Pope Francis: Christians ought to obey God's commandments, not just practice religious rules

Christians should obey God's commandments and not just practice a literal interpretation of religious rules for them to become true witnesses for Jesus Christ, Pope Francis reminded the faithful on Sunday.

(REUTERS / Tony Gentile)Pope Francis attends a prayer calling for peace in Syria, in Saint Peter's square at the Vatican September 7, 2013.

Before he recited the Angelus with the people present in St. Peter's Square on Feb. 12, Pope Francis said following God's commandments is only possible with the help of the Holy Spirit. He said this kind of obedience is exemplified by the Virgin Mary, who did not just practice her Christian faith in "façade" but also in substance, the Catholic News Agency relays.

Reading from the Gospel of Matthew, Pope Francis reflected on the Mosaic law and warns that people cannot enter God's kingdom if they do not possess righteousness that "surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees." The pontiff also spoke out against "formalism" or merely obeying prescribed laws, saying true righteousness must be propelled by love.

The pope departed from his prepared text to give more insight into formalism. This practice involves a person selecting only the things he can and cannot do. Instead of setting those limits, he called on believers to do "more, more," the Vatican Radio reports.

In addition, the pope tackled insulting other people, which he said is offensive to another person's dignity. Although insulting someone is not as serious an offense as that of murder, doing so is also tantamount to killing a person "in his heart."

Among other things, Pope Francis also discussed adultery, which he said originates from a person's "innermost being" and comes out in one's actions. He then warned the listeners against swearing in God's name, which he described as a "sign of insecurity" which only uses God's authority to assure humans of certain actions.

The pontiff wrapped up his reflection with a call for Christians to foster trust in their community instead of relying on "higher interventions" for people to believe them.

"Don't forget: don't insult; don't look with evil eyes, with eyes of possession at your neighbor's wife; don't swear," Pope Francis said. "Three things Jesus says. It's so easy!"