Monday, March 9, 2015

The Ten Commandments: 3rd Sunday of Lent

(Listen to this homily here).

            We heard this morning one of the most famous readings in the Bible—the Ten Commandments as given in Exodus 20.  Now these commandments were not wholly unique to the Hebrews—other ancient law codes and moral systems existed.  Many of them agreed on the basic points.
            Imagine for a moment a world in which everyone followed the Ten Commandments.  Imagine if everyone in International Falls strove to fulfill these commandments.  How would your life be different if you lived them out?
            Here’s another question—do you remember what the Ten Commandments are?  Could you list them in order?  You should be able to!  Many of us could probably get them all if we sat down with pen and paper, but even their order is important.
            The Ten Commandments are divided into two tables or tablets.  I’ll refer to them as tables because I am of the iPad generation.  The first table is dedicated to our relationship with God.  The second is focused on our relationship with others.  A few thoughts regarding some of these…
            The first commandment is the most basic—“I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me.”  Put God first.  No idols.  Don’t put stuff before God.  Sometimes people will come to Confession, or speak to me about Confession and express difficulties in coming up with a list of sins.  “I’m basically a good person,” they may add.  Well here’s a good place to start!  Does such a person really put God first in everything?  Are they completely united with God here on earth?
            The second commandment is to not take God’s name in vain.  I have told high school students something which I will share with you now—it is a billion times better using “four letter words” than God’s name in vain.  (Not that saying such words is a good thing or that you have permission to do so!)  God’s name is sacred.  God’s name is holy.  Our society may cringe at curse words without even thinking of God’s name misused.
            The third commandment is to keep holy the Sabbath.  Here’s some news for you—God didn’t give us one for Himself.  He didn’t think, “I’ll make them come to Mass!”  He loses nothing if you don’t show up on Sundays.  He gave us Sundays for us.  You deserve a day with the Lord and your family.
            The next table moves to how we treat our neighbor, and we begin with our family.  Honor your father and mother.”  By extension, this applies to the rest of our family and even people in authority.
            Then comes the quick list of things not to do: don’t kill, don’t commit adultery, don’t steal, don’t bear false witness, don’t covet.  I doubt anyone here has committed cold-blooded murder.  But do you kill with your words?  Thoughts?  Jesus specifically addressed the command not to commit adultery.  This does prohibit affairs, but where is your mind?  Eyes?  Use of your computer or phone? 
            With respect to the commandments, these are good no’s.  They are almost universally agreed upon throughout time and various cultures.  And we say no all the time without thinking about it.  If I get Cinnamon Toast Crunch at the grocery store, I said no to Kix, Raisin Bran and Lucky Charms.  If you are married, you have said no to every other person of the opposite gender.  If you go out for hockey you said no to swimming or basketball.
I have said this before, but behind every no there is a greater yes in our faith.  Think about what we are saying yes to by following the commandments.  Yes to God.  Yes to God’s name.  Yes to Mass.  Yes to our family.  Yes to life.  Yes to fidelity.  Yes to honesty.  Yes to appreciation for what we have.  I promise you: if you strive to live out the commandments you will be happier.
This Lent I challenge you to apply the Ten Commandments to your life.  If needed, memorize them.  Then use them to examine your life.  Then bring them to confession!  I hope each of you comes to Confession this Lent, mindful that no one perfectly follows God’s commandments—not ever the Pope.  We examine ourselves to grow and to be forgiven.
Let the Ten Commandments draw you closer to God and neighbor this Lent, and come to Confession for the times you have slipped up.

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