This is the freedom we receive from our Redeemer, our Lord Jesus Christ.”

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