Pope Francis General Audience



Wednesday September 19, 2018
On the Fourth Commandment to Honor Your Parents
‘Honor parents: they have given us life!’
The Holy Father’s Catechesis
In the journey within the Ten Words, we come today to the Commandment on the father and the mother. It talks about the honor due to parents. What is this “honor”? The Hebrew term indicates the glory, the value, literally the “weight,” the consistency of a reality. It’s not a question of exterior ways but of truth. In the Scriptures, to honor God means to recognize His reality, to reckon with His presence. This is expressed also with rites, but above all it implies to give God the just place in one’s existence. Therefore, to honor the father and the mother means to recognize their importance also with concrete acts, which express dedication, affection and care. However, it’s not only about this.
The Fourth Word has a characteristic: it’s the Commandment that contains an outcome. It says, in fact: “Honor your father and your mother, as the Lord your God commanded you; that your days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with you, in the land which the Lord your God gives you” (Deuteronomy 5:16). To honor one’s parents leads to a long happy life. The word “happiness” in the Decalogue appears only in connection with the relationship with parents.
This age-old wisdom states what the human sciences were able to elaborate only little more than a century ago: which is that the imprint of childhood marks a lifetime. It can often be easy to understand if someone has grown up in a healthy and balanced environment, but equally one can perceive if a person comes from experiences of abandonment or violence. Our childhood is somewhat like indelible ink; it’s expressed in tastes, in ways of being, even if some try to hide the wounds of their origins.
However, the Fourth Commandment says even more. It doesn’t speak of the parents’ goodness; it doesn’t require that fathers and mothers be perfect. It speaks of an act of children, regardless of the parents’ merits, and it says an extraordinary and liberating thing: even if not all parents are good and not all childhoods are serene, all children can be happy, because the attainment of a full and happy life depends on the just recognition of one who has brought us into the world.
We think of how this Word can be constructive for so many young people that come from histories of pain, and for all those that have suffered in their youth. Many Saints — and very many Christians — lived, after a painful childhood, a luminous life because, thanks to Jesus Christ, they were reconciled with life. We think of that youth Sulprizio, today Blessed and next month Saint, who at 19 finished his life reconciled with so many sorrows, so many things, because his heart was serene and he never disowned his parents. We think of Saint Camillus of Lellis, who from a disordered childhood built a life of love and service; of Saint Josephine Bakhita, who grew up in horrible slavery; or of Blessed Carlo Gnocchi, orphan and poor, and of John Paul II himself, marked by the loss of his mother at a young age.
Regardless of what history man comes from, by this Commandment he receives the direction that leads to Christ: in Him, in fact, the true Father is manifested, who offers us to be “born anew from on high” (Cf. John 3:3-8). The enigmas of our lives are illumined when we discover that God has always prepared us for a life as His children, where every act is a mission received from Him.
Our wounds begin to be potentialities when by grace we discover that the true enigma is no longer “why?” but “for whom?” has this happened to me. In view of what work has God forged me through my history? Here everything is reversed, everything becomes precious; everything becomes constructive.  My experience, also sad and painful, in the light of love, how does it become for others, for whom, source of salvation? Then we can begin to honor our parents with the freedom of adult offspring and with the merciful acceptance of their limitations.[1]
Honor parents: they have given us life! If you have estranged yourself from your parents, make an effort and go back, go back to them, perhaps they are old . . . .  They have given you life. And then, among us, there is the habit of saying awful things, also bad language . . . Please, never, never insult other [people’s] parents.  Never! Never insult the mother; never insult the father. Never! Never! Take up this interior decision today: henceforth I will never insult someone’s mother or father. They gave him/her life! They must not be insulted.
This wonderful life is offered to us, not imposed: to be born anew in Christ is a grace to receive freely (Cf. John 1:11-13), and it’s the treasure of our Baptism in which, by the work of the Holy Spirit, only one is our Father, that of Heaven (Cf. Matthew 23:9; 1 Corinthians 8:6; Ephesians 4:6). Thank you!
Original text: Italian
ZENIT’s translation by Virginia M. Forrester