Hello, I’m Jeff Cavins, and today I thought it would be good, to focus on the 10 commandments just for a moment, and see how this relates to us as Catholics in the modern world.
You know, as we read about the 10 commandments, we see them in modern days on the sides of buildings, government buildings and so forth, and most people can repeat many of these commandments.
Now, to the people of Israel, these 10 commandments, or what they would call the 10 words, were very, very important because it became really the structure for their entire system of what they will do and what they will not do.
But if you don’t know the context of the 10 commandments, then you will simply think that these are rules and regulations to limit a people in terms of their religious experience.
Let’s Reflect on the Church in the Modern World
I know from being Catholic, and perhaps you do too, that some people will say, “You Catholics, you are a faith of rules and regulations. Eat this, don’t eat that, this day you have to come, this day you gotta go to church so many …” It just goes on and on.
So people will misunderstand our relationship with the church and our relationship with God because they’re focusing on the commands, do’s and don’ts.
Let’s face it: modern man has a bit of a rebellious heart to begin with, and doesn’t like to be told what to do.
But if we understand the 10 commandments properly, we’ll understand them not as simply a set of dos and don’ts. We will understand them as an expression of the love between God and His people in the context of a covenant.
Now, you know what a covenant is. A covenant is where there’s a sharing of persons, there’s a sharing of lives, and an oath is sworn and there are terms to the covenant.
In Israel’s case here, God is going to make a covenant with Israel and we’re going to see the stipulations of that covenant. But that covenant should be interpreted in terms of a love relationship, not a tyrannical leadership of older men who are trying to control our lives.
And so we hear the terms of the covenant, that if God and Israel are gonna have a relationship, there’s going to be certain guidelines.
Reflecting on the 10 Commandments: Guidelines for Relationship
For example, you’re not gonna have any other gods before God, okay Israel? That is one of the points in the expression of this love relationship.
You will not take the lord’s name in vain. You’re gonna remember the Sabbath.
You’re gonna honor your father and mother.
You’re not gonna kill. You’re not gonna commit adultery. You’re not gonna steal.
You’re not gonna bear false witness. You’re not gonna covet your neighbor’s house.
These are terms of the covenant that are expressions of this deep love.
Let me give you another example of this.
In the modern era, people will look at us as Catholics and they will see the stained-glass windows on our church. If you look at the stained-glass windows from the outside, they can look rather bland. But it’s when you come inside the church and you look out through the window that you really see the beauty of those stained-glass windows.
That’s what being Catholic is all about.
You see, the so-called rules and regulations, the 10 commandments if you will, that we go by are not imposed on us, but they’re expressions of the covenant love that we have with God.
And we should interpret all that we are commanded to do from the context of a covenant relationship.
(If you’re interested in exploring the history of God’s covenantal relationship with his people, I invite you to look at the Bible Timeline Chart. It arranges the key people, places, and events of Sacred Scripture in chronological order, so that you can get the “big picture” of the Bible.)
The 10 Commandments: Like a Marriage
It’s like a marriage. I married Emily and I’m coming up to my 40th anniversary of marriage with Emily. Now that I’m married with her, I don’t go out with other women. I do come home every night. We do share our finances with each other. We share a home together.
There are so many more stipulations put on me after marriage than before that an outsider might say, “Wow, you’re really tied down.”
No, I’m not tied down. I am free, I am free to love my wife, and the expressions of it are what you call rules.
So, what an outsider would call a rule and regulation I would call an expression of my deep love and my commitment.
Next time you hear the 10 commandments, I hope it reminds you of the wonderful treasure that we have as Catholics in the deposit of faith that has been handed on by Christ, interpreted and taught by the Magisterium of the Church, not as controlling mechanisms, but as expressions of a deep, deep love and a covenantal relationship with Jesus.
Invite people to come in the church. They’ll look at the windows in a new light.