theROCK

Who Seeks Whom?

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About 13 years ago, my wife and I were separated and I was raising teenage and preteen daughters. I was diligently seeking to know the faith that I had learned as a young boy, a seven-year-old boy to be exact, and I was succeeding. I had encountered God in some amazing ways, but I was still driving the boat so to speak. I was in control, seeking Him in the best way I knew how, which was admittedly simple but also effective. 

My son Matt had just returned after a year and a half as a volunteer at an orphanage in Miacatlán, Mexico. I was so happy to have him home. It was great to have an older child home to discuss matters of the day with, to talk sports, to just be with. Skype was great, but this was much better. I was certain that God had sent him to be with me as another sign of just how much he loved me, and that certainly was true, but there was much more.

A few years later on the Feast of the Epiphany, as I was leaving St. Dominic driving down Parish Drive, I realized that more had occurred when Matt came home than God showing me he loved me. I had an epiphany of my own. In a lighting bolt type moment, I realized that God was seeking me.  That God had always been seeking me. That he not only was seeking me, but he was seeking everyone else as well, and my job was simply to let Him find me. Sure, I needed to seek, but the heavy lifting was being done by a God who loves beyond measure.

From that day, I began a journey of allowing God to find me. Sure, I continually tried to take control, but each time I had to relinquish it. I am the beloved, the one the father seeks out. I am not the initiator. The journey continues. My God loves me(us), he loves all of us so much that he seeks each one of us out. Just like the Shepherd and the lost sheep. Best of all, He will not rest until he finds us.

 

The Ninth Commandment

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Here is commandment number nine directly from the Catechism of the Catholic Church: You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or his manservant, or maid servant, or his ox or ass, or anything that is your neighbor’s. Alright then, since most of us have neither ox nor ass, maidservant or manservant, we are down to not coveting our neighbor’s house and wife. Since the tenth commandment specifically covers not coveting our neighbor’s goods, we are left here with not coveting our neighbor’s wife. The distinction between the ninth and tenth commandments is interesting. The ninth expresses envy over living relationships or things. Back in Moses time, a person’s animals were as important as human relationships. The ninth commandment forbids us to be envious of who and what our neighbor is in relationship with. Outside of it being just good advice for a civilized society, it is good advice for our hearts as well.

From a theological standpoint, the ninth commandment is telling us that God has put us exactly where he wants us, and given us all we need to be the person God wishes us to be. That our happiness doesn’t lie in another’s home, but rather in the people and circumstances God places before us. These last two commandments sum up, are indicative of, all the ones before. If we honor God we do not have the idols of the world as our god. If we honor our father and mother, we honor all our relationships for their holy value. If we are not jealous or restless with who we are, we do not steal or kill, or bear false witness. If we do all those things right, we have no trouble with coveting the wrong things.

I hope you begin to see the linkage between all the Ten Commandments. They are not individual, separate demands, but rather permutations, particulars around larger relational requirements with a good and gracious God who wishes relationship with him.

I do not wish to go into the particulars of this commandment, frankly because it involves one of the four ways God loves us. This touches on the Eros or romantic aspect of how we are loved by God. Many people become quite uncomfortable talking about this aspect of God’s love. I, having been married and experiencing all four of these aspects of love (Philia, agape, storge, eros), I can more readily speak that God must love us with all four. Which means our human desire for romantic love, our need for union with the “other” is in our nature and not sinful. It is necessary, because the eros portion of love is the creative portion. God cannot love us without it because his love flows from creation. I do not see having this eros love as a battle, something we either need to tame or remove entirely from our being. I therefore, have trouble with the explanation of this commandment in the catechism (CCC#2514-2527), which examines this desire purely as a dysfunction… as something wrong. The desire to love romantically is the life force of love and it is necessary and joyful. The problem I see with it, I see with any power. Think of eros as a nuclear reactor. If you manage the power properly it can give light and warmth to all, but if you pull out all the damping rods, the reactor can blow and contaminate everything around it for years to come. That is the power of eros. For many years the Church, knowing its power, says not to touch it at all. As I read the Catechism, those thoughts still permeate their thinking. As any one of you married couples will attest, the love, every aspect of it, was the joy of relationship you cherished with your spouse.

I remember when I was first in the seminary. Having come from a marital relationship, I really thought there would be a plethora of knocks at my door, (I will try to be discrete) what it was like…were they missing anything? Nobody ever asked me, which I thought odd. I still wonder how hard it must be for a priest to talk about sex (there I said it!).

Coveting another is using the gift of eros, the energy of creative love for the wrong purpose. That is what is sinful, using any gift from God in a harmful and non-creative manner. I could talk much more on this but I am honestly afraid that if I said too much that will stir up some negative comments. Let me finish by summarizing what I said. To have the feelings for romantic love is not wrong, it is a gift from God and a necessary one because it is the only aspect of love that is creative. It is sinful when we misuse the ‘energy’ of that love in a non-creative and selfish goal. To me that is what this ninth commandment speaks to.

The Eighth Commandment

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The introduction to the eighth commandment from the Catechism of the Catholic Church begins, “The eighth commandment forbids misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others. (CCC: 2464)” As I read this I thought of some smart aleck child reporting in confession that he “misrepresented the truth in my relations with others.” To which I would reply, “You mean you lied.”

The eighth commandment is “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.” It means you should not lie. God could have saved some space on the stone tablets if he had just said that. Jesus spoke of truth in different ways. He, himself, is “the Way the Truth and the Life.” As his disciples, we are to live in him as Truth and in the truth. Living in the big Truth, means living our faith in Jesus. Living in the truth means leading a truthful life. So living in the truth is living in the absence of lying.

Why is lying so dangerous? First, let’s explain why lying is so attractive. One, we often get away with it. Nobody finds out we lied most of the time, and that makes lying at the next opportunity very attractive. Lying serves a purpose. We often lie for a reason. Sometimes we can even convince ourselves it is s good reason. How many husbands have stretched the truth to save their skin when asked by their wives, “How do I look?” We lie to avoid hurting another’s feelings, to protect something we know may be harmful if truth be told, or to save our own embarrassment that would reveal our “nakedness.” So, one could make up a fairly cogent argument that lying is sometimes acceptable and necessary. One could say that, but one would be wrong.

Here is the problem with lying. It is one of those sins which hurts our own souls. There are sins against other people and there are sins against ourselves. Gossiping, swearing, and lying are sins that dirty our own souls. Here is an example. I punch my brother because I am mad at him. I can have true remorse, apologize, and we are good. But if I lie, for whatever reason, I have violated a trust and a truth that Jesus expressly asked us to live in. If I am labeled a liar, where do I go from there? Anything I say is suspect, as after all, I am a liar. The loss of trust is very difficult to recover. Taken to a societal level, St. Thomas Aquinas says this, “Men could not live with one another if there were not mutual confidence that they were being truthful to one another.” That dictum applies to our society, our family, and our most intimate relationship. And as I think about it, it keeps us from God. Although we, in our head, know God sees everything, we consistently “lie” to God about our willingness to surrender to his will, our ability to forgive, and our attempts to see Christ in all. We consciously or subconsciously lie to the very person who knows everything already. And we often think we are clever at it as well.

We often look at Jesus as the Truth, and forget that we are called to live in the truth as well. This commandment also compels us to serve as witnesses to our faith. We are not to be embarrassed or unwilling to proclaim the Truth to others. The Catechism speaks of many offenses against the truth- CCC # 2475-2487. Suffice it to say, it incorporates gossiping, boasts, and rash judgment. This commandment also calls us to honor secrets we make, which speaks to the gravity of not accepting a secret in the first place. We often welcome hearing a secret as having some power over that person. They now depend on us to preserve their reputation or whatever lends itself to the cause for the secret. The commandment also calls for us to not ask for people to keep secret something which may compromise their faith or their reputation. Social media has opened an entire avenue of presumed anonymity and ease in destroying another person. We feel no remorse in aggravated accusations and conclusions which hurt other people. Many of us check our civility at the door when we turn on our computers.

On the positive side, sacred art and music are deep expressions of truth, and highlight what living in the truth feels like. My bottom line is that there is never, ever a reason to lie. Have I lied in my past? "Yes.” I have lied to save face, to get away with what I wanted, or to hurt other people. As I warned with the other commandments, you can get forgiveness from God, and re-establish your relationship with him, but when you lied over something that was serious, you never will forget it. Living in the truth, won’t guarantee you a smooth life, just a happy one.

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