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제목 The Ten Commandments - Introduction(2016-01-09)
작성자 관리자 작성일 2016-01-11



The Ten Commandments - Introduction(2016-01-09)


My dear brethren,
This year, I would like to give you a series of sermon on the Ten Commandments. To understand the importance of the Ten Commandments, the best is to listen to our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. One day, a young man came to him and asked him: “Good master, what good shall I do that I may have life everlasting? Who said to him: Why asketh thou me concerning good? One is good, God. But if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments”(Mt. 19:16-17). Thus the Ten Commandments indicate us what we must do in order to reach eternal life.

Certain things are desired for themselves as a goal, and other things are desired merely as means for something else: for instance we want medicine not for its own sake, but for the sake of health. Since we price health as something important, we are even ready to accept bitter medicine in order to restore health: even painful surgical operations are desired if needed as a means for health. Now health itself is not the ultimate goal: indeed when one is healthy, what will he do with that health? Health is a condition of happiness but is not happiness itself. So is there something we want as our ultimate goal?

Everyone wants to be happy: every one’s ultimate goal is happiness.  But where to find happiness? Is happiness merely subjective? Merely feeling good? Not at all: indeed suppose someone tells you: “you have won the big prize at the lotto”, you may feel happy – but that is because you assume he told you the truth: if the next day you learn that it was not true, then it destroys that first feeling and moreover you are hurt for having been deceived. A happiness that is not based on the truth is a mere dream, which bursts out like a soap bubble; it is a deceit. No one wants to be deceived. That is not real happiness; it is not what we all want.

St Augustine explains that in order to be truly happy we need to possess a good that will satisfy all our desires, and to know that we possess it and to love it. If one inherits a great sum, but does not know it, he is not yet happy; if one has something, knows it but does not love if, he is not happy with it; and if one has something which he loves, but that thing is not really good, then he is still not happy with this situation.


The typical example of that last case is a bad marriage: one may love a person, be married with that person, but if that person is not really good, then it is the source of lots of disappointment and great sadness! To give real happiness, one needs something that is really good; it is not true to say: I can decide for myself what is good and what is wrong for me. Because we don’t make the goodness of things, our mere decision is not efficacious to make them good for us. This is quite evident in many ways: if one is sick and needs a medicine, a mere decision of ours is not sufficient to make of this or that product an efficacious remedy for our sickness: either it is objectively a remedy or it is not, our decision does not change what it is, and therefore it does not change its goodness for us.


 I insist on this, because we live a time when many people are deceived by “idealism”, i.e. as if each one can think whatever he wants, as if each one “makes his own truth”. This is certainly very anti-scientific, and opposed to proper philosophy and even against the most simple common sense.

So in what good can man find his perfect happiness? St Thomas goes through the different kinds of goods and shows that perfect happiness cannot be found in any of them; first he shows that it cannot be found in riches: by their very nature, they are not goals but mere means: what does it profit to have a big balance in a bank account except to be able to purchase something with it? Thus wealth is just a means, not an ultimate goal. Some people say that successful people know how to spend money in order to get more”: but that is a vicious circle: what do they do with this “more money” that they get? They spend it in order to get even more? And so on and on with no end: it is a vicious circle; it only shows that money is a means and not an end it itself.

Then St Thomas continues and shows that happiness does not consist either in honour, fame and glory, neither in power; all these things are external to man, and do not make him better in himself. Moreover happiness cannot consist ultimately in the goods and pleasure of the body, because it is only the lower part of our human nature, much below our spiritual part. St Thomas continues and even states that happiness cannot consist in itself in the good of the soul, because these goods are limited: and whatever limited thing we possess, we want MORE! Nothing limited is sufficient to fill our soul.

Happiness can only consist in the possession of the INFINITE GOOD, and only GOD is the Infinite Good. Thus human happiness can only be found in the possession of God! And that possession of God will be in the everlasting beatific vision: in this consists eternal life! God made us for Himself; He created us for Him. Indeed our Lord Jesus Christ said: “this is eternal life: That they may know thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent” (Jn. 17:3). “Thou hast made us for Thee, o Lord, and our heart is restless until it can rest in Thee” (St Augustine).

Now how can we find God? How can we reach that eternal life with God? How can we reach that possession of God for all eternity? What is the path to God? Our Lord Jesus Christ! Indeed He said: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father, but by me” (Jn. 14:6). Our Lord Jesus Christ is The Way to the Father, He is The One Way to God, and there is no other. Every “law” consists in certain “words” of the lawmaker: now the Word of God is precisely the Second Person of the Most Holy Trinity, our Lord Jesus Christ.


 Thus He is the Eternal Law. By the Incarnation, that spiritual eternal law became visible. St Augustine compares it with our human words: when we think, we pronounce words in our mind, but nobody can hear them; when we speak we give a body to these words, we manifest them in a material way (sound waves are material vibrations). Thus the Incarnate Word of God is our Law; Jesus-Christ is our Law!

Does that mean that our Lord Jesus Christ did everything and we have nothing to do? Or that we merely have to believe in Him, and could continue with our sins, as the Protestants say? Not at all! It means that our whole Christian life consists in the following of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the imitation of our Lord Jesus Christ, in Christ living in us, as St Paul says beautifully: “Be ye therefore imitators of God, as most dear children; and walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath delivered himself for us, an oblation and a sacrifice to God for an odour of sweetness” (Eph. 5:1-2). “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me, as I also am of Christ” (1 Cor. 4:16, 11:1). Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself teaches this: “I have given you an example, that as I have done to you, so you do also” (Jn. 13:15). And St Peter says: “Christ also suffered for us, leaving you an example that you should follow his steps” (1 Pet. 2:21).

But does that mean that before the coming of Christ people could not know the path to God, the Law of God? No! From the beginning, God has given to men enough light of reason to find out the essentials of the Commandments: this is the Natural Law. But because of the multiplication of sins, God gave to Moses again those basic Commandments, the Ten Commandments, as a reminder of that Natural Law, plus He gave them some ceremonial laws to prepare for the coming of the Messiah (thus all the precepts concerning the sacrifices of the Old Testament signify the perfect Sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ on His Cross) and He gave them some “judicial laws”, by which certain punishments were assigned for certain crimes. There are thus three kinds of precepts in the Old Testament: moral precepts such as the Ten Commandments, ceremonial precepts and judicial precepts.

Now the Church teaches that the ceremonial laws of the Old Testaments are no longer valid in the New Testament, being like the shadow (Col. 2:17, Heb. 8:5) replaced by the light, or the figure (1 Cor. 10:6) replaced by what it signified. The judicial law keeps an indicative value, especially for the gravity of certain sins: thus that which was punished by death in the Old Testament signifies mortal sins, such as idolatry, blasphemy, murder, adultery, etc.


In the New Testament, though the penalty inflicted here below is more merciful, these sins remain mortal sins and deserve everlasting punishment in Hell unless someone does real penance for them. The moral law of the Old Testament is not abrogated by Christ, far from it: it is rather elevated by Christ to higher standards. Our Lord Jesus Christ Himself says: “unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 5:20). And he goes on to explain several Commandments, showing how much higher holiness was required in the New Testament: “You have heard that it was said to them of old: Thou shalt not kill. And whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment. But I say to you, that whosoever is angry with his brother, shall be in danger of the judgment…” (Mt. 5:21-22).

Because Protestants reject the wisdom of the Church, they became unable to distinguish between these three kinds of precepts and tend to consider the Old Testament Law – including the Ten Commandments – as no longer binding in the New Testament: this is a great deceit of the Devil, who then deceives them as if they could continue in their sins, as if “faith alone” was sufficient. But our Lord Jesus Christ said very clearly: “Not every one that saith to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven: but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of heaven. Many will say to me in that day: Lord, Lord, have not we prophesied in thy name, and cast out devils in thy name, and done many miracles in thy name? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity” (Mt. 7:21-23).


So not everyone who has faith (saying “Lord, Lord”), but only those who actually fulfil the Commandments, doing the Will of the Father, will be saved. St Paul says the same thing to the Romans: “not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified” (Rom. 2:13). To observe the Ten Commandments is basically a requirement of Love: “If you love me, keep my commandments” (Jn. 14:15), and “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind” (Lk. 10:27) is “the greatest and the first commandment” (Mt. 22:38).
 
Does that mean that we can be “doers of the law” by our own strength? No: we need the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in order to fulfil the Law. We are not made just because we fulfil the commandments, but we rather are enabled to fulfil the Commandments because we are made just by our Lord Jesus Christ: in other words, justification precedes the observance of the Commandments rather than follows them: God forgives the past sins and pours his grace in our soul by the Holy Ghost who is given to us, and thus enables us to put in practice the Commandments.


This is very important: “I am the vine: you the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing” (Jn. 15:5). Without our Lord Jesus Christ, we can do nothing, nothing profitable unto eternal life. But with Him, abiding in Him, in his love by faith, hope and charity, then we can “bear forth much fruit”, i.e. much good works. “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath prepared that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). He is the one who empowers us to do real good works, not for our own glory but for His glory and the glory of His Father, as He says: “let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” (Mt. 5:16). “God is able to make all grace abound in you; that ye always, having all sufficiency in all things, may abound to every good work,” (2 Cor. 9:8).

We need the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in order to fulfil the law of our Lord Jesus Christ! And this grace we receive through prayer and the Sacraments: pray every day! Ask the help of our Lord Jesus Christ to do good! Especially in time of temptation, pray! Pray and you will not fall, because He will help you.

Now as Moses received the old Law on Mount Sinai, so did our Lord Jesus Christ promulgate the New Law on the mountain, in his famous “Sermon on the Mount”, chapters 5, 6 and 7 of St Matthew. It starts with the beatitudes, and then the higher requirements of the New Law, requirements of perfection: “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt. 5:48). In St Luke’s Gospel, the same command is given with a nuance: “Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful” (Lk. 6:36).

The Old Testament was written on tables of stones, signifying the hardness of the heart of many Hebrews. This happened on Mount Sinai, 50 days after the crossing of the Red Sea, the first Easter. The New Testament is “written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in the fleshly tables of the heart” (2 Cor. 3:3). The Spirit of God was thus given to the Apostles on Pentecost, 50 days after the New Easter. To be written in our heart does not mean that everybody does whatever pleases him, but rather that the whole Christian life is driven by the love of God, which is the New Commandment: “A new commandment I give unto you: That you love one another, as I have loved you, that you also love one another” (Jn. 13:34). To be driven by the Love of God is to be “led by the Spirit of God” (Rom. 8:14), which makes us do that which pleases God, i.e. makes us obey the Commandments – not out of servile fear, but out of love for God.

At the beginning of this new year, let us take a strong resolution, to obey the Commandments, to walk on that path that leads to Heaven, to follow our Lord Jesus Christ, to imitate Him, in order to please Him. Let us renew our promises of Baptism: “I renounce Satan, and all his works, and all his pomps”, that is, his deceits, his temptations…; I will rather run in the path of the Commandments, as the psalmist says: “I have run the way of thy commandments, when thou didst enlarge my heart” (Ps. 118:32).

We are greatly encouraged on the path of the Commandments by the examples of the Saints, above all by the example of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who has been so faithful to the Spirit of God that she never departed in the slightest way from the path of the Commandments; she never sinned in any way at all. May she and all the Saints so help us on the path of the Commandments of our Lord Jesus Christ, that we may truly please God, by His grace, and thus go to Heaven! Amen.


Fr. Laisney (SSPX ASIA)