Pope Francis General Audience 10/17/18 “Do Not Kill”

from the Vatican Press Office

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 have already underlined how this commandment reveals that in the eyes of God, human life is precious, sacred and inviolable. No one can disregard the life of others or his own; indeed man carries within him the image of God and is the object of His infinite love, whatever the condition may be in which he is called to existence.

In the Gospel reading we have just listened to, Jesus reveals to us an even deeper meaning to this commandment. He affirms that, before God’s tribunal, even anger against a brother is a form of homicide. For this reason the apostle John writes: “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer” (I Jn 3: 15). But Jesus does not stop at this, and by the same logic he adds that even insults and disdain can kill. And we are accustomed to insulting, it is true. And an insult comes as easily to us as if it were a breath. And Jesus says to us, “Stop, because the insult hurts, it kills.” Disdain. “But I … this people, I disdain them.” And this is a way of killing the dignity of a person. It would be good if this teaching of Jesus entered into the mind and heart, and each one of us said: “Do not insult anyone ever again”. It would be a good intention, because Jesus tells us: “Look, if you disdain, if you insult, if you hate, this is murder.”

No human code of law equates such different acts by assigning them the same degree of judgment. And coherently Jesus even invites us to interrupt the offering of the sacrifice in the temple if we remember that a brother is offended by us, to go and look for him and reconcile with him. We too, when we go to Mass, should have this attitude of reconciliation with the people we have had problems with. Even if we thought bad about them, we insulted them. But many times, while we wait for the priest to say Mass, we chat and talk badly about the others. But this must not be done. Think of the gravity of the insult, of contempt, of hatred: Jesus puts them on the line of killing.

What does Jesus mean by extending the field of the Fifth Word to this point? Man has a noble life, very sensitive, and possesses a hidden self no less important than his physical being. Indeed, an inappropriate sentence is enough to offend the innocence of a child. A gesture of coldness is enough to hurt a woman. To break the heart of a young person is enough to deny his trust. To annihilate a man, just ignore him. Indifference kills. It is like saying to the other person: “You are a dead man for me,” because you killed him in your heart. Not to love is the first step to killing; and not killing is the first step to love.

In the Bible, at the beginning, we read that terrible phrase that came out of the mouth of the first murderer, Cain, after the Lord asked him where his brother is. Cain replies: “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” (Gen 4: 9). [1] This is how it kills: “It does not concern me,” “It is your business, not mine” and similar things. Let us try to answer this question: are we our brothers’ keepers? Yes, we are! We are each other’s keepers! And this is the path of life, it is the path of non-killing.

Human life needs love. And what is authentic love? It is what Christ showed us, that is, mercy. The love we cannot do without, is the one that forgives, which welcomes those who have harmed us. None of us can survive without mercy, we all need forgiveness. So, if killing means destroying, suppressing, eliminating someone, then not killing will mean curing, valuing, including. And also forgiving.

No one can deceive himself by thinking, “I’m fine because I do not do anything wrong.” A mineral or a plant has this kind of existence, but a man does not. A person – a man or a woman – no. More is demanded of a man or woman. There is good to be done, prepared for each of us, each to his own, which makes us truly ourselves. “Do not kill” is an appeal to love and mercy. It is a call to living according to the Lord Jesus who gave his life for us and rose for us. Once we all repeated, here in the Square, a phrase of a saint on this. Perhaps it will help us: “Doing no harm is a good thing. But not doing good is not good.” We must always do good. We must go further.

He, the Lord, who incarnating himself sanctified our existence; He, who with his blood made it priceless; He, “the author of life” (Acts 3: 15), thanks to whom each person is a gift from the Father. In him, in his love stronger than death, and through the power of the Spirit that the Father gives us, we can accept the Word, “Do not kill” as the most important and essential appeal: that is, not killing means a call to love.

Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2259: “In the account of Abel’s murder by his brother Cain, Scripture reveals the presence of anger and envy in man, consequences of original sin, from the beginning of human history. Man has become the enemy of his fellow man. God declares the wickedness of this fratricide: ‘What have you done? the voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground, and now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand’ (Gen 4: 10-11).”

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