Crying out the name of Jesus Christ as a profanity when one is mad seems to be a popular expression; however, it is a problem if this is the only time we call upon our Lord. [Read more…]
“I, the Lord, am your God. You shall have no other gods before me.” – God
“Of course I don’t worship anyone other than God,” you might say. But is God really a priority in your life? During this season of Lent, we have a wonderful opportunity to grow closer to God. We can devote ourselves to prayer and service and sacrifice, and in so doing, make God ever more a priority in our lives. [Read more…]
Each and every Sunday over a billion Catholics worldwide are obliged to attend Sunday mass at a parish near them. Why? For starters it is a precept of the Catholic Church, one of the most basic things the Church requires of Catholics. Code of Canon Law # 1247 states:
“On Sundays and other holydays of obligation, the faithful are obliged to participate in the Mass. They are also to abstain from such work or business that would inhibit the worship to be given to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, or the due relaxation of the mind and body.”
The Fourth Commandment is “Honor your mother and father.” Why is it so important for us to honor our parents? How do we honor our parents? And how can we fulfill this commandment if our parents hurt us?
Why We Honor Our Parents
We honor our parents first and foremost because they gave us life. We owe our existence to them. This is something we all get from our parents, regardless of how good or bad they were as parents otherwise.
Of course, most of our parents do much more for us than give us life. Whether biological or adoptive, our parents fed us, clothed us, housed us, and raised us. Maybe they even gave us the foundation for our life of faith, which is a priceless gift. Being a parent is a very difficult task. From changing diapers to buying school supplies every year to dealing with the challenges of our teenage years, our parents made sacrifices for us. For this, we honor them.
We also honor our parents because they have legitimate authority over us. Especially when we are young, we should obey them. The Catholic Church teaches that this commandment can be extended to apply to others with legitimate authority over us. As we get older, our parents’ authority over us lessens. There are always others, however, to whom we owe obedience. So obeying teachers, following the law, and listening to our bosses are ways in which we live out this commandment in other relationships in our lives. (Of course, if our parents, teachers, the civil law, or bosses command us to do something immoral, our obligation to obey them does not apply.)
How We Honor Our Parents
When we were children, it seemed fairly simple to know how to follow this commandment, even if it was difficult to live it out. Obviously, honoring them meant obedience to their rules, even if we didn’t like them. It meant that we did the chores they assigned us. If they punished us by telling us we couldn’t watch television, it meant not watching television. At times it was frustrating to have to follow rules that we thought were arbitrary or unfair. Even so, it was usually pretty clear what the commandment meant we should do.
As we get older, however, it becomes more difficult to know how to follow this commandment. Obviously, a 30-year-old should not have the same relationship with her parents as a 3-year-old. In fact, it would be unhealthy for her parents to tell her what to do the way they did when she was growing up. When we are adults, we should be making decisions for ourselves. We might seek our parents’ advice, but it is ultimately our decision whether to accept a job offer, to whom we get married (or if we get married at all), and how to raise families of our own.
Because we have more freedom as adults, honoring our parents is going to look different from person to person. There are some ways we can honor our parents that work for the relationship we have with our parents, but might not work for another parent-child dynamic.
That said, what are some concrete ways we can honor our parents? Here are a few:
- First and foremost, we pray for our parents.
- We can listen to their advice, when it is appropriate, showing that we honor their opinions and perspective.
- Keeping in touch with our parents is another important way to honor them.
- We should care for our parents as they age. How we care for them obviously depends on our geographical distance from them, our financial ability to help with their care, and the time we have available. We should do what we can to help them and at the very least not abandon them in their old age.
- Finally, just as we pray for them in life, we should pray for the repose of their souls after they die.
When Your Parents Don’t Seem Very Honorable
Of course, not all of us are fortunate to have good parents who love us rightly. Sometimes parents have an unhealthy relationship with their children. Some parents even neglect and abuse their children. In these cases, is God demanding that we remain in dysfunctional or abusive relationships that cause us harm?
Of course not! We should still honor our parents, but God understands that honoring our parents means something different when our parents have not fulfilled their obligations to us. The appropriate and healthy way to relate to a kind, loving parent is very different from the appropriate and loving way to relate to an abusive parent.
When Paul is telling the Colossians how to live as Christian families, he teaches that both parents and children have obligations to each other:
Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged (Col 3:20-21).
Even if we have a good relationship with our parents, they may be unwise or foolish. If so, following their advice might make them feel better, but it won’t be good for us. We have no obligation to follow bad advice, even when it comes from our parents. There are other ways to honor unwise parents and show our love for them.
In more extreme cases, engaging in any sort of relationship with a parent might be unhealthy. Even as adults, we can be hurt by abusive parents. If calling them, visiting them, or inviting their input into our lives is genuinely harmful to us, God does not require us to do so. Perhaps a relationship can be re-established if both parent and child can grow to the point that their relationship does not cause harm, but if that is not possible, the child is not obligated to hold onto an unhealthy relationship, even one as important as the parent-child relationship. In this case, we can honor our parents by forgiving them (as hard as that may be) and praying for them.
Reflecting the Love of God
At their best, parents reflect the love of God in their own love for us. God frequently compares himself to a father, and sometimes to a mother, to show us just how much he loves us. Although we are obligated to honor our parents, this obligation is for our good. When parents fulfill their obligations to their children and children honor their parents, the relationship gives joy to both parents and children.
The Ten Commandments (also known as the Decalogue, from the Greek for “ten words” or “ten laws”) are some of the most basic rules that Christians follow. God loves his people, so he makes sure we have rules to live by, because these rules tell us how we flourish and function best. When we sin against the commandments, we not only disobey God but also do harm to ourselves and others, even if we don’t recognize it at the time.
A Numbered List of the Ten Commandments
- I, the Lord, am your God. You shall have no other gods before me.
- You shall not take the name of the Lord, your God, in vain.
- Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.
- Honor your father and your mother.
- You shall not kill.
- You shall not commit adultery.
- You shall not steal.
- You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
- You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
- You shall not covet anything that belongs to your neighbor.
Catholic and Protestant
This listing of the Ten Commandments is the one Catholics use, but most Protestants use a slightly different set of Commandments. Their list includes a commandment against making graven images (which Catholics see as part of what the First Commandment commands). Then, the last commandment is simply, “You shall not covet,” instead of having two separate commandments about coveting. The content is basically the same for all Christians, but the numbering is different.
Why do Catholics use a different listing from most Protestants? Well, if you look up the Ten Commandments in the Bible, you might notice that they aren’t numbered. The Ten Commandments are sometimes separated into different verses, where each verse is a Commandment. This can make it easy to think that the numbering of the Commandments is from the Bible, but the division of the Bible into verses came millennia after the Ten Commandments were first written down.
The practice of presenting the Decalogue as a numbered list developed much later in history, with the early Church Fathers. St. Augustine, the most influential Church Father in the Latin Church, listed the Decalogue based on the law presented in Deuteronomy 5. However, the Decalogue is also found in Exodus 20, and most Protestants go by the way they are presented there.
Did Catholics Change the List?
Some Protestants accuse Catholics of changing the listing of the Ten Commandments to avoid listing the commandment against making images. The order that Catholics use, however, is from a period of Church history long before Protestantism even existed. St. Augustine died in 430, and the Protestant Reformation did not begin until 1517.
Furthermore, Catholics understand that it is not wrong to have statues. The command against graven images is a command not to worship images, not a command not to make images at all. In fact, God commanded Moses to make statues to adorn the Ark of the Covenant, where God’s presence dwelled (Exodus 25:18-20). God even worked miracles through an image of a bronze serpent that Moses made at God’s command (Numbers 21:5-9).
The Hierarchy of Commandments
In addition to the Ten Commandments, there are many other commandments in the Old Testament. For example, there are many commands about how to perform sacrifices or celebrate certain Jewish feasts. Jesus summarized the purpose and meaning of these commandments. When someone asked him what commandment was the greatest, Jesus said: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22: 37-39).
Love of God
When we look at the Ten Commandments, they follow this same hierarchy. The first three Commandments deal with our love for God. We must love God above all things. Loving God above all things mean that we love and honor his name. It also means that on the day God tells us to rest, we rest, and we devote the day to special worship of God.
Love of Neighbor
The last seven Commandments tell us how to love our neighbor. We have a special duty to our parents, who gave us life. That is enough reason to honor them, because without them, we would not be alive to experience any of God’s blessings.
Just as our lives are a gift, we must respect that gift in others, and it is wrong for us to take the life of another person (self-defense is an exception to this rule).
We must treat sex with respect, because it has a meaning that involves procreation and unity. To commit adultery is to violate the meaning of sex, which is intended to unite spouses. We have a responsibility to honor our spouses, and to respect the marriages of others. The ninth Commandment shows that this respect is not only a matter of actions (i.e. not committing adultery), but also a matter of respecting others’ marriages in our hearts and minds.
When we steal from others, we are by definition depriving them of what belongs to them. This shows a lack of love for our neighbor. For every right we have, there is a responsibility. People have the right to keep the things that belong to them, but they have the responsibility to look after the poor rather than hoarding their possessions.
When we lie, we can greatly hurt our neighbors. When someone deserves the truth from us, we have a duty to tell it. Lying is especially bad when we lie about others, because we can ruin their reputations.
Finally, we are not to covet our neighbors’ goods. It is okay to see good things that others have and want to have those good things, too. The problem comes when we think that we deserve to have something just because someone else has it, or when we let our neighbors’ possessions make us resentful that we do not have those things, too. At worst, we might commit the sin of envy. This means that we go beyond wanting what other people have and even want them to lose the good things they have. If we envy, we aren’t just sad that we don’t have something good, but we are also sad that someone else does have something good.
The Purpose of the Commandments
The Commandments teach us the best way to love God and to love our neighbor. As human beings created out of relationship (the life of the Trinity) for relationship, we are happiest when we have good relationships with other human beings and with God. The Ten Commandments tell us basic ways to live to promote healthy relationships. Sometimes it might be hard to follow the commandments (both the Ten Commandments and the other laws of God), and in a fallen world following the commandments sometimes results in sharing Jesus’ cross. Even so, the Ten Commandments are a sign of God’s love for us, and one of the many ways he teaches us what is good for us.
“Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.” – God
The third and final Commandment pertaining specifically to loving God with our total mind, heart and soul is also a commandment designed for us. It gives us an opportunity to rest, relax, regroup and talk to God. [Read more…]
The Ten Commandments, sometimes referred to as the Decalogue, can be seen as a legislative body of rules. From the time when God issued them on Mount Sinai to Moses (Exodus 20:2-17) that is how some people practiced them. However, Jesus came to clarify how we fulfill those Commandments. [Read more…]