April 1, 2011 – There’s More To the Commandments

Before I get into the meat of my blog, I have something that I need to inform you of, and I think the best way to say it is to not beat around the bush and just come out with it.  After much thought and consideration, I have decided that this will be my last blog entry.  I have greatly enjoyed doing this and I appreciate the compliments I have received since I began doing this a few years ago, but over time I have found it more and more difficult to come up with things to write about, and it has gotten to the point that I just can’t take the burden of it anymore.  So I have made the hard decision to focus on other things.  Thank you for your support of this little project, and … um, oh by the way, I am writing this on April 1, so … Happy April Fools!  I’m sorry, I couldn’t resist.  As I tell people, it’s not me, it’s the medication.

Now that I’ve had a little fun, let’s get a little more serious.  I must begin by saying THANK YOU to you and everyone who helped and contributed in any way to make our Dinner Auction a HUGE success.  I don’t have the final numbers yet, but it sounds like we will not only beat our record, but we will obliterate it!  What a great blessing considering the weather we had that day and the current state of our economy.  You are to be congratulated for a job well done, and it’s one more example that God truly does answer prayers.

It’s a blogger’s dream when without any effort a topic just falls into your lap.  As you may or may not know, during Lent on most Wednesday evenings Larry Gross and I conduct a Communion service in church.  It is a good way to offer something extra for folks who can’t make it to Mass or other things during the day, and it gives Larry and I an opportunity to stay in practice in case an emergent situation would arise and no priest were available for weekend Mass.  If you feel the need to pray, receive the Eucharist and listen to some bad singing, please come and join us.  Anyway, we are not to preach a full homily, but we can offer a brief reflection on the readings of the day.  Larry said that as he was researching for his reflection he discovered that the Old Testament actually has more than 10 commandments – that there are actually 613.  I had heard this before, but out of curiosity I did a little research of my own.  The Jewish Torah, their religious “guide”, does contain all of these commandments.  However, many of these were aimed at the priests and religious leaders of the time.  So our 10 commandments are actually just part of a much broader list, sort of a “Top 10” list if you will.

Of course my first thought when I was reading about this was that I have enough trouble following 10 commandments, what in the world would I do with 613?  But the commandments are a true guide to life for us Christians.  Those who do not fully understand the commandments seem to consider them a hinderance to leading a good life – I can’t do this, I can’t do that.  Us Christians, however, realize that the commandments hold the key to a fulfilling life and a better shot at eternal life with God.  Some of what the commandments tell us of course is obvious – believe in the one true God, go to church on Sunday, don’t committ murder, don’t have intimate relations with someone other than your spouse, don’t take other people’s stuff and don’t be jealous of others or what they have.  But as you dig a little deeper into what they are really telling us, as I share with my religion class, you find much deeper meaning.

For example, the second commandment that says to not take the name of the Lord God in vain, can be taken as to not use God’s name when we are upset, but I think there is a deeper meaning – that we should not blame God when things are not going our way and that we should not direct our anger at Him.  We should respect and revere the name of God,  just as we expect our name to be respected. 

The fifth commandment tells us that we should not kill.  The obvious meaning is that we should not physically kill another person, but there are other ways and means that we can kill.  We can kill a person’s spirit when we put them down or deny them their freedoms that they have a right to.  We can also kill through bigotry and hatred, and by not paying attention to our own health.  So we can kill through means of mental and emotional abuse as well as physical.

The seventh commandment tells us that we should not steal, which obviously tells us that we should not take someone else’s property against their will.  It also tells us, however, that we should work for justice in doing what we can to fight hunger and poverty and to help and respect those in our society who are most vulnerable.

The tenth commandment tells us that we should not covet our neighbor’s goods.  We take the obvious meaning as being that we should not be envious of what others have.  The deeper meaning though is that we should not be greedy, that we should practice restraint in a society that puts such a great emphasis on material goods.  As Christian stewards, we should use our posessions wisely and share what we have with those in need.

These are just a few examples of course.  The bottom line is that we should not think of the commandments as just a list of “do not’s”, or laws that deprive us of things, but as a guide to how God wishes us and the society around us to conduct ourselves.  Will we fail to live up to these commandments at times?  Of course.  I know I have.  We are human after all and we will make mistakes and misjudgements.  But if we and those around us would do our best to live by God’s wishes, social justice would be ours for the taking.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church does a wonderful job in explaining the deeper meaning of the commandments, and the “Fanning the Flame” program the Diocese is offering next year will also study the commandments in depth.

Well us Cardinal fans got a double dose of bad news the last couple of days.  Besides losing the first game, we also lost one of our best players to an appendectomy.  I have giving up on wishing for a pennant.  Just finish ahead of the Cubs.  I won’t be envious of the fans of other teams; just finish ahead of the Cubs … please!

Have a great week.  God willing, I’ll be back about this time next wee, (no foolin’).  Peace.

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