In those days, God delivered the commandments: 1 Ex 20:1-17. Here is another Lenten reflection from a priest from the Institute of the Incarnate Word, IVE, which is for the week of the 3rd Sunday of Lent. This is by Fr Nicholas Grace who is in Cowdenbeath, Scotland.
“I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery…I am a jealous God, inflicting punishment for wickedness but mercy…on those who love me and keep my commandments.”
Considering this text, I would like, in this article, to focus on two things in a very brief manner.
First: The Natural Law, written by God on every human heart.
Second: What are the Ten Commandments & Why they are so important.
The Natural Law, written by God on every human heart: Every member of Nature, every plant, every animal has a law which makes them tend to their goal, which makes them work.
Every human being has a law and must remain faithful to it if they are going to reach their goal if they are going to function correctly. This is called man’s Natural law.
Why is it called natural? This Law is rooted in a set of natural inclinations to specific goods. Natural inclinations toward Self-preservation, toward having and raising children, toward knowing the truth about God and living in society. It is imprinted in our hearts. It doesn’t have to be taught or learned. Like our DNA or genetic code, we also have this moral code weaved into our very being. How does it function? -This law, through our intelligence, tells us what is right for us, what is wrong for us, what is good for us & what is bad for us. When our actions conform to this law they help us fulfill our purpose in life & are thereby right & morally good. Similarly, when our actions are at variance with this law, they deter us from that purpose and are therefore wrong & immoral. Some examples: The law of our Nature tells us that… ● Nourishing our bodies is right, but overindulging to the detriment of health is wrong.
● Self-preservation is right, but selfishness is wrong.
● To love another person is good, but to love someone already seriously committed to another is not.
Now while it is easy to recognize that this knowledge comes naturally to us, we must also admit, very often, that same knowledge is rejected. In fact, the modern Western World is in a moral crisis. Institutions and governments often deny the Existence of the Natural law inscribed in every human heart. This denial has assisted in the spread of a morality not based on human nature but based on an easily manipulated social consensus. Is there a consequence? This denial means that all moral opinions become valid.
Why is that a problem? Values become distorted. Take tolerance, it has been distorted to promote a society where no one's choices are criticised because criticism might make someone feel bad.
Why is that a problem? Isn’t it best to make people feel nice? People’s feelings are easily manipulated and once manipulated evil can be called good & good can be called evil, evil vices can be presented as virtues and virtues as vices to the point where feelings totally outrank reason.
Is there a solution? We already have it!. God in his Wisdom and as a convenience, explicitly revealed the Ten Commandments, which very clearly express all those Laws already written in the heart of man, but often conveniently ignored because of the stubbornness and selfishness of man.
What are the Ten Commandments & Why are they so important? As an exercise say and name aloud each of the Ten Commandments. Then consider: If everyone in the world kept even half of them would the quality of life on our planet improve? Would human beings be working so much better?
The answer is, of course, YES, because the Commandments aren’t just Religious guidelines, they are also God’s design for work, for families, for friendships and for society as a whole. A: We can compare the Ten Commandments to the handbook for a car. A car is a complicated piece of machinery, and the maker’s handbook tells you how to take care of our car properly so that you can get the most out of it. The Ten Commandments are God’s handbook for human beings.
Why else are they so important?
Many people no longer respect God’s authority. As a result, they no longer respect authority of any kind, whether politicians, parents, Priests, teachers or employers and the secular, as well as, the Religious community suffer greatly because of this lack of respect.
We live in an age of Moral Relativism: All Morality is relative. All truth is relative. Unfortunately, the more everyone makes up his or her own truths, the less truth there will be. The Ten Commandments preserve for us the ten most important truths.
There is tremendous ignorance about God. The Commandments remind the world of his existence, manifest his plan and express his personality.
Finally, The Commandments are extremely important, but they are not everything. For this reason, I would like to conclude this article with a story which might illustrate my point. It is a missionary story which concerns the Taliabo people of Indonesia. “Many years ago, two families from New Tribes Mission, moved in with the Taliabo to live with them and learn their language. They began teaching the Scriptures, working their way forward to Christ and the Gospel. However, soon after the missionaries taught the people the Ten Commandments, a group of men visited them at their hut.
We are in big trouble with God. God’s law tells us not to kill, but we have killed other men. God’s law tells us not to steal, but we have stolen. We have broken God’s commandments, but we did not know that God commanded these things. From now on, we will keep God’s Commandments.
A couple of weeks later they returned to the missionaries’ hut. We are in really big trouble with God. Now we know God’s Commandments, but we still break them”.
I wanted the story to underline to those reading this article that, although God has written his law in our hearts we cannot keep it. Even though God has revealed his law through his prophets, we cannot keep it. The Taliabo people, just like the people of Israel, broke almost every Commandment immediately after receiving them.
The point is that Knowledge of the law is not enough. Knowing what is right does not confer power to do what is right, as Socrates incorrectly supposed. That is why, we have doctors who smoke, financial advisors who are in debt, and marriage counselors who are divorced!
The Ten Commandments do not remedy our sins; rather they reveal them and underline our need for a Saviour who can forgive them. That Saviour is Jesus Christ.
This Lent let us make a great effort to, not only, live by following the Ten Commandments but also seek Jesus Christ in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, when we will probably fail in our best efforts to keep the Commandments.