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제목 Fourth Commandment - honour your father and mother(2016-03-12)
작성자 관리자 작성일 2016-03-14



Fourth Commandment - honour your father and mother(2016-03-12)


My dear brethren,
After commanding us our essential duties towards Himself in the first three Commandments,  God commands us our duties towards our neighbour in the next seven Commandments. All these Commandments are fulfilled in the Commandment of Charity: “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Mt. 19:19). Indeed “this commandment we have from God, that he, who loveth God, love also his brother”(1 Jn. 4:21).


St Paul himself explains: “for all the law is fulfilled in one word: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (Gal. 5:14). God had given the Ten Commandments to Moses on two “tables”: the first three Commandments form the “first Table” and the last seven form the “second Table”; they correspond to the two commandments of Charity, of which our Lord Jesus Christ says: “On these two commandments dependeth the whole law and the prophets” (Mt. 22:40).

The word “love” in English is too generic, too broad; it corresponds to three words in Greek: “eros” which is the sensual love; “philos” which is “philanthropy”, and “agapè” which is a spiritual, total self-sacrificing love. This third kind of love is translated into Latin by “caritas – charity”: of this supreme love it is said: “God is charity” (1 Jn. 4:8)! The modern secular English language has a lowered notion of charity; but the Catholic should keep this high notion of Charity, as “agapè”: a spiritual, total self-sacrificing love. Not only should we be ready to die martyrs for the Faith, for the honour of God (1st Commandment), but also for the salvation of our neighbour, as St John says: “In this we have known the charity of God, because He hath laid down His life for us: and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 Jn. 3:16). Thus the Commandments of God teach us TRUE love, and ORDER in true love.


Among the commandments towards our neighbour, the first bids us to “honour our father and mother” (Ex. 20:12). It is put even before “thou shalt not kill” (Ex. 20:13): this shows the importance of this Commandment. He who does not respect even his own parents, who is he ever going to respect: nobody! This commandment is so strict that God had added: “He that curseth his father, or mother, shall die the death” (Ex. 21:17), and our Lord Jesus Christ in his sermon on the Mount recalls both passages. In the Old Testament, penalty of death indicates a very serious sin, a mortal sin.


Note that God said: “honour” thy father and mother, and not “worship” thy honour father and mother: we owe them the respect and veneration due to a relative  excellence that can be found in a creature, and not the worship due to the supreme excellence of God. Why? Because we received our life through them: they gave us life. But they were not the source of Life. God alone is The Living and the source of all life; our parents could only transmit to us the life which they had themselves received. Because God is the very source of life, and thus possesses supreme excellence, we owe Him supreme honour, that is, worship. Because our parents have given us life which they themselves had received, we owe them the relative honour, which is a true honour, but not supreme.


Hence against this Commandment are found two sins, one by default that does not respect parents, and one by excess which worships the ancestors. The lack of respect of parents is very common in the modern world, and is absolutely not Christian, not worthy of a good Catholic. The Old Testament was very strict against such sin, and if it had attain a degree of rebellion, the penalty was death, thus indicating a mortal sin: “If a man have a stubborn and unruly son, who will not hear the commandments of his father or mother, and being corrected, slights obedience: they shall take him and bring him to the ancients of his city, and to the gate of judgment, and shall say to them: This our son is rebellious and stubborn, he slights hearing our admonitions, he giveth himself to revelling, and to debauchery and banquetings: the people of the city shall stone him: and he shall die, that you may take away the evil out of the midst of you, and all Israel hearing it may be afraid” (Deut. 21:18-21).


The sin by excess is quite common among pagans in Chinese culture, with the worship of the ancestors. The worship of ancestors like any other worship of “other gods” than the One True God was also punished by death in the Old Testament. Living in such an environment, you must be careful to avoid this sin by excess, which is also a mortal sin.

The honour due to the parents in the time of youth implies to duty of the children to obey their parents. Obedience is the great virtue for childhood. St Gregory calls is the “mother of all virtues”, because when children obey their parents, they learn thereby the practice of all the other virtues. The reason is that parents – even if they themselves are not always doing the right thing – most of the time, they would command their children to do the right thing. Obedience was the virtue of the Child Jesus, not just when he was little, but also when He was a teenager, as the Gospel says: “he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them” (Lk. 2:51). Because he had been so obedient before, Mary and Joseph could not understand why He had parted them at Jerusalem; yet it was out of obedience to His Father in Heaven, and afterwards He remained “subject” to Mary and Joseph.


The reason why this obedience is due is because a child does not yet have the wisdom to direct his own life, hence God has provided that the child be naturally under the guidance of his parents and learns by obedience to do what is right. Thus the authority of the parents is for the good of the children. Hence St Paul commands: “Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is just” (Eph. 6:1)


Obedience is a moral virtue, between a default – disobedience, not to fulfil legitimate orders – and an excess – servility, which is to fulfil illegitimate orders. Most of the sins against obedience are disobediences; but sometimes it may happen that one sins by excess. The typical case would be that of parents selling their daughter to child-abusers, or a father abusing his own daughter: the child has then the strict duty to say NO. And that is not easy, but it is a duty. Of course, in such case, the sin of those who abuse their authority in such a way is an enormous sin, because it is the absolute opposite of the very purpose of parental authority, which is the good of the children. Though most parents would not command anything wrong to their children, yet such cases are found in the modern world and must be denounced.


The honour which children owe to their parents is also practiced in many other ways: for instance, when the parents speak, the children should listen; they should not interrupt their parents’ speaking. Also, in the metro, the children should give the sitting place to their parents or to older people: it is most against good education when parents make their children sit and stand on their side, which is unfortunately a common sight today; it does not teach the children to honour their parents.


After the children have become adults, they do no longer owe strict obedience to their parents, yet they still owe honour to them. If they would list how much they have received from their parents, not only their lives, but their food, clothing, and most of all their education, this would be a very long list, and the better the parents the longer the list. Even as grown-ups, children do good to listen to the advices of their parents.


Moreover, when the parents are sick and/or elderly, the children have a particular duty to take care of their, thus repaying the long care their parents had for them in their youth. When parents have many children – as they should – then it is not difficult for the children to take care of their elderly parents. I remember a mother who had twelve children; in her last illness, the children and grand-children had organised a constant watch for her: she was never alone; she always had either a child or a grand-child with her, to pray with her, to comfort her, etc. Beautiful reward for a good parent! Children should help their parents to make a holy death, praying with them, and should provide for them a priest to give them the sacrament of Extreme Unction. And even after death, children should provide a proper burial to their parents and pray for the repose of their souls.


On the opposite, the modern world where many parents have failed to their duty of having children has now a great problem with taking care of the elderly: there are not enough younger generations to take care of the elderly. Hence one sees that abortion leads to euthanasia! As abortion is the ultimate sin of parents against their duties towards the children, so euthanasia is the ultimate sin of children against their parents!


Indeed the fourth commandment not only obliges the children to honour their parents, but also the parents to take care of their children, and even to have children according to their ability. This was indeed the commandment given in Paradise: “grow and multiply” (Gen. 1:28). I would say that the smallest multiplication is by two: hence two parents should have at least four children, if they can, and good Catholic families have often 5, 6, 7 and even more children. And it is easier to educate well many children than one or two: indeed selfishness has no place in a large family, but when parents only have one or two children, they tend to become much more selfish, considering everything due to them. The begetting and education of children is the very first purpose of marriage.

Parents ought to educate their children first of all in the Faith, in the knowledge and love of our Lord Jesus Christ. This starts from the very beginning, indeed even before the marriage, future parents should already pray for their future children! And children get accustomed to family prayer even before birth, hearing from the womb the daily prayers of their mother! Family prayer indeed is an essential part of family life and of good education of children. The regularity of family prayer is essential and more important than the length of it: it is better to have just one decade of the Rosary every single day than the whole rosary once in a while. When children are young, too long a prayer is not ideal. When they grow, the family prayer can grow with them.


A good education requires the good example: parents should be role-models for their children, especially in the practice of all Christian virtues. A good education also requires some discipline: the weakness of parents who never correct their children is a sin and parents who have failed to properly educate their children will have to render an account of that to God: children are often spoiled by too much lenity and indulgence on the part of their parents. “By their fruits you shall know them” (Mt. 7:20). Children are the fruit of their parents. And good children are the best reward of good parents.


As there is a default in discipline, there can also be an excess, and St Paul warns parents about it: “And you, fathers, provoke not your children to anger; but bring them up in the discipline and correction of the Lord” (Eph. 6:4).


Now no family is perfect; no parent is perfect, and therefore there is need of forgiveness in all families. Parents ought to forgive and be patient with their children – yet educate them right – and children ought to forgive one another and even their parents for what may have been lacking in their care. If one does not forgive his own brother and sister, or parents and children, who is he ever going to forgive? Yet, “if you forgive not everyone his brother from your hearts, so also shall my heavenly Father do to you” (Mt. 18:35). “If you will not forgive men, neither will your Father forgive you your offences” (Mt. 6:15).


In a good Catholic family, with many children, it is common that God will call some of them to a higher vocation, to dedicate themselves to Him in the religious life or priestly life. In such matters, it is good to know that parents do not have the right either to force a vocation on their children, or to prevent a vocation from them: their duty is to prepare the ground, to weed off any bad habit, but to plant the seed of vocation is the proper of God. Yet good parents do pray for vocations among their children, and God can give them more than what they had asked! Look at the parents of St Thérèse of the Child Jesus!


It is not good for parents to desire only earthly wealth and success for their children: some parents are so eager to see the success of their children at any cost that they practically teach their children the love of earthly things and neglect of the eternal things. This is not good at all. They should rather show them that virtue is more important than any earthly wealth. St Paul writes: “Piety with sufficiency is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world: and certainly we can carry nothing out. But having food, and wherewith to be covered, with these we are content. For they that will become rich, fall into temptation, and into the snare of the devil, and into many unprofitable and hurtful desires, which drown men into destruction and perdition. For the desire of money is the root of all evils; which some coveting have erred from the faith, and have entangled themselves in many sorrows” (1 Tim. 6:6-10).


The fourth Commandment extends not only to parents, but also to all authorities: civil and religious. Indeed, any authority is a certain kind of fatherhood, which is the first and foundation of all natural authorities. So St Paul writes: “Let every soul be subject to higher authorities: for there is no authority but from God: and those that are, are ordained by God” (Rom. 13:1). And he concludes: “Render therefore to all men their dues. Tribute, to whom tribute is due: custom, to whom custom: fear, to whom fear: honour, to whom honour” (Rom. 13:7). This is particularly true of religious authorities, as he writes to Timothy: “Let the priests that rule well, be esteemed worthy of double honour: especially they who labour in the word and doctrine:” (1 Tim. 5:17).


That honour also includes the duty of obedience. But as explained above, obedience is a moral virtue between a default – disobedience – and an excess – servility. Hence wicked laws such as laws allowing abortion must be resisted; and when religious authorities command novelties opposed to what had been transmitted from our Lord Jesus Christ through the Apostles and their holy successors through the centuries, those novelties must also be resisted. Yet while resisting the abuse of authority, one must keep respect to the very possession of authority, seeing in the person endowed with authority the very authority of God Himself, source of all authority.


In this month of St Joseph, head of the Holy Family and model of fathers, let us pray to him and to his most holy Spouse, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and to the Child Jesus, that they may help all fathers and mothers and children to fulfil the fourth commandment, for the honour of God and for the salvation of their souls. Amen!


 Fr. Laisney(SSPXASIA)