Bookmark and Share

Desire, intentional reduction of the horizon of the mind and heart

40 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
Castel Gandolfo, Wednesday 17 September 1980 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. During our last reflection, we asked ourselves what the lust was which Christ spoke of in the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:27-28). Let us recall that he spoke of it in relation to the commandment: "Do not commit adultery." Lust itself (more exactly: looking at lustfully), is defined as "adultery committed in the heart." That gives much food for thought. In the preceding reflections we said that by expressing himself in that way, Christ wanted to indicate to his listeners the separation from the matrimonial significance of the body felt by a human being (in this case the man) when concupiscence of the flesh is coupled with the inner act of lust. The separation of the matrimonial significance of the body causes at the same time a conflict with his personal dignity, a veritable conflict of conscience.

At this point it appears that the biblical (hence also theological) meaning of lust is different from the purely psychological. The latter describes lust as an intense inclination toward the object because of its particular value, and in the case considered here, its sexual value. As it seems, we will find such a definition in most of the works dealing with similar themes. Yet the biblical interpretation, while not underestimating the psychological aspect, places that ethic in relief above all, since a value is being impaired. I would say that lust is a deception of the human heart in the perennial call of man and woman—a call revealed in the mystery of creation—to communion by means of mutual giving. In the Sermon on the Mount (Mt 5:27-28) Christ referred to the heart or the internal man. His words do not cease being charged with that truth concerning the principle to which, in replying to the Pharisees (cf. Mt 19:8), he had reverted to the whole problem of man, woman and marriage.

2. The perennial call, which we have tried to analyze following Genesis (especially Gn 2:23-25) and, in a certain sense, the perennial mutual attraction on man's part to femininity and on woman's part to masculinity, is an indirect invitation of the body. But it is not lust in the sense of the word in Matthew 5:27-28. That lust carries into effect the concupiscence of the flesh (also and especially in the purely internal act). It diminishes the significance of what were—and that in reality do not cease being—that invitation and that reciprocal attraction.  The "eternal feminine" (das ewig weibliche), just like the "eternal masculine" for that matter, on the level of historicity, too, tends to free itself from pure concupiscence and seeks a position of achievement in the world of people. It testifies to that original sense of shame of which Genesis 3 speaks. The dimension of intentionality of thought and heart constitutes one of the main streams of universal human culture. Christ's words in the Sermon on the Mount exactly confirm this dimension.

3. Nonetheless, these words clearly assert that lust is a real part of the human heart. When compared with the original mutual attraction of masculinity and femininity, lust represents a reduction. In stating this, we have in mind an intentional reduction, almost a restriction or closing down of the horizon of mind and heart. It is one thing to be conscious that the value of sex is a part of all the rich storehouse of values with which the female appears to the man. It is another to "reduce" all the personal riches of femininity to that single value, that is, of sex, as a suitable object for the gratification of sexuality itself. The same reasoning can be valid concerning what masculinity is for the woman, even though Matthew's words in 5:27-28 refer directly to the other relationship only. As can be seen, the intentional reduction is primarily of an axiological nature. On one hand the eternal attraction of man toward femininity (cf. Gn 2:23) frees in him—or perhaps it should free—a gamut of spiritual-corporal desires of an especially personal and "sharing" nature (cf. the analysis of the "beginning"), to which a proportionate pyramid of values corresponds. On the other hand, lust limits this gamut, obscuring the pyramid of values that marks the perennial attraction of male and female.

4. Lust has the internal effect, that is, in the heart, on the interior horizon of man and woman, of obscuring the significance of the body, of the person itself. Femininity thus ceases being above all else an object for the man. It ceases being a specific language of the spirit. It loses its character of being a sign. I would say that it ceases bearing in itself the wonderful matrimonial significance of the body. It ceases its correlation to this significance in the context of conscience and experience. Lust arising from concupiscence of the flesh itself, from the first moment of its existence within the man—its existence in his heart—passes in a certain sense close to such a context. (Using an image, one could say that it passes on the ruins of the matrimonial significance of the body and all its subjective parts.) By virtue of axiological intentionality itself, it aims directly at an exclusive end: to satisfy only the sexual need of the body, as its precise object.

5. According to the words of Christ (Mt 5:27-28), such an intentional and axiological reduction can take place in the sphere of the look (of looking). Rather, it takes place in the sphere of a purely interior act expressed by the look. A look (or rather looking) is in itself a cognitive act. When concupiscence enters its inner structure, the look takes on the character of lustful knowledge. The biblical expression "to look at lustfully" can indicate both a cognitive act, which the lusting man "makes use of," (that is, giving him the character of lust aiming at an object), and a cognitive act that arouses lust in the other object and above all in its will and in its heart. As is seen, it is possible to place an intentional interpretation on an interior act, being aware of one and the other pole of man's psychology: knowledge or lust understood as appetitus (which is something broader than lust, since it indicates everything manifested in the object as aspiration, and as such always tends to aim at something, that is, toward an object known under the aspect of value.) Yet, an adequate interpretation of Matthew 5:27-28 requires us—by means of the intentionality itself of knowledge or of the appetitus to discern something more, that is, the intentionality of the very existence of man in relation to the other man. In our case, it is the man in relation to the woman and the woman in relation to the man.

It will be well for us to return to this subject. Concluding today's reflection, we add again that in that lust, in looking at lustfully, which the Sermon on the Mount deals with, for the man who looks in that way, the woman ceases to exist as an object of eternal attraction. She begins to be only an object of carnal concupiscence. To that is connected the profound inner separation of the matrimonial significance of the body, about which we spoke in the preceding reflection."

After the catechesis, Papa Giovanni Paolo II greeted the pilgrims in various languages:

Ad un gruppo musicale giapponese della "Cultural Association from Osaka"

It is a special pleasure for me today to welcome the members of a Japanese Cultural Association from Osaka. You have come to give another proof of the love that the Japanese people throughout history have always had for art and its expression in music. Through music the heart is raised up to the Creator of all things, and hence there is no wonder that music has been fostered and promoted in the temples of your country. Thank you for your visit and may God bless all Japan!

Ad alcuni pellegrinaggi tedeschi

Laßt mich nun noch einen besonderen Gruß an zwei größere Gruppen unter euch hinzufügen:

Ich grüße zunächst die Pilger aus der Diözese Trier. Unter euch ist euer verdienter Oberhirte, der dreizehn Jahre lang euer altehrwürdiges Bistum mit Weisheit und Menschenfreundlichkeit geleitet hat und nun in meinem direkten Auftrag die Diözese solange weiterführt, bis ein Nachfolger im Bischofsamt gefunden, erwählt und ernannt ist.

Dann begrüße ich die Rom-Wallfahrt der Katholischen Frauenbewegung aus der Diözese Münster.

Nachdem ihr schon am gnadenreichen Ort von Lourdes in Gemeinschaft meditiert und gebetet habt, erlebt ihr jetzt hier, an den Gräbern von Petrus und Paulus, die geeinte Vielfalt der Weltkirche in besonders eindrucksvoller Weise.

Beiden Gruppen rufe ich zu:

Nutzt die Gelegenheit dieser Pilgerfahrt, um euren Glauben zu festigen und neue Freude daran zu empfinden, zur Kirche Jesu Christi zu gehören!

Ad un gruppo di sacerdoti della diocesi spagnola di Lugo

Saludo con afecto al grupo de sacerdotes de la Diócesis de Lugo (España), que este año celebran el veinticinco aniversario de su Ordenación sacerdotal, y que han venido en peregrinación a Roma, acompañados de sus familiares, condiscípulos y amigos, para testimoniar su fidelidad a Cristo, a la Iglesia y al Sucesor de Pedro.

Al unirme con vosotros en la acción de gracias al Señor por los frutos de vuestro ministerio sacerdotal, os invito a perseverar en la misión de edificar la Iglesia de Cristo, en perfecta comunión con el Obispo y la Comunidad eclesial.

Invocando sobre vosotros y el Pueblo de Dios que tenéis confiado la constante asistencia divina, os imparto de corazón la Bendición Apostólica.

Al pellegrinaggio di Adria

Vada ora un saluto ed un augurio ai partecipanti al pellegrinaggio della diocesi di Adria-Rovigo che sono qui presenti numerosi, insieme col loro Vescovo.

Figli carissimi, una sola parola valga per tutte quelle che ho nel cuore per voi ed è questa: sappiate trovare nella Chiesa, che vi educa ai valori dello spirito e vi assiste nel vostro cammino di fede, la forza che rende buona, attiva e lieta la vostra vita. Vi sia in ciò di aiuto la speciale Benedizione che volentieri imparto a voi e ai vostri cari.

Ai "Gruppi di Preghiera di Padre Pio"

Desidero salutare con molta cordialità i "Gruppi di Preghiera di Padre Pio", i quali in questi giorni sono riuniti a Roma per il loro Congresso Internazionale.

A voi, fratelli e sorelle carissimi, va il mio ringraziamento per la vostra presenza, con cui intendete riaffermare una solida fede in Cristo, una filiale devozione alla Madonna, una leale fedeltà alla Chiesa, al Papa, ai Vescovi, e volete altresì ribadire l’impegno della conversione interiore, della preghiera, della penitenza, della operosa carità verso i fratelli bisognosi.

Insieme con voi, saluto i rappresentanti del "Collegamento Mariano Nazionale" e tutti gli altri Gruppi mariani qui presenti. Nell’esortarvi ad impegnarvi per una sempre più profonda ed autentica pietà mariana, di cuore benedico voi e le vostre famiglie.

Ai giovani

E’ ora il momento di rivolgere a tutti i giovani e ragazzi, qui presenti, il mio saluto ed il mio incoraggiamento. Miei cari, la stagione delle vacanze estive è al termine e molti di voi stanno per tornare a scuola. Siate alunni diligenti e disciplinati, siate studenti pieni di impegno nel vostro lavoro, che è prezioso, perché vi prepara alla vita.

Ma, nello stesso tempo, io vi esorto a non perdere mai di vista un’altra scuola, un altro maestro: una scuola che è per tutti ed è di tutti i giorni, un maestro che è il più valente e il più persuasivo. Voi capite: è la scuola delle cose necessarie all’anima, è l’istruzione religiosa, è l’approfondimento della fede; e il maestro è Gesù, il quale parla per mezzo del vangelo, per mezzo della Chiesa, per mezzo dei genitori, degli educatori e dei Sacerdoti. Cresca nella vostra mente la luce del sapere umano, ma cresca nella vostra anima anche la luce di Dio, cioè la fede, che è scienza di vita. Con queste raccomandazioni e con questi auguri prego per voi, cari giovani e con vivo affetto vi benedico.

Agli ammalati

A voi, carissimi ammalati, giunga adesso una parola di particolare benevolenza, perché coloro che soffrono sono sempre oggetto di predilezione da parte di Dio. Umanamente la vostra condizione è, senza dubbio, non facile e non lieta. Ma anche Gesù ha vissuto la storia della sofferenza; ed anche Maria, con Gesù, come ci ha ricordato, nei giorni scorsi, la sacra liturgia con le due ricorrenze dell’Esaltazione della Croce e dell’Addolorata. Gesù e Maria, insieme nell’opera della redenzione, insieme nell’offrire all’umanità i frutti del loro patire, siano con voi sulla via della croce, per aiutarvi nei vostri generosi propositi, per consolarvi, per sostenervi.

Sono con voi anch’io con la mia preghiera, con la mia Benedizione.

Alle coppie di sposi novelli

Un saluto speciale vada pure agli Sposi Novelli, con l’augurio di una convivenza serena, generosa, virtuosa. Debbo però premettere un sincero grazie, cari Sposi, per questa vostra presenza, che equivale ad un vero atto di fede, un atto che merita lode, perché rivela in voi nobili sentimenti.

Quel che specialmente desidero raccomandarvi è di conservare sempre vivo il pensiero di Dio, sostenuto da una costante pratica religiosa. Che la vostra nuova famiglia sia sempre aperta verso l’alto, sempre legata al Signore! Così non invecchierà il vostro amore, ma rimarrà sempre schietto e profondo e pieno di comprensione. Per voi la mia preghiera, a voi la mia Benedizione.

© Copyright - Libreria Editrice Vaticana