Scripture (Exodus 20:1-17)
In those days, God delivered all these commandments:
"I, the LORD, am your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.
You shall not have other gods besides me.
You shall not carve idols for yourselves
in the shape of anything in the sky above
or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth;
you shall not bow down before them or worship them.
For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God,
inflicting punishment for their fathers' wickedness
on the children of those who hate me,
down to the third and fourth generation;
but bestowing mercy down to the thousandth generation
on the children of those who love me and keep my commandments.
"You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain.
For the LORD will not leave unpunished
the one who takes his name in vain.
"Remember to keep holy the sabbath day.
Six days you may labor and do all your work,
but the seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD, your God.
No work may be done then either by you, or your son or daughter,
or your male or female slave, or your beast,
or by the alien who lives with you.
In six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth,
the sea and all that is in them;
but on the seventh day he rested.
That is why the LORD has blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
"Honor your father and your mother,
that you may have a long life in the land
which the LORD, your God, is giving you.
You shall not kill.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor's house.
You shall not covet your neighbor's wife,
nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass,
nor anything else that belongs to him."
I have not kept the commandments. This is scary to admit, but I am not alone. (Since this is not confession there will be no further discussion of which ones have been broken.) Before your judgement rains down take a moment to reflect. Have you ever broken a commandment? Be honest! In this age of social media, have you ever once thought that someone else’s life looked better than yours? Or implied something that may or may not have been true about someone else? The Ten Commandments have a definitive quality about them. This is the ruler by which good and evil has been measured. They have been presented as black and white. Good people keep the commandments while those who break them are bad and subject to eternal damnation. The piety I was exposed to growing up would turn its noses down in disdain at ‘the lower religious class’ who were on the road to perdition because of having broken a commandment. This attitude leads to spiritual slavery.
For some breaking the commandments is so awful and only for the evil or depraved that these actions are unspeakable. It becomes imperative for the offender to hide their offense. We lie to others, ourselves and ultimately God about our thoughts and actions. Others view themselves as so pure and good that they are beyond engaging in such wretched acts placing themselves beyond the need for God. One who doesn’t sin is not in need of a savior. Both responses are rooted in fear and shame. Shame prevents us from being honest about ourselves and becomes a barrier to receiving God’s grace and mercy. Fear of not being good enough can result in putting on a front and living an inauthentic life. Both responses isolate, trap and block the transformative grace and mercy of God.
Perhaps we need to revise our understanding of the commandments. Overall, this list of ten, is about having proper boundaries in relationships. The first three commands speak to us about our relationship with God. They call us to be humble and accept that we are not God and without God we are nothing. The others show us what is necessary for healthy relationships and a functioning society. It is difficult to have a friendship or be a good neighbor if we are envious of them or stealing from them. What relationship could with stand such dishonesty? When the commands are broken we forget the connectedness and responsibility we have to one another. These are very serious and breaking them has long term consequences not just for ourselves but for the very fabric of society. The commands provide us a recipe for how to live with others in right relationships. If they are followed we will live an authentic life and experience the happiness and freedom that comes from eliminating drama, resentment and pain.
Before the list commences God reminds Moses what he has done for the Israelites. "I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.” Freedom and redemption is God’s ultimate desire for us. The commandments are not about damnation, shame or fear. They are part of the “Good News” that offers a path to happiness and healthy relationships. Therefore, if we fail it is not necessary to become paralyzed by fear and shame. It is by being honest and authentic we open ourselves up to God’s forgiveness which shines a light on the dark places of our life and eliminates guilt and shame. I say again:
I have not kept the commandments. I have hurt people and damaged relationships. I have not been the person God created me to be. I am sorry. More importantly I can proclaim from the mountain top that the mercy and forgiveness of God will not allow me to wallow in shame.
- What “sins” have you locked away and kept hidden from the mercy of God?
- Which commandment do you need to integrate more fully into your life? How will you do so?
- Review your relationships. What makes the good ones strong? How might others be improved?
These Lenten reflections are written by friends of 12plus1, Inc. Discovery House a service-based gap year experience for participants ages 18-20 will begin August 2018. Please share this information with an individuals who may want to participate or support this new ministry.
FAST from guilt and shame.
PRAY by confessing in Sacrament of Reconciliation or to the person you hurt a “sin” that has kept you captive to shame.
GIVE someone freedom from shame by offering forgiveness
Joe Nettesheim is the founder and director of 12plus1. He has been involved in Church ministry since 1991. Besides 12plus1 he also teaches part time for Dominican High School and Cardinal Stritch University. He is married to Maribeth. Their blended family consists of 5 children, 2 sons-in-law, 6 grandchildren and TS Eliot, the golden doodle puppy.