Each issue carries an
Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
Seven of Ten Commandments
Auschwitz was the place. In July 1941, a Nazi
officer at the concentration camp chose 10 men at random to
be starved to death as punishment for the escape of one inmate.
One of those chosen cried out for mercy, —Spare me! I have a
wife and two young children.—
Maximilian Kolbe, a Franciscan priest, offered
to take the husband—s place. His offer was accepted! Placed
in a basement cell, Kolbe lovingly cared for the other nine
prisoners. He was declared a saint in 1982.
St. Maximilian Kolbe understood the full challenge
of observing the commandment of Jesus, —Love one another— (John
15:17). The Ten Commandments offer wise guidance for us to learn
how to act as Christians and with courage.
In another Youth Update, I have offered
some explanation of the first three commandments, which teach
us how to love God. This Youth Update tackles the other
seven, which show us how to love our neighbor.
IV. Love Your Family
Honor your father and your mother.
(Deuteronomy 5:16) It—s no accident that the first of the
commandments concerning other people centers on the people in
our own family. We learn how to love everyone else by practicing
love at home.
The Fourth Commandment deals with real family
values, thousands of years before politicians used the phrase
to campaign for votes. —Family values— means the respect in
word and deed that sons and daughters should have toward older
people and the respect in word and deed that parents should
have toward their children—and toward their own parents as they
The Fourth Commandment speaks of honoring parents.
This commandment is really a roundup call for everyone in the
family to respect everyone else. Parents are responsible for
the spiritual and physical needs of their children. Children
are responsible to honor, love and obey their parents and contribute
positively to the life of the family.
This doesn—t make everyone boring or simply ordinary.
Differences are treasured as gifts from God. Maturing—and independence—are
part of God—s plan for human growth. —Honoring— doesn—t mean
always agreeing, but that respect and love are always present.
And frequent forgiveness is the healing oil that seals the family
bond and keeps us strong.
Healthy families, in turn, can make society healthy.
Public authority should respect the rights of the family. Healthy
families produce citizens who are honest, loving, just, merciful
and faithful, just what the world needs!
V. Revere the Sacredness of Life
You shall not kill. (Exodus
20:13) A U.S. News & World Report quotes Douglas
Lathrop as saying, —I was born with a disability. As a child,
I spent a lot of time in severe pain. Today, I use a wheelchair,
and lead an active and fulfilling life. To those who argue so
vehemently my —right— to end that life, I have one question:
Are you truly concerned about my human dignity, or does my existence
simply make you so uncomfortable that you would rather I disappear?
To me this —right to die— sounds more like society—s right to
Douglas Lathrop—s life is affected by the way
people understand and keep the Fifth Commandment. Our faith
tells us that human life is sacred because God created it. God
alone is in charge of life from its beginning to its end. No
one can claim the right to directly destroy a human being. Pope
John Paul II says that a —culture of death— has been adopted
in many societies today. He means that U.S. society (to name
one) has publicly disregarded God—s law in many ways. This is
a path to self-destruction, because this path is not God—s path.
Abortion is part of this culture of death. Abortion
is the direct and deliberate killing of an unborn baby. Deliberate
is an important word here, because many times women who have
an abortion—and men who encourage them or abandon both mother
and child—are led by fear, pressures and even force to make
such a decision.
Because the Fifth Commandment concerns the sacredness
and respect for all life, a Christian response to war, capital
punishment, suicide, stem-cell research and euthanasia must
be inspired by this commandment, which is about more than not
killing: It is a commandment to promote peaceful and healthy
Reverence for the sacredness of human life is
the best antidote to a culture of death. The motto, —Choose
life,— really embraces all the ways in which we are guided to
keep the Fifth Commandment.
If you believe that anger and fear are indeed
—bad— or —negative,— you might feel that you are bad or that
something is wrong with you each time you experience them. This
may tempt you to stuff them or get rid of them as soon as they
surface in your life rather than accept and befriend them.
You will also be prone to feeling guilty when
anger and fear get the best of you. When you —go off— in anger,
especially, you may try even harder to stuff or get rid of these
Around and around you go: Stuffed or rejected
anger or fear leads to mistakes in handling. Perhaps you blow
up at someone (anger) or refuse to take a healthy risk (fear).
Then you feel lousy about yourself. This causes you to deny
your feelings once again and the circle repeats itself.
Though anger and fear challenge you, trouble you
and often involve pain, they are neither negative nor bad in
and of themselves. They are simply part of your complex humanity
with a bad reputation, because of the circle I just described—one
of destructive handling.
If you can begin to view these two powerful emotions
as natural, normal and potentially good rather than as negative,
abnormal and always bad, you have a much better chance of managing
them, rather than allowing them to manage or dominate you. The
challenge for all of us—teens and adults—is to discover and
practice healthy coping skills, so that unchecked anger and
unchallenged fear do not lead us astray from the courageous—and
compassionate—way of life modeled for us by Jesus Christ.
VI & IX. Follow God—s Plan
You shall not commit adultery [be unfaithful]....You
shall not covet your neighbor—s wife. (Exodus 20:14
and 17) In the film Indecent Proposal, a rich bachelor
offers a married woman a million dollars if she will spend one
night and have sex with him. She persuades her husband the bargain
is worth it: —It—s only my body, not my mind or emotions.— With
her husband—s approval, she accepts the proposal. The rest of
the story shows how this unfaithfulness to their vows nearly
wrecks their marriage. It is a modern parable on the wisdom
behind the Sixth Commandment.
The bottom-line message of the Sixth and Ninth
Commandments concerns faithfulness to God—s awesome gift of
sexuality celebrated in marriage. The marriage covenant is a
mirror of God—s covenant with us. The divine commitment is faithful,
permanent and loving. The same should be true of marriage vows.
God is the author of sex and marriage. God created
humankind: man and woman. They are equal images of God who gives
them great dignity. Their physical and other personal differences
complement and complete the other.
God—s plan for marriage calls for a union of
permanent love between husband and wife, which creates a safe
and nurturing place for children.
At the heart of these commandments is not a negative
—Thou Shalt Not— but a positive, generous and life-giving way
to embrace the incredible gift of our sexuality flowing from
self-control and a love for others and self.
Would you agree that what our world needs now
more than ever are the fruits born from following these two
great commandments? Faithfulness, generosity, selflessness,
respect and personal chastity can transform our lives and our
world. Then what seems like a lot of —nots— becomes a yes to
loving as Jesus loves us.
VII & X. Be Just and Generous
You shall not steal....You shall not desire...anything
that belongs to him [your neighbor]. (Deuteronomy 5:19
and 21) Native American teens reviewing this issue had a humorous
but sincere reaction to the commandment against stealing: —You mean—like
everything from the Atlantic to the Pacific?—
Annie Oakley, adopted daughter of the Hunkpapa Chief
Sitting Bull, learned the attitude and behavior taught in the Seventh
and Tenth Commandments from the great chief. Oakley toured with
Sitting Bull in Buffalo Bill—s Wild West show and observed what
he did with his salary.
The Hunkpapa chief never hesitated to give away every
penny, most often to needy children (children of his white enemy)
who were begging for food in the cities where Buffalo Bill—s show
The Seventh Commandment forbids acts of stealing
and injustice. Similarly, the Tenth Commandment reminds us to cultivate
attitudes of generosity (like Sitting Bull—s), of giving the poor
first place in influencing our choices (sometimes called a —preferential
option for the poor—) and concern for all of creation.
The Creator, in making the world, willed that the
goods of the earth be used for the benefit of all. Because of this
it is wrong to steal. Those who steal should return the goods or,
if not possible, the value of what was taken.
In recent times this commandment has been applied
to issues of injustice. For over a hundred years the Church has
been developing teachings on social justice in response to evils
generated by the industrial revolution and, today, the technological
Since the days of Leo XIII, the popes have been issuing
encyclicals (letters addressed to the world) to guide us on matters
such as: a living wage, reasonable working hours, fair treatment
of workers and conditions that enable everyone to have a decent
Pope Leo XIII—s call for justice continues with our
more recent popes—John, Paul and both John Pauls. Pope Paul VI most
dramatically expressed this with his plea to the United Nations
in 1965. There he cried out, —If you want peace, work for justice!—
How do we attain this justice, which is at the heart
of these commandments? Maybe you have heard the parable of the puppies.
One day people whose town was near the river—s edge noticed that
puppies were floating downstream, first just a few and then many
more. Soon, there were hundreds of puppies in the river.
At first, the townspeople responded by rescuing and
caring for the puppies. But eventually, some citizens did more.
They traveled upstream to find who was doing this—and why. They
stopped the ugly business at its source!
This story illustrates the commandment—s challenge
both to remove the symptoms of injustice and to work to transform
VIII. Tell the Truth
You shall not bear dishonest witness against
your neighbor.(Deuteronomy 5:20) We proclaim the ideal of
telling the truth in every courtroom: —I swear to tell the truth,
the whole truth and nothing but the truth.— We speak of truth in
advertising and truth in our relationships. In Life—s Little
Instruction Book, H. Jackson Brown, Jr., wrote advice for his
son who was going off to college. He says, —In business and in family
relationships, remember that the most important thing is trust.—
Our personal lives and our society would be better
and happier if we lived the truth. In the movie Liar, Liar,
Fletcher Reede (Jim Carey) is a smooth-talking lawyer who is incapable
of telling the truth. His son Max makes a wish before blowing out
the candles at his fifth birthday party (which Dad has missed as
usual): —I wish, for one day, Dad couldn—t tell a lie.— And so it
happens. Although it is initially unnerving for Fletcher, he finds
that life is better when we tell the truth. He even comes to love
The Eighth Commandment summons us to live, witness
and respect the truth. We become truth-tellers by study, love and
by practicing. Like Fletcher Reede, we must learn to love telling
The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists
the following forms of lying: false witness, perjury, rash judgment,
calumny (rumors or charges meant to hurt another person—s reputation)
and flattery that encourages other people to bad behavior.
Lying hurts people, including the one who tells the
lie. When you read a lie in the newspaper, it causes you to mistrust
that paper, which will hurt the publishers because readers won—t
look to them for the truth. Some subscribers may even cancel!
Jesus not only told the truth; he said that he was
the truth. Follow his commitment to truth. Set for yourself the
goal of being a truth-filled person. This decision will create trust
in your relationships and a wholesome environment where you live.
Rules for Good Living
Morality requires love and law. The commandments
help us live in a moral and loving manner.
Continue to study and live the call of these commandments
that urge you to love your neighbor as you love yourself. It—s a
proven method for loving God as well as others.
This issue was previewed by Raymond Crow Eagle
(15), William Crow Eagle (17), Nathan Van Winkle (13) and Canteohitika
(13), whose name is rendered Brave Heart in English. Timothy J.
Cronin and Judy Crow Eagle gathered the group at Icimani Ya Waste
on the Rosebud Lakota Reservation in South Dakota.
Aren't the truths found in the commandments
also present in all religions where people respect one another
and the Creator?
The truths of the commandments considered
in this issue may also be found in other religions and are
known by people of good will. The first three commandments,
dealing with the love of God, however, are revealed by God
and are unique to Jews and Christians. Another distinctive
element of the Ten Commandments in Jewish and Christian tradition
is that they are seen as a loving response to a covenant of
friendship with God.
Why are there only Ten Commandments? Can
we add more?
There are, in fact, other commandments,
such as the ones Jesus taught about the love of God and the
love of neighbor as one's self. In addition, there are numerous
other rules and laws in the Bible, such as those found in
Leviticus, Deuteronomy and the Sermon on the Mount. Still,
the Ten Commandments are a useful summary of the moral demands
of our faith.
The commandments have many "nots" in them.
Why are they so negative?
While eight of the commandments are expressed
as "You shall not," they all encourage and support a positive
virtue as well as oppose certain sins. That's the meaning
of the box on this page. Laws generally prohibit acts that
harm people. But they also have a positive intention, which
is the protection of human dignity and proper freedom.