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Love People
Seven of Ten Commandments

by Rev. Alfred McBride, O.Praem.

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 age.

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 kill me.—

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 living.

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 troublesome feelings.

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
for Marriage and Sex
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 toured.

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 revolution.

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 life.

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 its causes.

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 it.

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 truth.

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.

Alfred McBride is a priest whose Order was founded by St. Norbert in Premonstre, France, in 1120. Father McBride has taught high school and is the author of The Ten Commandments: Covenant of Love, published by St. Anthony Messenger Press. Parts of this Youth Updateare adapted from that book.

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.


Q.

Aren't the truths found in the commandments also present in all religions where people respect one another and the Creator?

A.

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.

Q.

Why are there only Ten Commandments? Can we add more?

A.

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.

Q.

The commandments have many "nots" in them. Why are they so negative?

A.

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.


 

Expressing Love
Virtues and Vices
Every commandment is kept both by acting and by refusing to act.
Yes to Love
No to Love
  IV. Respect, obedience,        assistance, good citizenship
  Disrespect, disobedience, neglect
  V. Respect life—yours and others
  Murder, abortion, euthanasia,   suicide
  VI. Faithfulness to vows of marriage        or celibacy
  Extramarital sex, pornography, rape
  VII. Justice, love for the poor,         temperance (not caring         excessively about possessions)
  Stealing, fraud, disregard for animals  or earth
  VIII. Truth and serenity
  Lies, harming reputations, harsh   judgments
  IX. Purity, chastity in mind and heart
  Lust, immodesty, obscene jokes
  X. Generosity, detachment or       "hanging loose with stuff"

 

  Greed, envy
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