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The Sixth Commandment

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Better put the kids to bed because we are going to talk about the Sixth Commandment- Thou Shalt Not Commit Adultery (I kept it in the Old English for emphasis). The fourth commandment is to honor our parents, this one is to honor marriage. Of all the broken commandments people mention in confession by number only, this is it. Not that everyone is going around committing adultery, at least I hope not, but rather they understand this commandment in its wider implications which we will discuss. “The tradition of the Church has understood the sixth commandment as encompassing the whole of human sexuality (CCC# 2336). I really like the approach to this commandment the catechism takes, as it doesn’t immediately speak of, “thou shalt not…” Instead, it speaks of chastity as a vocation and looks at it as a successful integration of human sexuality both bodily and spiritually. The call for chastity as part of this commandment recognizes that we are all born with sexuality and as such, have sexual energy. When we use this sexual energy to maintain our own human integrity as well as preserve the dignity of others, we have positively used this virtue. When we have used the energy for self-gratification, or for our own benefit outside a sacred, committed, marital relationship, we have miss-used the gift of sexuality given by God. For many, this proper direction of our sexual energy can easily be accomplished. For others, the deadly sin of lust makes it a lifelong-trial. We lose this sexual energy when we die, and unfortunately, not before. Although some may argue that because there is this sexual energy tension, a man and a woman cannot truly become just friends. I do not think that is true, as I have many women friends; maybe this is a function of age and experience. We, as a society, however, would go a long way by adopting the Church’s position on men and women being created equal but complimentary.

The biggest change in our society, with regards to this commandment over the last fifty years, has been the easy and pervasive availability of pornographic material. Along with changes in morality in television and movies, the exposure of any age person to two persons having sex, basically just because they can, has dulled our ability to declare chastity not only as desirable, but attainable. Somehow when we are saturated with visual images of two people “doing it,” it seems to weaken our innate desire for dignity, for ourselves and others. We have woefully thought that making love is being loved. The recurrent pain caused by people pretending intimacy, is responsible, in my mind, for an inability for many to, in a healthy way, relate to the opposite sex. When we have led a promiscuous life, we have a hard time ever trusting another to be chaste with us. The other wrongly held belief is that pornography is not harmful to a marriage. Many engaged couples (mostly men) will admit to watching pornography, but then their betrothed will state that it doesn’t bother them. In truth, pornography is as damaging as alcoholism or any other soul-killing addiction. I just think the other person doesn’t want pornography to be a “deal breaker", and besides, they feel that he will change once he is married. If I can make any plea in my communique, it is to take the viewing of pornography seriously. It hurts the people you are watching, and the people you love.

A word about homosexuality, as it falls into this category. We do not know why, but, let me state it from the catechism, “The number of men and women who have deep seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible (CCC#2358).” The bottom line for the Church is that it understands these tendencies exist, but if you do have them, you are called to chastity. So are unmarried couples called to chastity, yet we, and I include the Church, has not treated engaged couples living together with the same fervor we do the concept of homosexuality. We “allow” our children to shack up with their honey, but will become a bit more agitated when that honey is of the same sex. The expectation that two people, men, women, or one of each, who love each other cannot be expected to be chaste, fascinates me. If that premise is true, then why does marriage afford any protection against adultery? Is it just because I promised? My argument is that if you DID love each other, you would also respect each other, and hold off on exchanging an intimacy until you can offer yourself totally and without “strings."

I must say that I never read the catechism in regards to divorce until I was preparing this communique. I will tell you that I have some problems with the way they state things in relation to divorce. I cannot explain in detail here, but having experienced a divorce, I have equated it to having gangrene in a limb. You could keep the limb and die, or you can cut it off and live. You will live without an arm or a leg, but you will live. Nobody thinks a divorce is good, but I can attest that sometimes the alternative is worse, even when children are involved. The key is not to lose fact that you remain a parent and should make it your life goal- married or divorced- to be a good example to your children. I have never seen two people so mean to each other than some divorced adults. Okay, I probably upset some people, and it was not my intent. If we all just gave each other the dignity we have been given by God, a lot of our relational problems would be gone. I also feel that if our society today understood sex as the super-power it is and recognized that if you play with fire…you will get burned, we would love better. If your aim in life is not to be chaste, it tells me you just don’t think to highly of yourself.

The Fifth Commandment

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(This reflection was written after the Waukesha Christmas Parade tragedy in November 2021.)

It is not coincidental that we are at the fifth commandment. THOU SHALT NOT KILL. I don't know if I can say anything of wisdom in the backdrop of our experience of someone to whom this commandment meant nothing. I surely do not want to just run off a series of caveats which this commandment covers, because those who do those things know they are wrong. To tell all of you about this commandment, I would be preaching to the choir. It is enough to remember and ponder that the very first act we hear about in our new fallen world, our world of grasping at the knowledge of good and evil, is murder. And not just any murder, but the murder of a brother by a brother, Cain murdering Abel, out of envy. In that one event, we see an unleashing of a myriad of sins which we have all become familiar: envy, lying (“I do not know,” when Cain is questioned by God as to the whereabouts of Abel), lack of compassion (“Am I my brother’s keeper?”). Since God is the giver of life, and we are saddled with a brain full of self-concern, only God has the right to end life.

Jewish tradition teaches that, “if a person saves one life, it is as if a whole world has been saved. And, if a person destroys one life, it is as if a whole world has been destroyed.” As we celebrate our Thanksgiving, with or without our families, we often recall our “family tree.” We go back to our father’s father and his before that. We take note of who “begot” who. Think of how the murder of your great-great-great grandfather would have effected your existence. To just think of this shakes our core as to the depth of this sin. 

This prohibition against murder also contains within it the sin of gossip. Publicly humiliating someone is akin to murder. Tarnishing someone’s good name is destroying that person. And it is plain cowardice. To not be able to say something to someone’s face, but be willing to put that person down to another, is spineless at its core. But the damage done with gossip is also to the person who speaks ill of another. We think we are hurting the other person, but we are hurting ourselves. Anyone who hears gossip wonders, “What does this person say about me when I am not around?” That is the dual nature of sin, but especially this commandment. When we kill, we are killing ourselves because when we bow to taking another’s life, whether literally or through a harsh tongue, we have taken God out of our own soul. Remember the three rules before speaking: Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary? 

Our Superhero

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Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe! This sounds like a title for a superhero.  Jesus is our superhero!  In Dn. 7:1314, powerful language and strong adjectives are used that demonstrates a power and majesty that one would expect from a superhero:

As the visions during the night continued, I saw one like a Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven; when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, the one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship;  all peoples, nations, and languages serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.

In Revelations 1:5-8, Jesus is describe as "the faithful witness.” Being a faithful witness implies that He is not forefront and dominant but more supportive. In John 18:33-37, Jesus is shown as powerful and confident, but completely humble. There is a contrast to Jesus that challenges what it means to be a superhero by modern standards. Jesus doesn’t fight. Jesus doesn’t boast. Jesus doesn’t argue. Fighting, boasting, and arguing are all things that we would expect a superhero to do when confronting an enemy. We would expect a superhero to fight back against the tyranny and misguided justice being demonstrated at this point in the story.

Not our superhero! Jesus does exactly what He has taught us to do. He models surrender. He models dignity. He models integrity. Jesus participates in His trial, taking in stride all that He is being subjected to because He knows it is the will of the Father. He rises to the occasion in a manner that results in a much greater reward than what would have occurred had He fought back. He exudes a power and might beyond human understanding. Indeed, He did fight back by subjecting Himself to the wood of the cross. His defense was to succumb, thus dominate over all. Death gained reward, a reward of eternal life for all who believe in Him. Isn’t that what a superhero does, lays down their life to save others? Let’s give a triumphant cheer for Jesus Christ, King of the Universe!

 

Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe! The feast day today sounds like the introduction for a superhero.  Jesus is our superhero, especially when watching the progression of how He is described from the first reading, to the second reading, to the gospel. The first reading uses very powerful language and strong adjectives that demonstrates a power and majesty that one would expect from a superhero:

As the visions during the night continued, I saw one like a Son of man coming on the clouds of heaven; when he reached the Ancient One and was presented before him, the one like a Son of man received dominion, glory, and kingship;  all peoples, nations, and languages serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not be taken away, his kingship shall not be destroyed.

The second reading starts to change the tone a little. While it references phrases from the first reading, the lead sentence, “Jesus Christ is the faithful witness,” shifts perspective. No longer is the Son of Man exuding power as we would expect from a superhero, but more of the humility that is indicative of the sidekick.  Being a faithful witness implies that He is not forefront and dominant but more supportive. This is a curious shift as the Gospel then shows Jesus powerful and confident, but completely humble. There is a contrast to Jesus that challenges what it means to be a superhero by modern standards. Jesus doesn’t fight. Jesus doesn’t boast. Jesus doesn’t argue. Fighting, boasting, and arguing are all things that we would expect a superhero to do when confronting an enemy. We would expect a superhero to fight back against the tyranny and misguided justice being demonstrated at this point in the story.

Not our superhero! Jesus does exactly what He has taught us to do. He models surrender. He models dignity. He models integrity. Jesus participates in His trial, taking in stride all that He is being subjected to because He knows it is the will of the Father. He rises to the occasion in a manner that results in a much greater reward than what would have occurred had He fought back. He exudes a power and might beyond human understanding. Indeed, He did fight back by subjecting Himself to the wood of the cross. His defense was to succumb, thus dominate over all. Death gained reward, a reward of eternal life for all who believe in Him. Isn’t that what a superhero does, lays down their life to save others? Let’s give a triumphant cheer for Jesus Christ, King of the Universe!

 

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