from the Pope >
Mount Sinai stands at the very heart of the Truth about man and his destiny
"Mount Sinai stands at the very heart of the Truth about man and his destiny."
"To keep the Commandments is to be faithful to God, but it is also to be faithful to ourselves, to our true nature and our deepest aspirations."
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
In this year of the Great Jubilee, our faith leads us to become pilgrims in the footsteps of God. We contemplate the path he has taken through time, revealing to the world the magnificent mystery of his faithful Love for all humankind. Today, with great joy and deep emotion, the Bishop of Rome is a pilgrim of Mount Sinai, drawn by this holy mountain which rises like a soaring monument to what God revealed here. Here he revealed his name! Here he gave his Law, the Ten Commandments of the Covenant!
How many have come to this place before us! Here the People of God pitched their tents (cf Ex 19:2); here the prophet Elijah took refuge in a cave (cf 1 Kgs 19:9); here the body of the martyr Catherine found a final resting place; here a host of pilgrims through the ages have scaled what St. Gregory of Nyssa called "the mountain of desire"; here generations of monks have watched and prayed. We humbly follow in their footsteps, to "the holy ground" where the God of Abraham of Isaac and of Jacob commissioned Moses to set his people free. (cf Ex 3:5-8)
Commandments are the law of life and freedom.
God shows himself in mysterious ways-as the fire that does not consume-according to a logic which defies all that we know and expect. He is the God who is at once close at hand and far-away; he is in the world but not of it. He is the God who comes to meet us, but who will not be possessed. He is "I AM WHO I AM"- the name which is no name! I AM WHO I AM: the divine abyss in which essence and existence are one! The God who is Being itself! Before such a mystery, how can we fail to "take off our shoes" as he commands, and adore him on his holy ground?
Here on Mount Sinai, the truth of "who God is" became the foundation and guarantee of the Covenant. Moses enters "the luminous darkness", and there he is given the Law "written with the finger of God." (Ex 31:18). But what is this Law? It is the Law of life and freedom! At the Red Sea, the people had experienced a great liberation. They had seen the power and fidelity of God; they had discovered that he is the God who does indeed set his people free as he had promised. But now on the heights of Sinai, this same God seals his love by making the Covenant that he will never renounce. If the people obey his Law, they will know freedom for ever. The Exodus and the Covenant are not just events of the past; they are for ever the destiny of all God's people!
The encounter of God and Moses on this mountain enshrines at the heart of our religion the mystery of liberating obedience, which finds its fulfillment in the perfect obedience of Christ in the incarnation and on the Cross. (cf Phil 2:8; Heb 5:8-9) We too shall be truly free if we learn to obey as Jesus did.
The Ten Commandments are not an arbitrary imposition of tyrannical Lord. They were written in stone; but before that, they were written on the human heart as the universal moral law, valid in every time and place. Today as always, the Ten Words of the law provide the only true basis for the lives of individuals, societies and nations. Today as always, they are the only future of the human family. They save man from the destructive force of egoism, hatred and falsehood. If we turn from these false idols and follow the God who sets his people free and remains always with them, then we shall emerge like Moses, after 40 days on the mountain, "shining with glory" (St Gregory of Nyssa), ablaze with the light of God!
To keep the Commandments is to be faithful to God, but it is also to be faithful to ourselves, to our true nature and our deepest aspirations.
We have been created for the glorious liberty of God's children.
Sinai finds its fulfillment on another mountain, the mountain of the Transfiguration, where Jesus appears to his Apostles shining with the glory of God. Moses and Elijah stand with him to testify that the fullness of God's revelation is found in the glorified Christ.
On the mountain of the Transfiguration, God speaks from the cloud, as he had done on Sinai. But now he says: "This is my beloved Son; listen to him." (Mk 9:7) He commands us to listen to his Son, because "no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him." (Mt 11:27)
So when St. Paul writes that we "have died to the law through the body of Christ" (Rom 7:4), he does not mean that the Law of Sinai is past. He means that the Ten Commandments now make themselves heard through the voice of the Beloved Son. The person delivered by Jesus Christ into true freedom is aware of being bound not externally by a multitude of prescriptions, but internally by the love which has taken hold in the deepest recesses of his heart. (cf Rom 6:14; Gal 5:18) In revealing himself on the Mountain and giving his Law, God revealed man to man himself. Sinai stands at the very heart of the truth about man and his destiny.
Pope John Paul II,
Jubilee Pilgrimage to Mount Sinai, Feb 26, 2000