While visiting family and friends in another state, my wife and I stopped in a Catholic book store and purchased a bumper sticker that said:
“It’s the Ten Commandments;
Not the Ten Suggestions”
Well, as time went on, the car was sold and there went the bumper sticker! But, during the time we owned the car, we received numerous comments from perfect strangers, on the road or in parking lots, about how much they liked the sticker. We never heard a negative comment. No one can argue against the truth.
In our first reading in the book of Acts, Saint Luke talks about rules, not commandments. The new Gentiles who were being converted from pagan beliefs to Christianity, were being pressured by a certain group of pious Jewish believers to become Jewish under the Mosaic Code, which included adult circumcision. They were not trying to be mean but they considered the customs of the Mosaic Code to be a prerequisite for being a Christian.
Well, Peter had a vision (Acts 10: 9-48) which suggested that Gentile believers need not follow the Mosaic Code to be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit. Then, James and the Church in Jerusalem accepted this as sign from God. They in turn, accepted the Gentile believers and removed the strict adherence to these customs so that it would not be a stumbling block for the new believers. Instead, they stressed what the three big rules were: to avoid pollution from idols, refrain from unlawful marriages, or meat from strangled animals and blood.
Now, Jesus in the Gospel of John today talks about the Commandments, which should not be changed or modified.
“As the Father loves me, so I also love you, Remain in my love. If you keep my commandments, you will remain in my love, just as I kept my Father’s commandments and remain in his love.”
Years ago, I taught the Rite of Christian Initiation for Children (RCIC), for two years at another church. Other teachers and myself would quiz the class on the Ten Commandments. I used to tell them; you can find the Ten Commandments in any Bible, “just take exit 20 on the interstate,” (Exodus Chapter 20). We had a picnic at the end of the school term to celebrate how well they did. They learned their lesson well and we all had a good time at the picnic.
Jesus is saying in today’s gospel, that while some rules or traditions may change, God’s Commandments do not change. Why is that? Jesus brings it home when he says that, when you follow the commandments you find the warmth of God’s Love and not only that, but “joy”. Yes joy! We are spiritual beings with earthly bodies. God made us for heaven and He knew how our minds work. He knew what would get us into trouble. That is why He gave those, “stiff necked people” the Ten Commandments. The commandments are designed to get us to heaven.
Honestly, just like the whole world I am a sinner and have not always followed the commandments. I know where to find them, (Exit 20), but have not always followed them. Thank God we have the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession) and I must admit when I go to Confession I feel Joy and Love. We as Catholics, have such a blessing when the Priest gives us absolution and we hear the words that our sins are forgiven. A simple act of contrition cannot give you that. God made us as spiritual beings to follow the commandments, and we as humans are happiest when we stop trying to be gods and go outside of them.
I am still looking for that bumper sticker again. Hints anyone?
God Bless You, Always!
Readings Acts 15:7-21 ; PS 96:1-2A, 2B-3,10 ; John 15: 9-11