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Man Called to Overcome Concupiscence

108 (of 129) - Catechesis by John Paul II on the Theology of the Body
General Audience, Wednesday 8 February 1983 - in Italian, Portuguese & Spanish

"1. We said previously that in the context of the present reflections on the structure of marriage as a sacramental sign, we should bear in mind not only what Christ said about its unity and indissolubility in reference to the beginning, but also (and still more) what he said in the Sermon on the Mount when he referred to the human heart. Referring to the commandment, "You shall not commit adultery," Christ spoke of adultery in the heart. "Everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (Mt 5:28).

The sacramental sign of marriage—the sign of the conjugal covenant of a man and a woman—is formed on the basis of the language of the body reread in truth (and continuously reread). In stating this, we realize that he who rereads this language and then expresses it, not according to the requirements proper to marriage as a pact and a sacrament, is naturally and morally the man of concupiscence—male and female, both of them understood as the "man of concupiscence." The prophets of the Old Testament certainly have this man before their eyes when, using an analogy, they condemn the "adultery of Israel and Judah." The analysis of the words Christ spoke in the Sermon on the Mount lead us to understand more deeply "adultery" itself. At the same time it leads us to the conviction that the human heart is not so much accused and condemned by Christ because of concupiscence (concupiscentia carnalis), as first of all called. Here there is a decisive difference between the anthropology (or the anthropological hermeneutics) of the Gospel and some influential representatives of the contemporary hermeneutics of man (the so-called masters of suspicion).

2. Continuing our present analysis we can observe that even though man, notwithstanding the sacramental sign of marriage, notwithstanding conjugal consent and its actuation, remains naturally the "man of concupiscence," he is at the same time the man who has been "called." He is called through the mystery of the redemption of the body, a divine mystery, which at the same time is—in Christ and through Christ in every man—a human reality. That mystery, besides, implies a determinate ethos which is essentially human, and which we have previously called the ethos of the redemption.

3. In the light of the words Christ spoke in the Sermon on the Mount, in the light of the whole Gospel and of the new covenant, the threefold concupiscence (and in particular the concupiscence of the flesh) does not destroy the capacity to reread in truth the language of the body—and to reread it continually in an ever more mature and fuller way—whereby the sacramental sign is constituted both in its first liturgical moment, and also later in the dimension of the whole of life. In this light one must note that concupiscence per se causes many errors in rereading the language of the body. Together with this it gave rise also to sin—moral evil, contrary to the virtue of chastity (whether conjugal or extra-conjugal). Nevertheless in the sphere of the ethos of redemption the possibility always remains of passing from error to the truth, as also the possibility of returning, that is, of conversion, from sin to chastity, as an expression of a life according to the Spirit (cf. Gal 5:16).

4. In this way, in the evangelical and Christian perspective of the problem, historical man (after original sin), on the basis of the language of the body reread in truth, is able—as male and female—to constitute the sacramental sign of love, of conjugal fidelity and integrity, and this as an enduring sign: "To be faithful to you always in joy and in sorrow, in sickness and in health, and to love and honor you all the days of my life." This signifies that man, in a real way, is the author of the meanings whereby, after having reread in truth the language of the body, he is also capable of forming in truth that language in the conjugal and family communion of the persons. He is capable of it also as the man of concupiscence, being at the same time called by the reality of the redemption of Christ (simul lapsus et redemptus).

5. By means of the dimension of the sign proper to marriage as a sacrament there is confirmed the specific theological anthropology, the specific hermeneutics of man. In this case it could also be called the hermeneutics of the sacrament, because it permits us to understand man on the basis of the analysis of the sacramental sign. Man—male and female—as the minister of the sacrament, the author (co-author) of the sacramental sign, is a conscious and capable subject of self-determination. Only on this basis can he be the author of the language of the body, the author (co-author) of marriage as a sign—a sign of the divine creation and redemption of the body. The fact that man (male and female) is the man of concupiscence does not prejudice his capacity to reread the language of the body in truth. He is the man of concupiscence. But at the same time he is capable of discerning truth from falsity in the language of the body. He can be the author of the meanings of that language, whether true or false.

6. He is the man of concupiscence, but he is not completely determined by libido (in the sense in which this term is often used). Such a determination would imply that the ensemble of man's behavior, even, for example, the choice of continence for religious motives, would be explained only by means of the specific transformations of this libido. In such a case—in the sphere of the language of the body—man would, in a certain sense, be condemned to essential falsifications. He would merely be one who expresses a specific determination on the part of the libido, but he would not express the truth or falsity of spousal love and of the communion of the persons, even though he might think to manifest it. Consequently, he would then be condemned to suspect himself and others in regard to the truth of the language of the body. Because of the concupiscence of the flesh he could only be accused, but he could not be really called.

The hermeneutics of the sacrament permits us to draw the conclusion that man is always essentially called and not merely accused, and this precisely inasmuch as he is the man of concupiscence."


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

Ad alcuni gruppi di lingua inglese

My greetings of joy and peace in our Lord Jesus Christ go to the group of students from the Pontifical Beda College. Your presence at this audience reflects a worthy tradition of your College. And as I welcome you today, I wish to assure you of my prayers and encouragement four your preparation for the sacred priesthood. My one, suggestion at this time is that you open your hearts ever more to the word of God: that you prayerfully meditate on Sacred Scripture so that its power will transform your lives. In order to proclaim effectively the Good News of salvation you must be filled with God’s word. God bless the Beda!

* * *

It is also a great pleasure to welcome the Korean student group from Seoul. Like young people everywhere you are searching for that truth and that love that fully satisfy the human mind and heart. I pray that God will show his face to all of you and give you peace. My greetings to all your loved ones at home in Korea.

* * *

I offer a word of appreciation and welcome to the group of experts from eleven different nations, which is meeting this week under the auspices of the Pontifical Commission for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Tourists, in preparation for the forthcoming World Congress. I am deeply grateful to you for your efforts to bring the Gospel of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ into the lives and activities of tourists everywhere. Continue to do all you can to ensure the presence of the Church at all levels in the vast and complex world of tourism. And strive with all your strength to promote among the faithful a desire to be "heralds of Christ",  and to bear consistent witness to what they believe. Yours is a great apostate in the service of God’s people. It deserves that persevering effort which can be guaranteed only in prayer. May the Lord himself sustain you.

Ai pellegrini polacchi

Nella terza domenica del mese di gennaio, la comunità dei polacchi a Roma si è riunita nella Chiesa romana di San Stanislao per una Santa Messa di ringraziamento a Dio per la solidarietà e per l’aiuto dati alla Chiesa e al Popolo nella nostra Patria da parte della Chiesa in Italia e dell’intera società italiana. Uno speciale telegramma del Primate di Polonia ha fatto sapere che alla celebrazione romana di ringraziamento si univa tutta la Chiesa in Polonia.

Signora di Jasna Gora!

Oggi, facendo riferimento a questo avvenimento, desidero, insieme con i miei connazionali ringraziare te in modo particolare per tutte le testimonianze di fratellanza spirituale, provenienti da diverse parti, per tutte le manifestazioni di solidarietà con la Nazione e con la Chiesa in Polonia: con la Nazione che si sforza di vivere in modo degno la sua esistenza sociale; con la Chiesa che in questo sforzo desidera servire la Nazione ed essere per essa un appoggio. Proprio a te desidero esprimere il ringraziamento per tutto ciò. Soprattutto a te, Madre!

W trzecią niedzielę miesiąca została odprawiona w rzymskim kościele św. Stanisława Msza św., w której wspólnota polska w Rzymie dziękowała Bogu za solidarność i pomoc okazywaną Kościołowi i Narodowi w naszej Ojczyźnie ze strony Kościoła we Włoszech oraz całego włoskiego społeczeństwa.

Specjalny telegram Prymasa Polski informował, że z rzymskim nabożeństwem dziękczynnym łączy się cały Kościół w Polsce.

Pani Jasnogórska!

Nawiązując dziś do tego wydarzenia, pragnę wraz z moimi Rodakami podziękować szczególnie Tobie za wszystkie, z różnych stron pochodzące, dowody duchowego braterstwa, za wszystkie wyrazy solidarności z Narodem i Kościołem w Polsce:

- z Narodem, który zmaga się o godny kształt całego swego społecznego bytowania,

- z Kościołem, który w tym wysiłku pragnie służyć Narodowi i być dla niego oparciem.

Właśnie Tobie pragnę za to podziękować.

Przede wszystkim - Tobie, Matko!

Ai gruppi italiani

Un cordiale saluto rivolgo ai Membri della Delegazione degli espositori, che partecipano alla “ Mostra articoli brevettati modelli esclusivi e invenzioni ” (MOBI). Mentre auspico che la vostra attività contribuisca all’autentico progresso dell’uomo ed al miglioramento dei rapporti sociali, invoco dal Signore su di voi e sui vostri cari l’effusione dei favori celesti ed imparto la Benedizione Apostolica.

* * *

Sono presenti a questo incontro alcuni Artisti del Circo “ Nando Orfei ”, in rappresentanza dei loro colleghi, che da circa un mese operano a Roma. A voi, carissimi fratelli e sorelle, desidero esprimere l’augurio che, fondati nella fede di Dio e nel rispetto per l’uomo, sappiate sempre comunicare una serena letizia ed un sano divertimento ai bambini ed anche ai grandi. E’ con questo auspicio che invoco su di voi, sul vostro quotidiano lavoro - spesso duro e faticoso - e su tutta la grande Famiglia del Circo l’abbondanza delle grazie divine, in pegno delle quali vi imparto di cuore la mia Benedizione Apostolica.

* * *

Un saluto speciale rivolgo ora ai giovani, tra cui sono ottocento ragazzi e ragazze del movimento GEN. Carissimi, sono lieto di vedervi e di sapervi forti, entusiasti e desiderosi di far sentire la vostra presenza significativa alla società di oggi. Abbiate sempre più chiara coscienza del ruolo che siete chiamati a svolgere in seno alle vostre famiglie, alla scuola o all’ambiente in cui vivete; recate in questi ambienti il vostro ottimismo, la vostra gioia di vivere e la vostra speranza. Abbiate soprattutto una grande fede nel Signore, che non delude mai, e una grande apertura verso tutti, ma specialmente verso i poveri, i bisognosi, gli handicappati e quanti vivono ai margini della società: essi hanno bisogno di voi e attendono da voi aiuto, incoraggiamento, amicizia, amore. Così facendo darete sollievo a loro e troverete appagamento nei vostri cuori. Vi sia di conforto in questa vostra missione la mia Benedizione.

* * *

Saluto pure gli ammalati che con la loro venuta qui in mezzo a noi ci hanno portato in dono i meriti delle loro sofferenze e della loro vita tanto provata.

Carissimi, vi ringrazio per questo singolare dono che arricchisce la chiesa e la rende capace di compiere il suo mandato che è quello di annunciare il Cristo e il Cristo Crocifisso. Nei momenti più difficili delle vostre prove, guardate a Lui, unite le vostre alle sue sofferenze e contribuirete così alla redenzione degli uomini: a tali vertici infatti si eleva la virtù del dolore cristianamente sofferto ed offerto. In queste vostre prove vi sarò vicino con la mia preghiera e Benedizione.

* * *

Rivolgo infine un pensiero di augurio agli Sposi, che si sono uniti da poco in matrimonio. Il Signore vi conceda una vita serena e la gioia di vederla ogni giorno realizzata nella piena unità, nell’amore perfetto e nella reciproca dedizione, irrevocabile e feconda, a cui il sacramento vi ha abilitati. E’ questo l’augurio che vi lascio e che avvaloro con la mia Benedizione



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