Catholics follow the Ten Commandments because Christ, Himself, followed them and because He told others to follow them (Matthew 19:16-19). We also follow them because they were given to us by God. In the book of Exodus we read how God himself gave these commandments to the Israelites through the help of Moses. However there is more to following the Ten Commandments than just because 'God told us to.'
We obey God's commands because He loves us! Because God loves us and loves us perfectly we can always trust His word. Also, because God created us we can trust that He always knows what is best for us.
In giving us the Ten Commandments He’s not trying to take away our fun or our freedom. Instead He’s showing us how we were meant to live. How were we meant to live? We were meant to live in a loving relationship with both God and each other. While there are 10, they really boil down to these two things: loving God and loving each other (Matthew 22:37-40).
Far from limiting our freedom and taking away our fun, these commands will bring us life! Imagine how much better the world would be if everyone kept the Ten Commandments. There would be no murders, no thefts, no broken families, no wars. The Ten Commandments lead to a fulfilled life here on earth and more importantly it leads to everlasting life after death.
When a man asked Christ what he must do to have eternal life, Christ told him 'If you wish to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matthew 19: 16-19).
'Great news! I got a promotion . . . and I'm ENGAGED!'
My friend went on and on sharing the romantic story of how her tall, handsome, Catholic man proposed. Everything in her life seemed to be the stuff of her dreams . . . and mine. As she was oozing with excitement, I smiled and was happy for her, but inside I had this strange, silent but sickly feeling of envy. There was this small part of me that wanted her to gain 10 lbs, break out with acne, or just stop talking. (Ok, not my finest moment).
Then as she was telling me how God had spoken to her miraculously through the prophetic gift in Adoration, my heart screamed: 'God never speaks to me like that!' . . . I felt as though an invisible monster had taken over my heart. I should have been happy for my friend, but instead I was consumed with envy.
The Invisible Monster
Everywhere I look there seem to be people that can do things better than me. My roommate can play guitar and sings with a voice that sounds like a blend between Kelly Clarkson and enchanted angels. When I sing, cats squeal from all down the street. My athletic brother can run marathons while eating a Big Mac – That's just wrong!
It seems like I'm surrounded by '-er' people . . . They're pretty-er, funny-er, talented-er, just bett-er.
Unfortunately, when we try to measure ourselves up to others, we can be led into a very serious sin – Coveting our Neighbor.
What the heck does 'coveting' mean? The Hebrew word translated 'covet' is chamad (ÌÄ‰ÛÓÌâ‰ÛÓÌÄ‰ÛÓÌâ_ÌÄ‰ÛÓÌâ‰ÛÏ) which is commonly translated into English as 'covet,' 'lust,' and 'strong desire.'
In Exodus, God makes it clear to the people of Israel that they are not to covet their neighbor's goods, servants, wife, his ox, or donkey (Exodus 20:17). Honestly? In all of my life I have never longed after a donkey. Seriously though, God might have chosen these words had he handed down the law today: 'You shouldn't desire after your friend's x-box, clothing, their status, their cute boyfriend or girlfriend, their looks, their athletic skills, or their things.'
Unlike the other commandments which focus on outward actions, this commandment focuses on the human heart. It is an attitude that can sneak up on us before we even realize that's what we are feeling.
Green with Envy
All of us may have had a moment when someone else has gotten something we really wanted. Maybe your friend always gets the “A” while you struggle to get a “C.” Or their parents are always buying them stuff like an X-box or a new car while your parents always say no, or can't afford those things. Maybe you'd just like the attention that's always lavished on the star jock and his cheerleader girlfriend. There is a part of your heart that wants to scream: 'THEY SHOULDN'T HAVE THAT . . . I WANT IT!' That is coveting. That is envy . . . And we do it all the time.
The big issue with this sin is that it can be destructive to not only our own heart, but it can lead to destruction in relationships, bitterness, resentment, gossip, and ugly, malicious actions between friends and siblings. But at times we feel helpless to our feelings. How do we tame the monster?
How to Obey the Tenth Commandment
God tells us we can turn to him and resist sin. (James 4:7) Over the years, He has taught me a great tool for turning my envy to rejoicing.
Just SLAPP the envy:
S: Stop and recognize the competition and jealousy in your heart.
L: Look to Love. Remind yourself that God calls us to love our neighbors and be happy for their blessings. 'Love is not boastful. Love is kind. Love is not jealous' (1 Corinthians 13).
A: Ask for God to change your heart, remove jealousy, and give you the ability to love.
P: Praise God for today's blessing. Give thanks for his blessing on your friend.
P: Praise God for tomorrow's promises still to come! Boldly claim in faith that today you may not have everything you desire, but you trust in His love -that He knows you and loves you and has great plans for you…
It sounds something like this:
(Stop and Recognize your heart) Lord, I am so upset that Sarah has this amazing boyfriend. (Look to Love) I know you want me to be happy for her, but I can't. I am jealous. (Ask for Grace) Please take this jealousy from my heart. Help me to be truly excited for her and celebrate with her. (Praise for today) Thank you for blessing Sarah with your gifts.Thank you for loving her. (Praise God for tomorrow) Lord, I KNOW you love me too, and you have great plans for me. And I wait with expectation for the blessing you have to bring in my life. Lord I trust in YOU!
You may have to say the last sentence over and over. I often do . . . But I promise you, it works and God is faithful! I encourage you today to stop comparing yourself to others and open your heart to the Love of Christ. His love will tame the invisible monster and give you power to rejoice with your friends and receive the blessings He has just for you.
Guys, have you ever heard that before from a girl? It's the carefully laid trap by a girl who knows when she is being looked at in a lustful way. Gentlemen, it can only get worse from there. Contrary to what we might think, there isn't an answer that will equal a 'get out of jail free' card like in Monopoly. Even if you manage to mumble through her correct eye color, chances are she is still feeling hurt from your eyes only looking at her body instead of appreciating her as a person.
It's not only guys who struggle with this sin. Both guys and girls think that something as simple as checking a person out just for their 'hot bod' isn't a big deal. It is a big deal though, and any person can tell you they can feel the difference from when someone looks at them with love or with lust. It's degrading.
You can look at the 9th commandment and think; 'Coveting my neighbor's wife' doesn't exactly apply to me as a teen. Let's take a deeper look at it and see precisely why it does apply to you.
It’s the Thought That Counts
In Matthew 5:28, Jesus says that, 'Anyone who even looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.'
When Jesus said this, it was completely radical, because he revealed that lust (something that happens inside your heart) is a sin just as much as an external action. What we think with our minds and desire in our hearts is a big deal.
'For where your treasure is, there also will your heart be. ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâèÏThe lamp of the body is the eye. If your eye is sound, your whole body will be filled with light but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be in darkness.' (Matthew 6:21-23)
At Mass on Sunday, we make a public confession and ask for forgiveness for not only our actions but for what goes on in the heart and mind:
'I confess to almighty God, and to you my brothers and sisters, that I have greatly sinned, in my thoughts and in my words'
Lust Wounds Love
When you lust after someone, either in physical actions or in thoughts, it wounds your ability to love and be loved. Lust is deliberately inflaming a sexual desire or temptation that naturally comes to you.
Pope John Paul II always said that loving is the opposite of using. Love requires sacrifice, responsibility and a total commitment to the other person. Jesus showed us the model referenced in Ephesians 5:25 'Husbands love your wives as Christ loved the Church.'
A quick look at any crucifix will remind us how Christ loved the Church: by laying down his life! So when you reduce someone to an object for pleasure, it excludes God's plan for love. Bishop Fulton Sheen once said that lust turns love into poison. Lust turns something that is designed to be given away (love) and turns it into something that's only about 'me' and what 'I' can get from the other person.
Don't confuse every lustful thought as a mortal sin. There's a difference between thoughts that are brought on by ourselves and entertained and ones that pop up and are dismissed. Pray for help in the moment for Jesus to cleanse your mind of the image or thought!
Just as looking at someone lustfully damages love and tears someone down, looking at someone lovingly affirms their dignity and can build them up. We have to untrain our eyes and hearts from lust and back to love. Purity in the heart is what we should strive for. God can clean the gunk built up in us through lust of the eyes and give us a heavenly vision.
'If, by love and right living, you wash off the filth that has become stuck to your heart, the divine beauty will shine forth in you. Think of iron, which at one moment is dark and tarnished and the next, once the rust has been scraped off, shines and glistens brightly in the sun. It is the same with the inner core of man, which the Lord calls the heart. It has been in damp and foul places and is covered in patches of rust; but once the rust has been scraped off, it will recover itself and once more resemble its ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâèÏoriginal design' . And whoever is pure in heart is blessed because, seeing his own purity, he sees the ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâèÏoriginal designer' reflected in the image' ~St. Gregory of Nyssa
Ask God to help you if you struggle with this sin. Here are some do's and don'ts for the ninth commandment.
How To Obey The Ninth Commandment
Lust after another person, either in your thoughts or your actions. This damages your ability to love and be loved.
Look twice. A girl I knew once said, 'I know my dad looks at other women. But he never looks twice.' Be the witness when people around you are undressing a person with their eyes. It could change hearts even if they never tell you.
Give up. It can seem like trying to stop a waterfall by cupping your hands under it, but purity is possible in the world today. It's worth fighting for, and God's grace is enough for us to do it!
Men, turn lust into a blessing. Praise God for His masterful artistry when you see a beautiful woman, don’t praise yourself and turn it into a disordered lustful reality. Use your bodies to glorify God in whatever you do (1 Corinthians 10:31).
Build up and affirm brothers and sisters in Christ for modesty in dress, speech, and actions. It's a battle to be pure and we need to hear encouragement in our walk.
Filter what you feed your heart and mind when it comes to tv shows and movies. Know what causes you to sin and get rid of it from your life. 'If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one of your members than to have your whole body thrown into hell' (Matthew 5:29).
Pray for your future spouse every day. Place your trust in God to prepare that person to be with you for the rest of your life/bring you to Heaven. Trust Him to prepare you, too!
My image of God the Father, enthroned in heaven in flowing white robes and Birkenstock sandals, was overshadowed by my certainty that he didn't want me to have any fun. Not only was God all about rules, he'd drop anybody that strayed off his path. Parochial school should have taught me how to live but instead I learned how not to die and burn. The result was that I treated Moses' Commandments with the same reverence I reserved for one of Letterman's 'Top Ten' lists.
So, my moral life was an exercise in hell avoidance. I feigned contrition with a half-hearted sincerity in hope that, should I die tonight, God would go easy on me. I knew how to say I was sorry for breaking the rules. I promised to stop doing the things I had just confessed even though I had no intention of doing so. I even knew my Act of Contrition. I apologized to God without knowing why my sins were sins. (As to that, years later as a married man I learned something about true contrition, namely, if you're going to apologize, you had better know what you are apologizing for or else you'll find yourself in even more trouble.)
For several years I saw confession as apologizing to a priest who 'stood in' for God. If anyone had corrected this impression in religious education class, I missed it because I never listened. Later I learned that it isn't merely a priest to whom I am confessing but truly, it is Christ. During reconciliation, the priest sits in persona Cristi capitas ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâ‰Ûù in the person of Christ the Head. He offers not his mercy but that of Christ.
Later, also, I would come to understand the difference between apology and repentance and between the private and public nature of sin. In repentance you don't merely turn away from something, you turn toward something else (see Acts 26:20). And my sin, no matter how private it is, has a ripple effect on those around me.
Everyone in my life suffers to some degree from my selfishness and sin; no sin is ever completely private since we are all bound together in one mystical body. The world looks down upon it as weakness, but as I matured, I came to see the beauty involved in humbling yourself and going before another, staring into the eyes of mercy, and admitting failure.
For years, my faulty understanding stymied my approach to Christ, keeping me from the greatest gift that God had to offer: total forgiveness. I totally failed to connect the dots given me in Catholic school and at countless Sunday Masses. It was only when sin and misery reached such a blinding level that I earnestly began to seek not fame or fortune but the peace that only Jesus can give that my approach to Christ began to change. I learned that St. Augustine was right when he said that we are all restless until we rest in the Lord.
In order to change a skewed understanding of the sacrament, it helps to realize Jesus came not to abolish the law, but to complete it (Matthew 5:17). He came to show us how to 'have life and have it abundantly' (John 10:10).
I was not unique in my confusion. Many people today dismiss the moral code set forth in the Ten Commandments because they assume that religion as all about rules, conformity and some sort of guilt-ridden mind control. The doctrines of Christ, safeguarded by the Catholic Church, are dismissed as contrary to human freedom. In this context, obedience is seen as a form of weakness. By extension, Jesus Christ is viewed as the weakest man to walk the planet.
The question Catholic teens ask me most frequently in regard to sexuality is, 'How far is too far?' What's behind that question? What young people are really asking, once we look beneath the euphemistic wordplay is, 'What exactly is everything I can do sexually’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ‰Ûùwithout going to hell?' They want to clearly delineate the line so they can approach it and tap dance on it, and then justify their behavior.
Can we mature in our understanding of the Law so that we mature in our approach to Christ and our readiness to receive God's mercy? Well, let's take a minute to look at it more closely:
The Law (Commandments)
Thou shalt not’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ_
Have other gods before me
Take the Lord's name in vain
The Sabbath day holy
Dishonor thy father and mother
Bear false witness
Covet thy neighbor's wife (lust)
Covet thy neighbor's material goods
The Life in Christ (fulfillment)
Be single-hearted toward me
Be reverent in speech and conduct
Be respectful and obedient
Defend life, womb to tomb
Be faithful to vocation, future spouse
Be honest in word and deed
Have only pure admiration
Be grateful for what you possess
Do you get it? Living a faith-filled life is not so much about what we shouldn't do as about what we are called to do as we move forward in God's love. You can use this parallel above as the beginning of your examination of conscience the next time you prepare for the sacrament of reconciliation. In particular, ask yourself how you measure up to the list on the right as you prepare your soul for the sacramental mercy of Christ.
The idea of stealing something is totally scary to me. I can't even imagine the amount of fear that would paralyze me if I ever went to steal something like shoes, cash, or a camera. I would be shaking like a wet puppy in winter. But I would be sweating like it's Phoenix in July. And I'm also pretty sure that the sick feeling in my stomach, the shame, and the guilt would drive me to return the stolen item the next day. I'm a sensitive person.
So, why am I writing about this commandment?
Because I have stolen before. Not in the way that you'd think though. I've never stolen any sort of 'item' for the obvious, above-mentioned reasons. I stole money from my employer . . . multiple times. The typical deal when you get a job is that you spend your time and energy doing labor and in return you get paid. When I was in high school, I worked at a library and made $7.35/hr.
Myself and the other people I worked with would purposely waste time. We would sit in a corner of the library where no one could see us and we would just read. Magazines, kid's books, Harry Potter . . . anything.
Or we would just talk. Whatever it took to escape the monotony of shelving or organizing books. And it was no big deal. Okay, in all honestly, sometimes I would feel bad about wasting all these hours. I justified it though by telling myself 'everyone does it' or that 'I'll work harder the rest of the time I'm here.'
But that was stealing. And the scary thing is that it was so easy. I wasn't doing the work but I was getting paid. I took the money without exchanging my time and effort. At one point I read an examination of conscience that asked, 'Have you stolen from work? Including time?' It was such a gut check as I realized, 'Oh my gosh, I do that ALL the time.' I became convicted that this was a big deal because all those half hours added up to hours, and all those hours (at $7.35/hr) actually surmounted to a lot of money. There's not much difference if I took it from a cash register, or took it dishonestly in my paycheck.
I realize that since I didn't know I was breaking the seventh commandment, I wasn't totally to blame. But my conscience had been hinting to me that it wasn't okay.
After confessing this sin a couple times, I learned my lesson and decided to be honest and responsible with my time at work. I felt so much more free without the guilt weighing on me.
Even when something seems like a little sin or that it's not a big deal, it still takes you one step farther away from God. I learned that just because everyone does something, whether it's shoplifting, downloading free music, wasting natural resources, taking wages that haven't been honestly earned, or cheating on a test, I have to answer to God about my sins. Doing the right thing isn't always the most popular thing to do, but God and I were both happier when I earned my $7.35 the honest way.
I'm praying for you.
How to Obey the Seventh Commandment
Be responsible with your money so that you're able to afford the things you need.
Be a good student and study so that you won't have to cheat on a test and steal someone else's hard work.
Live simply and give some of your time and money to serve other people.
Buy music on iTunes instead of ripping it off someone else, or downloading it free, which is stealing from the musician.
Be respectful of public and private property and don't vandalize.
Anything in God's creation (natural resources, animals) deserve to be honored, cared for, and not wasted. God gave us these things for our good, but we have to be mindful of the good of our neighbor, including future generations.
I was once told that the easiest way to remember commandment number 'six' is that it sounds like 'sex.' At the time I thought it was just another lame example from my youth minister.
The funny thing is – I still remember it.
What wasn't funny, however, is that at the time I somehow thought the 'don't commit adultery' commandment had little to do with me, an unmarried sixteen year old. I couldn't have been more wrong.
The truth is that this commandment isn't only for married people. It's violated by all ages … including teenagers … almost daily.
Everything’s about sex
We live in a highly sexualized culture. The minute preteen Disney Channel actresses leave behind their shows, they seem to leave behind their clothes as well. It's hard to find a magazine cover, billboard, or commercial that isn't visually offering a whole lot more than a product. Everywhere you try not to look, it's sex they're selling because they've learned one thing: sex sells.
Let's be honest here . . . by all accounts (and catalogs) Victoria doesn't have too many secrets left, people.
You can't walk through a mall and not see a scantily clad, airbrushed, food-deprived toothpick with implants plastered across the windows of a lingerie store. Even 'clothing' stores highlight their lack of clothing in their window displays. It's like the models are saying, 'Hey look, I need to take off my shirt while I stare blankly into the distance,' or 'I can't seem to stand next to this car without my breasts falling out of my top!'
Those images aren't really selling lace, or silk, or cotton . . . they're selling sex. Countless souls who wander by are being led to believe that 'sexy' and 'attractive' are synonymous with nudity and cleavage.
True love is blind, right?
So why do those displays attract so many eyes?
One word: lust.
And lust, brothers and sisters, violates this Sixth Commandment of 'thou shalt not commit adultery.' In fact, few times in the gospels does Jesus speak with heart wrenching and startling emphasis as He does when He warns of the dangers of lust. Listen to this passage from St. Matthew's gospel:
'You have heard that it was said, ‘Ìâ‰âÂÌâèÏYou shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. If your right eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away; it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.' Matthew 5:27-30
Of course, lust is just one of the ways we violate the sixth commandment.
Why is porn a big deal?
One of the most predominant offenses against this Commandment is seen in the form of pornography. Porn is an offense against chastity and a perversion of the sacredness of sex. Porn is a mockery of the intimacy and beauty of Sacramental love. In fact, the very word pornography comes from the Greek pornographos which means 'writing about prostitutes.' That's right, pornography is about prostitution. The concept of someone exposing themselves in such a way publicly or surrendering their dignity is linked with prostitution … which is obviously a sin on both peoples' parts’Ìâ‰âÂÌâ_the one 'posing' and the one viewing.
Pornography destroys a person's capacity to give and receive love properly. It reduces the mystery of sex to mere use, turning something sacred and Godly into something profane and dark. As Blessed John Paul II said, 'The opposite of love is not hate, the opposite of love is use.' Pornography is all about self-gratification; porn is about use.
Even worse is when people … out of a desire to make it less shame-filled and selfish … hail pornography as something good. People think acting like it's not a sin will magically make it less sinful. Guys, viewing pornography doesn't demonstrate the man you've become but, instead, reveals the boy you still are. Ladies, pornography does nothing to enhance your own beauty, it only skews your perception of what true beauty is . . . and the true beauty that you are.
God's truth about porn, sin, and mercy
Now, I realize that countless souls reading this blog (if they had the courage to read it after seeing the title, that is) very likely struggle with pornography or lust, and, quite possibly, masturbation.
This blog and the Commandments, in general, aren't intended to fill souls with shame or guilt. God's truth shines light into darkness; God's truth points you to true freedom.
No sin is bigger than God's grace. If this is a sin that has enslaved you or a temptation that seems too much for you to handle … it's time to reconcile yourself with God. You need the grace of the Sacraments, particularly the Sacrament of Reconciliation, to win this battle. God's mercy is bigger than your sin, addiction, or struggle.
How to Obey the Sixth Commandment
Let's get proactive with some things you can do to safeguard your chastity and protect against temptation(s):
Identify any movies, music, or shows that fill your head with lustful images or thought processes. Get rid of them. Take those playlists off your iPod, lose the DVDs, and avoid those channels.
Set up a new user account on your computer in which you ban yourself from any adult sites. It might seem stupid but a lack of access translates into less temptation.
Write or print out some Scripture verses on index cards and tape them up around your room. If that's too embarrassing, put them somewhere only you will see them, daily. When you see it don't just read it but pray it and pray for strength to live out the Truth God shares through it.
Do pushups, sit-ups or some other physically strenuous activity before you do your night prayer and get into bed. It won't just exhaust you physically, but will increase endorphins, relieve stress, and calm hormones.
Fall asleep holding and praying a rosary each night.
Find a trusted friend who's also seeking purity in this way, or who has conquered the temptation of porn and give them the permission to hold you accountable. Ask them to check in with you weekly or daily to see how you're doing, to pray with you, and to kick your butt when needed.
Do not engage in sex or other sexual acts unless you are married.
Do not masturbate or engage in other sexual acts (such as oral sex) or in homosexual acts, as all are offenses against chastity (CCC 2351-59).
Do not lust after others and do not engage in acts or actions that purposely cause you or others to become lustful, including immodest dress, speech or actions.
Do not speak or act in a way that destroys the dignity of married love between a man and woman.
Do not view or participate in pornography, suggestive speech, profane joking, 'sexting,' suggestive photography or videos, strip clubs, prostitution, or any other offense toward chastity.
As a little kid, I was jealous of my neighbor. He was my age, but he could hit the baseball better than I could. He would smack the ball into the outfield and everyone would shout 'Run! You can do it!'
I never heard 'Run!' shouted to me. It was usually 'Duck!' or 'Open your eyes!' or 'Put down the snow-cone until after the game!'
We've all experienced knowing someone who's better than you at something or has something you lack. If you feel happy for them and aspire them to grow and get better, that's not envy.
That is not how I felt though.
I used to make fun of my neighbor behind his back. I didn't want to see him do well. I secretly hoped he would strike out or the outfielder would catch his ball. Then I could get up there and hit a home run! At last, I'd have my moment to shine. I would be considered the best. Everyone would want to be like ME! I was envious and it tore me apart. I had no character. I was a bad teammate and a bad friend.
I Hate You
In other cases, this envy turned into hatred. Throughout school and sports there were kids I felt anger, envy, and hatred towards. Sometimes it came from my insecurities. I felt bad about myself so I would tear others down. If someone really had qualities about them that I wanted, I'd try to make fun of them. But if someone made fun of me . . . I was shattered. I have vivid memories of someone making a joke about me and all my classmates around us laughing. After something like that feelings of hatred would well up in my heart as I'd go home and recall how silly the other kids made me feel. I lost the Christian love for them. I seemed to forget that despite my feelings for them, God loved them very much.
For some of us, when we think about the fifth commandment we unconsciously skip over it. The truth is, there is more to this commandment than a physical act of violence that results in someone's death. Killing has roots in envy, anger, and hatred. And I'm sad to admit that I've harbored all of those. They produced nothing but sorrow in my life.
Something that's important is knowing the difference between reacting and responding. For example, when I was a kid on the baseball team I justified everything I did as a reaction to what someone else did to me. Although it seemed like it was natural to feel anger and hatred, it was actually going against the love ingrained in me. When I reacted, it was a quick answer to the problem.
I only found truth when I learned to respond. Responding is different than reacting because responding means you take some time to think. You pray. You ask for advice. You ask God what He wants you to do. Then you act.
God wants us to be joyful. He knows that our joy comes from being intimately close to Him. Envy, anger, and hatred don't give life, they destroy it. He came that we might have life and have it to the fullest (John 10:10).
Brothers and sisters, we are on this great journey of faith. You are not alone, you are not forgotten. You are loved. And you are awesome! Don't forget that. Maybe you've broken this commandment a few times and need forgiveness. Find a priest and get to Reconciliation. Maybe there is someone in your life who you have hurt or who has hurt you. Pray for them. Pray for the grace in both of your hearts to forgive. If you feel called, talk to them. Lastly, discover and uproot all the things throughout your day that take life instead of give it. Get rid of them. Feel the weight roll off your shoulders. Feel the freedom of walking in the light of the Lord.
How to Obey the Fifth Commandment
Be grateful for your gifts instead of resenting others for theirs
Let people know you admire them and don’t put others down
Strive to be the best you can be instead of thinking you aren't good enough
Love everyone you meet instead of harboring feelings of hatred and anger
Smile and never give others a reason to frown
Try to be fully alive, to be one with God and don’t take life from others
Promote the right to life for all people and never encourage or participate in abortion
Protect the weak and needy instead of looking down on them
Wednesday is my favorite day of the week. Why? Because typically I’ve always had good days on Wednesdays.
My second favorite day is Sunday. Growing up, Sundays were lazy, watch TV or movies all day in my PJs, don’t brush my teeth until 3:30 pm kind of days. Then after Mass and Life Night, I started my two hours of homework because the rest of day I was clearly too wrapped up in more important things like watching Men in Black three times in a row. I always thought, “Surely this is what God meant when he gave us the 3rd Commandment – Laziness, bad hygiene, and procrastination.”
I guess I should have paid more attention during Life Night.
The more I grew in my faith and studied what God actually meant by commanding us to keep holy the sabbath day, the more I realized that those days of doing nothing were not really what God intended.
The word sabbath comes from the Hebrew word shabbath which means “to rest.” On the sabbath day we are called to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God (CCC 2185). Traditionally the Jewish people observed the sabbath day on Saturday as a remembrance of the Passover and a celebration of the Lord’s work of creation and saving actions on Israel’s behalf. (CCC 2171)
As Christians, we celebrate the sabbath day on Sunday as a celebration of Christ’s Resurrection (Easter) and fulfillment of the Passover. (CCC 2174-2176) This Sunday celebration is at the heart of the Church’s life. (CCC 2177)
So, what does this mean for you and me? It means that we have to take a look at our lives and make necessary changes to honor our sabbath rest.
How to Obey the Third Commandment
Do acts of service on Sunday, don’t waste it being lazy!
Instead of wasting your day like I did, use it to do good by serving the people in your community. It can be as simple as volunteering at your church to help direct traffic or help elderly people to their car.
Try not only going to Mass but also commit extra time to prayer and reflection.
In case you don’t know, Mass is not optional on Sundays. Your whole day should revolve around Mass. But, your time with God should not be limited to just Mass. Find ways to commit extra prayer and reflection. Spend time reading and reflecting on the Sunday readings. If you need some help, check out the Sunday, Sunday, Sunday podcast.
Make your Sunday rest a priority.
Okay, here’s the deal- I understand that some people have to work on Sunday. And sometimes that’s necessary to provide for the needs in life. But working on Sunday is not an excuse to skip honoring the sabbath. If you have to work on a Sunday, be sure that you have already decided on a time during the week that you’re going to rest and give God time.
Rest is holy and it makes us holy when we direct towards God. Now, time for a nap!
'You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.' Exodus 20:7
Doesn’t it seem like there are a lot of sins that are worse than being careless with the name of God? Why does this one matter?
I used to not give much thought to this commandment. I would never confess it when I went to the Sacrament of Reconciliation because I didn’t think it was a big deal. I can remember different times in my life when I have been excited or suppressed and I would yell out, 'Oh my God!' One time I was walking barefoot in my parents' house and stubbed my pinkie toe on the couch. It was so painful that the only thing I could say was the Lord's name as an explicative. I hear it all the time coming from people when they use the name 'Jesus' as a response to bad things happening. As if it could be used as a synonym for any non-holy word or explicative
What’s in a Name?
The concept of having a name is an interesting thing. Don't you think? A name is one of the most basic necessities we possess. Think about it. Without a name we would not be able to differentiate one person from another. How different would your interactions with other people be if there were no such thing as names?
A name is given to you at birth so that we can know ourselves to be different from someone else when you are called upon. You give your name to other people so that they can invoke your attention or associate a thought or an action with your personhood. Your name is important because of the fact that you are important, because you are created in the image and likeness of God.
As we read in Isaiah 49:16, 'See, upon the palm of my hands I have written your name.' God places a lot of importance upon names in scripture. When a person encounters God and is changed, God gives that person a new name. Not all names are the same though. There is one name that is set aside. There is one name that is as important as what it represents. That name is the name of the Lord: Jesus, God, Lord, Messiah, King of Kings.
When He speaks our name, it is intentional. He calls out for our attention and love. Likewise when we speak His name it is to be intentional, so that we can address Him with our attention and return His love.
God's name is powerful. To even speak it requires an encounter with the Holy Spirit. God gave us his name so that we can know him. He gave us his name so that when we speak it He listens, or call upon it and He delivers us and heals us. May you speak the name of the Lord just as He speaks yours, intentionally and with love.
How to Obey the Second Commandment
Use words like “gosh” instead of carelessly using God’s name as an exclamation
Clean up all of your speech by not making foul jokes or using crude language
Do you hear others using God’s name lightly? Stand up for what you believe and say something!
'I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods besides me.' Exodus 20: 2 – 3
The first commandment was always one of my favorites. No matter how long my list of sins was, I was pretty sure that I hadn't been sacrificing farm animals, making golden cows, or raising money to support made-up gods. That sort of thing was for people that lived thousands of years ago, not me. There's no way I would fall for this one, right?
We used to have a priest from Benin at our parish. Benin is a small country in West Africa that is known as the birthplace of voodoo. In my mind, voodoo was for those uncivilized people who thought that sticking pins in dolls, dancing around fires, and worshiping just about any object they could find (a rock, a tree, or great grandma's skull) would keep all of their gods happy.
I was pretty sure that these people were guilty of breaking the first commandment, and I couldn't imagine what it must be like to be in voodoo Sunday School or at a voodoo Youth Conference.
The priest shocked me when he told me that most of these people still consider themselves to be Christian; they just think of the voodoo as an addition to their Christian faith. They know that Christianity matters when you die, because everyone wants to be happy forever in Heaven. But while they're still down here on earth, they've got plenty of problems, stresses, and issues to worry about. Voodoo is where they turn for help; they think that their Christian faith is just something that matters when we die.
I couldn't believe it. First I thought it was crazy that these people still consider themselves Christian, especially since they're worshiping so many ridiculous 'gods' and trying to appease all these worthless objects.
Then I realized that I was not much better than those pagan voodoo worshipers.
Anything but God
In my head I know that God was the only one worth my worship, but I still found myself turning to so many other relationships, habits, and even sins to save me when I was overwhelmed and in need of help. I knew that Jesus was my Savior, but often I turned anywhere else but towards Him when I needed to be saved from loneliness, hurt, or boredom.
For way too long, I had been acting like God was just off in the distance, maybe He was able to hear my prayers but He was too far away and too important to get involved in the details of my life. But God isn't a far-off god and He isn't just concerned with saving us later.
Just before giving the Ten Commandments, He reminded His people, 'I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.' (Exodus 20:1).
The same God that has saved His people time and time again wants to free us from whatever holds us down. Don't turn to anything or anyone else. He's the only one worth your worship, because He's the only one that can save.
How to obey the 1st Commandment
Keep God first in your life
Set aside time for prayer
Be thankful to God and have faith in His goodness
Trust in His plans for you and don’t turn to superstitions, horoscopes, fortune tellers, or ouija boards
Relationships, body image, work, possessions, and a lot of other things can easily become a false god. Try to be aware of what you’re putting all your energy in to.
There's a hole in the side of my parents bathtub and it's all my fault.
I was 11 years old. We had only lived in our newly built house for 2 years. On this particular evening my siblings and I were getting ready to go to a square dance. Yes, I just said square dance. Leave me alone. It was cool.
Since I have four sisters the mirrors were in high demand. Being lower on the totem pole also meant my need for a mirror was not as important as the 16 year old's need.
So what's a girl to do? I had to see what I looked like from head to my sweet cowboy booted toes! There was no other option. I had to stand on the edge of the bathtub in order to see myself in the mirror above the sink. (And I looked great!)
It's a bit wobbly though standing up there. I lost my balance and leaned backwards, my arms thrown out to the sides to steady myself. That's when I felt the heel of one of my boots break through the side of tub. I felt it . . . heard it . . . looked at the hole . . . and started sobbing.
My dad was going to be furious. Remember when I said it was a new house? Did I also mention he built it himself!? And I had ruined it. All because of my stupid boots too. I couldn't believe it.
He arrived home from work a couple minutes later. I didn't even have time to calm down before my mom told me to go tell him. My feet felt heavier than lead as I dragged myself downstairs. Can you picture me in my cowgirl outfit, sobbing and gasping out the story of the hole to my dad? I braced myself for the worst.
He hugged me. He told me to stop crying and that he wasn't mad. He said there was a lesson to be learned here about vanity. That was it. The hole is still there in the bathtub over 10 years later and it always reminds me of my vanity . . . and of a father's mercy.
When we go to God the Father with our sins, His perfect love and mercy embraces us no matter how badly we think we've screwed up. He can't get mad if we're sorry, because it means at least we're trying and we want to be better. Through the priest in confession, God tells us what we need to learn from our mistakes.
That day I learned that a seemingly small sin like vanity matters. I learned that we never have to be afraid to tell our Father in heaven that we broke one of His commandments. He is always waiting with open arms to say,
'It's okay. I'm not mad. What did you learn from this mistake?'
I also learned you probably shouldn't stand on a bathtub with heels on.