God’s Covenant Family
These words precede the most holy act of man on earth, reception of the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist in the New and Eternal Covenant.
A covenant is a sacred exchange of persons. In the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, a man literally gives himself, all that he is and all that he has, to his wife. She gives herself, all that she is and all that she has, to him. And the two become one flesh Gen 2:24. In the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, Christ gives each of us his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. We give him our body, blood, soul and humanity. He abides in us, and we in him Jn 6:56.
Christ for love of man came to earth, emptied himself of the open manifestation of his divinity to live a humble and exemplary life, died in excruciating pain on Calvary, and rose again to prove that He had truly redeemed us on the cross. Our heavenly Father eternally sees Christ on the cross, and us beneath receiving his Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, a gift so dazzling in its generosity that the early Christians called the sacrament of his body and blood, in Greek eucharistia, thanksgiving.
We give ourselves to Christ by preparing ourselves for heaven in every moment of our lives, that we might remain part of his covenant family forever.
Preparing for Heaven
God’s final public revelation before the end of time sent this message to his covenant family: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” Mt 22:37-40.
We can enter heaven only if we genuinely love God and want to be with him forever. If Jesus came to us as he did to Zacchaeus and asked to move in, would we happily give him our master bedroom and sleep on the guest bed? If he asked to stay for the rest of our earthly life, would we cheerfully say, “Lord, this house is yours. You are the host, I the guest. Please allow me to remain in your home always so I can sit and listen to whatever you teach me!” Or would we give him an indifferent hour each Sunday morning and spend the rest of the week with others. Paul taught, “Star differs from star in glory. So it is with the resurrection of the dead” 1 Cor 15:41-42. Souls who on earth find radiant joy in Christ’s presence will eternally find greater joy in heaven than those more moderate in their love. Jesus will take into his Father’s kingdom only souls happy to be with him forever, so that heaven can remain a place of perfect harmony between our heavenly Father and his covenant family.
We can enter heaven only if we genuinely love one another. In heaven the happiness of each person is as great as the happiness of all together because each delights as much in God’s gifts to others as in his own. Here on earth, God patiently teaches us to love one another by giving each of us a different gift. One is good at farming, another at cooking. If the farmer shares his crop with the cook, there will be plenty of food. If the cook invites the farmer to eat what he has cooked, the farmer will be healthy and grow more food for them both with much left over. A third is a physician, skilled at healing, and a fourth a mechanic, skilled at machines. If the physician protects the farmer’s health and the cook’s health he too will have plenty of food. If the mechanic repairs the farmer’s plow, the cook’s oven, and the doctor’s car, he will also have food and health. After the Fall, selfishness led men to barter and trade their gifts rather than giving freely. We trade to reliably obtain food, clothing and shelter. But once these basic needs are satisfied, God watches to see whether we freely share the gifts He gave us. Some of us say, “God’s gifts to others add to my joy.” Others say, “God’s gifts to others make mine seem less by comparison.” Paul also taught, “He who sows sparingly will also reap sparingly, and he who sows bountifully will reap bountifully” 2 Cor 9:6. Those who work diligently at loving all their brothers and sisters in God’s covenant family will eternally find greater joy in heaven than those who work at it more moderately. Our heavenly Father will take only those who truly love all their covenant family, so that heaven will remain a place of perfect harmony.
God’s covenant, or family relationship, was deeply rooted in our humanity during the Creation itself. In the beginning, “The earth was without form and void” Gen 1:2. Without form means the earth lacked structure. Void means it lacked population. God devoted three days to building the earth, separating heaven and earth, bringing forth dry land, and setting the greater and lesser lights in the sky. Then God devoted three days to populating the earth with fish and birds and beasts, and finally man. This is how a man provides a home for his family; first he builds a house, then he populates it.
Adam and Eve were created to live in earthly paradise forever as the first of God’s covenant family. But when they willingly ended their special friendship with God through disobedience, He expelled them from Eden saying, “You are dust, and to dust you shall return” Gen 3:19. Ever since, God has patiently worked to prepare his covenant family for redemption and salvation. He told Noah, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for God made man in his own image” Gen 9:6. God taught his covenant family not to be like Cain, the evil son of our first parents.
Centuries later, our patient Lord developed the covenant further with Abraham. “This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your descendants after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised…” Gen 17:10. From that day forward God’s chosen people were specially marked in a way that no one else could see, but that God would know about, foreshadowing the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, and Holy Orders, which invisibly mark our immortal soul. Abraham’s descendants would have not only animals and plants for food, but also Canaan, the land flowing with milk and honey.
Still more centuries later, our Lord saw that his people were prepared to receive the covenant in its full rigor. His Torah (Hebrew: Teachings) contained detailed instructions on how his people were to love him and love one another. The paramount command, the heart and soul of Torah, was: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” Deut 6:5-9.
The awesome power of this command is expressed in God’s words. “These words … shall be upon your heart” Deut 6:6. They are to be written into our very heart and soul, so that God is in us at every moment of our lives. “You shall teach them diligently to your children” Deut 6:7. We are to teach our children from a very early age that God loves them, and that they are to love him in return. “Talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” Deut 6:7. It is not enough to love God quietly in our heart and to teach this quiet love to our children; we are to proclaim God all day every day. “You shall bind them as a sign upon your hand” Deut 6:8. It is not enough to proclaim God in words, we must proclaim him in the work of our hands as well. “They shall be as frontlets between your eyes” Deut 6:8. We are to concentrate on God’s words to the exclusion of all else. “You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates” Deut 6:9. We should proclaim God’s glory even to passing strangers. God gave us an example of how we are to know, love and serve him by sending his Son to visit with us, to live a life focused constantly on his heavenly Father, to sacrifice his earthly life that God and man might be reconciled, and to nourish our souls with his own Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity.
Our loving Father told Moses, “Behold, I make a covenant. Before all your people I will do marvels, such as have not been wrought in all the earth or in any nation” Ex 34:10. But He added: “Observe what I command you this day” Ex 34:11.
Jesus fulfilled the old covenant on the cross with his New and Eternal Covenant, which calls us to love God and one another. The New and Eternal Covenant is the pure distilled essence of the old: “On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets” Mt 22:40. Jesus told us that the New and Eternal Covenant retains the moral law: “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished” Mt 5:17-18. Since heaven and earth will not pass away until the Second Coming Rev 21:1, we God’s covenant family can prepare for heaven by living Christ’s New and Eternal Covenant through his Father’s Ten Commandments. In all Torah, only the Ten Commandments were “written with the finger of God” Ex 31:18.
The Ten Commandments
Jews, Catholics, and Protestants count the commandments differently, but they’re all from the same Scripture texts Ex 20:2-17 and Deut 5:6-21. Jews and Protestants sometimes cover in one commandment what Catholics cover in another, but looking at all ten commandments together as an organic unity each is the same, God’s law for all men.
The first three commandments teach us how to love God with all our heart and soul and mind. Mt 22:37-38
The First Commandment
God, who led His people from slavery in Egypt to the promised land, calls us first and foremost to accept and worship him. We are to love him above all else. Jesus said, “You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve” Mt 4:10.
“God created man in his own image” Gen 1:27. We are creatures of immortal spirit, briefly within mortal bodies. Through baptism we invite God the Holy Spirit to come and make our body his temple that we might live with him. This we do in faith, hope and charity. In faith, we believe in him and bear witness to him. In hope, we maintain a confident expectation of divine blessing on earth and a beatific vision of God in the life to come as well as a healthy fear of offending his love and incurring punishment. In charity, we echo God’s divine charity toward us with our human charity toward his creatures.
We serve God only. We proclaim him our Creator and Savior, “Merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” Ex 34:6, king of all that ever was or is or ever will be. We serve him in prayer, in which we lift our minds toward God to express our adoration, our contrition, our thanksgiving, and our supplications. We unite ourselves with Christ to make our lives a sacrifice to our heavenly Father. We keep the promises we make in the Sacraments of Baptism, Confirmation, Penance and Matrimony. Deacons, priests, and bishops also keep the solemn promises they make in the Sacrament of Holy Orders. We serve him through our public and visible worship which includes regular attendance at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, and through evangelization in which we follow Christ’s command, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” Mt 28:19-20.
We have no other gods before him. There is only one God, a Blessed Trinity of three divine persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. All of his creatures are spiritual persons or human persons. Among spiritual persons the saints, who include angels in heaven as well as all who once lived on earth but were taken into heaven, call us at every moment to worship God alone. The souls in purgatory also worship only God. The only other spiritual persons are Satan and his demons, who seek to distract us. They tempt us to superstition which is deviate religious feeling and practice, to idolatry which is diverting the worship due God to another entity, to divination which is the use of horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, ouija boards, mediums and the like to gain illicit knowledge, to magic which is the effort to control occult powers, to irreligion which is tempting God to prove his almighty power and love, to sacrilege which is profaning what is consecrated to God, and to simony, the buying and selling of spiritual things. Satan and his demons also try to distract us through atheism, which replaces God’s true kingship with false human autonomy that refuses to acknowledge dependence on God and expresses itself as practical materialism that restricts its needs and aspirations to space and time.
Sometimes, Satan also distracts us through agnosticism, which holds that God’s existence is impossible to confirm or deny or acknowledges a transcendent being which does not reveal itself and about which nothing can be said. Atheism and agnosticism deny God’s objective existence and self-revelation.
God told the Israelites, “Since you saw no form on the day that the Lord spoke to you at Horeb out of the midst of the fire, beware lest you act corruptly by making a graven image for yourselves, in the form of any figure …” Deut 4:15. We saw no form at Horeb but we did at Calvary, so we are now free to venerate images of Christ, as well as images of Mary, the angels, and all the saints.
The first commandment prohibits worship of idols. We do not worship images; we use them as we use family pictures in our homes, to focus our attention on the persons they portray.
The Second Commandment
We hold God’s name in the highest awe. “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” Phil 2:10-11. Whether we refer to God, the Lord, Father, Jesus, Christ, Holy Spirit, Yeshua, or any other name by which the King of Kings is known, we treat that name with the highest respect.
Jesus went even further. “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ’You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make one hair white or black. Let what you say be simply ’Yes’ or ’No’; anything more than this comes from evil” Mt 5:33-37. Since God’s holy name may never be used for trivial purposes, Jesus told us in ordinary situations to tell the truth in every time and place, so that our reputation would suffice. When we must resort to oaths and promises made in God’s name, as in legal process, we tell the absolute truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
The second commandment forbids the abuse of God’s name, as well as the names of the Blessed Virgin Mary and all the saints, since they have the beatific vision of God and are his image and likeness. This extends also to Holy Mother Church and to sacred or blessed objects. In particular, we never utter any word of hatred, reproach, or defiance against God. We also never use God’s name in pledging ourselves to do evil.
The Third Commandment
“In six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and hallowed it” Ex 20:11. The sabbath day has been set apart and sanctified as an inherent part of the Creation.
God, of course, does not need rest. He rested on the seventh day as a sign for us. While Adam and Eve had the preternatural gifts of Eden, they had all the food they wanted at hand, and needed little else. But at the Fall, God decreed, “In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread” Gen 3:19. We have had to work for our food, clothing and shelter ever since. But, “God created man in his own image” Gen 1:27. We may work six days a week, but on the Lord’s day we affirm our nature as the image and likeness of God, our inherent human dignity, by turning from labor and focusing instead on God, the head of our covenant family.
So our patient Father in heaven told Moses, “Say to the people of Israel, ’You shall keep my sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you’” Ex 31:13. Jesus told us, “The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath” Mk 2:27. The sabbath then is God’s holy gift to us. Christ rose from the dead “on the first day of the week” Mt 28:1 and that evening shared a meal with his apostles Lk 24:42. One week later He again ate with the apostles, this time with Thomas present, Jn 20:26 establishing Sunday as the holy day to fulfill Jesus’ command, “Do this in remembrance of me” Lk 22:19. Sunday is not the sabbath. In the New and Eternal Covenant § 2175 Sunday fulfills the sabbath.
Sunday is Holy Mother Church’s foremost holy day of obligation. § 2177 Sunday Mass is a higher obligation even than Christmas Mass when Christmas occurs on a weekday. In this we follow Jewish tradition; Jews hold sabbath observance a higher obligation even than the Day of Atonement when that occurs on a weekday. Refusal to attend Mass on Sunday or any other holy day of obligation is a mortal sin. § 2181
Many Catholic parish churches celebrate “Vigil Mass.” Jewish custom begins each day at sundown, so that Saturday evening is the beginning of Sunday. We as fulfilled Jews Mt 5:17 satisfy a Mass obligation by attending at any time during the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day. After Mass, it is particularly blessed to spend Sunday with family together, in Christian piety, or in visiting the sick or elderly, but even if we spend it relaxing in the house or in some recreational activity, we should at all times be aware of God’s abiding presence and power.
We do all that we can to earn a living without Sunday work. However, if our employer is suddenly faced with an extraordinary workload and urgently needs his staff to work on a Sunday, we may do so to help him. If all we know is retail, restaurant, or some other trade in which employers generally require Sunday work, we may do it to survive. We may never work on Sunday merely to increase our income when we could get by without it.
We remain obligated to attend Sunday Mass. We ask our employer to adjust our schedule so we can go to Vigil Mass or early morning Mass. If it is absolutely impossible to attend Mass we ask our priest, deacon, or extraordinary minister to bring us Holy Communion at a time when we can receive it in a reverent manner. Catholics also keep their own use of commercial services on Sunday to the necessary minimum so that others may keep holy the Lord’s Day.
Love One Another
Torah also commanded, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” Lev 19:18 If we love God, we love also the image and likeness of God. Every human being is God’s image and likeness. Love of neighbor means that we wish the best for our brothers and sisters in God’s covenant family. We pray that each one’s earthly life is illuminated by Jesus Christ, and that each finds eternal salvation in our Father’s kingdom. The commandment does not require that we enjoy spending time in a particular person’s company, but we know that Jesus loves him with all his Sacred Heart and so we treat him as one our Savior loves.
The Fourth Commandment
A family is a man and woman united in marriage together with their children. Each member of the family – father, mother, and children of all ages from conception to natural death – is equally the image and likeness of God.
Each family is a “domestic church.” Christ is head of the whole family. The husband obeys Christ, who told us, “Whoever would be great among you must be your [diakonos] servant, and whoever would be first among you must be your [doulos] slave” Mt 20:27. This passage contains two words for “servant.” The first, diakonos, from which we get the Catholic word “deacon” § 1570, means a helper in the way that a deacon assists the bishop and priests in the celebration of the divine mysteries. The second, doulos, is a much more humble servant. “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay his head” Mt 8:20. The greater the influence we wish to have, the greater must be our humble submission to Rabbi Yeshua.
The Catholic husband is first in his family and always places their interests above his own. Eph 5:23 The wife’s patient submission to her husband models Mary’s patient submission to the Father. She raises her children to love God and neighbor. Children are responsible to obey their parents Eph 6:1.
Reflecting the domestic church, we honor our parents to honor God, the Father of our covenant family. As we are grateful to God for the life and gifts he has poured out to his human family, so we are grateful to our own parents for the life and the gifts they have given us. It does not matter that our parents do not acknowledge our human dignity, or that they disown us and tell us that we owe them nothing. We honor them because God calls us to honor them. No human being can authorize us to disobey God.
A child living at home with his parents should obey them in all that they ask when it is for the child’s good or the family’s good. However, a child convinced in conscience that a particular order is morally wrong honors his parents by doing instead what is morally right. When the child comes of age and becomes independent, earning his own income and living in his own place, he no longer has to obey his parents. However, his obligation to love and respect our heavenly Father remains the root of his obligation to love and respect his parents all his life.
Grown children honor their aging parents through material and moral support, especially in times of illness, loneliness or distress. We visit them when we can, and help them in whatever ways they need help, always respecting their personal dignity. In particular, we bring our aging parents closer to Rabbi Yeshua, as best we can. When they lie on their beds knowing death is hours or minutes away, they have nothing left with which to defend themselves. Many people spend their last moments on earth in a prideful, frenzied effort to retain control over their lives when they could save their immortal souls by peacefully and trustingly committing them to Jesus Christ. His final words on the cross were, “Father, into thy hands I commit my spirit!” Lk 23:46. This final faith comes from God’s grace but we develop it through constant practice, and we help our parents to reach it.
We give our dying parent a crucifix to hold, and we call a priest to hear his confession and give absolution, anoint him, and offer Viaticum (§ 1392) for final preparation to meet Christ. If the parent has regularly prayed in some way, we also ask the priest to administer the Apostolic Pardon, which gives final remission of all temporal punishment due to sin, preparing the departing soul for immediate entry into heaven without suffering the pains of purgatory. The priest says, “Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come. May he open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy.” After the pardon come the Lord’s prayer and Viaticum.
We benefit in three ways. First, we always benefit when we obey God. Second, parents in heaven can be wonderful intercessors. Third, we too will one day be old; our children learn from the example we set.
The Fifth Commandment
God teaches us that blood is a sacred sign of life. “The life of every creature is the blood of it; therefore I have said to the people of Israel, ’You shall not eat the blood of any creature, for the life of every creature is its blood’” Lev 17:14.
Already, God was preparing his covenant family for Christ, begotten not created, whose blood is eternal life.
We who are God’s image and likeness Gen 1:27 treat others with the love and mercy that we ourselves ask of God Mt 18:23-35. God has given each of us his gift of earthly life from conception to natural death, and only God can take it from us. Jesus held this command so important that He “built a fence” around it. “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, ’You shall not kill,’ and ’whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment” Mt 5:21. If we even allow ourselves to think about killing anyone, we have already killed in our heart.
From the moment of conception we are God’s image and likeness. God told Jeremiah, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you” Jer 1:5. Holy Mother Church has taught since the first century in the Didache, “You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish.” At the moment of conception a new person enters the world, with a unique genetic code unlike his mother’s. The little newcomer will retain that genetic code in every cell of his body until the last moment of his life. Words like zygote, embryo, and fetus all refer to a human child in his mother’s womb. We can never cooperate in any way with the deliberate killing of any human life, much less one so innocent and helpless that he lacks even the poignant power of a newborn infant’s cries.
We often hear about “saving the life of the mother.” Good physicians try with all of their art and skill to save both mother and baby. If a physician has done all that he can to save two patients and only one survives, he has kept the covenant. But deliberately killing a pre-born child automatically excommunicates both mother and physician, Canon 1398 no matter how the mother hopes to benefit by the child’s death.
We always protect life from fertilization to natural death. In self-defense, we use the least destructive means of taking from an attacker the capacity to inflict harm. § 2263 If possible, we hold him for the police without injuring him at all. However, a peaceful person may be no match for an attacker accustomed to violence. We may use deadly force when it appears necessary to save our own life or another’s. In that event, we pray for the attacker’s soul.
Since God gave man dominion over the animal kingdom, we his image and likeness treat even animals with the mercy that we ask of God, who has dominion over us. However, since animals are not God’s image and likeness, we may kill them mercifully and sparingly when we need them for food and other necessities.
The Sixth Commandment
God created us male and female in his image and likeness, therefore male and female are equal in dignity. Different in many ways, thanks be to God, but equal in dignity. “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh” Gen 2:24. Human sexuality has from the beginning been God’s plan for his ongoing creation. “Be fruitful and multiply” Gen 1:28.
Even before marriage we belong to Christ, who paid on the cross for our redemption. Our body, blood, soul and humanity are his. “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God? You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” 1 Cor 6:19-20.
The husband’s body and the wife’s body belong to Christ. In the covenant of marriage, with Christ’s blessing, a husband gives his body to his wife, and she gives hers to him. So the body of a married man belongs first to Christ and second to his wife. The body of a married woman belongs first to Christ and second to her husband. Once we have given our body as a gift, it is not ours to give again.
Sex within marriage is both procreative and unitive. It is the way a man and woman conceive children, and a unique gift that husband and wife give one another to bring them closer together. Once we separate the procreative and unitive aspects of sexuality, and accept sexual pleasure as a good for its own sake, we descend into moral chaos. What moral objection can we then make when a person has sex with his own children and says he is merely teaching them to enjoy pleasure? Moreover, the habit of using others for one’s own pleasure cannot long be confined to sex. Regarding another person as an instrument of our own pleasure soon leads us to take what we want from others, by guile or by force. Worldwide, rising sexual activity outside marriage has been matched by rising violent crime.
The Seventh Commandment
God originally entrusted the earth and its resources to the common stewardship of mankind. § 2402 After the Fall, when sin entered the world and men displayed a propensity to seize more than their just share, our fathers divided the earth and its fruits among themselves to protect against poverty and violence.
We do not own the goods that God has entrusted to our care. God, who owns them all, grants us stewardship over particular goods. We use his goods for love of God and one another. For love of God, we contribute generously to Holy Mother Church, to make God’s glory more visible on earth. For love of neighbor, we use God’s goods to benefit others, especially our own family.
Jesus’ parable of the talents tells us to go far beyond merely preserving what God has given to us Mt 25:14-30. We invest what is entrusted to our care and make it grow and bear fruit. If we are born with a natural ability to sing, we take lessons and develop our voice to sing God’s glory everywhere. If we have a natural ability to teach, we learn all that we can from Holy Mother Church to teach God’s glory to children and adults at every opportunity. If we are given an exceptional skill in business, we for love of neighbor treat our employees with the dignity due God’s image and likeness and produce wholesome goods or services.
Work done by the image and likeness of God continues the work of creation. Work therefore is a duty. St. Paul wrote, “If anyone will not work, let him not eat” 2 Thes 3:10. Stewardship transfers justly through work, gift, or inheritance through the enterprises of individuals, businesses, and governments. We may never take or keep what has been justly apportioned to our neighbors on earth.
The Eighth Commandment
God is truth and wills truth. We who are his image and likeness are also called to truth.
Jesus told Pilate, “For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth” Jn 18:37. Truth exists. The Incarnation happened. Jesus teaches us what is absolutely good. Actions that support love of God are good. Attending Mass is good because it leads us to Jesus. Asking our Lord’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Penance is good because it returns us to the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence. Actions that support love of neighbor are good. Charity is good because it improves our neighbor’s spiritual or physical life on earth.
Other actions are absolutely evil. Jesus said, “I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly” Jn 10:10. Whatever is hostile to life, such as abortion, euthanasia, genocide, homicide or suicide is absolutely evil. Whatever violates the physical integrity of the human person, such as mutilation or torture, is absolutely evil. Whatever offends human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, slavery, prostitution and trafficking in women and children, is absolutely evil. Degrading conditions of work which treat laborers as instruments of profit rather than as free and responsible men are absolutely evil. Pride, lust, envy, anger, laziness, greed, and gluttony are absolutely evil.
We witness to the Gospel by how we live our lives. A life filled with abundant love for God and neighbor is a true witness. “By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another” Jn 13:35. We witness to Christ by living not as our fallen impulses suggest but as Christ taught us to live, showing the world that Christ is more important than our own life. Martyrdom is the supreme witness to Christ as “…the way, and the truth, and the life” Jn 14:6 because it proclaims even more boldly that we hold Christ more important than our own life. St. Maximilian Kolbe gave a stirring example by volunteering to be killed at Auschwitz in place of Polish army sergeant Franciszek Gajowniczek. Everyone who knew what that Catholic priest did saw in him a reflection of Jesus, who freely gave his own life on the cross for us.
By contrast, a life lived for worldly goods and the applause of men violates the eighth commandment because it advertises Satan’s false promises.
Truth is an integral part of the free will that God gives us to decide whether we will spend eternity with him. To illustrate, let us imagine that we plan to buy a car and that a Toyota and a Chrysler would both fit our needs. We want a car built by Americans so we buy the Chrysler. We did not know that the Toyota was made in the United States and the Chrysler was made in Canada. Because we did not know the truth, we were not free; we did the opposite of what we intended. Jesus offers us eternity in paradise. Satan offers us eternity in torment. But Satan has confused so many people that some do the opposite of what they intend.
Lying is the most direct offense against truth. Jesus told us that lying is the work of Satan, “You are of your father the devil, … there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature” Jn 8:44. There are many kinds of lies. False witness and perjury contribute to condemnation of the innocent, exoneration of the guilty, or unjustly increased punishment for the accused, and gravely compromise justice. Lack of respect for the reputation of persons can lead to rash judgment which assumes without foundation the moral fault of a neighbor, and to calumny which by remarks contrary to truth gives occasion to false assessment of persons. Every offense against justice and truth entails the duty of reparation, even if its author has been forgiven.
A small truth wrapped in a larger lie violates the eighth commandment. Detraction, by disclosing another’s faults to persons who did not know them without objectively valid reason, offends against the love of neighbor that we are to teach through exemplary life.
In a special few cases, we may say things that are not literally true but that do not offend against love of neighbor. Most small children, told that Santa Claus comes down the chimney, see that they themselves couldn’t make it through, let alone a rotund old man with a clean red suit, a white beard, and a bag of brightly wrapped gifts. But they enjoy the myth and the presents, so they go along. Even the very small child who believes completely is not harmed by the myth. Writers of mystery novels weave complex plots of fictional events, and their audiences willingly suspend disbelief for the pleasure of a good yarn. Many a man tells his wife an obvious hyperbole, “You’re the most beautiful woman in the world;” she knows it means, “I love you.”
The Ninth Commandment
Christ told us from the mountain, “You have heard that it was said, ’You 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” Mt 5:27-28. We are not even to imagine sex with someone other than our own spouse.
Jesus’ sixth beatitude proclaims, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” Mt 5:8. Seeing God means heaven! “Beloved, we are God’s children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is” 1 Jn 3:2.
The pure in heart are those who have focused intellect and will on God’s holiness, especially in charity, chastity, and orthodoxy. Charity gives joyfully to others, chastity reserves sexual thoughts and acts to their proper place in marriage, while orthodoxy proclaims the teachings of Holy Mother Church.
We pray, “Lead us not into temptation” Mt 6:13. Purity requires modesty, which protects the intimate center of the person, refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. Modesty protects the love and mystery of persons, and encourages patience and moderation. We look at others in a way that protects their inherent dignity as the image and likeness of God.
Adam and Eve lost their preternatural gifts, through which their entire lives were in harmony with God. Our fallen parents became concupiscent; they had intense desires contrary to reason. Propensity to sin came into the world, and with it a constant struggle between God’s teachings that help us and our own desires for what will hurt us. St. Paul wrote, “Walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would” Gal 5:16-17. St. Paul told us the works of the flesh: “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like” Gal 5:19-21.
The ninth commandment does not make hermits of men. A man may watch a beautiful woman in joyful appreciation of God’s bountiful gifts to us all. However, when he begins to experience sexual arousal or a desire for sexual relations, he must stop and move on to other things.
The Tenth Commandment
The tenth commandment teaches us not to focus on earthly possessions. Jesus told us, “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there will be your heart also” Mt 6:19-21. When the rich young man asked Jesus what he must do to have eternal life, Jesus told him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me” Mt 19:21. We can root our lives in Christ, or in the things of this world. We cannot do both. St. John told us, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world” 1 Jn 2:15-16.
Jesus reassured us that we do not need these things. “Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” Mt 6:25-26. Our Lord continued, “Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well” Mt 6:32-33.
We seek to be humble, but it is a struggle. Children, seeing the material goods their friends have and the material goods advertised on television, often want the same for themselves. Sending several children to college can be very expensive. Earning a decent income enables us to help our children get started in life, make charitable contributions, and sometimes employ workers and thereby enhance their dignity. In moderation the desires of our sensitive appetite, such as to eat when we are hungry or warm ourselves when we are cold, give us a good incentive to do honest work. However, the tenth commandment strictly prohibits disordered or excess desire for what belongs to another.
After all the vessels have been cleaned, the Concluding Rite completes the Mass by extending the covenant to our entire life. We are dismissed, often with the words, “Go forth, the Mass is ended.” In Latin it is, Ite, missa est. The Latin missa gives us “Mass,” “dismiss,” and “messiah.” The risen Christ told his apostles, “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you” Jn 20:21. We the faithful of God’s covenant family are Christ’s messiahs to the world. “He who receives you receives me, and he who receives me receives him who sent me” Mt 10:40. The priest, in persona Christi capitis, sends us out to the world to complete the sacred exchange of persons, to make ourselves ready for heaven in every moment of our lives.