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The Law has not been abolished, but rather man is invited to rediscover it in the person of his Master who is its perfect fulfillment.

(Catechism of the Catholic Church # 2053)

 

The Ten Commandments Song (Click here to listen)

First, I must honor God,
Second, honor His Name,
Third, on His day be holy, this will be my aim.
Fourth, I must be obedient,
Fifth, be kind and true,
Sixth, be pure in all I say and see and hear and do.
Seventh, I must be honest
Eighth, be truthful in all things I say
Ninth, be pure in mind and heart and all I think and desire each day.
Tenth, I must be satisfied, not be jealous come what may
These are God's Ten Commandments,
These I must obey.
 

The first three commandments teach us how to love God with our hearts, minds, and hearts.

The last seven commandments teach us how to love our neighbors as ourselves - the Golden Rule.

 

Introduction


God gave us the 10 commandments at Mount Sinai. Jesus fulfilled these 10 commandments, summarizing them with the instruction to love God and to love one's neighbor as oneself. How often we seem to shrug off the commandments these days. We constantly hear the Lord's name being spoken when there is no prayer intended! We hear people justify murder for their own convenience. People feel justified in taking someone else's belongings. We are often miserable in our selfishness, captives of the sin around us.

It is so wonderful to realize that God's commandments are merely instructing us in obtaining complete freedom - freedom from sin. The commandments allow us to respond to God's loving call in a way that is pleasing to Him and spiritually fulfilling for us.

The numbering of the commandments has varied over the years. The current Catholic numbering is based on the arrangement defined by St. Augustine. For more information on the numbering of the Ten Commandments, click here.
 

First I Must Honor God


I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the Land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them.
(Ex 20:2-5, Deut 5:6-9)

This first commandment tells us to have faith in God, hope in God, and to love God. Faith, hope, and love - sounds familiar!

Faith

We must continually protect and nourish our faith. Doubt, heresy, and neglect can all lead to a spiritual blindness from which moral delinquency naturally follows. Living our faith leads us to bear witness to God.

Hope

Hope is the confident expectation of salvation. Failure to hope is to despair. God is always present, so despair is opposed to God's eternal love, justice, and mercy.

Presumption is also contrary to hope. There are two kinds of presumption - depending too much on one's own abilities instead of trusting divine assistance, and depending too much on God's mercy without converting oneself to God.

Love

We need to love God at all times. Indifference, laziness, ingratitude, lukewarmness, and hatred of God are all contrary to the first commandment.

Sins against the first commandment

Most of us freely admit we love and honor God. It's not like we're atheists or agnostics, who flagrantly oppose this commandment. It's one of the easier commandments to keep, right? Maybe.

Do you read your horoscope? Are you superstitious? Do you enjoy fortune-telling? These are some of the behaviors which may show a desire for divine power to which humans are not entitled.

Do you put any interest above God? Money and possessions are obvious choices, but what about an inordinate pride in your own abilities? Or a desire to be right, even at the expense of love of neighbor?

There are many subtle ways to sin against the first commandment. Persistence in learning about our faith and rejecting what is opposed to our faith is necessary to love God. Awareness of and attention to God is a constant endeavor.
 

Second, Honor His Name


You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. For the Lord will not leave unpunished him who takes his name in vain.
(Ex 20:7, Deut 5:11)

The second commandment tells us to respect God's name in everything we do. Once we truly respect God, we find ourselves more greatly respecting each other and  all God's creation.

How do we start? Try beginning each day with the Sign of the Cross, then making sure to be respectful every time we speak of sacred matters. Sacred matters include any time we speak of God, Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, saints, other religions, etc. It is important for us to realize that God has given us a gift, the gift of allowing us to know Him. Knowing someone's name allows a special relationship. We have that relationship with God. Therefore, whenever we speak of God, or anything related to God, we must glorify and praise Him.

The second commandment specifically addresses five ways of honoring God's name: avoiding profanity, blasphemy, swearing, and cursing, and also by keeping promises made in God's name.

Profanity

Profanity refers to using the name of God, Jesus, Mary, and the saints in ways that are disrespectful. Unfortunately, we hear it all the time. In the grocery store, in Disney movies, on television, and even just walking down the street, we hear "God" and "Jesus Christ" being said in ways that are definitely not prayerful.

If you are in the habit of being profane, i.e. using God's name when not in prayer, it is an important habit to break. It only takes a little effort to change, and the change can even be fun. We like to think of all kinds of new ways to exclaim pleasure, confusion, and frustration. It makes life much more interesting! 

Blasphemy

Blasphemy is speaking against God, inwardly or outwardly. This includes trivializing, degrading, or hating sacred persons or things. Of course it is appropriate to question and debate religious topics. It is not okay to be mocking or defiant. It is also blasphemous to use God or religious reasons to oppress or in any way put down another person.

Swearing

Swearing, or taking an oath, in God's name means to have God as a witness to truth. This is a matter of utmost importance, and must never be used in trivial circumstances. Perjury is a sin against this commandment, as is accepting a false oath.

Cursing

Sometimes people wish for bad things to happen to other people. They may even try to actually bring evil onto another person. Trying to put this type of curse on someone also is contrary to the second commandment.

Promises

It is important to keep promises, especially those made in God's name.

The second commandment tells us to have reverence in all speech, but most importantly in speech that refers to sacred matters. In addition to keeping ourselves accountable for what we say, we should also hold others accountable for their speech. Sometimes it is best to simply be a good example of truthfulness and respect in language. Other times protest may be more appropriate. For example, avoid watching movies or television that have inappropriate language. Communicating to Hollywood through the pocketbook can be an effective tool to encourage better behavior. Trying to hold many things sacred instead of holding nothing sacred can change our worlds.
 

Third, Keep His Day Holy


Take care to keep holy the sabbath day as the Lord, your God, commanded you. Six days you may labor and do all your work; but the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord, your God.
(Ex 20:8-10a, Deut 5:12-14a)

The third commandment tells us to set aside one day each week to rest, relax, be joyful, and give witness to our faith. Who can say no to that?

As Catholics we are required to go to Mass every Sunday and holy day of obligation. This is not just some idle rule. It is an important part of our Catholic identity. We show we belong to a special community, we share our hope in salvation, and we strengthen each other in faith.

Sundays are intended to be set aside for God. This means we need to thoughtfully consider how we spend our time each week. Do we continue to work and ignore family or community obligations? Do we go out shopping or participate in other activities which require others to spend their Sundays caring for our needs?

Sundays are days of holiness. Genesis tells us that even God took a day off to evaluate His creation, seeing that it was good. We need to consider how we spend each Sunday, and if we can in any way enhance the holiness that is due God. After all, it was through the example of God that we have a day of rest in the first place!

 

Fourth, I must be obedient


Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land which the Lord, your God, is giving you.
(Ex 20:12, Deut 5:16)

Living the fourth commandment can be a challenge. As parents we are called to respect the human dignity of our children, guiding their moral development, caringly correcting them when necessary, and, most important, frequently praising their good behaviors and accomplishments. As siblings we are called to promote family harmony, patience, charity, and love between all generations. As children we must respect and care for our parents, especially as they age. These responsibilities require conscientious effort and lots of prayer!

The commandment to be obedient is intended to help us recognize that we are indebted to our parents. They have given us life. A majority of parents work hard to care for and support their families. They may make mistakes, but we need to accept them and love them despite the mistakes throughout our lifetimes.

This commandment also reminds us that parents have duties toward their children. A healthy society is based on healthy families. It is within the family that children learn moral values and virtues, such as self-discipline, compassion, honesty, loyalty, and faith. Parents need to practice the virtues themselves in order to properly educate their children.

The fourth commandment also refers to obedience to authorities besides parents. Of course, all obedience to authority is dependent on the morality of the request. For example, a government that requires abortion to maintain population size must be resisted in any possible moral way. Under normal circumstances, however, we are expected to obey authorities in our homes, communities, and dioceses.

The fourth commandment teaches us how to be a "domestic church." Our goal is to be the image of love that we find with the Trinity. It may sound like a tall order, but when we all treat each other with respect and love, it is possible.

The US Council of Catholic Bishops developed a Bill of Rights for families. Click here to read it.
 

Fifth, Be Kind and True


You shall not kill.
(Exodus 20:13, Deut 5:17)

Moses received the commandment "You shall not kill." This certainly seemed like one of the easier commandments to obey, but Jesus made it a little more challenging. He refined that commandment so we could learn to truly love our neighbor. Not only are we to avoid committing murder, we are also called to avoid anger and resentment, and we're even called to love and pray for those whom we find it difficult to love, those who have hurt us or our loved ones, those who may make life unpleasant.

The fifth commandment calls us to respect the dignity of all life. It is through this respect of life that the Church guides us to carefully consider our opinions of troubling social actions, including abortion, the death penalty, euthanasia, suicide, scientific experimentation on living beings, kidnapping, hostage taking, just war, legitimate defense, and even the care of non-human beings.

For example, our Church challenges us to consider the fifth commandment when developing our opinion of the death penalty. The Church recognizes that evil must be punished in a way that is commensurate with the crime, however, the punishment should be consistent in each situation. Is murder worse in Missouri than Michigan? Missouri is a state that allows the death penalty; Michigan is a state which forbids the death penalty. A murderer could receive the death penalty in Missouri, but not in Michigan. The Church questions the legitimacy of the death penalty because the severity of the crime, not the location of the crime, should determine the severity of the punishment.

God created everything, and He created everything good; He created man in His own image. Therefore, life has an inherent dignity that must be protected from conception to the grave. Our dealings with others must be based in love and respect.

For a powerful commentary on respecting life, read Evangelium Vitae (Gospel of Life) by Pope John Paul II. Basic Church teachings are available in the Catechism of the Catholic Church paragraphs #2258-2330.

 

Sixth, Be Pure in all I Say, See, Hear, and Do


You shall not commit adultery
(Exodus 20:14, Deut 5:18)

In the late 1990s Americans had the opportunity to thoughtfully discuss the meaning of the sixth commandment, "you shall not commit adultery." Instead, we spent hours discussing the meaning of the word "is." What a shame! When we thoughtfully consider this commandment, we see it requires a conversion of heart and a commitment to self-mastery and freedom that make a discussion of "is" completely absurd.

The sixth commandment calls us to practice the cardinal virtue of temperance, also called moderation. Temperance in our sexuality allows us to love each other  as beings made in the image of God.

Practicing temperance leads us to chastity, the "successful integration of sexuality within...man in his bodily and spiritual being." (Catechism of the Catholic Church #2337) Chastity allows us to freely take control of our passions and find peace, rather than letting our passions take over our freedom and lead us to unhappiness. Choosing chastity is not always easy, and it does require effort, sometimes seemingly superhuman effort, throughout our lives. However, making that effort is a gift we give to ourselves. Through that gift we can build friendships based on mutual love and respect. We can be in communion with one another.

There are a number of ways to sin against the sixth commandment, and they always involve failing to respect sexual activity as a means of unifying and procreating within the marriage covenant. These include: fornication (sexual activity between people who are not married), lust (self-focused desire for sexual pleasure), masturbation (deliberate stimulation of genital organs for sexual pleasure), pornography (the display of sexual acts to third parties), prostitution (the selling of one's body for sex), rape (forced sex on unwilling partners). Homosexuality, adultery, divorce, polygamy, incest, and living together as a married couple without being married are also considered offenses to the sixth commandment.

In support of the sixth commandment we have the words of Pope John Paul II. In many of his Wednesday audiences from 1979 to 1984, J. P. II discussed human sexuality and how it should be integrated in the body, mind, and soul of each person. We now call his vision Theology of the Body, and the ideal is becoming more and more popular.. Click here to read these discussions.
 

Seventh, I must be honest


You shall not steal
(Exodus 20:15, Deut 5:19)

The seventh commandment tells us not to steal. What may seem to be a simple directive is actually a beautiful command to consider all aspects of God's creation and treat that creation with love and respect. We are called not only to avoid taking what belongs to another person, but we are also called to share generously, care for the poor, keep promises, honor contracts, work hard, pay what we owe, and ask just repayment of what is owed to us.

The seventh commandment does not stop with the individual. The Church recognizes the need for groups, businesses, and governments to respect the individual's right to own property and to assist those who are in need. All economic activity, whether local or global, should be focused on the common good, not simply on economic profit. Included in the common good is protection of the worker, which is vital for a stable, honest workforce.

Sinning against the seventh commandment involves any action which fails to respect the goods and property of others. Theft, tax evasion, not returning borrowed items, charging increased prices during time of need, failing to pay just wages, breaking a contract made in good faith, cheating at games, and gambling necessities rather than surplus are all prohibited by the command "Do not steal." Even failing to perform work to the best of one's potential is a sin against this commandment. That is certainly a useful point when it comes to promoting homework!

In response to the injustices of the nineteenth century Industrial Revolution, the Church developed Catholic Social Teaching. These principles continue to help guide us toward living just and charitable lives within society.
 

Eighth, Be Truthful


You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
(Exodus 20:16, Deut 5:20)

Our eight-year-old wanted to know if it was a sin for our elderly neighbor to tell everyone she is 39 years old. We told her, "No. That is a figure of speech. She never expected us to take her seriously, and we never did!"

The eighth commandment instructs us to always be truthful toward our neighbor. Therefore, we are called to be completely truthful in everything we say and do. That involves not only the intent to be sincere, but also to exercise discretion, which ensures that truthfulness does no harm to another person.

Our first duty to the truth is to live a Christian life. We must always seek truth, be a witness to truth in our words and actions, and accept the obligations that are inherent in being truthful. At times this may seem difficult. Living in a way that is opposed to the expectations of society may leave us open to mocking, derision, punishment, and hate. Yet, if we do not live the truth of our faith in our lives, it is unlikely we can follow through and be truthful in other aspects of life.

There are numerous ways for us to sin against the eighth commandment. They include:

  • False witness - a false statement in court
     
  • Perjury - a false statement under oath
     
  • Rash judgment - assuming something bad about your neighbor without sufficient evidence
     
  • Detraction - disclosing the faults and/or failing of a person to someone who was unaware of the faults and failings
     
  • Calumny - making remarks that are contrary to the truth, thus harming a person's reputation
     
  • Flattery, adulation, or complaisance - using words or actions that encourage someone to perform malicious acts or engage in inappropriate conduct.
     
  • Boasting - saying something to give others a high opinion of oneself
     
  • Lying - speaking a falsehood with the intention of deceiving

Sometimes it is important to share information, sometimes it is best to keep quiet. Respect for another's privacy and the sake of the common good are reasons to refrain from sharing information. Professional confidences are another reason to keep quiet. The Seal of the Confession is probably the best known professional confidence. Catholic priests are forbidden to divulge what was told to them in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. No other group, including physicians, lawyers, and clergy from other religious denominations, can be completely trusted to keep information secret.  

Respect for the truth should be the basis for all our communications. Jesus said it best, "... you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32

 

Ninth, Be Pure in Mind and Heart


You shall not covet your neighbor's wife
(Exodus 20:17, Deut 5:21)

Whereas the sixth commandment is a commandment of action, telling us to avoid committing impure acts, the ninth commandment is a commandment of thought and reason. It challenges us to a complete conversion of heart, so that not even a stray impure thought distracts us from following the will of God.

Unfortunately, purity sometimes seems like a battle. Grace from receiving the sacraments can give us the strength we need to fight the battle. This strength comes from:

  • The virtue of chastity - the desire to love one another as God loves us. This does not simply mean abstinence from sex; it does mean a healthy balance between body and spirit.
     
  • Purity of intention - the desire to fulfill God's will in everything we do.
     
  • Purity of vision - by seeing what leads us away from God, both within ourselves and from the outside world, and choosing to follow God's path
     
  • Prayer - recognizing that all things are possible with prayer, but very little is possible without prayer.

Tenth, I must be satisfied


You shall not covet your neighbor's house...nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything that belongs to him.
(Exodus 20:17, Deut 5:21)

The seventh commandment forbids the actual taking of another person's property. The tenth commandment goes a step further. It forbids the desire to unjustly take another's property.  It's concern is the intention of the heart and the need to experience peace and contentment in our lives.

The great offense to the tenth commandment is envy, that inner sadness which results in a lack of love. With envy can come:

  • Greed - the desire to have unlimited possessions
     
  • Avarice - the passion for riches and power
     
  • Injustice - harm to someone for the sake of material goods

Envy can be twofold, i.e. material envy and spiritual envy. Material envy refers to resenting the money, talent, good fortune, etc. that another person has.  Even worse is spiritual envy, the resentment of people who are live holier lives than we are living. Envy can be combated by kindness and meekness.

Our family has had the advantage of the influence of the Franciscan Sisters of the Eucharist for several years. These women work hard, pray faithfully, and have few possessions. Nevertheless, they are some of the most intelligent, happy, accomplished, charitable women one could hope to meet. They give of themselves and show us how needless earthly possessions are for our happiness. Our community is blessed to know them.
 

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