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The Moral Law Is Identified with the Will of God

Catechesis by Pope John Paul II on God the Father
General Audience, Wednesday, 18 December 1985 - in Italian & Spanish  

"1. In the previous catechesis we reflected on God's holiness and on the two characteristics which distinguish it—inaccessibility and condescension. Now we wish to listen to God's exhortation to the entire community of the children of Israel through the various phases of the old covenant:

"You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy" (Lev 19:2).

"I am the Lord who sanctifies you" (Lev 20:8).

In the New Testament, God thoroughly reveals the meaning of his holiness. It fully takes up this exhortation, conferring on it its own characteristics, in harmony with the "new fact" of Christ's cross. God, who "is Love," has fully revealed himself in a gift without reserve on Calvary. Yet even in this new context the apostolic teaching again proposes forcefully the exhortation inherited from the old covenant. For instance, St. Peter wrote: "As he who called you is holy, be holy yourselves in all your conduct; since it is written, 'You shall be holy, for I am holy'" (1 Pet 1:15).

2. What is God's holiness? It is absolute "separation" from all moral evil, and the exclusion and radical rejection of sin and, at the same time, it is absolute goodness. In virtue of that, God, infinitely good in himself, is likewise good in regard to creatures (bonum diffusivum sui), naturally according to the measure of their ontological "capacity." It is in this sense that Christ's reply to the young man in the Gospel is to be understood: "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone" (Mk 10:18).

In the previous catecheses we already recalled the words of the Gospel: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect" (Mt 5:48). This exhortation refers to God's perfection in the moral sense, that is, to his holiness. It expresses the same concept contained in the words of the Old Testament quoted above, and taken up again in the First Letter of Peter. Moral perfection consists in the exclusion of sin and in the absolute affirmation of moral good. For human beings, for rational creatures, such an affirmation is translated into conformity of the will with the moral law. God is holy in himself, he is substantial holiness, because his will is identified with the moral law. This law exists in God himself as in its eternal source, and therefore it is called Eternal Law (Lex Aeterna) (cf. Summa Theol., I-II, q. 93, a. 1).

3. God made himself known as the source of the moral law and, in this sense, as holiness itself. He did this both before original sin as regards our first parents (Gen 2:16), and later as regards the chosen People, especially in the covenant of Sinai (cf. Ex 20:1-20). The moral law revealed by God in the old covenant and, above all, in the Gospel teaching of Christ, aims to show gradually but clearly the substantial superiority and importance of love. The commandment: "You shall love" (Dt 6:5; Lev 19:18; Mk 12:30-31 and parallel places) reveals that God's holiness also consists in love. All that was said in the catechesis entitled "God is Love," refers to the holiness of the God of revelation.

4. God is holiness because he is love (cf. 1 Jn 4:16). Through love he is absolutely separated from moral evil, from sin. He is essentially, absolutely and transcendentally identified with moral good in its source, which is himself. Love means precisely this—to will the good, to adhere to the good. From this eternal will of the Good there gushes forth the infinite goodness of God in regard to creatures and, in particular, in regard to man. Love is the origin of God's clemency, of his readiness to give freely and to pardon. Luke relates Jesus' parable of the prodigal son, which magnificently expresses this mercy (cf. Lk 15:11-32). Love is expressed in providence by which God continues and sustains the work of creation.

In a particular way love is expressed in the work of the redemption and justification of man to whom God offers his own justice in the mystery of Christ's cross, as St. Paul clearly stated (cf. Letters to the Romans and Galatians). Love is the essential and decisive element of God's holiness. Through redemption and justification, it guides man to his own sanctification by the power of the Holy Spirit.

In this way, in the economy of salvation God himself, as trinitarian holiness (thrice holy), undertakes in a certain sense the initiative of accomplishing for us and in us what he expressed in the words: "You shall be holy; for I the Lord your God am holy" (Lev 19:2).

5. To this God, who is holiness because he is love, man turns with the deepest confidence. To God he entrusts the whole intimate mystery of his humanity, the entire mystery of his human "heart."

"I love you, O Lord, my strength.
The Lord is my rock, and my fortress, and my deliverer,
my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge,
my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold"
(Ps 18:1-3).

Man's salvation is most closely linked to God's holiness, since salvation depends on God's eternal, infinite Love."

After the Catechesis, Pope John Paul II greeted the pilgrims in various languages

Ai fedeli di espressione francese

Chers Frères et Sœurs,

Que la fête de Noël nous éclaire encore et nous fasse avancer sur les chemins de la perfection dans l’amour!

Ai fedeli di lingua inglese

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

My heartfelt greetings go to all the English-speaking pilgrims and visitors present at this audience, especially those from Denmark and the United States. I pray that God our loving Father will bless with Christmas peace and joy all who wait in hope for the coming in glory of Christ our Redeemer.

Ai pellegrini di espressione tedesca

Liebe Brüder und Schwestern!

Solche Gewißheit, wie sie in diesem Gebet zum Ausdruck kommt, wünsche ich euch allen aus dem Erleben der heiligen Weihnacht. Gott segne euch und eure Familien auf eurem Lebensweg durch das kommende Jahr.

Ai fedeli e pellegrini giunti dalla Spagna e dai Paesi dell’America Latina

Vaya ahora mi más cordial saludo a todos los peregrinos de lengua española.

De modo particular saludo a los sacerdotes, religiosos y religiosas presentes en esta Audiencia, así como a los componentes de la peregrinación procedente de Argentina.

En la proximidad de la entrañable fiesta del Señor que viene, en prenda de abundantes gracias divinas, imparto a todos la Bendición Apostólica.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Pozdrawiam serdecznie pielgrzymów z Polski: z diecezji łomżyńskiej na 60-lecie istnienia diecezji z księdzem biskupem Tadeuszem Zawistowskim; katechetów i katechetki z diecezji włocławskiej z księdzem biskupem Czesławem Lewandowskim; z parafii Najświętszego Serca Pana Jezusa z Włocławka na 50-lecie parafii prowadzonej przez księży Orionistów; z parafii świętych Apostołów Szymona i Judy Tadeusza ze Skawiny, z archidiecezji krakowskiej; prócz tego Siostry Współnej Pracy od Niepokalanej Maryi z Włocławka; wreszcie uczestników grup turystycznych PKS, PTTK, Sport-Tourist, Amicizia, Turysta i Orbisu . . . Pragnę złożyć życzenia na Boże Narodzenie, na Wigilię, na Nowy Rok, ażebyście przeżyli tajemnicę świętości Boga raz jeszcze wtedy, kiedy “Bóg się rodzi, moc truchleje, Pan niebiosów obnażony”, tak jak śpiewamy we wspaniałei polskiej kolędzie.

A due gruppi di parrocchie romane

Desidero salutare ora tutti i gruppi presenti, fra i quali predominano i giovani e i bambini.

Saluto in particolare il gruppo delle parrocchie romane di San Paolo fuori le Mura e della Regina degli Apostoli che, in collaborazione, hanno organizzato un presepio vivente.

Mi compiaccio con voi per questa bella iniziativa. Certamente essa vi ha dato spunti per sentirvi più vicini al grande mistero del Natale che stiamo per celebrare. Con l’augurio per le vicine feste imparto a tutti voi la mia benedizione apostolica.

Ai giovani

Un saluto particolare a voi, carissimi giovani, qui convenuti nell’ultima settimana che ci prepara al Natale.

Voi sapete che Dio nostro Padre ci ha donato il suo Figlio, affinché anche noi diventassimo suoi figli e, quindi, fratelli fra di noi. Aprite dunque il vostro cuore all’accoglienza di Gesù Cristo, nostro Salvatore, e in lui e con lui all’amore di ogni fratello, specie se povero e sofferente. In tal modo il Natale sarà per voi un giorno di vita e di gioia, perché giorno di amore e di grazia.

Agli ammalati

Mi rivolgo a voi, carissimi ammalati, con un invito e un augurio del tutto particolari. Voi che, giorni dopo giorno, siete chiamati ad accogliere Cristo dal volto sofferente, sappiate percorrere intensamente, in questi giorni, il cammino, non privo di croci, di preparazione al santo Natale. Potrete così testimoniare ai vostri cari, e a quanti a voi si avvicinano, che dall’unione con Cristo scaturisce la serenità e la forza nell’affrontare le prove della vita, e si scopre la capacità di farsi strumenti di bene e di grazia.

Agli sposi novelli

Desidero, poi, rivolgere i miei voti augurali a voi, sposi novelli, qui presenti. Con il rito sacramentale, con cui è stato benedetto il vostro matrimonio, voi avete accolto nella vostra nascente famiglia il Salvatore, che a Betlemme si è fatto uomo, entrando a far parte della famiglia di Maria Vergine e di san Giuseppe. Vi auguro di essere sempre degni di tale presenza, facendo sì che il vostro amore sia una testimonianza continua dell’amore di Dio e di quei doni di vita, di bene e di grazia, che il Signore dona in abbondanza a coloro che sanno accoglierlo con cuore buono e animo puro.

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