Our Friends the Ten Commandments

King David harp

First reading at Holy Mass on Sunday: the Ten ___________________.

Let’s briefly meditate on a few of them, and we will discover a wonderful truth. Not only do we love God, but we also love ourselves best by following them.

We can get off to a good start with Commandments #1 and #3, just by going to Mass.

What about #2? You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.

Invoking the Lord’s name in anger, to be sure, violates this one. But what about if we fail to give good example in our daily dealings with others?

Bernardine with ihsWe Catholics represent Christ and His Church everywhere we go and in everything we do. He sends us as His ambassadors. We carry His banner, with the Holy Name of Jesus on it, into every situation in which we find ourselves. We take that Holy Name in vain if we behave selfishly and meanly, or if we are just as ravenous for prestige and pleasure as anyone else.

#4. Honor your father and mother, that you may have a long life in the Promised Land. In his letter to the Ephesians, St. Paul emphasized how this commandment comes with a promise of blessings.

My own dear, departed dad had some habits that made the years I spent growing up kinda difficult. But somewhere along the line, the Lord gave me a great gift. I started to think of my dad as a struggling human being, just like me. Then I realized that whatever meager masculine strengths of character I may possess, I have my dad to thank for them.

To honor one’s father and mother really means honoring oneself. Honoring one’s elders, one’s country, one’s cultural heritage: all of these are acts of wholesome and genuine self-esteem. The Lord does not ask us to idolize other human beings. But He wants us to love ourselves enough to have reverence for our own origins.

God brought us into being, not from scratch, but through a living history, of which we make a part. Each of us has something altogether unique about our personalities. That unique aspect is like a jewel which sits in the setting of our family background and cultural inheritance. We can’t be ourselves, really, without revering who and what we have come from. And we have the duty of handing on to the next generation all the riches that we have received.

Any other commandments on which we should briefly meditate? While we are on the subject of parents and children, I guess we ought to sink our teeth for a moment into the sixth commandment, everyone’s favorite.

moses_ten_commandmentsSome young people seem to have the idea that Lent is the time of year to fight the battle of chastity. A high-school senior I know, who shall remain nameless, openly declared, in front of his whole class, that he would not touch his girlfriend at all during Lent. I asked him if she agreed with this resolution. He assured me she did.

More power to this young man and young lady. I must say that many of us older Catholics probably think of something else when we think of Lent. Like eating fish on Fridays and putting money in a Chinese-food take-out box for charity. But we can hardly delude ourselves about the seriousness of our culture’s sixth-commandment problem.

Somewhere deep within, we all know that the only genuinely good sex is sex that is fruitful and consecrated by vows of fidelity until death. Anything else is demeaning, desperate, and lame.

But the crassness of our pornography-infested culture can harden people’s hearts. Our movies and tv shows cloud over the light of truth that guides us from within. Our consciences will always move us towards true chastity and the love that makes promises and keeps them. But all around us, on the airwaves, the idea is: casual sex is fine. Masturbation is normal. Sodomy is normal. Blah blah. Etc.

Also, as our Holy Father Francis has pointed-out on a number of occasions, a great crisis of courage besets young people these days, when it comes to getting married. Marriage takes courage. Fornication and co-habitation do not. Living together outside of marriage is the refuge of cowards.

pope-francis_2541160kTo get married and stay married requires constant supplication before God, seeking the help of His grace. Fulfilling the sixth commandment is a matter of supernatural grace. We cannot be chaste by our own power. May God give us all the courage and the genuine self-esteem which can make us chaste. Let’s do like the young man: let’s go to war this Lent against anything and everything that interferes with our faithful and joyful observance of the sixth commandment. Especially visiting the wrong websites.

The truth is that the Ten Commandments, all of them, are among the best friends we have in this life. Let’s make sure we know them cold. Let’s all meditate on them regularly, once a fortnight at least.

May the commandments of Sinai become a ten-stringed harp which plays in our souls. The commandments given to Moses express the fundamental inclinations we all have inside, toward what is good.

God made us to be moral creatures; He made us to be the creatures that follow the Ten Commandments. Birds praise Him by singing. We praise Him by following the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments are our human song to God. May we play this ten-stringed harp to Him our whole lives through.

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