instruere...inlustrare...delectare Disputations

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Lesson for the catechist

The topic of last week's RCIA class was the Fourth Commandment. The catechist leading the class read the following, from the CCC:

This commandment is expressed in positive terms of duties to be fulfilled. It introduces the subsequent commandments which are concerned with particular respect for life, marriage, earthly goods, and speech. It constitutes one of the foundations of the social doctrine of the Church.

The fourth commandment is addressed expressly to children in their relationship to their father and mother, because this relationship is the most universal. It likewise concerns the ties of kinship between members of the extended family. It requires honor, affection, and gratitude toward elders and ancestors. Finally, it extends to the duties of pupils to teachers, employees to employers, subordinates to leaders, citizens to their country, and to those who administer or govern it.

This commandment includes and presupposes the duties of parents, instructors, teachers, leaders, magistrates, those who govern, all who exercise authority over others or over a community of persons.
As he read this, I looked at the words of the commandment itself, written on a handout:
 HONOR THY FATHER AND MOTHER.
I was struck by how different the Church's view of the Ten Commandments is from the view of a lot of indifferent and lapsed Christians -- and, for that matter, from the view a lot of indifferent and lapsed Christians have of the Church's view of the Ten Commandments.

The indifferent and lapsed view reduces the Ten Commandments to a set of rules. Do this, don't do that -- and mostly they're, "Don't do that."

The Church's view is that the Ten Commandments express, not rules, but a Rule, a way of living that is in concord with the God Who created us. The Church refers to them as "the Decalogue," "'ten words' [that] point out the conditions of a life freed from the slavery of sin."

Yes, those conditions imply both positive and negative duties for us. Yes, as the Church ponders these words of God, some of the conclusions reached expand and refine the scope of those duties, and wind up expressed as more or less categorical rules. And yes, plenty of people have always preferred the fleshpots of Egypt to freedom.

But the Ten Commandments are God's revelation to us of a life well lived, and that revelation contains far more than a set of rules. If all people are hearing is, "Do this, don't do that," it's certainly not because that's all the Church is saying --

Though it is possible that's all the Church -- in the persons of individual catechists, teachers, priests, and online fraternal correctors -- has said directly to some of the people who dismiss the Church as nothing but a machine for spoilsport rule-making.

Either way, the point isn't to assign blame, but to propose (or re-propose) the truths revealed by God and entrusted to the Church to a culture that sees the freedom of the sons of God as a form of slavery and slavery to sin as freedom.

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