Commandments & Conscience
The following is an excerpt from Msgr. Charles Pope's article: Commandments are Cures for a Christian - A reflection on the First Reading of the Third Sunday in Lent, dated 10 March 2012.
There is a tendency to reduce the Christian moral vision merely to a set of rules.
And it is a sad fact that the Catholic Church is often identified by many more for her rules than anything else.
But to see the Christian Moral vision, or the Ten Commandments simply as a set a rules is to wholly miss the point. For the Commandments seek not so much to have us obey as to have us be open to what God can do for us. They seek not so much to compel us as to conform us unto the image of the transformed and glorious humanity that Christ died to give us.
The Commandments do not so much prescribe, as describe the what the transformed human person is like. And their imperative form is not merely to order us about, but rather is to convey the power that comes from God’s Word. For the same God who commands: “Let there be light” and thus there is light, also says, “Be holy” and thus conveys to us the power to actually become holy, if we will accept his transformative work. He thus commands to create in us the very holiness he announces.
If we would but see the Commandments as promises, as power, as proleptic (i.e. announcing ahead of time what we will become fully the case later), we would be far let resentful and far more joyful in what the Lord offers...For they describe the life Jesus died to give us, a wholly transformed and increasingly glorified life, as we see sins put to death and every kind of virtue come alive.
Below, Fr. Winslow describes the relationship between law and mercy in relation to the debt our sin incurs. Watch for more information!
For further reflection:
- •Deuteronomy 5:1
- •Micah 6:8
- •Proverbs 23:23
- •Matthew 9:13
- •John 14:15
- •Romans 1:19-20, 25; 2:12-16
- •1 John 2:3-6
- Catechetical Texts:
- •“In the depths of his conscience, man detects a law which he does not impose upon himself, but which holds him to obedience. Always summoning him to love good and avoid evil, the voice of conscience when necessary speaks to his heart: do this, shun that. For man has in his heart a law written by God; to obey it is the very dignity of man; according to it he will be judged” (Gaudium et Spes, 16).
- •“The moral life presents itself as the response due to the many gratuitous initiatives taken by God out of love for man. It is a response of love, according to the statement made in Deuteronomy about the fundamental commandment: "Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children" (Dt 6:4-7). Thus the moral life, caught up in the gratuitousness of God's love, is called to reflect his glory: "For the one who loves God it is enough to be pleasing to the One whom he loves: for no greater reward should be sought than that love itself; charity in fact is of God in such a way that God himself is charity"” (Veritatis Splendor, 10).
- •“[The Church] gives our life direction, she instructs us so that we can follow the right path. Let us think of the Ten Commandments: they point us to the road to take in order to mature, to anchor our behaviour. They result from the tenderness and from the very love of God who has given them to us” (Pope Francis, General Audience on 18 September 2013).
- •“It would not be out of place at this point to recall the relationship between justice and mercy. These are not two contradictory realities, but two dimensions of a single reality that unfolds progressively until it culminates in the fullness of love. Justice is a fundamental concept for civil society, which is meant to be governed by the rule of law. Justice is also understood as that which is rightly due to each individual. In the Bible, there are many references to divine justice and to God as “judge”. In these passages, justice is understood as the full observance of the Law and the behaviour of every good Israelite in conformity with God’s commandments. Such a vision, however, has not infrequently led to legalism by distorting the original meaning of justice and obscuring its profound value. To overcome this legalistic perspective, we need to recall that in Sacred Scripture, justice is conceived essentially as the faithful abandonment of oneself to God’s will” (Misericordie Vultus, 20).