I will be teaching a class on the 10 commandments to new people in the RCIA program. I want to be be sure they understand the importance of them but I don’t want the church to come across as a bunch of rules and regulations and perhaps turn them away. I finding it difficult to stay in a middle ground while preparing my class.
First of course --see the section in the Catechism and Compendium. *I imagine you are…
And also see the section on virtue.
Does following Jesus involve commandments and “rules”? -certainty. If you love me you will keep my commandments. But they are not the “focus” --it is Jesus who is the focus. Following Jesus is not about encountering and following an idea or even a set of commandments alone (though he is quite clear – keep my commandments --above all Love of God --and also Neighbor as oneself which sums up such -read Paul on this)-- it is about encountering Jesus of Nazareth the risen Lord and following him.
The Yes of faith does involve various “no’s” …but such is part of the great YES.
(if one focused on the ‘No’s’ involved in the Yes of Marriage --that too would be not the right focus…but the no’s are there…in the Yes of Marriage)
And it is by the Holy Spirit that we live as Christians – he gives us what we need to live so.
““I want them to understand that it is beautiful to be a Christian! The generally prevailing idea is that Christians have to observe an immense number of commandments, prohibitions, precepts, and other such restrictions, so that Christianity is a heavy and oppressive way of living, and it would therefore be more liberating to live without all these burdens. But I would like to make it clear that to be sustained by this great Love and God’s sublime revelation is not a burden, but rather a set of wings—that it is truly beautiful to be a Christian. It is an experience that gives us room to breathe and move, but most of all, it places us within a community since, as Christians, we are never alone: first of all, there is God, who is always with us; secondly, we are always forming a great community among ourselves: a community of people together on a journey, a community with a project for the future. All of this means that we are empowered to live a life worth living. This is the joy of being a Christian: that it is beautiful and right to believe!””
~Pope Benedict XVI 2005
““To gaze upon Christ!” If we do this, we realize that Christianity is more than and different from a moral code, from a series of requirements and laws. It is the gift of a friendship that lasts through life and death: “No longer do I call you servants, but friends” (Jn 15:15), the Lord says to his disciples. We entrust ourselves to this friendship. Yet precisely because Christianity is more than a moral system, because it is the gift of friendship, for this reason it also contains within itself great moral strength, which is so urgently needed today on account of the challenges of our time. If with Jesus Christ and his Church we constantly re-read the Ten Commandments of Sinai, entering into their full depth, then a great, valid and lasting teaching unfolds before us. The Ten Commandments are first and foremost a “yes” to God, to a God who loves us and leads us, who carries us and yet allows us our freedom: indeed, it is he who makes our freedom real (the first three commandments). It is a “yes” to the family (fourth commandment), a “yes” to life (fifth commandment), a “yes” to responsible love (sixth commandment), a “yes” to solidarity, to social responsibility and to justice (seventh commandment), a “yes” to truth (eighth commandment) and a “yes” to respect for other people and for what is theirs (ninth and tenth commandments). By the strength of our friendship with the living God we live this manifold “yes” and at the same time we carry it as a signpost into this world of ours today.”
~ Pope Benedict XVI 8 September 2007
I imagine Navy engineers get tired of all the tiresome rules and restrictions placed on them and their actions… as engineering officers in a nuclear ship’s engine room! But really, aren’t you kind of GLAD they have to pay attention to all them pesky rules all the time?
Sin in aggregate is actually more cumulatively destructive than a nuclear reactor meltdown, but we get all huffy about the need to have respect for the moral order and to avoid causing harm to ourselves and others via disobedience. Maybe the problem isn’t all them rules, but our cavalier attitude?
Consider this: the 10 commandments are God’s definition of Himself. God wants us to emulate Him, that is, to live in love of Him and each other. So, when He says not to do this, that, or the other thing, it’s defining what He, what love, wouldn’t do, and when He says to do this or that or the other thing, it’s telling us what love, what God, would do. We each live by rules whether we know it or not - for instance, I would never run someone over, though I could, but I don’t. It goes counter to my nature. Likewise, the commandments are the defining characteristics of the nature of true love, of the One, True God.
What’s wrong with rules? Americans live in a nation governed by rules (we call them laws and regulations, and there are a WHOLE LOT more than ten of them), and only a few wackos (anarchists) would prefer it otherwise. We ALSO live in a nation of rights. The two can co-exist quite well (and, one might successfully argue that rights cannot be guaranteed without rules).
The Boy Scouts have rules (more than ten). So does the military, Burger King, the school PTA, city councils, homeowner’s associations, golf courses, movie theaters, city parks, swimming pools, and just about every other organized human activity.
The Church has rules, just like everybody else. So what? Do people stay away from swimming pools because there are rules (usually posted on a prominent sign in large type)? I don’t think so. People EXPECT rules. So give them rules (and the other stuff as well).
Perhaps you can mention the commandments are there to keep us on the right track to help us to become more fully human. Once our hearts are in conformity with the commandments, we no longer need them because we become fully confirmed into the image of God.
Frank, I would suggest you study Romans chapter 7, and 8:1-11.
It is a good reminder that the law was written to point out sin and that know one is able to fulfill it. If you live by the law you are condemned by the law.
Example Rom 7:6 But now we have been released from the law, so that we may serve in the new way of the Spirit and not the old letter of the law.
If you can implement the message Paul wrote their won’t be one hint of legalism in the class.
Good luck and God bless!!!
I was told once that the commandments aren’t rules of what you can’t do but they are rules to bring you happiness. They aren’t negatives of what you can’t do but rather they are guides to your happiness. If you want to be happy, than follow the commandments. The Commandments tell you how to have a good life. If you want to be happy than, you will give worship to God, you will honor your parents, you won’t steal etc.
Personally I believe you can break them down the ten to one commandment thou shalt not steal. You don’t take anything that doesn’t belong to you.
As Bookcat said, consult the Catechism. There are two ways to obey God’s commands; one is based on the Old Covenant and the other on the New:
**II. THE OLD LAW
1962 The Old Law is the first stage of revealed Law. Its moral prescriptions are summed up in the Ten Commandments. The precepts of the Decalogue lay the foundations for the vocation of man fashioned in the image of God; they prohibit what is contrary to the love of God and neighbor and prescribe what is essential to it. The Decalogue is a light offered to the conscience of every man to make God’s call and ways known to him and to protect him against evil:
God wrote on the tables of the Law what men did not read in their hearts.13
1963 According to Christian tradition, the Law is holy, spiritual, and good,14 yet still imperfect. Like a tutor15 it shows what must be done, but does not of itself give the strength, the grace of the Spirit, to fulfill it. Because of sin, which it cannot remove, it remains a law of bondage. According to St. Paul, its special function is to denounce and disclose sin, which constitutes a “law of concupiscence” in the human heart.16 However, the Law remains the first stage on the way to the kingdom. It prepares and disposes the chosen people and each Christian for conversion and faith in the Savior God. It provides a teaching which endures for ever, like the Word of God.
III. THE NEW LAW OR THE LAW OF THE GOSPEL
1965 The New Law or the Law of the Gospel is the perfection here on earth of the divine law, natural and revealed. It is the work of Christ and is expressed particularly in the Sermon on the Mount. It is also the work of the Holy Spirit and through him it becomes the interior law of charity: "I will establish a New Covenant with the house of Israel. . . . I will put my laws into their hands, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people."19
1966 The New Law is the grace of the Holy Spirit given to the faithful through faith in Christ. It works through charity; it uses the Sermon on the Mount to teach us what must be done and makes use of the sacraments to give us the grace to do it:
If anyone should meditate with devotion and perspicacity on the sermon our Lord gave on the mount, as we read in the Gospel of Saint Matthew, he will doubtless find there . . . the perfect way of the Christian life. . . . This sermon contains . . . all the precepts needed to shape one’s life.20
1967 The Law of the Gospel “fulfills,” refines, surpasses, and leads the Old Law to its perfection.21 In the Beatitudes, the New Law fulfills the divine promises by elevating and orienting them toward the “kingdom of heaven.” It is addressed to those open to accepting this new hope with faith - the poor, the humble, the afflicted, the pure of heart, those persecuted on account of Christ and so marks out the surprising ways of the Kingdom.
1968 The Law of the Gospel fulfills the commandments of the Law. The Lord’s Sermon on the Mount, far from abolishing or devaluing the moral prescriptions of the Old Law, releases their hidden potential and has new demands arise from them: it reveals their entire divine and human truth. It does not add new external precepts, but proceeds to reform the heart, the root of human acts, where man chooses between the pure and the impure,22 where faith, hope, and charity are formed and with them the other virtues. The Gospel thus brings the Law to its fullness through imitation of the perfection of the heavenly Father, through forgiveness of enemies and prayer for persecutors, in emulation of the divine generosity.
2068 The Council of Trent teaches that the Ten Commandments are obligatory for Christians and that the justified man is still bound to keep them; the Second Vatican Council confirms: “The bishops, successors of the apostles, receive from the Lord . . . the mission of teaching all peoples, and of preaching the Gospel to every creature, so that all men may attain salvation through faith, Baptism and the observance of the Commandments.”**
More on this can be found in the Catechism here:
And I think St Basil of Cesarea summed all this up pretty well in his own way:
"If we turn away from evil out of fear of punishment, we are in the position of slaves. If we pursue the enticement of wages, . . . we resemble mercenaries. Finally if we obey for the sake of the good itself and out of love for him who commands . . . we are in the position of children."
I once taught religion at a Juvenile Facility. In teaching the 10 commandments (some of them had never heard of these commandments) I add the seven deadly sins. I took each sin and ask them which commandment went with each sins. It was amazing how they new which sin went with a commandment and if you followed the commandment you didn’t commit the sin.
Lots of good stuff above.
As a Catholic convert, here is my take on rules and commandments and the Catholic Church.
I grew up Protestant but married a cradle Catholic.
I was not enamored with the Catholic Church BECAUSE of what I (and my wife) perceived to be a list of hard rules that we MUST follow.
We were eventually blessed to become part of a Catholic Parish that teaches us there are no rules. There is nothing that we MUST do. There is nothing hard and fast that governs our lives.
What Christ and the Church have given us is a huge volume of beautiful gifts, not rules, that we can use to fulfill our lives and to reach our ultimate goal of living in eternity with our God.
We are GIVEN the gift of baptism, the gift of the Eucharist, the gift of reconciliation, the gifts of forgiveness and salvation. Christ said “If you love me, keep my commandments.” He gave us an out. IF you love me… otherwise we’re on our own. So IF we love him, we will accept all of these gifts, obey His commandments and do what he asks of us.
This teaching is what brought about my conversion to Catholicism; The realization that God is not a strict task master, but a loving parent who showers us always with His gifts and forgives us unconditionally when we are not appreciative…
We should not be afraid of obeying the rules, but rather filled with joy to WANT to accept all of His gifts…
So teach your class about the GIFTS of God, not the rules.
Actually I and the two other people that I taught with we taught them what you have said but since they had never been to church and didn’t know anything about the commandments or the seven deadly (mortal sins) I decided to teach what they shouldn’t do and then we taught them what you are talking about. I agree with you totally it is up to us to live our lives the way God wants and to follow the gifts he gave us. I guess I called them guidelines instead of gifts. But they had to know what these guidelines are first.
Don’t beat around the bush, and tackle the question head-on. I would address it as the very opening issue to discuss, so that everyone gets to the right frame of mind. It comes down to authority, and in America, authority is regarded as something we must rebel against at all times. So I would ask them, does God have authority or not? Is He in charge, or are we? Is it right/normal/acceptable for the Creator of the Universe to put some boundaries on what actions we can take?
And then ask them if 10 Commandments is too many, and which ones we should take out. Once you ask them specifics about the Commandments, they will realize that they are very minimal requirements. As Jesus said, His burden and yoke are light, but He DOES have some burdens.
I also added all that you said. There was a lot I said. But you also have to realize these are teenager whose parents are drug and alcohol addicts and could care less were they are at, never have taken them to church. Some get into gangs because that is more of family then there own. And they are not about to listen to some things you say. I did have one student tell me “I like you Mrs H you tell it like it is” And that is just what I did. A couple went home knowing Jesus and wanting to get to know him better. Unfortunately then they get sent back to the same environment and do what they did before. But we had planted the seed and when they hit 35 it will come back to them and perhaps they will do something about knowing Jesus better.
Until I read this post, I never thought of the Ten Commandments as “yesses.” Thank you so much for the explanation because now these 10 statements really have become living things for me and so do-able, even in this world. Thanks again.
Yes and that is exactly the way the couple and a retired Monsignor priest I taught these young boys. I think they knew that we loved them and that is why out of 7 or 8 Catholics boys there were another 12 that weren’t catholic. We taught them about the love of Jesus, the rosary and about Jesus’s mother Mary. And a lot more. The other non-catholic groups would tell them lies about us to try and get them to not come. But that did not stop them and the boys asked for the truth. It was the greatest experience that I had in my life. There were a lot of experiences that I could write about. But the main things was that they knew that we loved them and that Jesus does to.