By Christopher Wells
In his catechesis at the General Audience on Wednesday, Pope Francis said the primary call of the Sixth Commandment – “You shall not commit adultery” – is a call to fidelity and loyalty in our relationships.
We cannot love another only as long as it is convenient, he said. True love for another is revealed in fidelity, which is a characteristic of “free, mature, responsible human relationships.” Even in friendships we see that a true friend is one who is there for us even in trials.
This speaks to a real human need: the need to be loved without conditions. Without this kind of love, the Pope said, we feel incomplete, even if we often don’t recognise it. When that love is lacking, we seek to fill the emptiness within us with substitutes, which are only a reflection of true love.
So, the Pope said, we can find ourselves overestimating the value of physical attraction. Attraction is a gift from God, but it is ordered to a faithful and authentic relationship with the other person. Quoting Saint John Paul II, Pope Francis said we must learn, “with perseverance and consistency, the meaning of the body.”
“The call to married life,” Pope Francis continued, “requires an accurate discernment of the quality of the relationship,” including a suitable period of preparation. This cannot simply be a few meetings of “marriage prep” at the parish, but rather a true catechumenate. And it must be based, not simply on good will, or a vague hope that “things will work out,” but on the faithful love of God.
The Pope said that the Sixth Commandment helps us understand that fidelity is a “way of being, a style of life.” Fidelity, based on the faithfulness of Christ, must enter into our whole life, so that it permeates all our thoughts and actions.
For this to happen, the fidelity of God must enter our lives. Christ’s fidelity “can take from us an adulterous heart and give us a faithful heart,” Pope Francis said. Only He can help us to give ourselves completely, without “parentheses,” and with fidelity to the very end. Our communion with Him, with the Father and the Holy Spirit, is the source of communion among ourselves, and helps us to faithfully live our commitments to one another.