The Ten Commandments and Christian Sanctity
by Fr. John A. Hardon, S.J.
- This must be the most unusual title for a retreat you have ever made:The Ten Commandments and Christian Sanctity.
- What is strange about the title is the combination of Ten Commandments and Christian Sanctity.
- The Ten Commandments or Decalogue were given to Moses in the Old Testament. Whereas Christian sanctity, by definition, is the holiness which Christ offered to His followers in the New Testament.
- Moreover, the Ten Commandments are the absolute minimum that God expects of human beings as a condition for reaching their eternal destiny. Whereas Christian sanctity, if we may coin a phrase, represents the maximum that human beings, with the help of Gods grace, can give in their loving dedication to God and their total self-surrender to His divine will.
- Superficially, therefore, there seems to be no plausible connection between the Ten Commandments and Christian sanctity.
- However, as we shall see during the meditations of the retreat, the Decalogue and holiness are very closely related. In fact, Christian sanctity cannot really be understood except in relation to the Ten Commandments.
- Our plan for the opening meditation is to briefly explain the following areas of an ocean of revealed truth.
- The Ten Commandments are an integral part of the New Testament.
- Christ lived the Ten Commandments in the highest possible degree.
- Sanctity means the following of Christ, which therefore means living out the Ten Commandments as perfectly as we can, after the example and teaching of Jesus Christ.
Ten Commandments an Integral Part of the New Testament
- There is a tendency in some cultures to practically identify the Ten Commandments with the Old Testament.
- This is partly due to the fact that in the twenty centuries since Christ, many Christians have abandoned some of the hard teachings of the Savior, notably on chastity and charity.
- But we have to remind ourselves that Jesus
- Did not abolish the Ten Commandments
- He retained the Decalogue
- In fact, He elevated the Ten Commandments to the previoulsy unknown heights, as is clear in the long Sermon on the Mount of St. Matthew. Matthew wrote his Gospel for the converts from Judaism. He wished to make it clear that all the essentials of the Old Testament remained intact in the New Testament - and with emphasis, the Ten Commandements.
- When Jesus was asked by the rich young man what he must do to be saved, the Savior told him, Keep the Commandments. Then to make it still more clear, Christ identified several of the precepts of the Decalogue.
- Certainly the Savior elevated the Old Testament Decalogue.
- He stressed the need of not only obeying the commandments externally, but living them internally in ones mind and heart.
- He restored the original intent of the Decalogue, by returning to its obligations as they were binding on the human race before the fall. This is especially seen in Christs restoration of monogamy to the state of marriage.
- He raised the capacity of the human nature to do the will of God by His promise of extraordinary graces to those who believe in His name.
Christ Lived the Decalogue
- When God became men, He assumed a human nature with a human free will.
- He was like us in all things except sin.
- He bound Himself, which He did not have to, to live a truly human life in order to teach us how we should live as His followers.
- We do not usually talk this way, but we should, Jesus literally lived the Ten Commandments.
- He showed us how God-become-man lives in obedience to the laws which God Himself laid on His own creatures.
- He practiced all the virtues prescribed by the Decalogue, notably the two fundamental virtues of loving God and our neighbor.
- He practiced these virtues
- To perfection
- With a free will
- Against the most oppressive odds, not from within Himself since He did not have a fallen nature; but against demonic forces which instigated His enemies to treachery, envy, hatred, and such violence as finally nailed Him to the Cross on Calvary.
Sanctity Means the Following of Christ
- Sanctity has many meanings:
- Sanctity is holiness in living in God-likeness.
- Sanctity is Christ-likeness, in living a life that is modeled on and inspired by the life of Jesus Christ.
- No doubt, in the last analysis our sanctity depends on the grace of God.
- He must give us what we casually call sanctifying grace, which means holifying grace.
- But on our side we must do our part.
- This part, to which we are bound, is to study the life that Christ lived during His visible stay on earth.
- It means we reflect, meditate if you will, on how Christ practiced
- Humility, although He was the Son of God.
- Patience, under superhuman opposition and malicious persecution.
- Chastity, as a sublime expression of His love of the Father, in living a virginal life that not even His worst enemies ever dare to question
- Obedience, by His submission to His own creatures even though they were such holy persons as Mary and Joseph.
- Charity in His selfless love of those who not only did not love Him but maligned Him, unjustly condemned Him, and even on Calvary mocked what they considered His blasphemous claims to the Messianic dignity.
- We return to where we began by associating Christian sanctity with the Ten Commandments.
- When Christ told us, If you love me, keep my commandments, He was saying more than we may think.
- The Ten Commandments are the commandments of Jesus Christ, who is our God.
- The Ten Commandments are Christs commandments, which He lived out during His mortal stay on earth.
- All we have to do, but it is everything, is to follow in the footsteps of Jesus in living the Ten Commandments as He did, and our destiny is assured: indeed our peace and joy already on earth are guaranteed. Why? Because we are following the Prince of Peace and the source of our joy. Amen.
Why Concentrate on the Decalogue?
- In our last meditation, we saw something of the relationship between sanctity and keeping the Ten Commandments.
- In the present meditation, we are asking ourselves why concentrate on the Decalogue? Why not focus on some other aspect of our faith?
- There are especially six reasons:
- The Decalogue, as elevated by Christ, is a synthesis of all our duties in the pursuit of sanctity.
- The Decalogue spells out our priorities in the pursuit of sanctity.
- The Decalogue provides us with the purpose of growing in sanctity.
- The Decalogue is so widely ignored in the modern world that we have the obligation to witness to the observance of the Ten Commandments.
- The Decalogue is so widely ignored in the modern world that we have the obligation to expiate the crimes committed against theses Ten Commandments.
- The Decalogue is so widely ignored in the modern world that we have the privilege of becoming to others the channels of grace which a sin-laden world so desperately needs to return to the God from whom it has so tragically strayed.
Decalogue as Synthesis
- The Ten Commandments were directly revealed by God.
- We would expect God to be complete in spelling out the responsibilities of human beings.
- They were given to the Chosen people in the Old Testament: they are given to the Chosen people of the New Testament.
- There is a divine wisdom in the Ten Commandments, which reflects the wisdom of God their remedy, on Mt. Sinai, and of God their Incarnate remedy in the Sermon on the Mount.
Priorities in the Pursuit of Sanctity
- The first three commandments express our duties towards God. The last
seven our duties towards others.
- These two sets of duties may be expressed in the two words: religion
- Our duties toward God our religion
- Our duties towards others our morality.
- These two sets of duties are interdependent.
- We must first and primarily fulfill our duties towards God.
- If we do, and as faithfully as we do, we shall fulfill our duties towards others.
- Goodness is first goodness God: and only then, and conditionally, goodness to others.
Decalogue - Purpose
- Sanctity should never be isolated from the apostolate.
- The apostolate is the duty we have to bring others to heaven.
- The Decalogue describes the means necessary to do apostolic work.
- God will use us as His agents in saving souls
- If an in so are, as we are living up to our basic obligation of being faithful to the Ten Commandments elevated by Christ in the Sermon on the Mount.
- Only holy people sanctify others
- Only God-fearing people bring others to submission to God.
- Only God-loving people bring others to the love of God.
- Sanctity is not an end to itself. It is the divinely ordained means
for saving and sanctifying others.
Decalogue as Witness
- Widespread disregard of the Commandments of God.
- God is ignored.
God is rejected.
God is disobeyed.
- Human rights are denied:
- The basic right to human life.
- The basic right to livelihood.
- The basic right to worship God.
- The basic right to chastity.
- The basic right to marriage.
- The basic right to a family.
- We have the privilege to witness to others that God has rights, and human beings have rights, by our own - heroic if need be - witness to what is so broadly denied.
- Whoever speaks of expiating these days?
- Every one of the precepts of the Decalogue needs to be expiated in our
day, as never before in human history.
- Expiation is reparation.
Expiation is atonement.
- We have the privilege of expiating for the sins of others
- Our adoration of God for the rampant idolatry
- Our life of prayer for the prayerlessness
- Our obedience for the massive disobedience
- Our dedicated chastity for the cosmic lust
- Our generosity for the selfish greed.
- Our love of truth for the global deceit and treachery.
Channels of Grace
- God uses people to bring grace to others
- The world desperately needs an outpouring of grace.
- Where sin has abounded, there grace will even more abound.
- But we are to provide for this communication of grace to others
I. Commandment: Adoration
- As we begin our reflections on the Decalogue, we should first point out that that the Decalogue embraces - in essence - all the religious and moral responsibilities of the human race.
- Remember our focus is on the Ten Commandments and Sanctity
- Consequently we shall necessarily have to be selective, not so much in what we meditate on during this retreat, but on how much we shall devote to the areas we shall consider.
- Hopefully, nothing essential will be either omitted or transmitted, but there are certain duties of our lives as believing Christians aspiring after holiness that are paramount.
- In treating of each commandment of the Decalogue: we will focus on those aspects of the Ten Commandments which are specially important in the pursuit of sanctity.
- Thus, in beginning with the first commandment, we shall concentrate on three duties which this first precept prescribes on the human race, and with particular urgency on us Catholic Christians.
- They are
- Our present meditation is on adoration. And our plan is to ask ourselves the following three questions.
- What is adoration?
- Why must we adore God?
- How are we to adore God?
What is Adoration?
- Adoration is the recognition with our minds of who God is, and the response with our wills to this recognition.
- Adoration is therefore first that our minds recognize who God is.
- Recognition is more than mere knowledge. Recognition is realization
- Because I recognize who God is, He is real to me.
- He is no mere construct of my imagination.
- He is a Reality. Indeed, He is the first and primary and necessary Reality.
- I realize not only that God is, but Who He is. I not only know about God; I know God.
- And who is God?
- God is necessary Being.
- God is infinite.
- God is all wise, all good, all powerful
- God is the Creator of all things, that except for Him would not even exist.
- But so far, we have seen only the basis of adoration: the recognition of who God is.
- Adoration is also the response of our wills to what our minds tell us is true.
- It is on this level that adoration is the most fundamental duty we have in life.
- What is this duty? It is the duty to respond to what we believe. In fact, we can say this is the main reason we have a free will. What is that? We are to voluntarily so direct our lives that everything we think, choose or do is to be an expression of our adoration of God.
Why Must We Adore God?
- There are two fundamental reasons why we must adore God. We
must adore Him because:
- Because He is the origin of our being, from whom we came.
- Because He is the purpose of our being, for whom we exist.
- As the origin of our existence, we owe God the adoration of total submission
to His will.
- He is Lord
we are His servants
- He is Master
we are to obey.
- This was the stress of adoration in the Old Testament.
- As the purpose of our existence, He is our destiny. We therefore owe
Him our love.
- He made us for Himself; to possess Him, to enjoy Him; to be happy
with Him for all eternity.
- Our response should be the growing desire to reach the God of our existence;
to return to the God from whom we came.
How Are We to Adore God?
- We are to adore God, basically, in the ways in which He is adorable.
- As our Creator and Lord, we are to adore Him by our humility.
- It is not only that we come from God
- We are constantly and totally and utterly dependent on Him for
everything we are, everything we do, everything we hope to be and everything
we hope to achieve.
- The logic of this adoration is inexorable
- We are doing Gods will in the measure that we submit our wills to Him.
- And in the measure of His continual goodness to us depends on our submissive
obedience to His will.
- As our destiny we are to adore God by our selfless love.
- This is different than the adoration of humility. This is the
adoration of charity.
- By our humility we surrender everything created to the almighty
will of God.
- By our charity, we aspire to our union with God.
- That is why the Incarnation is such a great gift to humanity.
- Where the Old Testament precept prescribes that we are to love
God with our whole heart, and strength and soul, we now believe the God became
- Therefore everything that we are to do in loving God, we must apply
to Jesus Christ our Lord.
- Thus we can, and must, say that the New Testament commandment tells
us You shall love Jesus Christ, your God, with your whole heart, and soul,
and strengthand Christ adorewith your whole mind.
- The saints understood what adoration means:
- It is the humble surrender of everything in my life to Jesus Christ,
to be governed by His divine will.
- It is the loving surrender of myself to Jesus Christ, saying with the
saints: Give me only your love and your grace. Having but these I am rich
enough and want nothing more.
I. Commandment: Prayer
- From the dawn of the Churchs history, the obligation to pray was identified
with the First Commandment of the Decalogue.
- This was only to be expected, since the First Commandment was especially
leveled against the practice of idolatryor worship of a creature instead of
the one true God.
- In practice, idolatry meant (as it still means) invoking someone of
something with divine honours, whereas only the one true God should be prayed
- Our focus in this meditation is on prayer as a duty which flows logically
from the primary duty we have to adore God.
- In this sense, we may say that all prayer is, at root, an act of adoration.
- Adoration, we have see, is the recognition with our minds of who God
is, and the response of our wills to this recognition.
- In these terms
- Prayer is the conscious act of adoration
- Prayer is expressed adoration
- Prayer is the communication of our minds and wills with God, whom we adore.
- Prayer is conversation with our adorable God.
- Prayer is the voluntary response to the awareness of Gods adorable Presence.
- In this meditation, we plan to again ask ourselves three questions,
and provide a short but clear answer.
- What are the principal forms of prayer?
- Why must we pray?
- How can we improve our practice of prayer?
Main Forms of Prayer
- The Churchs tradition distinguishes five principal forms of prayer, namely
- Adoration -of submission
- of affection
- Petition and
- Behind this classification is the unspoken assumption that, while all
prayer is essentially adoration, yet we can address them in five different ways,
depending on the five different ways we can, and should, approach our God.
- Thus we can approach God
- As our Creator and Lord, and then our prayer is submissive adoration
of the divine majesty, or the adoration of humble acceptance of the divine will.
- As our final destiny, and then our prayer is loving adoration, or the
adoration of love.
- As our generous benefactor, from whom we have received, and continue
receiving everything we are and possess. Then our prayer is grateful thanksgiving.
- Which means thanks thinking
- Which means thanks saying
- Which means thanks giving
- Which means thanks giving up.
- As our almighty hope, from whom we expect to receive, provided we ask
Him with an open heart. And then our prayer is the prayer of petition for what
we need in the future.
- God wants us to beg for His mercy. He makes this a condition for showing
His mercy, and this in two ways:
- That in our hearts we acknowledge our offending Him and tell Him we
- That in our actions, we practice mercy towards those who offend us.
How Can We Improve Our Practice of Prayer?
- Centuries of Christian wisdom have written a library on the practice
- For our purpose, I will mention only three recommendations, expressed
in three words:
- Just a word about each of these three words:
To grow in our life of prayer, we should cultivate the art of interior humility.
- Accept the humiliations that enter your life
- Avoid even a moments self-gratification in self-complacent thoughts
- Be open with God
- Be honest with God
- Keep no secrets from God
- Open your heart frankly to God
God is always aware of us; but we are not always aware of Him. God is in all
things; see Him in everything
- In the pleasant
- In the painful
- In the unexpected
- In the least experience of your life.
- Develop the habit of being aware of God. There is no better way than before the Blessed Sacrament
Lord Jesus, I know that prayer is the supernatural air I must
breathe to even remain alive in your grace.
But I also know that I still grow in your grace here on earth,
and become holy in your eyes according to my life of prayer.
I beg you, therefore, to teach me how to pray. Open the eyes
of my soul to see you in all the events of my life as a prelude to that everlasting
prayer in heaven for which I was made.
I. Commandment: Sacrifice
- Our final meditation on the First commandment is on sacrifice.
- This is the highest form of obedience to the first precept of the Decalogue.
It is also the most perfect form of worship of the one true God.
- Given the magnitude of the subject, we shall dispense with a long introduction
and get right into our subject.
- Our reflection will cover the following areas; each in the form of a
- What is sacrifice?
- What were the Jewish sacrifices of the Old Law?
- What is the principal sacrifice of the New Testament?
- What are the principal motives for our sacrifices?
- How are sacrifices the most perfect practice of our Catholic faith?
What is Sacrifice?
- In the broadest possible terms, sacrifice is the voluntary surrender
of something precious, which we deeply value, to give honour to God as our supreme
- Every part of the definition is important
- It must be voluntary; therefore free; therefore not coerced;
therefore willingly done; therefore coming from inside our own freedom.
- Sacrifice is voluntary surrender, which means that I give up,
I let go of; I dont continue holding on to.
- Sacrifice is the surrender of something precious to me; something
that I treasure; something that I naturally want to hold on to. Sacrifice is
giving up what I personally value.
- The more precious what I surrender, the greater the sacrifice.
- That which is precious may be something outside of me, like money
or property, or a person I like, or land or rights of ownership.
- Or that which I surrender may be deeply within me, like my personal
preference, or my way of thinking, or my desires, or - at its peak - my free will,
provided I surrender what is pleasing to God.
- Sacrifice is at root, a surrender made
- To God
- For His honour and glory.
- There is more than passing value in saying something of the nature of
the Old Testament sacrifices of the Jews.
- These sacrifices began with Abraham.
- But they differed radically from the pagan sacrifices in that the Jews
offered sacrifices to Yahweh, the one true God, and not as the pagans to a bevy
- The peak sacrifice of Abraham was his readiness to sacrifice his son
Isaac, when God told him to do so.
- Among the Jews, there were bloody sacrifices of animals; and unbloody
sacrifices of grain, food and wine.
- After their deliverance from Egypt, the highest sacrifice of the Jews
was of the Paschal lamb at the Passover.
- The Temple of Jerusalem was the principal place where the Jews offered
their sacrifices. After the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 A.D.,
the temple was never restored. To this day, the post-Christian Jews have synagogues,
but no longer the temple of sacrifice in Jerusalem.
Principal Sacrifice of the New Testament
- The principal sacrifice of the New Testament was the sacrifice of Christ
- At the Last Supper, Christ began this sacrifice, which was completed
on Good Friday.
- In Christs sacrifice, He offered His own Body and Blood by death, for
the salvation of the human race.
- But at the Last Supper, Christ instituted the Catholic priesthood precisely
for the purpose of perpetuating the Sacrifice of Calvary.
- It is this Sacrifice of Calvary, re-enacted in the Sacrifice
of the Mass, which is
- The acme
- The pinnacle
- The consummation of all the sacrifices of all times, since the
foundation of the world.
- Our part in the Eucharistic Sacrifice is crucial.
- Christ continues to sacrifice Himself in the Mass.
- He has a human nature; a human will; He does surrender Himself
to the Father in every Masssignified by the double consecration.
- But Christ wants, requiresthat we join our sacrifices with His,
in and through the Mass.
- Thus on Calvary, Christ was the only priest and victim; but in
the Mass, it is also we who both actively sacrifice, and passively are sacrificed.
- The motives for offering sacrifices to God correspond to the five ways
in which we can pray to God.
- Thus our sacrifices are really forms of prayer; indeed the highest form
of prayer. Let us see what this means.
- The highest form of worship of God which we can offer Him is prayer.
- The highest form of prayer is sacrifice.
- Why canand do weoffer sacrifice to God? We do so
- As our humble adoration of God, the Lord of heaven and earth. Here
the motive is acknowledgement of the Divine Majesty.
- As our loving adoration of God or adoring love of God, whom we wish
to please because He is all good. This means for us Christians, we sacrifice
ourselves out of love for Jesus Christ, in union with Him the Heavenly Father.
- As our gratitude to God, for His countless benefits to us, and to the
whole human race.
- As our petition for His blessing; that He might answer our prayers,
because we unite our prayers with the surrender of what we cherish
- To manifest our sincerity
- To emphasize our sincerity
- To show how ready we are to give up our most precious possessions
in order to move the divine bounty.
- As our plea for Gods mercy. We have sinned. In doing so, we
- Indulged our self-will. So our sacrifice must be the surrender
of our wills by surrendering what we like in reparation for indulging our wills
- Enjoyed creatures to which we had no right. So we surrender
what we like to expiate our sinful enjoyment of creatures which were forbidden
us by God.
Sacrifice: The Most Perfect Practice of Our Catholic Faith
- All we have said leads to one conclusion: our Catholic faith finds
its noblest expression in sacrifice.
- The reasons are many, but especially two:
- We are now not sacrificing alone. It is Christ uniting His sacrifice
of Calvary with our sacrifices.
- When we sacrifice we are performing the noblest activity of which a
rational creature is capable. Why?
- Because we are offering our wills, which is the highest faculty
of our souls.
- Because we are giving up what is pleasing to us, in order to
II. Commandment: Vocal Prayer
- Although the Second Commandment, like the first, is a negative prohibition
in the Old Testament, You shall not use the name of the Lord your God in vain,
the Catholic Church identifies the Second Commandment as a precept. The precept
is to use the name of God, and to use it reverently.
- In other words, the Second Commandment prescribes the verbal, vocal,
audible, visible, sensibly perceptible sue of Gods name.
- We might say, the Second Commandment is the duty we have to not only
believe in and honour the one true God; or even todo so by prayer and sacrifice.
It requires more. We are to put the First Commandment into practice as human
beings, with bodily faculties. We are to worship God by the use of our bodily
faculties. We are to honour Him not only internally but externally also.
- Traditionally, there are three ways of worshipping God externally that
are identifed with the Second Commandment of the Decalogue, namely
- Vocal prayer
- Religious communication
- This meditation is on vocal prayer. We plan to see this subject under
- What is vocal prayer?
- What are the main forms of vocal prayer practiced in the Catholic Church?
- Why do we practice vocal prayer?
- How can we improve our worship of God in vocal prayer?
What is Vocal Prayer?
- There are two standard meanings of vocal prayer.
- In its broadest sense, vocal prayer is prayer that follows a set form
- In vocal prayer, the words are those of someone else than the
- It may be the words of Sacred Scripture.
- It may be the words of Christ, as found in the Lords prayer
- It may be the words composed by the Church, or one of the saints,
like the prayer of St. Francis, or the Suscipe of St. Ignatius.
- In its more specific meaning, vocal prayer is vocalized prayer: it
is articulated prayer; it is prayer that can be heard by the one who prays or
by others; it is prayer that is perceptible to the senses.
- Thus vocal prayer, as we are speaking of it here, is distinguished from
- In mental prayer, we use our own thoughts to express our minds
- In vocal prayer, we adjust our thoughts to the ideas expressed
by someone else.
- Certainly vocal prayerwhether articulated or not, should involve our
own minds and hearts. But as vocal prayer, we follow the formulary of someone
else, who composed the prayer.
Forms of Vocal Prayer
- The word vocal comes from the Latin word vox, which means voice.
- In vocal prayer, therefore, the voice is used, and then we can distinguish
various forms of vocal prayer, or ways in which we can vocalize our sentiments
- Thus, vocal prayer can be
- Simply articulated; words are spoken or
- Rituals: where the words are accompanied by symbolic gestures or signs
- Like the sign of the Cross
- Or kneeling, or bowing or folding ones hands
- Prosaic or poetic: depending on the style in which the vocal prayer
- Individual or collective: depending on whether one person is praying
or several or many together.
- Musical when vocal prayer is accompanied by a musical instrument.
- Recited or sung: as we find both forms in Sacred Scripture, and both
forms in the Churchs practice.
- Private or liturgical; in the latter, the Churchs officially approved
prayer to be said or sung in public (or at least for the public in Liturgical
- Continuous or repetitive, depending on whether the prayers are progressive
in the ideas expressed, or repetitiveness like the Rosary.
- This list is not exhaustive, but it gives us some idea of the variety
of vocal prayers which are used and approved by the Church.
Why Must We Practice Vocal Prayer?
- We must practice vocal prayer because we are not angels but human beings.
- God wants me to honour Him on two levels of prayerful worship:
- By speaking to Him and conversing with Him in our hearts. This we may
say is the soul of all prayer. But God also wants us to give Him prayerful
- By expressing our prayerful sentiments in bodily form.
- Using our voices and lips
- Using our ears
- Using our bodily gestures, our bodily posture and movement.
- Why does God want us to pray vocally, or as we might say, bodily?
- Because He wants us to adore and praise Him, thank and enterat Him with
our whole being, which means in spirit and in body.
- Because God wants us to pray not only as individuals but also as social
- We are to speak to God as persons, but also as members of the
mystical body of Christ, and indeed of the human family.
- As Christ told us, He blesses in a special way, when two or three
or more are gathered in prayer
- In order to pray corporately, we are to be not only gathered together
in one place; we are to corporately join with others and they with us in articulating
our thoughts and desires together.
- Because we need graces not only for ourselves as individual persons,
but as a societywhether the Church at large, or a parish, or a parish or a
family or a religious community.
How to Improve?
- As with prayer in general, so the subject of vocal prayer is treated
at length by all the great masters of the spiritual life.
- Out of the treasury of wisdom certain recommendations which have been
proved useful from centuries of prayerful experience. Some of these recommendations
apply to all forms of prayer; others especially to vocal prayer:
- Openness to the will of God.
The more ready I am to do Gods will, at no matter
what price to my self-will, the more attentive and affective and effective will
be my prayer, including my vocal prayer.
- Sinfulness of heart.
The more I strive to purify my heart, the better,
in the words of the Beatitude, will I be able to see God by faith in prayer.
- Placing oneself in the conscious presence of God in all prayer,
but especially in vocal prayer, when I star (or even before I begin) to pray,
I make a deliberate act of the presence of God. I make myself aware of whom
I am speaking with and to.
- Reminding myself during vocal prayer, of whom I am talking to.
It may only be a moment here and there, but these periodic moments are important
for the practice especially of vocal prayer. Why? Because vocal prayer can
become routine. Words can be said by the lips but the mind may be a thousand
or ten thousand miles away from God. Even when we are praying to our Lady,
the angels or saints, we are still praying though them to God.
- Understand what you are praying. Our minds need not be thinking
of the words we are using, but our vocal prayer is more pleasing to God if,
before vocal prayer, we had spent sometime in grasping the meaning of the words
we are speaking.
Lord Jesus, you taught your disciples how to pray vocally,
grant me the grace to pray with my body and soul. Show me how to glorify your
name here on earth, with my heart and my lips in vocal prayer. My confident
hope is that I shall glorify you in heaven for all eternity. Amen.
II. Commandment: Vows
- The Second Commandment as we have seen, prescribes our worship of God
by our language.
- Vocal prayer in all its varied forms is worshipping God in speech.
- But there is one way, we may say, is the noblest form of articulate
praise of God, and that is by vow.
- Absolutely speaking, a vow can be deeply interior, and made in the depths
of ones soul, with no vocal expression of vowing to God.
- But in the Churchs understanding, vows are to be somehow expressed
in spoken or written or otherwise sensibly perceptible form. That is why we
place vows under the Second precept of the Decalogue.
- The Old Testament has many examples of vows being taken, including the
rash vow of Jephthah, who vowed to God that, if he were victorious in battle,
he would offer as a sacrifice holocaust to God the first person who would come
through the doors of his house. As it happened, the first person to come through
the door of his house was his only daughter and she was sacrificed (Judges XI).
Such a vow, Sacred Scripture tells us, was displeasing to God and should never
have been made.
- With the coming of Christ, the taking of vows became almost characteristic
of Christianity. And since the apostolic age, the Church has elevated, and
extended and explained vows to such a degree that Catholicism can almost be
called the religion of vows.
- Our purpose of the present meditation is again the familiar triad of
what, why and how. We ask ourselves
- What is a vow?
- Why are vows pleasing to God?
- How are vows to be observed?
What is a Vow?
- A vow is a promise made to God to do something which is possible, good
and better than the opposite.
- In order for a promise to become a vow, it should be something more
than a mere resolution.
- A vow is a promise made to God, and not even just to the angels or saints.
Nevertheless a vow may be made in honour of the angels or saints in the same
way that Mass may be offered in their honour.
- It is a promise made to God to do something better than the opposite
or its omission.
- This something better need not be objectively better. It is
sufficient if, considering all the circumstances, it is better for the person
who is taking the vow.
- To illustrate: objectively the married state is not better than celibacy
or consecrated chastity, yet it may be better for a particular individual to
mary, and this then wold be the object of a true vow.
- In the Catholic Church we recognize two levels of the divine will in
- The divine imperative will which is binding on all persons, or in the
Church, on all Christians or on all Catholic believers. We call these the divine
- The divine invitational will which is not binding on everyone under
pain of sin. We call these the evangelical counsels, of which the three principal
counsels are consecrated chastity, poverty and obedience.
- In these promises, the most familiar kind of vows are those taken to
follow Christ the whole way, by binding oneself, even for life, to the practice
of the evangelical counsels.
- Not surprisingly, during the upheaval in the 16th century,
the founders of Protestantism discarded the taking of vows to observe the counsels
of the Gospel in what we all the religious or consecrated life.
Why are Vows Pleasing to God?
- This is no trifling question, and for man, and for many reasons. But
one reason is that our century is witnessing the most widespread opposition
in Christian history against the taking and the keeping of vows.
- One papal statement after another, including a whole document of the
Second Vatican Council, deplores the widespread breakdown of a vowed life, and
defends a vowed life in the evangelical counsels as actually necessary for the
well-being of the Church founded by Christ.
- We return to our question; why are vows so pleasing to God? They are
pleasing to the Divine Majesty:
- Because in taking vows to observe the evangelical counsels, we are most
closely imitating the life of Christ.
- Jesus Christ lived a life of consecrated chastity
- Jesus Christ lived a life of consecrated poverty.
- Jesus Christ lived a life of consecrated obedience.
- Because in taking these vows, we are witnessing to the power of divine
grace; to do the humanly impossilbe, and to do so not only for a short period,
or sporadically, but faithfully and constantly for a whole lifetime.
- Because in taking the vows we witness to eternal life and heavenly beatitude,
by our faith in life after bodily death. After all, it is the view of eternal
life that we take vows to be observed during our temporal and temporary- life
here on earth.
- Because in taking the vows, we become more fruitful in generating souls
for heaven then, as history shows, we could ever be if we had not so vowed ourselves.
- Because in taking these vows, we become channels of extraordinary grace
to others, even to people we shall never know or meet this side of eternity
- Because as history shows, in taking these vows, we can become holy in
our union with Christ, grow in sanctity, and thus verify the Churchs claim
to being the one, holy Catholic Church, and therefore, the true Church
founded by Christ.
How are Vows to be Observed?
- As experience tells us, it is one thing for a person to take vows, including
what we call the vows of religion. It is something else to live the vowed life
as Christ wants us to.
- To do this for a lifetime commitment calls for extraordinary grace form
God. It also requires extraordinary generosity for those who assume a lifetime
fidelity to the consecrated life under vows.
- We repeat our question: How are vows to be observed? Our answer:
They are to be observed
- Those who bind themselves to following Christ in the practice of the
evangelical counsels must do so prayerfully
- Ordinary prayer is not sufficient. Ordinary time for prayer is not
- Their lives must be literally lives of prayerful union with God.
- This is not only a matter of amount or time or frequency.
- It is nothing less than living a life of union with God.
- United in mind by thinking of God.
- United in will by conforming oneself constantly to the will of God.
- Those who bind themselves to a vowed life do so confidently
- After all, our vows are bilateral contracts.
- We bind ourselves to remain faithful to our vows.
- Christ binds Himself to provide us with the lifetiem grace of remaining
faithful to our promise.
- He will never be wanting with His supernatural light and strength,
we are sure of that, infallibly.
- Those who undertake a vowed life should live this life cheerfully
- Cheerfulness is the external witness to interior joy.
- Observing the vows is not easy. But it should be enjoyable.
- The source of this joy is the experience of knowing we are in love with
- But we are also to give witness to our joy of spirit, by being
cheerful in our dedicated following of Christ.
- This cheerfulness is a powerful testimony to everyone who sees us that
true joy comes from total self-sacrifice to Jesus Christ.
II. Commandment: Religious Communication
- Our present meditation on the Second Commandment is on what we are calling Religious
- What does this mean?
- It means that God wants us to articulate our thoughts and desires to
Him, in prayer
- Not only by internal movements of our mind and will (First Commandment)
- But also by our bodily, sensbily perceptible vocal prayers. And also
- By our sensibly perceptible communcations with other people.
- It is this third aspect, what we are calling Religious Communication
which we wish to meditate on in the present conference.
- Our purpose will be to look at the following aspects of this immense subject
- The media
- Most people would be surprised to associate conversation with the Second
Commandment of the Decalogue.
- But conversation is more closely related to the Second Commandment than
- Certainly, as a prohibition, the Second Commandment forbids irreverent
use of the name of God.
- But it does not, with emphasis, prohibit our speaking about God.
- The great masters of Christian asceticism positively encourage us to
engage in spiritual conversation.
- So what is spiritual conversation?
- About the things of God
- About things that are sacred
- About our faith
- About religious experiences
- About things that pertain to our Lord, our Lady, the saints,
the Church, the Holy Eucharist, prayer, acts of piety, stories that relate to
what is holy.
- There is such a thing as being prepared for spiritual conversations.
There is such a thing as consciously raising questions, introducing topics changing
the subject of the conversation and steering it in the direction of subjects
that pertain to God, and religion and what belongs to our faith.
- St. Paul is the great apostle of letter writing. His epistles have
set the pace for an apostolate that has become one of the most effective channels
of grace in the history of Christianity.
- A single letter which we write can change another persons life.
- Not all people have the same freedom to write letters. Not everyone
has the same facility. But everyone who believes in Christ and writes letters,
should be aware of the power of the written word to bring souls closer to the
Savior and literally work marvels of grace in peoples lives.
- It does not matter so much how many letters are written, or how long
they are. What is important is that they breathe the spirit of piety, talk
about the things of God, and are consciously intended to bring those to whom
we write closer to God.
- One short comment: Be sure your letters close with a conclusion like
sincerely yours in Christ or in our Lord, Our Lady or the Sacred Heart.
- Remember we are reflecting on the Second Commandment of God. We are
drawing out some of the implications of our responsibility to Use the
name of God.
- Our Lord tells us in the Gospels that the children of this world are
wiser in their generation than the children of light.
- How true! How pathetically true! The art of printing and therefore
of publication was discovered in the second half of the 15th century.
- By the beginning of the 16th century, a new form of Christianity
came into existence, to challenge the Catholic Church, the bedrock premise was
that all of Gods revelation is contained in the Bible. And it proceeded to
publish books, pamphlets, learned tomes and popular catechesis, long before
Catholics woke up and began to publish writings that reflected and promoted
the true faith.
- The same is happening today. This is no option but an obligation for
us who believe in Christ, and in the Church he founded on the Rock of Peter.
We have a duty to publish, which means to make known the height and the depth,
and the riches of the treasures bequeathed to the world by Jesus Christ.
- One observation. We do not normally associate the contemplative or monastic life of consecrated
religious with publication. But we should. For a thousand years, before the
discovery of print and moveable type, how were the treasures of Christian wisdom
preserved and passed on from one generation to the next? How? By the laborious
zeal of monks in cloistered monasteries. They spent hours a day, months and
years on end, in painfully transcribing the writings of Saints Ambrose and Augustine,
Basil and Benedict, Cassian and Cyril of Jerusalem, Justin and Ireneus.
- Except for their dedicated labours, we would no longer have the 400
plus volumes of the Fathers of the Church. Along with Sacred Scripture, these
writings are the patrimony of Christian doctrine and spirituality which has
nourished the faithful to remain faithful to Jesus Christ.
- We have one more area on which to meditate, the media.
- For the first time in concilar history, the Second Vatican Council issued
a formal decree on Social Communications, entitled Inter Mirifica. The
title literally means Among the marvels, which introduces the opening sentence,
Among the marvels of Gods providence, we now have the media of communication
to evangelize and catechize the world on a scale and with an influence never
before known since the time of Christ.
- The key to the use of the media to spread the Gospel of Christ is a
deep faith, a great love of souls, and a strong life of prayer, especially contemplative
prayer among those who will exploit these powerful means of winning souls to
the Heart of Christ.
- Christ our Lord told us that if we profess Him before men on earth,
He will profess us before His heavenly Father. This is both a challenge and
a privilegeas we approach the beginning of the twenty-first century, which
our Holy Father anticipated will be the most glorious in the history of the
III. Commandment: Sundays and Holydays
- The Third Commandment of the Decalogue has three parts to it.
- It prescribes work for six days of the week.
- It prescribes the sanctification of Sunday as the day of the Lord.
- It prescribes abstention from work on Sundays and Feast days.
- Our scope in this meditation will be on
- Obligation to work
- Sanctification of Sundays and Feast days.
- Abstention from work on Sundays and Feast days.
Obligation to Work
- As found in Exodus, the Chosen People of the Old Testament were told,
Six days shall you labour and do all thy work.
- What are we being told?
- Labour is an obligation on all human beings.
- We are to work because we must cooperate with Gods work of creation.
- God provides us with the resources; but we must exert ourselves in using these resources.
- Implied in the precept is the obligation to use our free will.
- In a broad sense, we may say that everything God puts into our lives is
a grace, which He intends as a means to enable us to reach our destiny.
- But we shall not reach heaven without cooperating cum opus (with
work) with the grace of God.
- Consequently we may define work as our voluntary cooperation - collaboration
with the grace of God.
- St. Benedicts motto, Ora et labora synthesizes our whole life
- Or again, St. Ignatius motto
- Pray as though everything depended on God
- Work as though everything depended on you.
- One important observation.
- We are accustomed to associate work with exertion, with
distaste, with reluctance, with unwelcome necessity.
- Work, as work, is necessary for us as human beings: Man is
born to labour as the bird is born to fly.
- But since the fall, work has become distasteful. This is a form
of concupiscence, and corresponds to the capital sinful tendency to laziness.
- Also to be noted that work is
- The obligation to sanctify one day of the week goes back to the ancient Jews.
- In this they were different from their pagan contemporaries.
- The sanctification meant
- Corporate worship
- Family relaxation
- Each of the Old Testament practices was built on the Jewish faith in
- On the Sabbath, the Jews were to spend extra time in prayer.
- They were to worship together in gratitude for as an expression of their
corporate sanctification by God as His Chosen People.
- They were to worship together as families
- They were to be and relax together, again as families
- With the coming of Christ the Third Commandment was elevated by Jesus,
and the apostles and then by the Church.
- The day was changed from Saturday to Sunday
- This was for two reasons.
- Christ rose from the dead on Sunday
- The Holy Spirit descended on Pentecost Sunday
- Thus Sunday became the special day of the Holy Trinity
- Moreover Sunday became the one day when Christians were required to
assist at Mass.
- In very early Church, every day
- By the fourth century, Sunday obligation
Abstention from Work
- The Catholic Church from Christs time was not so rigid as were the Jews.
- The Jews were deeply influenced by the Pharisees.
- More than once, Christ did things on the Sabbath which the Pharisees criticized.
- The Churchs teaching has come in two parts
- Servile work
- Non-servile work
- Regarding servile work
- Servile work is that in which the body is more occupied than the mind.
It was associated with the work of servants or even slaves.
- Two exceptions
- Regarding Non-servile work
- When the mind is more occupied than the body.
- Light and trifling work
- Reasonable recreation
- Works of mercy
- Saints after Mass going to hospitals
- Popes in modern times
- Catholics are to be witnesses
- Witness to our faith
- Special graces
- Sign of paganism
- Holy days of obligation
- Grave obligation
- Application of First Commandment
- Corporate worship
- Necessity of the Mass
- Divine Office
- Saturday Masses
- Holy days - Age of Faith - Age of unbelief
- Our Lady of La Salette
- Pope John XXIII
IV. Commandment: Obedience
- The Old Testament precept does not directly use the word obey. It
reads, Honour your father and your mother, that you may live a long life in
the land which the Lord your God is giving you (Deut. 5:16).
- Since the dawn of Christianity, honour, the Church has interpreted as
prescribing obedience to all legitimate authority.
- The obedience of children to their parents
- The obedience of citizens to civil authority
- The obedience of the faithful to the authority of the Church
- Our scope in this meditation will be to simply look at obedience in general
and then see how Christ elevated the practice of obedience.
- Basically then, we should ask two questions:
- What is obedience?
- How did Christ elevate the practice of obedience?
What is Obedience?
- Obedience is the moral virtue which inclined the will to comply with
the will of another who has the right to command.
- We see that obedience is a moral virtue. As such it is an expression
of the virtue of justice.
- Someone in authority has a right to command. Consequently, those under
authority have the duty to obey.
- In the last analysis, all true obedience is finally given to God. But
in practice, God has instituted human society.
- Human society implies there is someone in authority, a human being (or
human beings) who has the right to require obedience of the members for the
common good of that society.
- Later on, we shall see how the virtue of obedience can be practiced
also by the mind or intellect. But strictly speaking, we obey with the will.
- Thus the will of the one commanding is accepted and the will of the
one under authority conforms to the will of the one who gives the order.
- Catholic moral theology further distinguishes between material obedience
and formal obedience.
- Material obedience means I carry out the physical (or external)
action I am told to do. It is also called obedience of execution.
- Formal obedience means that I not only externally do what I am
told: but internally I submit my will to the will of the one in authority.
In other words, I perform the action precisely because I am told to do so by
- The extent of obedience is as wide as the authority of the person who
- We are not here speaking of the extent of Gods authority, which is without
limit. Our focus is on obedience to human beings.
- Their authority to command is always limited by a higher authority:
- Always by the supreme authority of God. Thus no one has a duty
to be obliged in anything which is contrary to the laws of God.
- In todays world this is the deepest problem facing people who
believe in God; who know His laws; and yet are often told to obey human authority
which is contrary to the divine law. The laws on abortion or sodomy are notorious.
The future of any society depends on its obedience to the laws of God; even
when this means not obeying human laws which are contrary to the laws of God.
- However human authority is always limited by higher human authority.
- Those in authority are themselves subject to higher human authority
- On the natural level, civil authority is stratified: lover to
higher to highest. On of our problems in civil society is that the authority
is finally subject to the will of the majority in that society, as in a modern
democracy. And the people have no higher recourse than the collective power
of the State.
- On the supernatural level, ecclesiastical authority is also stratified.
But there is on highest authority: the Vicar of Christ.
- As Catholics we are assured that the Vicar of Christ will never
command the whole Church to do something contrary to the will of God.
How Did Christ Elevate Obedience?
- When God became man, He did so in order to provide the grace needed
to practice obedience.
- He created the supernatural society of the Church, which He invested
with a share in His own divine authority to lead human beings to their salvation
- He lived a life of obedience to teach us how to obey.
- He died on the Cross to expiate disobedience, and then enable us to
reach heaven in spite of our sins of disobedience.
- He established the Church to give us the sure guidance we need for knowing
what to obey, whom to obey and how to obey.
- He instituted the Sacraments, especially the Holy Eucharist, to enable
us to live lives of obedience, patterned after His own obedience, even unto
- He instituted within the Church, societies for the practice of obedience
of counsel, to provide the world with the witness and channel of grace for the
practice of obedience in every society.
IV. Commandment: Ecclesiastical Obedience: Precept and Counsel
- In the second meditation of the fourth precept of the Decalogue, we
shall concentrate on the ecclesiastical obedience in the Church founded by Christ.
- We will ask ourselves these questions
- What is the precept of obedience?
- What is the counsel of obedience?
- What is obedience of the intellect?
- How can we grow in the practice of obedience?
Precept of Obedience
- The precept of obedience is the duty that every Catholic has to submit
to legitimate ecclesiastical authority, according to each persons state in
life and position in the Church.
- There is a compendium or synthesis of the precepts of ecclesiastical
obedience in what is called the Code of Canon Law.
- In essence, a precept is binding under pain of sin.
- The purpose of ecclesiastical precepts is to ensure the unity of the
Catholic Church, as a condition for receiving the grace which Christ channels
to the faithful through the Church.
- The Churchs precepts are called laws.
- They are also called canons, which means rules.
- On the side of obedience, Catholics are obliged to submit their wills
to these precepts.
- The evangelical counsels are good actions which are not prescribed
by any laws. They are morally better than the corresponding opposites. Among
the counsels, the most important ones are the evangelical counsels of chastity,
poverty, and obedience.
- They are called evangelical because they were taught and practiced
by Christ, as described in the Gospels.
- Moreover they are specially prescribed by the Church as means
for attaining Christian perfection.
- A person can freely bind himself to practice the evangelical
counsels as in the religious life, and then they become obligatory according
to the conditions of the vows or promises assumed.
- In the counsel of obedience I bind myself to obey the Rule of
Life or Constitutions of the Institute of Christian perfection to which I belong.
Moreover, I bind myself to obey those in authority in the Institute.
- The general name now given to these societies is Institutes
of Christian Perfection or Institutes of Consecrated Life.
Obedience of the Intellect
- We already saw that there can be obedience which is external and obedience
that is internal.
- The essence of obedience is in the will.
- However, in Institutes of Consecrated Life, there are degrees of obedience.
The highest form is obedience of the intellect.
- I am practicing obedience of the intellect, in so far that not only
my will, but my mind conforms to what I am told to do.
- What does this mean?
- It means that my mind judges what I am told to do
- It means my mind finds reasons, based on faith, as to why I should obey.
- Classic letter on obedience of St. Ignatius.
How to Grow?
- Meditate on the obedience of Christ.
- Know the lives of the saints, especially those who practiced heroic
- Dismiss objections to obedience.
- Look for grounds for obedience.
- Remember that obedience is in the willand in the intellect. It is
not in the feelings or emotions.
- Cultivate humility.
- Be sure that obedience is
- Pleasing to our Lord
- Powerful in obtaining grace.
- Sure road to sanctity.
V. Commandment: Sanctity of Human Life
- Never in the history of the world has there been more need to believe
in the Fifth Commandment of God than today.
- The simple imperative, You shall not kill was already broken at the
dawn of human history.
- Cain murdered his brother Abel out of envy.
- So the story of the human race went on. One book of the Old Testament
after another describes the animosity, the jealousy, the ambition, the pride,
the hatred that resulted in the killing of innocent people.
- Absolutely speaking, the unjust killing of an innocent person is knowable
by human reason alone.
- We do not want someone to kill us; so reason tells us we should not
kill another human person.
- That is why on Mt. Sinai Yahweh directly revealed the Fifth Commandment.
We might say, He had to.
- Even though people should know naturally that murder is wrong, their
fallen human nature is darkened by sin, and their fallen human will is weakened.
Therefore they need, we need a special revelation which is the Decalogue-
to be told on divine authority that taking innocent human life is against the
will of God and a grave crime.
- If there is one towering proof of the loss of faith in God, and even
denying His authority in our lives, it is the spectrum of willful homicide that
characterizes our age.
- After a while we can become mentally paralyzed by the witness of sin, and blind
to the most obvious commandment of the Most High.
- This is what has happened to the perpetuation of murder.
- The twentieth century is the most homicidal in the history of mankind.
- There have been more abortions since 1900 than in all the previous centuries
of human history put together.
- There have been more killings of innocent human beings in our century -
of which the Nazi holocaust of some five million is only a tragic example - again,
more than in all the previous centuries since the dawn of humanity.
- There have been more martyrs for Christ, who were killed for the faith
since 1900, than the total number of martyrs since the stoning of St. Stephen
in first century Palestine.
- Nor is that all. In one once-civilized nation after another, murder is legalized.
- Abortion is now the law of the land.
- The killing of unborn children is now medically commonplace.
- The murder of unwanted persons is practiced and approved by law.
- Euthanasia has become an euphemism; and assisted suicide makes
loud and long headlines in our newspapers. It is also the normal way for thousands
to die in countries that still call themselves civilized.
- So in this conference we ask ourselves only one question: Why is innocent human
life sacred, so that it may not be deliberately terminated by any human authority?
In other words, why does God alone have the right to take innocent human life
when and how He - and not we - decide.
- Our answer comes in three parts:
- Human life is sacred because it comes from God.
- Human life is sacred because it is destined for eternal life in the
possession of God.
- Human life is sacred because it is intended in this life to know, love
and serve God.
Human Life Comes from God
- While all things ultimately come from God, only human life is
- Immediately produced by God.
- When a child is conceived, the parents contribute the bodily preconditions,
but God must Himself personally create a human soul.
- Thus every conception is an act of divine creation.
- That is why the mania for testing the quality of a newly conceived child
is just that: it is murder, masking as eugenics or quality reproduction.
- No matter how a child is conceived
No matter how the unborn childs condition may be,
No matter how unwanted a pregnancy or undesirable the prospected birth
that newly conceived being is human, a child of God, and directly produced
by His almighty power.
- Its life may not be taken. Why? Because it belongs to God.
- God creates human souls, and then infuses these souls into human bodies,
so that human beings may come into the world in order to know, love and serve God.
- Why then is the taking of human life a sacrilege? Because human beings
are to glorify God during their stay on earth.
- That is why God made human beings.
- We speak correctly, but incompletely, about murder being wrong because
it deprives a person unjustifiably of his or her right to life.
- True enough, but the most sublime rights that are sinned against are
the rights of God.
- God has a right to have children being born.
- God has a right to have children reach the age of discretion and reason.
- God has a right to have people grow to maturity.
- God has a right to have people, no matter what their age or condition may be.
- God alone has the right to call a person from this life into
the life to come.
- What is Gods right? It is the right to be glorified by human beings,
by themselves and by those who may be caring for them, no matter in what state
of body or mind they may be.
- The purpose of human beings is their final destiny.
- Unlike the irrational creatures; the sun, moon and stars, the mountains
and the seas- our goal is not in this world, but in the world to come.
- God alone has the right to determine
- Who will be conceived,
- Who will be born,
- How long each person is to live in this life,
- When each person is to enter eternity.
- To deprive an innocent person of life here on earth is to claim divine
authority over human destiny.
- In many ways, the worst evil of willful homicide is the crime of blasphemy.
- It is up to God to determine how long a person is to remain on earth;
because God alone has the right to determine how He is to be glorified in eternity.
V. Commandment: Anger
- In our last meditation we reflected on the sanctity of human life.
- We saw that to take the life of a human being, whether ones own or
the life of another person, is a crime against God. He alone has the right
to terminate human life on earth, as He alone is Master of that which He created
to give Him glory- both in time and eternity.
- In our present meditation we shall see what our Lord did, to elevate
the Fifth Commandment, as narrated by St. Matthew in Christs Sermon on the
- Our procedure will come in several parts:
- The words of our Lord
- Explanation of Christs teaching on anger
- What is anger?
- What are the effects of anger?
- What are the remedies for this sinful tendency?
Word of Christ
You have heard that it was said to the ancients, You shall not kill, and
that whoever shall kill shall be liable to judgement. But I say to you that
everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment. And whoever
says to his brother Empty-headed shall be liable to the Sanhedrin; and whoever
says, You fool shall be liable to the fires of hell. Therefore, if you are
offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has anything
against you, leave your gift at the altar and go first to be reconciled with
your brother, and then come and offer your gift.
- What is our Lord telling us in this narrative of the Sermon on the Mount?
- He had just said that He did not come to destroy the law or the prophets,
but to fulfill them.
- Interestingly this is the first of the commandments of the Decalogue
that Christ elevated or fulfilled during His historic Sermon on the Mount.
- How, we ask, does Jesus elevate the Fifth Commandment? He does so in
- Where the Old Testament forbade intentionally killing someone, Christ
prohibited even being unjustly angry with someone.
- Where the Old Testament centers on the external crime of murder, Christ
concentrated on the internal passion of anger, which is at the root of anger.
- Where the Old Testament forbade the killing of an innocent person, Christ
forbade even the use of offensive language against someone we dislike.
- Where the Old Testament forbids outright murder, Christ prescribes reconciliation
with a person with whom we have a grievance.
- Where the Old Testament prohibits sinful homicide, Christ tells us to
even leave our prayers, symbolized by leaving our gift at the altar, going first
to be reconciled with the one who is our enemy, and only then return to the
altar- or our prayers.
- The whole focus of Christs teaching is on the root cause of doing violence
to someone, which is anger in the soul.
What is Anger?
- We are now in a position to ask ourselves, What is anger - which Christ
associated with the Fifth Commandment?
- As understood by the Church, sinful anger is the implicit desire for
- Or again, anger is an emotional sense of displeasure and usually antagonism
aroused by a real or apparent injury. The anger can be either passionate or
dispassionate. In other words, the anger can be deep and strong, but may not
excite the emotions; or the feelings can be powerfully aroused.
- Is there such a thing as justifiable anger? Yes, when the reason for
the indignation is fully justified; and the indignation is consistent with the
evil that provokes the anger.
- We are, of course, here speaking of unjustified anger; the anger that
Christ condemns, even with eternal punishment.
- What are the effects of sinful anger? They are, according to the Churchs
normal teaching, mainly six.
- Mental disturbance
- Noisy speech
- In the spiritual life, it is imperative that each of us knows what provokes
our temper; how we manifest our anger; and how we are to control our irascibility.
- Anger can be very deep without being emotional. It can be rationalized
and may be easily identified.
- If we wish to master the vice of anger, we are told by the masters
of the spiritual life to:
- Foresee the causes, and as far as possible not be unnecessarily exposed
to anger-inviting situations.
- Immediately recognize the first rise of anger - know you are being provoked.
- Immediately resist, or reject the first movement to anger. Do not dwell
on the provocative thought, feeling or reaction.
- Pray, instantly have recourse to Gods grace.
- Meditate on Christs teaching and Christs example.
- See everything as coming from God.
V. Commandment: Envy
- We are reflecting on the Fifth Commandment of the Decalogue, which in
the text of the Old Testament simply is You shall to kill.
- We saw in our last meditation that Christ elevated the Old Testament
understanding of this precept by going to the root of homicide.
- Homicide has two roots. They are anger and envy.
- Anger we saw is the inordinate desire of revenge. Someone hurts us,
offends us, causes us suffering, humiliation or pain - and our instinctive urge
is to somehow pay back, lash back, strike back.
- But there is a second root to homicide and that is envy.
- Our present meditation, therefore, will be on envy, from the Latin word
invidia, for which we have the English equivalent invidious, or
the more prosaic word envious.
- We ask ourselves the following questions:
- What is Christs teaching on envy?
- What is envy?
- What are some of the consequences of envy?
- What are some remedies for the vice of envy?
- Although implied in much of Christs teaching, His most detailed explanation
and condemnation of envy occurs almost at the end of His public ministry.
- This teaching comes in the form of a parable. It is the parable of the
laborers in the vineyard. Specifically it is in Mt. 20:1-16.
- Because of its critical importance in our lives, it is worth quoting
the parable in full: The kingdom of Heaven is like
- What is Christ telling us in this parable?
- The owner of the vineyard hires laborers at different times of the day
- Early in the morning
- At the third hour
- At the fifth hour
- At the ninth hour
- At the eleventh hour, just before nightfall.
- Each of the five groups of laborers receives the same wage: a denarius.
- But the owner starts to pay those who worked only one hour. He gives
them one denarius.
- When the owner comes to pay those who had bee working all day, to be
exact eight hours, and they too received only one denarius, they complained,
How come, we who sweated all day, are getting only as much as the latecomers
who put in just one hours work?
- The response of the owner was: Are you envious because I am
Results of Envy
- The results of envy are past counting. They are practically a summation
of all evils in revealed history.
- It was envy of God that caused the fall of the angels. The devils came
into existence through envy!
- It was envy that brought on the fall of our first parents. The devil
envied their happiness, tempted Eve, who tempted Adam, who brought sin into
the human race.
- I like St. Vincent Ferrers contrast between Christs identification
of His followers, and the devils identification of his followers:
- Says Christ, By this shall all men know that you are my disciples,
if you have love for one another.
- The devil says, By this shall all men know that you are my disciples,
if you envy one another as I have envied you.
- It was envy that caused Saul to want to murder David, because David
was so popular and successful.
- It was envy that caused the Scribes and Pharisees to persecute Christ,
have Him condemned, and finally had Him crucified on Calvary.
- So the litany of the results of envy reads on.
- In summary, there are five principal consequences of envy.
- Hatred of the person envied.
- Criticism of the person envied.
- Detraction of the envied persons character.
- Resentment of the envied persons prosperity, praise, and achievement.
- Joy that the envied person has some misfortune or adversity.
- In our next meditation, we shall consider the nature and practice of
charity. Charity, in the last analysis, is the remedy for envy.
- But concretely, to cure ourselves of envy, the masters of the spiritual
life recommend the following:
- Think kindly of the person you are tempted to envy.
- Act kindly to the person you are tempted to envy.
- Do good to the person you are tempted to envy.
- Pray for the person you are tempted to envy.
- There is a double crown, says St. John Chrysostom for those who conquer the demon of envy.
- First the crown of victory over envy.
- Then the crown of the practice of charity.
V. Commandment: Charity
- This is our closing meditation on the Fifth Commandment of the Decalogue.
- We have so far seen:
- How human life is sacred because it belongs to God, therefore no one
has the right to kill an innocent human being.
- How anger is the first cause of homicide: so that Christ identified
the observance of the Fifth Commandment with the virtue of meekness, which is
the opposite of sinful anger.
- How envy is the second basic cause of injury, even to killing someone.
- Our present meditations are on the nature of charity, as a synthesis
of the Christian understanding of the Fifth Commandment. In other words, as
followers of Christ, this commandment is the obligation we have to practice
charity towards others.
- Our focus, in reflecting on charity, will be to see how our Lord
elevated the Old Testament precept of charity. In sequence, we shall meditate on:
- The Old Testament precept of charity
- Christs elevation of charity in four ways:
- By elevating the norm
- By elevating the means
- By elevating the scope
- By elevating the purpose.
Old Testament Precept
- The most explicit statement in the Old Testament is in the book of Leviticus.
It reads, You shall love your neighbor as yourself (Lev. 19:18).
- In context, the neighbor refers to your brother, and your fellow countryman.
- Christ repeats this commandment, but He raises it to a level that fraternal
love never had before.
Christ Elevated the Norm
- In Johns Gospel, Christ tells His disciples, This is my commandment
that you love one another as I have loved you.
- Our Lord calls this a new commandment.
- How is this commandment new? It is first of all new because the norm
or standard for loving others is no longer merely, to love another person as
we love ourselves. We love ourselves:
- What is the new norm?
- It is that we are to love others as Christ has loves us
- Christ is God
- Christ became man in order to suffer and die for us
- How then are we to love?
- Having elevated the norm, Christ had to provide the means.
- The means are divine grace.
- That is why He instituted the sacraments.
- Among the Sacraments, the principal source of grace for loving others
supernaturally is the Holy Eucharist.
- Mass = grace to suffer for, with, like
- Holy Communion = grace to give
- Real Presence = grace to see Christ in others
- The Old Testament precepts directly refers to loving those who are
- The New Testament scope extend to
- Strangers: Good Samaritan (Lk. 10:25-37)
- Love your enemies
- Do good to those who hate you
- Pray for those who persecute you.
- The Old Testament purpose to put into practice ones love for God.
- Thus the Second precept of love followed from the first as its expression.
- But Christ elevated these basic precepts by saying Love one another
as I have loved you. By this shall all men know
if you have love for
- The New Testament precept of charity, therefore has a twofold purpose:
- To form the Mystical Body of Christ, which is the Church.
- His followers were to form a communion of love.
- The Church was to be the community of love.
- As different and as diverse and *** as Christs followers would
be, they would nevertheless become one Body by their
- Communal love for one another.
- To witness to the world that God who is love become man to witness
to the world that the God who became man is love Incarnate, because He enables
those who believe in Hi to love one another with the selfless love that only
His grace could make possible.
So true was this, and continues to be, that the supreme charity of the early
Christians was the principal **** which attracted the pagans to Christianity,
See how they love one another.
- Over the centuries, this has been one of the strongest signs
of the Churchs authenticity: that members of the Church loved (and love) one
- This mutual love is the mark of the Churchs credibility.
- Unity is love
- Unity through love
- Unity because of love.
VI and IX Commandments: The Teaching of Christ
- Over the centuries, there is no aspect of Christianity that has been
more tested than Christs teaching on the sixth and ninth Commandments of the
- Since the time of Christ, this has been the most contested issue on
the moral level of human behavior.
- The Catholic Church has remained the Catholic Church because, with Gods
grace, She has remained firm in preserving the teaching of Christ.
- Our scope in this meditation is to answer three questions:
- What was the Old Testament understanding of the sixth and ninth commandments
of the Decalogue?
- What was Christs teaching on these commandments?
- What are some implications for us Catholics today?
Old Testament Understanding
- The Sixth Commandment declared, You shall not commit adultery.
- The Ninth Commandment, in its longer version, declared: You shall
not covet your neighbors wife. You shall not set your heart on his house,
his field, his servantman or womanhis ox, his donkey, or anything that is
his (Deut. 5:21).
- We see, therefore, that in the Old Testament, it was assumed that, no
less than depriving ones neighbor or anything, it was forbidden to alienate
a persons spouse since she (or he) was also ones property.
- To be stressed is that the Jews of the Old Testament allowed divorce
and remarriage, and even polygamy.
- Consequently the Old Testament understanding of adultery was essentially
a sin against justice. And the Ninth Commandment forbade the stealing of another
persons spouse by intention.
- But the Sixth and Ninth Commandments were basically prohibitions of
- The teaching of Christ on these two commandments comes in three parts:
- Internal chastity
- Marital indissolubility
- Consecrated chastity
- All these are found in detail in the Gospel of St. Matthew, which was
written for the converts from Judaism.
- Internal Chastity.
You have heard that it was said
into hell (Mt. 5:27-30).
- Christ is contrasting the Old Testament prohibition of adultery in act,
with His own prohibition of lustful thoughts and desires.
- This is much more than the Old Testament prescribed. Why? Because
the very permission to divorce and remarry did not forbid internal adultery.
- Moreover, Christs teaching is universal.
- Anyone who looks at any woman lustfully, has already sinned against chastity.
- Pope John Paul II explains (with the Churchs normal teaching) that this applies to women as well as men.
- Christ goes on to explain what lengths we should go to in avoiding occasions
to sin against chastity - any sacrifice, rather than eternal damnation.
- Indissolubility of Marriage.
And there came to Him
commits adultery (Mt. 19:3-9).
- Even divorce, but no remarriage
- Pharisees questioning Christ had no doubt that remarriage was allowed.
- Christ explained why Moses allowed divorce and remarriage.
- And (but) I say to you
- Christ restoring grace
- Christs teaching binding on all baptized
- Absolutely indissoluble
- Both baptized
- Valid contract
- Natural consummation
- Problem of annulments.
- Evangelical Counsel of Chastity.
His disciples said to Him
- To be the subject for our next meditation.
- To be noted however
- Marriage is holy
- Marital relations are holy.
- Christ elevated marriage to the level of sacrament.
- Christ gives some persons the grace of living the counsel of chastity.
VI and IX Commandments: Consecrated Chastity
- We are reflecting on the Sixth and Ninth Commandments of the Decalogue.
- In our last meditation, we saw how Christ elevated, (or as He said fulfilled)
- He did so in five ways:
- By raising the observance of the Sixth and Ninth Commandments
from the practice of justice, in not stealing another persons spouse.
- By forbidding the experience of sexual pleasure outside of marriage.
- By prescribing interior chastity, or continence, even in thought
or desireoutside of marriage
- By making marriage what it had been before the fall, namely restoring
monogamyi.e. lifetime fidelity between one husband and one wife until the death
of either spouse.
- By providing for the lifetime practice of consecrated chastity,
in the sacrifice of marriage for the Kingdom of God.
- Our present meditation is on consecrated chastity.
- And our basis of reflection will be on the Second Vatican Council.
- A word of preliminary comment:
- The extensive teaching of the Second Vatican Council on consecrated
chastity is the first in the history of the Catholic Church. In all the previous
twenty general councils of the Church, there was never an in-depth teaching
on consecrated chastity.
- One reason for this is the grave need that has arisen in modern times
for the witness of consecrated chastity in a world that is being plagued by
sexual license and promiscuity.
- Another reason is, as the Council states, that even as religious life
is necessary for the Churchs well-being, so consecrated chastity is
necessary for the preservation on Christian monogamy, Christian chastity by
the faithfulas a reservoir of grace for the followers of Christ.
- Our scope of reflection in this mediation will be, therefore, on what
the Second Vatican Council teaches on consecrated chastity.
- The text in Perfectae Caritatis is three paragraphs long but it should
be considered in full.
- Chastity for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven
- Religious, therefore, at pains to be faithful
- The observance of perfect continence
- To be noted is that Vatican II has two forms of documentation on consecrated
chastity. They are:
- The dogmatic constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium which
in the sixth chapter provides the doctrinal foundation for consecrated life.
- The decree Perfectae Caritatis which spells out how consecrated chastity
is to be lived out in practice.
Explanation of the Church's Teaching
- Consecrated chastity is entered as a lifetime commitment for the sake
of the Kingdom of heaven.
- These are the exact words of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew in answering
the disciples who were perplexed when Jesus told the Pharisees that He was restoring
lifelong monogamy in marriage.
- Undertaking consecrated chastity for the sake of the kingdom of God means
- in order to assure ones own salvation
- in order to bring others to the kingdom of heaven.
- Consecrated chastity is an exceptional gift of grace.
- It is beyond the powers of nature
- It is even beyond the powers of ordinary grace
- Consecrated chastity uniquely frees the human heart.
- From the burdens of married life
- For the exclusive task of worshipping God and the salvation and sanctification
of souls. Or in the words of the Council, through consecrated chastity, a person
can become more fervent in the love of God and of human beings-
in the practice of charity.
- Consecrated chastity enables a person to be exceptionally dedicated to the
works of the apostolate.
- Whether the apostolate is of contemplation
- Or/and the apostolate of active works of mercy.
- Consecrated chastity is a witness to all the faithful of the primary marriage,
which is the marriage between God and His people:
- Begun here on earth within the Mystical Body
- To be lived out in full in heaven, which is the eternal marriage
feast of the Beatific Vision.
- All physical marriages in this world are a prelude for the mystical
marriage in the New Jerusalem.
- To be faithful to consecrated chastity, religious should not presume on their
own strength, but constantly rely on the grace of God.
- Those practicing consecrated chastity must practice mortification.
- They must practice custody of
- Those practicing consecrated chastity should
- Not be swayed by the false ideas that continence is impossible
- Or that continence is hostile to human development
- Cultivate a spiritual instinct to reject anything that is contrary to consecrated
- Superiors should be zealous to ensure the practice of community life in charity.
Charity à Chastity
- Candidates should prove they
- Have the grace
- Are willing to cooperate with the grace.
- Affective maturity is necessary for consecrated chastity
- Be convinced that consecrated chastity is a good blessing for reaching the fulness
of Christian personality.
- Never before in the Churchs history has consecrated chastity been more
needed for the Church and human society.
- Consecrated chastity enables those who live it faithfully to become
more fruitful in spiritual reproductivity.
- Consecrated chastity is a powerful source for the members of the community,
for the Church and the whole human family.
- Consecrated chastity along with charity - is the seedbed for the propagation
- Consecrated chastity is, at root, consecrated charity.
- Love for God for whom consecrated chastity is lived.
- Love for God whom we imitate.
- Love for others for whose sake we live a life of sacrifice.
VII and X Commandments: Christ's Elevated Detachment
- We do not normally think of the Seventh and Tenth Commandments as precepts
- But so they are.
- In the Seventh Commandment, the people of the Old Testament were told,
You shall not steal.
- In the Tenth Commandment, they were further told, You shall not covet
your neighbors goods.
- In the commandments, the Mosaic Law forbade stealing, whether by hand
or in heart, by taking what rightly belongs to someone else.
- But underneath these precepts was the divine mandate to be satisfied
with what a person has, in other words, to practice the poverty- or lack of
material possessions- that Gods providence has determined for him.
- Their emphasis, therefore in the Old Testament was on the prohibition
of stealing, or taking what belongs to someone else, in order to enrich oneself.
- Yet, as we know in the Old Testament there was a high regard for material
possessions, and more than once we read how God blessed with material prosperity
or property those who served the Lord faithfully.
- As we approach the New Testament, we enter a different world.
- Christ assumed that there would always be people who were materially
prosperous, and others who would be materially, either less prosperous, or even
- Moreover Christ never openly condemned material possessions.
- What Christ did, however, was to teach detachment from material goods.
Teaching of Christ
- There are three passages in the Gospels, and all three occur in the
Gospel of St. Matthew, which, we repeat was written specially for convert form
Judaism - highlighting the need for detachment from worldly possessions.
- Each of these passages is a gold-mine of revealed wisdom on how Christ
fulfilled the Old Law, by elevating here the Seventh and Tenth Commandments.
- We may give each of these classic passages a title. They are, in sequence:
- Poverty of Spirit.
- True riches
- The danger of material wealth.
Poverty of Spirit (Mt. 5:3)
- It is profoundly providential that
- Christ began His Sermon on the Mount with the Eight Beatitudes.
- Christ began the Beatitudes with His teaching on poverty of spirit.
- He began the Sermon on the Mount with the Beatitudes: those were given
selectively to the disciples. Why?
- Because they were first to learn and practice the Beatitudes.
- Because for all future generations, the leaders in Christs Church,
especially His bishops and priests, were to do likewise; practice the Beatitudes
themselves; so that they could effectively preach the Beatitudes to the faithful.
- Christ began His first beatitude by saying, Blessed are the poor in
spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
- What is Jesus saying? He is saying that the first law of following
Christ is detachment from all worldly possessions.
- Christ assumed their would be believers who would possess more of this
worlds goods than others. He also knew there would be materially poor Christians.
- What He wanted to bring out is that every one of His followers is only
as devoted to His name, and only as pleasing to His heart - as his own heart
is detached from everything of material or financial, or temporal or
- This detachment of heart must be
- Profoundly interior
- Professedly exterior
- What do we mean?
- We mean that to live the First Beatitude means to honestly, in the depths
of ones heart, not hold on to what this world treasures as precious.
- We mean that to live the First Beatitude, we must be able to face God
and tell Him, Yes, Lord, I am truly indifferent to the possession or the lack
or the loss of material goods.
- We mean that the First Beatitude is in the believing mind and in the
believing mind and in the believing will. My mind is convinced enough, that
everything in this world is only as meaningful as it is a means to enabling
me to reach my eternal destiny. My will - not necessarily my emotions - is free
to keep or to leave, to retain or to give up, whatever of material value I possess.
- We mean that this poverty of spirit is proved by the way we act, how
we behave, what we do with what we posses. Thus sharing with others; giving
to others; in a word, the practice of Christ-like charity is the
witness of really living the First Beatitude.
- In the same Sermon on the Mount, Christ tells us in the plainest words
what is true wealth, what is authentic affluence.
- He says, Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where rust
and moth consume, where thieves break in and steal. But lay up for yourselves
treasures in heaven, where neither rust nor moth consume, nor thieves break
in and steal. Where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.
- What is our Lord telling us? He is saying many things. And in no previous
time of Christian history, have His words been more precious, or their teaching
more needed, than today.
- Christ is saying there are two kinds of wealth.
- Material and spiritual
- Terrestrial and celestial
- Temporal and eternal
- God wants us to be wealthy. He wants us to be rich. He wants us to
- But He, as the Incarnate God, the infinite Lord of all things, wants
us to be discriminating. How? To be able and willing to not just retain, but
actually grow in our true riches; which is spiritual, and celestial and eternal.
- Implied in this mysterious teaching is the fact that we are not made
for this world, but are made for eternity. And this eternity depends on what
we consider precious now in time.
- If we set our hearts on the things of this world- the passing things,
the rustable, the decayable and stealable treasures of time, we run the risk
of losing the non-destructible wealth of heaven.
- Our hearts now should be set, in hope, on the endless treasures of eternity.
Dangers of Material Riches
- Unexpectedly our lord spoke of the dangers of riches after He had invited
the rich young man to sell his possessions, give the proceeds to the poor, and
come follow Him.
- As the young man walked away, Jesus said to His disciples, Amen, I
say to you, with difficulty will a rich man enter the Kingdom of heaven. And
further I say to you, it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye f a needle
than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. The disciples, hearing
that, were exceedingly astonished. They said, Who then, can be saved? And
looking upon them, Jesus said to them, With man this is impossible, but with
God all things are possible.
- I doubt if there is a more sobering statement recorded in the Gospels,
spoken by Jesus, than this one. Why?
- Because we are living in an age where material prosperity is the
standard of human progress.
- Because we are living in a society where wealth is admired, where the
wealthy are idolized.
- Because the laws of one developed country after another are framed
to increase the peoples earthly possessions.
- Because we are living in that period of history where mans genius has
produced such means to material possessions and pleasure and power, as had never
been known before.
- Quoting our Lord, if the modern materially intoxicated world is to be
saved, it can only be by the power of Gods grace.
- For which we should pray
- For which we should sacrifice everything in the world, to bring
these millions of souls into the treasure of a blessed eternity with God.
VII and X Commandments: Voluntary - Consecrated Poverty
- When God became man, He divinized everything in human nature.
- The human race was no longer the same, when Christ came into the world.
- Mankind took on a superhuman dignity, and human conduct took on what
we casually call a supernatural sublimity.
- Remember, Christ spoke as a man, in audible words. But His teaching
was literally - hypostatically we would say - the teaching of God.
- When then Jesus contrasted the Old Law, given through Moses, with the
New Law that He was personally enacting more was taking place than we are liable
- Regarding the Seventh and Tenth Commandments of the Decalogue, Christ
was not only legislating. He was living His own legislation and providing His
followers to follow His example.
- That is why, as we meditate on consecrated poverty, we are looking at
an actual reality.
- Ever since Chirst lived a poor life in Palestine, from the stable
in which He was born, to the borrowed grave in which He was buried, He has never
ceased giving some of His followers grace to live like Him.
- Call it voluntary poverty; call it poverty of dependence; call
it consecrated poverty - by whatever name, this is Christianity at its noblest.
It is also a Christianity that the modern world desperately needs.
- As we did regarding consecrated chastity, so here with consecrated poverty,
we shall examine at close range the teaching of the twenty-first general council
of the Church, in its decree of religious life, Perfectae Caritatis.
Text of Vatican II
- The full text is six short paragraphs long. But it is worth quoting
it in full:
- Voluntary poverty in the footsteps of Christ, is a symbol of
Christ which is much esteemed, especially nowadays. Religious should cultivate
it diligently, and if needs be, express it in a new form. It enables them to
share in the poverty of Christ, who for our sake became poor though He was rich,
so that we might become rich through His poverty.
- They should, each in His own assigned task, consider themselves
bound by the common law of labour, and while by that means they are provided
with whatever they need for their sustenance or their work, they should reject
all undue solicitude, putting their trust in the Providence of the Heavenly
- Religious congregations may in their constitutions, permit their
members to renounce their inheritance, both those which they have already acquired,
and those which they may acquire in the future.
- The institutes themselves should endeavor, taking local conditions
into account, to bear a quasi-collective witness to poverty. They should willingly
contribute part of what they possess for the needs of the Church and for the
support of the poor, whom all religious should love with the deep yearning of
Christ. Provinces and houses of the different institutes should share their
poverty with one another, those who have more helping those who are in need.
- While institutes have the right, provided this is allowed by
their rules and constitutions to possess whatever they need for their temporal
life and work, they should avoid any semblance of luxury, wealth and accumulation
Explanation and Application
- Consecrated poverty is inspired by the poverty of Christ.
- This is the bedrock of consecrated poverty. God became man for two reasons.
- To die for our salvation on Calvary.
- To live for our imitation today.
- This is the first law of sanctity; the imitation of Christ.
- And the bedrock foundation of this imitation is following in Christs
footsteps, by living a consciously and deliberately poor life. Consecrated Poverty - should be actual poverty
- should be poverty of fact
- should be poverty of detachment
- should be real poverty
- Consecrated poverty implies labour
- Poor people work. You might say they have to. But that is precisely
why those consecrated to a life of evangelical poverty should be models of hard
- Their labour should be laborious
- Their labour should make them tiredeven as Christ became tire.
- Their labour should be an example to others, in the deepest sense
edifying to other members of the community, and to those whose lives religious
- This takes on special urgency in the fact that the faithful are often
generous in their contributions to religious. True, but religious should be
models of work.
- Trust in Providence
- Provided a community is doing the work of the Lord, He will provide
for its sustenance and apostolate.
- The key is to be faithful to the charism of the founder. Then rely
on Gods goodness to furnish the means necessary to carry out this charism.
- Poverty of Dispossession
- Before the 16th century, no other kind of consecrated poverty
- Then with the rise of womens communities and of new institutes, consecrated
poverty became poverty of mere dependence.
- One of the historic innovations of the Second Vatican Council was to
restore this pristine practice of poverty of dispossessions by vowed religious.
- True dispossession
- Can be purely voluntary, or it
- Can be postponed
- Or it can be obligatory at the final profession, and require giving up all ownership of
- What is possessed
- Or what will be possessed in the future
- One reason for the widespread breakdown of religious institutes in affluent
countries was the clear and non-compromising doctrine of the Second Vatican
Council on the practice of poverty, including poverty of dispossession.
- Religious communities should witness to poverty.
- This is crucially important. Not only are individuals in religious
life to bear witness to poverty, but the communities themselves should testify
to their collective poverty.
- How to do this?
- By giving to the needs of the Church, and with emphasis, to the Holy Father.
- By helping poor people, either locally or even internationally.
- By sharing with other houses or divisions of their community.
- Avoidance of any semblance of luxury.
- A real problem in affluent countries.
- This is more than giving a good example.
- It is becoming a collective channel of grace.
- St. Francis introduced collective dispossession.
- This is the test of authentic consecrated life.
Some Maxims of the Saints
- No one should commend poverty, save the poor. (St. Bernard)
- Possess poverty (St. Dominic)
- To desire to be poor, but not to be inconvenienced by poverty, is to
desire the honour of poverty and the convenience of riches (Author?)
VIII Commandment: Old and New Testament
- The Eight Commandment of the Decalogue in the Old Testament is worded
almost identically in Exodus and Deuteronomy. It says, You shall not bear
false witness against your neighbour.
- As it stands, it simply forbids telling the untruth about another person.
- In the Old Testament, the focus is on telling the truth about someone,
especially in a court of law. But though perjury against ones neighbour stands
out in Old Testament morality, lying in any form is condemned in the Old Law.
- Lying is an ugly blot on a man, and ever on the lips of the ignorant.
A thief is preferable to an inveterate liar, but both are heading for ruin.
Lying is an abominable habit, so that disgrace is the liars forever (Eccl.
- Lips that lie are abhorrent to Yahweh, dear to Him are those who speak
the truth (Prov. 12:19, 22).
- The basic theme in the Old Testament on lying is that it is an act of injustice.
- Christ did not change the Old Testament prohibition on lying.
- The classic passage in the New Testament is again in the Gospel of Matthew,
in which Christ is comparing the Old Testament prohibition against lying, which
in the Mosaic Code was basically not bearing false witness in court against
- Says the Savior: You have heard
comes from the evil one (Mt. 5:33-37).
- What is Christ saying?
- He is saying that the New Testament Code of morality goes beyond the
- We are not to bear false witness in court against another person.
- We are not to tell lies.
- But we are further obliged to tell the truth
- The followers of Christ
- Will not tell lies
- They will tell the truth
- And not only in a court of law, but in their daily dealings with others.
- This brings us to our focus in this meditation
- What is lying?
- Why do people lie?
- What is truth?
- Why must we tell the truth?
What is Lying?
- Lying is locutio contra mentem.
- Lying is speaking deliberately against ones mind.
- True speech is any communication of ideas to another person.
- It may be done by words spoken.
- It may be done by words written.
- It may be done by gestures.
- It may be done by silence.
- It is not a matter of ignorance.
- It is that something we say contradicts what we know is the truth.
Why Do People Lie?
- There are as many reasons why people tell lies as there are human beings.
- But the most common are the seven capital sins:
- Human Respect:
- What people think of us
- Not to be different
VIII Commandment: Christ the Truth: Our Duty to Know and Proclaim Christ
- There is no more stark contrast between the Old Testament and Christs understanding
of the Decalogue than in the Eighth Commandment.
- As we have seen, the stress in the Mosaic Code was on the prohibition of
- Given our fallen human nature, we all have a propensity to not telling the
truth, in other words, it is natural to fallen man to lie.
- The grounds for this propensity are our seven capital sinful tendencies:
pride, lust, anger, covetousness, envy, sloth, gluttony.
- We do not want to admit either to ourselves or to others that we are proud,
lustful or irascible or greedy, or envious, or lazy or gluttonous, so we are
constantly tempted to deceive.
- But when God became Incarnate, He raised the level of the moral law far
beyond what it had been before He came into the world.
- He knew of course, that we must avoid lying. But by His coming, He provided
us with the means for more than just not lying. He have us the means of knowing
the truth, of living the truth and of sharing the truth.
- And He did this by becoming truth Incarnate, living among us as Incarnate
truth during His visible stay in Palestine, living among us now as Incarnate
truth in the Eucharist, teaching us His truth through the Church He founded
and bidding us to share His truth with the rest of the world.
- Our plan for this meditation is to concentrate on Christ as Incarnate truth,
and our consequent duty to know Christ as He reveals Himself to us, in the
Gospels, in the Eucharist, and in the teaching of His Church.
What is Truth?
- This was the question that Pilate asked Christ during the Passion. And Jesus gave
him no answer, for the obvious reason that Pilate was not really prepared to
receive an answer.
- Over the two millennia of Christian history, we have, as I might say, chiseled
a definition of truth that is worth stating before we go on.
- Truth is conformity of mind and reality.
- Since thee are three kinds of such conformity, there are three kinds of truth:
- In logical truth, the mind is conformed or in agreement with
things outside the mind. I think that a liquid is water, and it is water.
Then I have logical truth.
- In ontological truth, things outside the mind correspond with
the mind of the maker. Thus when God created the world, it possessed ontological
truth because it was in agreement with what He had in mind when He created the
- In moral truth, what is said corresponds with what is on the
speakers mind. Thus when I say I understand Latin, and I do, I am telling
Christ is Incarnate Truth
- On all three levels, Jesus Christ is the truth. Thus when He said at
the Last Supper, I am the way, the truth and the life, He meant this to be
- Christ is the truth on all three levels of the meaning of truth:
- Christ is logical truth. As God He could not be in error on anything
which He knew. Otherwise He would not be the all-knowing God.
- Christ is ontological truth. As God, the world which He created with
the Father and the Holy Spirit, corresponds perfectly to what He wanted and
wants to create. The mystery of error and evil in the world is precisely that
His rational creatures have the awesome power of refusing to think and to choose
what is contrary to the mind and will of God.
- Christ is moral truth. Everything that He told us, or tells us, agrees
with what is in the mind of Christ. He is incapable of telling a lie.
Our Fundamental Duty in the Spiritual Life
- St. John the Apostle is our main source of the duty we have to know Christ.
- This, in fact, is the
As professed Christians.
- Basic responsibility
- To the Samaritan woman, Christ said, If you knew the gift of
God, and who it is who says to you, Give me to drink. You would have asked
Him and He would have given you living water (Jn 4:10).
- Speaking to the hostile Pharisees, Jesus said, You know neither me,
nor my Father. If you knew me, you would then know my Father also (Jn 8:9)
- Again speaking to the hostile Jews, If you abide in my word, you shall
be my disciples indeed. And you will know the truth, and the truth shall make
you free (Jn. 8:32).
- Speaking to those who were willing to listen, Jesus says, I am the
Good Shepherd, and I know mind and mind know me, even as the Father knows me
and I know the Father (Jn. 10:14-15).
- Praying to His heavenly Father, Christ says, Now this is eternal life,
that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent
- So the Joannine litany goes on. And the letters of St. John simply
repeated, or re-emphasized the most elementary - from one viewpoint, and
the most essential from another perspective, fact of Christianity.
What is it? That Jesus Christ is true God, one with the Father, and therefore
to know Him by faith, assenting with our minds to the mind of Christ, is the
granite foundation of everything else in Christianity.
How to Grow in Our Knowledge of Christ
- Once a person is convinced that this is eternal life, to know
Jesus Christ, the means of growing in this knowledge become evident.
- There are five principal ways of growing in the knowledge of Christ. We grow in our knowledge
- By thinking of Him
- By speaking with Him
- By striving to become like Him
- By listening to Him
- By enduring for Him.
- By thinking of Him
- Turning our thoughts towards Him
- Moving our thoughts from ourselves to Him
- Writing our thoughts. We cannot write without thinking.
- Symbols, pictures, sense à thoughts
- By speaking with Him
- He is always speaking to us
- He wants us to converse with Him
- This is the main purpose of silence
- This is the main purpose of cloister
- This is the main reason for contemplative institutes; to provide time and opportunity to speak with Christ
- By striving to become like Christ
- Thomas a Kempis
- Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.
- Learn of me
- Following Christ
- By listening to Him
- Openness of mind
- Sincerity of heart
- Selfless disposition of soul
- We never just speak to Him; He is always speaking to us;
- In all circumstances of life
- Whatever you did
- Suffering for Him
- This is the key to sanctity
- Wanting to be like Christ crucified.
PRAYER: St. Ignatius p. 73.
The Beatitudes: The New Testament Decalogue
- In the history of Christian spirituality, the Eight Beatitudes have
been regularly compared with the Ten Commandments.
- Saints and scholars have analyzed the Decalogue in contrast to the Beatitudes.
- By now there are many learned and useful writings on the subject.
- Our focus is more specific. In this meditation, we ask ourselves:
How are the Beatitudes given to us by Christ a compendium of what we may call
the New Testament Decalogue?
- Keep in mind that Jesus insisted He had not come to abolish the Law
and the prophets. On the contrary, He came to fulfill.
- How then are the Beatitudes the fulfillment of the Ten Commandments
which Yahweh gave to Moses on Mt. Sinai?
- To be noted at the outset is that Christ gave the Beatitudes to His
own disciples who in turn were to teach them to others. This is what Yahweh
did on Mt. Sinai. He chose Moses, the leader of the Chosen People, who in turn
was to give the tablets of the Law to the Jews.
- Both the Commandments and the Beatitudes were given to us by God. They
are therefore divinely revealed manifestations of the will of God.
- Both the Commandments and the Beatitudes are numerated. They have a
definite number of directives.
- Both the Commandments and the Beatitudes are specific: they are not
merely generic directives.
- Both the Commandments and the Beatitudes were given to the Chosen People;
the Jews in the Old Testament and the Christians in the New Testament.
- Both the Commandments and the Beatitudes synthesize the essential expectations
of the two Chosen People.
- Both the Commandments and the Beatitudes are imperative. They are not
optional. No doubt we commonly speak of the Decalogue as Ten Commandments,
and call the eight promises of happiness beatitudes. But the Beatitudes, no
less than the Commandments are prescriptive.
- On the people of God before Christ
- On the people of God after Christ.
- In the Ten Commandments, it was Moses the prophet who received the Decalogue
from Yahweh. But the Beatitudes were given by God Himself, who became man.
There was no human person as intermediary. It was God Himself who gave us the
Beatitudes. This is what St. Paul says in the opening verses of his letter
to the Hebrews. God who at sundry times and in diverse manners spoke in times
past to the fathers by the prophets, last of all, in these days, has spoken
to us by His Son.
- Moreover Christ lived the Beatitudes. Unlike the precepts of the Old
Testament which were directed to human beings who could sin, the Beatitudes
were practiced by the all-holy God-become-man who could not sin. We might therefore
say that the Beatitudes presume the observance of the Commandments.
- The Beatitudes were given to the human race, which was about to be redeemed
by the Passion and death of Jesus Christ. The Commandments were given centuries
before the actual redemption. Thus the Beatitudes build on the treasury of
graces which Christ won for the human family by His death on Calvary.
- The Beatitudes are expectations therefore, that Christ could make of
those who believe in Him, for which the human race was not prepared when Moses
first received the Decalogue on Mt. Sinai.
- The Beatitudes are specific covenants, as we may call them, between
Christ and His followers.
- He promises happiness, on eight conditions. Provided we fill
the conditions, our happiness is assured.
- Christ promises happiness indeed, but not on this worldly term.
It is supernatural happiness in five ways:
- Supernatural because revealed as mysteries that surpass our rational
- Supernatural because the Beatitudes require superhuman light
and strength to observe.
- Supernatural because the happiness they promise is not the happiness
that comes from nature or is experienced in our nature. It is a joy that comes
directly from God, and that we experience in our souls elevated by divine grace
to a share in the life of God.
- Supernatural because this happiness will not be fully satisfied
here on earth, but only in eternity.
- Supernatural because this happiness is conjoined with opposition
and persecution form a world that does not accept Christ.
Law and Love
- What the Beatitudes do is bring out what is only implied in the Ten
- The Laws of God are so many manifestations of His love.
- We commonly think of a commandment as something we do not like to do
but are commanded to obey under penalty of suffering if we disobey.
- The Beatitudes on the other hand, are so many divine assurances of happiness
from a loving God.
- Certainly we have to cooperate with His will
- Surely we must submit our selfish desire to His all-wise demands.
- But as Beatitudes, they are not so much demands or commands as
loving invitations form a loving God.
- God gains nothing from our doing His will. All the gain is ours. To
love someone is to share what I have with the one I love. In the Beatitudes,
Christ is giving us a share in His own happinessboth here and hereafter. All
we have to do is follow His example.
- Everyone wants to be happy. Yet so many people are sad. It cannot
be because they do not want happiness.
- It can only be because either they do not know how to be truly happy.
- Or they know, but they are unwilling to pay the price.
- There is no greater lesson we can teach others than the lesson we have
- That the happiness promised by Christ in the Beatitudes is the
joy of doing the will of God. This is the only true joy on earth; as it is
the only true promise of perfect joy in the world to come.
PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you want us to have a foretaste of heaven here on earth.
Protect us from the folly of thinking we shall be happy in doing our own will.
Teach us to believe, really believe what you said, Abide in my love. If you
keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, as I also have kept my Fathers
commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you, that
my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.
Daily Examen of Conscience
- After a retreat on the Ten Commandments of the Decalogue, it seems only
logical to have one meditation on the daily examen of conscience.
- The vocabulary here is greatly important.
- We distinguish between an examination of conscience before confession
and a daily examen of conscience made for growth in the spiritual life.
- Our plan for this meditation is to ask ourselves five questions.
- What is the examination of conscience? Before the sacrament of Confession.
- What is the general examen of conscience, made daily in the pursuit
of Christian perfection?
- What is the particular examen of conscience?
- Why is a daily examen of conscience necessary for growth in the spiritual life?
- How to make a general and particular examen of conscience every day.
Examination of Conscience
- Basically, the examination of conscience before confession is a review
in Gods presence of the state of my soul.
- Assuming there are no mortal sins, I look back on my conduct since my
last confession, and find three or four moral failings of which I have been
- What are my options? Unless I have fully deliberate mortal sins to
confess, I can choose several of my most common moral failings.
- It is a good idea to specify the frequency of my failings.
- In charity
- In obedience
- In purity
- In kindness
- In laziness
- In prayerfulness
- In discouragement
- In humility
- To be noted is that the Mass and Holy Communion can only remove both
the guilt and penalty of venial sins.
- Yet frequent confession is highly recommended by the Church.
- Experience also shows that making a good daily examen of conscience
helps immensely in making profitable sacramental confession.
What is the General Examen?
- By definition a daily general examen of conscience is of the essence
of the pursuit of holiness.
- I go over, in Gods presence, three areas of my spiritual life over
the past day, and in anticipation of the next day.
- I ask myself in prayer what blessings God has given me during
the past day (or half-day) since my last examen. Immediately I thank our Lord
for these graces.
- I then thank God, by name, for the blessings He has given me,
just a word of gratitude for each blessing; whether the blessing was pleasant
- Then I ask myself what I have done wrong, in my thoughts, desires,
words and actions.
- I tell our Lord that I am sorry. I make an act of contrition,
in my own words or with a set formula.
- I may also impose a small penance for my failings.
- An extra prayer
- Some small act of self-denial
- Some act of charity
- It is a good idea to associate some short aspiration that I recite,
if only for a moment, the moment I realize I have done something displeasing
to the Divine Majesty.
- I write down in whatever form a record of my failings.
- RESOLUTION (ANTICIPATION)
- Every examen of conscience should include a few minutes of planning.
- I anticipate the next day or half-day.
- I know what I am supposed to do.
- I plan on doing it, and decide
- For how long
- What I am going to do
- Again I jot down what I may call my agenda, things to be done
- I plan for the future - the next month(s) or definite period on overcoming
some one or more particular failings.
- In prayer
- In recollection
- In a particular virtue that I need.
- Particular examens are changed weekly or monthly or periodically.
- They should also be commonly associated with some prayerful aspirations,
- Either before I am in danger of committing a particular fall.
- Or while I am doing something that could be an occasion to sin
- Or after I have performed some act of virtue of failed to do Gods will on a particular occasion.
- Let me read just a dozen or so of these aspirations from the standard
prayerbook for Jesuits.
- It is a good idea to have a small notebook for ones daily examination
- I use and recommend the Ordo for the whole year.
- Experience proves that this daily examen does many things.
- It provides us with a daily inventory of our spiritual life.
- It makes us alert through the day, of what we should do.
- It helps us to see the graces that God is constantly giving us
through the day.
- It helps to remember from past experience what we should be doing
here and now.
- It keeps us humble to see our daily failings.
- It encourages us by recalling the many blessings we daily receive
- It enables us to see the progress in our spiritual life.
- It systematizes our whole life.
St. Peter Canisius, p. 98.
Copyright © 1999 Inter Mirifica