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Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Archives


Commandments Index

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Prayer and the First Commandment
In the present meditation we plan to again ask ourselves the three basic questions: what, why, and how. What are the principle forms of prayer? Why must we pray? And then, this being a retreat, how can we improve our practice of prayer? First then the main forms or kinds of prayer. The Church’s tradition distinguishes not just four but five principle forms of prayer. The adoration of submission, the prayer of adoration of love, the prayer of thanksgiving, the prayer of petition and the prayer of expiation.
Our Love of Others
It is Christ himself who used the expression "new commandment". When as you know, He gave His long discourse at the Last Supper. So important is this term "new commandment" that on it’s proper understanding depends I think in large measure a true appreciation of the New Testament.
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 God’s grace, can give in their loving dedication to God and their total self-surrender to His divine will.
Commandments of God - Detraction and Calumny
The immediate focus of the Eighth Commandment is falsehood that does injury to one's neighbor. Harm to another person's reputation, therefore, is the special prohibition of this divine mandate. A person's reputation may be injured in various ways, notably by detraction and calumny or slander. Detraction is the unjust violation of the good reputation of another by revealing something true about him. Calumny or slander differs from detraction in that what is said or imputed about a person is not true.
Adoration of God: The First Commandment
Our present meditation is on the first Commandment of the Decalogue and specifically on adoration of God. As we begin our reflections on the Decalogue we should first point out that the Decalogue is immense, it embraces, literally all the religious and moral responsibilities of the human race. Remember too that 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 but rather, in how much, how much attention we give in what is not just an ocean, but a universe of revealed truth.
Breaking the Sixth Commandment Leads to Murder
There are some topics that are catchy when you first hear them, but they lose their impact by their very startling presentation. Whoever heard of the sixth commandment as so binding that if you break it, it leads to murder? But that is precisely what I am saying.
Christ’s Teaching on the Sixth and Ninth Commandments
We may say the Catholic Church has remained the one true church with God’s grace because She has remained firm in preserving the teaching of Christ on chastity. Basically, we will look at two aspects of this gigantic subject. First, briefly, what was the Old Testament understanding of the sixth and ninth commandments of the Decalogue? And then, what was Christ’s teaching on these commandments?
The Eighth Commandment and Lying
The eighth commandment of the Decalogue in the Old Testament is worded almost identically in Exodus and Deuteronomy, in both of which books we have the text of the Decalogue. It says: "You shall not be a false witness against your neighbor."
The Fifth Commandment and Anger
As narrated by Saint Matthew in Christ's several chapter discourse in the Sermon On the Mount, our plan is to look at this very simple but complex subject of our faith under five perspectives. First, just to hear the words of our Lord, then briefly to explain or comment, if you wish, on the meaning of what our Lord was saying when He gave us His version of the fifth commandment. Third, we will ask ourselves and explain in the Church’s language what is anger. Fourth, what are the recognized effects of anger and finally how are we to cope with our irascible tendencies. In a word, how are we to not merely master but actually profit from the sinful tendency that we all have to anger.
The Fifth Commandment and Envy
Our present meditation therefore, will be on envy, where the word itself comes from the Latin, envidia, for which we have the English equivalent "envidious", or more commonly, envious. We ask ourselves the following four questions: What is Christ’s teaching on envy? What is envy? What are some of the consequences of envy? And this being a retreat; what are the remedies for the vice? And it is a vice, the vice of envy.
The Fifth Commandment and Charity
Our focus in reflecting on charity will be to see how our Lord elevated the Old Testament precept. There was a precept of charity already in the Old Law. In sequence, we will look briefly at the Old Testament precept of charity and then the four ways in which our Lord elevated the (what we now so casually call) Christian charity: by elevating the norm, elevating the means, elevating the scope and elevating the purpose of charity.
The Fifth Commandment – Sanctity of Human Life
The present meditation is on the fifth commandment, the first of seven meditations. The present is on the 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, "Thou 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 goes on.
The Fourth Commandment
Since the dawn of Christianity however, the Church has consistently interpreted the fourth commandment as prescribing obedience to all legitimate authority. Summarily, especially to three forms of authority: obedience of children to their parents in domestic society, the obedience of citizens to civil authority, and the obedience of the faithful to the authority of the Church in ecclesiastical society.
The Ten Commandments and the Old Law
In the present conference, we will look on the Ten commandments as they are found in the Old Testament…The Ten commandments come just before the Divine mandate to love God with our whole heart, and soul, and strength. Among the errors condemned by the Council of Trent in the 16th century, are two that have special importance today. Declared the council: If anyone says that the Ten commandments do not apply to Christians, let him be anathema. And again the Church defines: if anyone says that Jesus Christ has been given to men as the redeemer in whom they are to trust, and not also as a legislator whom they are to obey, let him be anathema.
The Ten Commandments and the New Law
We wish in the present meditation to reflect on the Ten Commandments, but as found in the New Covenant since Christ…Whatever else the spiritual life means, it means first, obedience to the commandments of God. Our main purpose in the present reflections will be to see that Christ did not, emphatically, did not eliminate the Ten Commandments. He not only confirmed them, but He elevated them, the Magna Carta, therefore, of New Testament morality, as recorded by Saint Matthew.
The Second Commandment and Vocal Prayer
Our present meditation is on the Second Commandment and even more specifically on vocal prayer.…The precept of the Second Commandment 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 use of the name of God.
The Second Commandment and the Vows
Our scope for the present meditation is again the familiar triad of what, why and how. So we ask ourselves what is a vow? Why are vows pleasing to God? And how are vows to be observed?
Seventh and Tenth Commandments and Detachment
Christ never openly condemned material possessions. What Christ did, however, was to teach the focus of our present meditation: detachment from material goods.…The teaching of Christ, therefore, will come on three levels.…They are in sequence as found in Matthew: Poverty of Spirit, True Riches, and the Dangers of Material Wealth.
Sacrifice and the First Commandment
Our reflections will cover the following areas, each in the form of a question and this time there are five. First, what is sacrifice? Second, what were the Jewish sacrifices of the Old Law? Third, what is the principle sacrifice of the New Law? Fourth, what are the principle motives for our sacrifices? And finally, are sacrifices the most powerful practice of our Catholic faith and the acme of Christian spirituality?
The Decalogue and Christian Sanctity: Introduction
…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 this opening meditation is to briefly explain the following areas of an ocean of revealed truth. First, the Ten Commandments are an integral part of the New Testament. Second, Christ lived the Ten Commandments in the highest possible degree. Third, 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.
Seventh and Tenth Commandments and Consecrated Poverty
Regarding the seventh and tenth commandments of the Decalogue…we may say that Christ was enacting or legislating, giving laws. Moses gave laws from God and Christ was giving laws, but watch this, not from God but as God. That is why, as we meditate on consecrated poverty, we are looking at an actual reality. God not only in His incarnation became poor; God was, we may say, poverty living in the world. Ever since, Christ 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 the 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, and I mean desperately, needs.
The Third Commandment
Our present meditation is on the third precept of the Decalogue. Surprisingly, the Third Commandment comes in three parts. First of all, it prescribes work for six days a week. Secondly, it prescribes the sanctification of what was called the Sabbath in the Old Law and Sunday in the New Law. And then it prescribes abstention from servile work, again for the ancient Jews on the Sabbath, which meant rest, and for us on Sundays and what we call holy days of obligation. My plan is to cover both those three parts and add a somewhat detailed set of recommendations.
Why Concentrate on the Decalogue
I never tire repeating: nobody gets to heaven alone. Nobody. Either we help bring others there or we won’t get there ourselves. The Decalogue describes the means necessary to do our apostolic duty. God will use us, He wants to use us as His agents in saving souls if and insofar as we are living up to our basic obligations of being faithful to the Ten Commandments elevated by Christ in His Sinai of the New Law. Only holy people sanctify others. And nobody cheats here. Nobody. God-fearing people bring others to submission to the will of God. God-loving people bring others to the love of God. Sanctity is not an end in itself. It is the divinely ordained means for saving and sanctifying others.

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