The Ten Commandments

Some years ago I met an elderly priest who lived in one room in a presbytery at a nearby parish and he spent his days studying the Ten Commandments.

He was doing research and the walls of his study were lined with box files containing his work. At the time in seemed strange that he should spend so much time on the Decalogue. There are some who might think that in this modern age they are outmoded or old fashioned. St Thomas Aquinas and many other writers have pointed out that they are at the root of natural law. One writer has described them as “a kind of DNA-inscribed pattern into the human subject, which are the very constitution of human happiness, justice and peace.”

The first three commandments concern our relationship with God and the other seven regulate social order and lay a foundation for human ethics and social responsibility. God is setting out how God wants us to relate to him and how he wants us relate to others. They are to be learned and constantly remembered. That is why they are ten so that people could count them off on their fingers.

In the Gospel this Sunday Jesus cleansed the temple of buyers and sellers saying that “Take all this out of of here and stop turning my Fathers house into a market.” We are all temples of the Holy Spirit. Lent is a good time for us to drive out all that prevents us being fully human and and prevents us being open to God.

Here is a suggested Examination of Conscience based on the Ten Commandments that might help.

This examination of conscience was taken from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

Canon Father Anthony
Canon Father AnthonyParish Priest
I am the Lord your God: you shall not have strange Gods before me. Have I treated people, events, or things as more important than God?
You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. Have my words, actively or passively, put down God, the Church, or people?
Remember to keep holy the Lord’s Day. Do I go to Mass every Sunday (or Saturday Vigil) and on Holy Days of Obligation (The Epiphany, the Ascension; June 29th; 15th August; Nov. 1; Dec. 25)?
Do I avoid, when possible, work that impedes worship to God, joy for the Lord’s Day, and proper relaxation of mind and body?
Do I look for ways to spend time with family or in service on Sunday?
Honour your father and your mother. Do I show my parents due respect? Do I seek to maintain good communication with my parents where possible? Do I criticise them for lacking skills I think they should have?
You shall not kill. Have I harmed another through physical, verbal, or emotional means, including gossip or manipulation of any kind?
You shall not commit adultery. Have I respected the physical and sexual dignity of others and of myself?
You shall not steal. Have I taken or wasted time or resources that belonged to another?
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour. Have I gossiped, told lies, or embellished stories at the expense of another?
You shall not covet your neighbour’s spouse. Have I honoured my spouse with my full affection and exclusive love?
You shall not covet your neighbour’s goods. Am I content with my own means and needs, or do I compare myself to others unnecessarily?