Pope Benedict XVI- General Audiences
On Signs of a Living Faith
"Christian Ethics … Is the Consequence of our Friendship With Christ"
H.H. Benedict XVI
November 26, 2008
Before the Holy Father continued with the cycle of catecheses
dedicated to the figure and thought of St. Paul, he addressed Aram I,
Catholicos of Cilicia of the Armenians.
address to Aram I:]
This morning I greet with great joy His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of
Cilicia of the Armenians, together with the distinguished delegation
accompanying him, and the Armenian pilgrims from various countries. This
fraternal visit is a significant occasion for strengthening the bonds of
unity already existing between us, as we journey towards that full
communion which is both the goal set before all Christ's followers and a
gift to be implored daily from the Lord.
For this reason, Your Holiness, I invoke the grace of the Holy Spirit on
your pilgrimage to the tombs of the Apostles Peter and Paul, and I
invite all present to pray fervently to the Lord that your visit, and
our meetings, will mark a further step along the path towards full
Your Holiness, I wish to express my particular gratitude for your
constant personal involvement in the field of ecumenism, especially in
the International Joint Commission for Theological Dialogue between the
Catholic Church and the Oriental Orthodox Churches, and in the World
Council of Churches.
On the exterior façade of the Vatican Basilica is a statue of Saint
Gregory the Illuminator, founder of the Armenian Church, whom one of
your historians has called "our progenitor and father in the Gospel".
The presence of this statue evokes the sufferings he endured in bringing
the Armenian people to Christianity, but it also recalls the many
martyrs and confessors of the faith whose witness bore rich fruit in the
history of your people. Armenian culture and spirituality are pervaded
by pride in this witness of their forefathers, who suffered with
fidelity and courage in communion with the Lamb slain for the salvation
of the world.
Welcome, Your Holiness, dear Bishops and dear friends! Together let us
invoke the intercession of Saint Gregory the Illuminator and above all
the Virgin Mother of God, so that they will enlighten our way and guide
it towards the fullness of that unity which we all desire.
[Catechesis in Italian:]
Dear brothers and sisters,
In last Wednesday's catechesis, I spoke of the question of how man is
justified before God. Following St. Paul, we have seen that man is not
capable of making himself "just" with his own actions, but rather that
he can truly become "just" before God only because God confers on him
his "justice," uniting him to Christ, his Son. And man obtains this
union with Christ through faith.
In this sense, St. Paul tells us: It is not our works, but our faith
that makes us "just." This faith, nevertheless, is not a thought,
opinion or idea. This faith is communion with Christ, which the Lord
entrusts to us and that because of this, becomes life in conformity with
him. Or in other words, faith, if it is true and real, becomes love,
charity -- is expressed in charity. Faith without charity, without this
fruit, would not be true faith. It would be a dead faith.
We have therefore discovered two levels in the last catechesis: that of
the insufficiency of our works for achieving salvation, and that of
"justification" through faith that produces the fruit of the Spirit. The
confusion between these two levels down through the centuries has caused
not a few misunderstandings in Christianity.
In this context it is important that St. Paul, in the Letter to the
Galatians, puts emphasis on one hand, and in a radical way, on the
gratuitousness of justification not by our efforts, and, at the same
time, he emphasizes as well the relationship between faith and charity,
between faith and works. "For in Christ Jesus, neither circumcision nor
uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love"
(Galatians 5:6). Consequently, there are on one hand the "works of the
flesh," which are fornication, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, etc.
(Galatians 5:19-21), all of which are contrary to the faith. On the
other hand is the action of the Holy Spirit, which nourishes Christian
life stirring up "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity,
faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22): These are the
fruits of the Spirit that arise from faith.
At the beginning of this list of virtues is cited ágape, love, and at
the end, self-control. In reality, the Spirit, who is the Love of the
Father and the Son, infuses his first gift, ágape, into our hearts (cf.
Romans 5:5); and ágape, love, to be fully expressed, demands
self-control. Regarding the love of the Father and the Son, which comes
to us and profoundly transforms our existence, I dedicated my first
encyclical, "Deus Caritas Est." Believers know that in mutual love the
love of God and of Christ is incarnated by means of the Spirit.
Let us return to the Letter of the Galatians. Here, St. Paul says that
believers complete the command of love by bearing each other's burdens
(cf. Galatians 6:2). Justified by the gift of faith in Christ, we are
called to live in the love of Christ toward others, because it is by
this criterion that we will be judged at the end of our existence. In
reality, Paul does nothing more than repeat what Jesus himself had said,
and which we recalled in the Gospel of last Sunday, in the parable of
the Final Judgment.
In the First Letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul becomes expansive with
his famous praise of love. It is the so-called hymn to charity: "If I
speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a
resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. … Love is patient, love is kind.
It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not
rude, it does not seek its own interests …" (1 Corinthians 13:1,4-5).
Christian love is so demanding because it springs from the total love of
Christ for us: this love that demands from us, welcomes us, embraces us,
sustains us, even torments us, because it obliges us to live no longer
for ourselves, closed in on our egotism, but for "him who has died and
risen for us" (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:15). The love of Christ makes us be
in him this new creature (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:17), who enters to form
part of his mystical body that is the Church.
From this perspective, the centrality of justification without works,
primary object of Paul's preaching, is not in contradiction with the
faith that operates in love. On the contrary, it demands that our very
faith is expressed in a life according to the Spirit. Often, an
unfounded contraposition has been seen between the theology of Paul and
James, who says in his letter: "For just as a body without a spirit is
dead, so also faith without works is dead" (2:26).
In reality, while Paul concerns himself above all with demonstrating
that faith in Christ is necessary and sufficient, James highlights the
consequent relationship between faith and works (cf. James 2:2-4).
Therefore, for Paul and for James, faith operative in love witnesses to
the gratuitous gift of justification in Christ. Salvation, received in
Christ, needs to be protected and witnessed "with fear and trembling.
For God is the one who, for his good purpose, works in you both to
desire and to work. Do everything without grumbling or questioning … as
you hold on to the word of life," even St. Paul would say to the
Christians of Philippi (cf. Philippians 2:12-14,16).
Often we tend to fall into the same misunderstandings that have
characterized the community of Corinth: Those Christians thought that,
having been gratuitously justified in Christ by faith, "everything was
licit." And they thought, and often it seems that the Christians of
today think, that it is licit to create divisions in the Church, the
body of Christ, to celebrate the Eucharist without concerning oneself
with the brothers who are most needy, to aspire to the best charisms
without realizing that they are members of each other, etc.
The consequences of a faith that is not incarnated in love are
disastrous, because it is reduced to a most dangerous abuse and
subjectivism for us and for our brothers. On the contrary, following St.
Paul, we should renew our awareness of the fact that, precisely because
we have been justified in Christ, we don't belong to ourselves, but have
been made into the temple of the Spirit and are called, therefore, to
glorify God in our bodies and with the whole of our existence (cf. 1
Corinthians 6:19). It would be to scorn the inestimable value of
justification if, having been bought at the high price of the blood of
Christ, we didn't glorify him with our body. In reality, this is
precisely our "reasonable" and at the same time "spiritual" worship, for
which Paul exhorts us to "offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy
and pleasing to God" (Romans 12:1).
To what would be reduced a liturgy directed only to the Lord but that
doesn't become, at the same time, service of the brethren, a faith that
is not expressed in charity? And the Apostle often puts his communities
before the Final Judgment, on which occasion "we must all appear before
the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense,
according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil" (2
Corinthians 5:10; and cf. Romans 2:16).
If the ethics that St. Paul proposes to believers does not lapse into
forms of moralism, and if it shows itself to be current for us, it is
because, each time, it always recommences from the personal and
communitarian relationship with Christ, to verify itself in life
according to the Spirit. This is essential: Christian ethics is not born
from a system of commandments, but rather is the consequence of our
friendship with Christ. This friendship influences life: If it is true,
it incarnates and fulfills itself in love for neighbor. Hence, any
ethical decline is not limited to the individual sphere, but at the same
time, devalues personal and communitarian faith: From this it is derived
and on this, it has a determinant effect.
Let us, therefore, be overtaken by the reconciliation that God has given
us in Christ, by God's "crazy" love for us: No one and nothing could
ever separate us from his love (cf. Romans 8:39). With this certainty we
live. And this certainty gives us the strength to live concretely the
faith that works in love.
[Translation by ZENIT]
[After the audience, the Holy Father greeted the people in several
languages. In English, he said:]
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In our continuing catechesis on Saint Paul, we now consider his teaching
on faith and works in the process of our justification. Paul insists
that we are justified by faith in Christ, and not by any merit of our
own. Yet he also emphasizes the relationship between faith and those
works which are the fruit of the Holy Spirit’s presence and action
within us. The first gift of the Spirit is love, the love of the Father
and the Son poured into our hearts (cf. Rom 5:5). Our sharing in the
love of Christ leads us to live no longer for ourselves, but for him
(cf. 2 Cor 5:14-15); it makes us a new creation (cf. 2 Cor 5:17) and
members of his Body, the Church. Faith thus works through love (cf. Gal
5:6). Consequently, there is no contradiction between what Saint Paul
teaches and what Saint James teaches regarding the relationship between
justifying faith and the fruit which it bears in good works. Rather,
there is a different emphasis. Redeemed by the precious blood of Christ,
we are called to glorify him in our bodies (cf. 1 Cor 6:20), offering
ourselves as a spiritual sacrifice pleasing to God. Justified by the
gift of faith in Christ, we are called, as individuals and as a
community, to treasure that gift and to let it bear rich fruit in the
I am pleased to greet all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors
present at today’s Audience, especially those from England and the
United States of America. I pray that your stay in Rome will renew your
love for the Lord Jesus Christ and strengthen you in his service. Upon
all of you I cordially invoke God’s blessings of joy and peace.
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