You know the commandments.
These are Jesus’ words to the rich young man who is on his knees before Jesus, asking him what he must do to inherit eternal life.
In an effort to move past the mediocrity he has identified in today’s culture, Pope Francis gave a series of papal audiences on the Commandments. In them, he discourages us from settling for what passes away. In his words, “the life of young people is about moving forward, being restless, healthy restlessness, the capacity not to be content with a life without beauty, without colour.”
How to Live the Commandments
We can find this life of beauty through the Commandments. In this way, the commandments we have known since we were small can become more than just a list of “Thou Shall Not’s”, and instead serve as a guide to living more beautifully.
Commandments on the Love of God
First Commandment //
I am the Lord your God. You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.
This means we should not treat people, special events, or things as more important than God. So often in today’s culture we are told that we are our own gods, and that the primary good is to “find your own happiness” and “live your truth.” In doing so, we make ourselves into idols.
Pope Francis says that “idols enslave. They promise happiness but do not deliver it and we find ourselves living for that thing or that vision, drawn into a self-destructive vortex, waiting for a result that never comes.” It removes us from reality.
A concrete way to live in the truth is by starting your morning with the Lord and forming a habit of prayer with him before the hustle of the day begins.
Second Commandment //
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.
The world is saying God’s Name in vain constantly. Most often I think it’s out of ignorance rather than malice, but still it makes me cringe. I want my Creator’s Name to be revered, and to be kept sacred. I don’t want the glory of His Name to ever be spoken indifferently or absentmindedly.
We can practice reparation for both intentional or unintentional disrespect of his name by saying, “I love You, Jesus” every time we hear His Name used in vain.
Third Commandment //
Remember to keep holy the Sabbath.
When is the last time you, or anyone you know for that matter, didn’t feel “busy”? Our culture gives us so many options, activities, and forms of entertainment, we rarely take time to rest and enjoy the company of those we love the most.
When viewed through that lens, this commandment really feels more like an invitation to something we know we need rather than a rule to follow. As it reads in the Catechism:
The sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite. It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money. -CCC 2172
This is much easier said than done, but there are many small things we can do during our Sunday to bring more rest into the Sabbath. Consider trying to do any extra studying, work, or grocery shopping on Saturday instead of Sunday in order to reserve a few extra hours of rest and leisure with your loved ones.
Commandments on the Love of Neighbor
Fourth Commandment //
Honor your father and your mother.
When I was little, my dad really disliked the Disney Channel because the children in the shows were often disrespectful to their parents and made their mom and dad look silly and out of touch. With the benefit of hindsight, I see that my dad was spot on. These T.V. shows portrayed a lot of disrespect to elders.
As I have grown older, I come to appreciate my parents more with each passing year. Still, as adults, there are different ways we can be tempted to dishonor our parents, such as being impatient when offering IT support when they need help learning Facebook video calling, sending a photo via text, or making a pick-up order online. Or maybe they have differing political views, or the same political views, but express them more radically.
Yes, it can be easier to be impatient with family, because we’re comfortable with them, but that is no excuse. Now, when I look at my own daughter, I am reminded to show my parents the same patience and care that they gave to me from the moment I was born.
Fifth Commandment //
You shall not kill.
While at first read this sounds pretty straightforward, this commandment is also one of the main texts which informs the Church’s teachings on abortion, sterilization, and unjust killing. Furthermore, it includes sins which can put others down and harm their reputation, for example, the sin of gossip.
When a woman confessed the sin of gossip to Saint Philip Neri, her penance was to take a feather pillow, rip it open, and watch the feathers blow with the wind. Then, she was to go and collect each one of the feathers that had been ripped out. His point of course, is that we cannot undo our words. I try to think of this story when I am tempted to fill a silent void with gossip.
Sixth Commandment //
You shall not commit adultery.
Chastity is not popular in today’s society, nor is it easy. In fact, the media tries to normalize lust, claiming that it’s all just fun and games. Chastity of thought, word, and action requires integrity and self-mastery. In practicing control of the will, one can break free from the enslavement of the passions.
We don’t have to look far to see all the ways the world is telling us that chastity is unimportant and old-fashioned, but living this commandment well offers a path to an unbelievable freedom to love instead of using others for our own pleasure. You’ll have to fight for it, but freedom from lustful addictions can be found.
Seventh Commandment //
You shall not steal.
This commandment isn’t just talking about shoplifting, it’s calling us on to generosity. It is Jesus directing us to be good stewards of our time and possessions. In the words of Pope Francis, this commandment means to “love with your goods, make use of your means to love as best you can. Then your life becomes good and your property truly becomes a gift.” He reminds us that our life is meant to be given as a gift.
In uncertain times, it can be easy to hoard, but Jesus invites us to lean into surrender and trust.
Eighth Commandment //
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Revenge and getting even is tempting, but Jesus is telling us here to remember what the Book of James tells us about God being the lawgiver, not us. Jesus shines the way for living out this eighth commandment when he stands before Pontius Pilate and testifies to the truth.
We need to pray for the same steadfastness as Jesus had. We need to pray that He will help us speak words out of love and with love, even at times when fraternal correction is needed.
Ninth and Tenth Commandments //
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.
These last two commandments sound a lot like sixth and seventh commandments. Pope Francis explains that what this points out is that all offense against God is rooted in evil desires. Failure to follow the ninth commandment leads to divorce and popularization of dating sites geared for those who are already in committed relationships. Failure to obey the tenth commandment can lead to a “Keeping up with the Joneses” mentality and as a consequence, a loss of joy.
We obey the ninth commandment by honoring and respecting our spouse and loving them wholeheartedly. We obey the tenth commandment by having a heart of gratitude for what we have, and avoiding the comparison game.
Help from the Holy Spirit
We cannot overcome temptation on our own. When we do it on our own, we eat the apple in the garden just like Adam and Eve did. We need to ask the Holy Spirit for help every day and throughout the day. If we ask Him, he will come, and he will help us to enter into the freedom which following the Ten Commandments provide.
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