ON THE COMMANDMENTS

The Chief Commandments

[Most quoted biblical text is from the Douay Rheims version. The links are usually to the New American Bible indicated by NAB. CCC means the Catechism of the Catholic Church linked to the Vatican web site.]

 

1. Is it sufficient for obtaining eternal salvation that we believe all that God has revealed?

No; we must also keep His commandments: 'If you wilt enter into life, keep the commandments' (Matt. 19:17). [Bible texts are in the Douay-Rheins and the links are to the New American Bible.]

'Not every one that says to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven ; but he that does the will of my Father who Is in Heaven, he shall enter into the kingdom of Heaven' (MatL 7:21).

 

2. But are we able to keep the Commandments of God ?

Yes, with the assistance of God's grace, which He refuses to no one who asks for it.

'His commandments are not heavy." (1 John v. 3). 'My yoke is sweet, and my burden light' (Matt.11:30).

 

3. How do we know that we are able to keep the Commandments?

We know it, 1. Because God inflicts eternal punishment upon those who break them; and 2. Because there have been at all times Saints who faithfully observed them. [On punishment see Hell; for more on saints see that section in our page on prayer.]

1. 'And that servant who knew the will of his lord, and did not according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes' (Luke 12:47). 2. It is written of Zachary and Elizabeth:
'And they were both just before God, walking in all the commandments and justifications of the Lord without blame' (Luke 1:6).

 

ON THE CHIEF COMMANDMENT.

The Commandment of Charity

The Commandment of the love of God and of our neighbor.

 

5. How is this Commandment of Charity expressed?

It is expressed in these terms : 'You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, and with your whole soul, and with your whole mind, and with your whole strength. This is the greatest and the first Commandment. And the second is like to this : You shall love your neighbor as thyself' (Mark 12:30-31; Matt. 22:37-40).

 

§ 1. On the Love of God.

 

6, What is the love of God?

It is a virtue infused by God into our soul, by which we give ourselves up with all our heart to Him, the Sovereign Good, in order to please Him by fulfilling His will, and to be united with Him. [See the material on the virtue of Charity in the Catholic Catechism.]

 

7. What qualities must our love of God have?

It must be, 1. Supernatural; 2. Sovereign; and 3. Active.

 

8. When is our love supernatural?

Our love is supernatural when, with the help of God's grace, we love Him as we know Him, not only by our reason, but by our faith.

'Now the end of the commandment is charity, from a pure heart, and a good conscience, and an unfeigned faith, from which things some going astray, are turned aside unto vain babbling' (1 Tim. 1:5,-6). "But my just one shall live by faith, and if he draws back I take no pleasure in him." (Heb. 10:38 NAB). By faith we know God, not only as the Creator of the world, and the Giver of all natural goods, which we can likewise perceive by our reason; but also as the Author and Giver of the supernatural graces and benefits ; as the most merciful Father, who has most graciously adopted us, and has given His own Son, in order to save us, to sanctify us, and make us one day eternally happy in the kingdom of His glory. [See the material on grace from this source on our site.]

[CCC "1811 It is not easy for man, wounded by sin, to maintain moral balance. Christ's gift of salvation offers us the grace necessary to persevere in the pursuit of the virtues. Everyone should always ask for this grace of light and strength, frequent the sacraments, cooperate with the Holy Spirit, and follow his calls to love what is good and shun evil.
CCC 2011 The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace." There are a great many references to Grace in the catechism, but these may help.]

 

9. When is our love of God sovereign?

Our love of God is sovereign when we love Him more than all other things, so that we are willing to lose all rather than separate ourselves from Him by sin.

 'I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor things present, nor things to come nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God' (Rom. 8:38-39). This degree of love, by which we are ready to lose all, rather than commit a grievous sin, is absolutely necessary to salvation; but this is not the highest degree. For a higher degree is this, when we are not only determined not to commit any grievous sin but not even the least sin; and there is a higher degree still, when we are resolved always to do what is most perfect, or most pleasing to God.

 

10. When is our love active?

Our love is active when we do what is acceptable to God; that is, when we keep his Commandments.

'He that hath my Commandments, and keeps them, he it is that loves me' (John 14:21). 'This is the charity of God, that we keep His Commandments' (1 John 5:3).

 

11. Why must we love God?

We must love God, 1. Because He is the sovereign and most perfect Good; 2. Because He has loved us first, and has bestowed innumerable blessings upon us in soul and body; and 3. Because He commands us to love Him, and promises us eternal salvation as a reward for it.

 

12. When is our love of God perfect?

Our love is perfect when we love God on account of His Infinite goodness; that is, when we love Him above all things, because He is both infinitely good in Himself, and infinitely good to us.

'Let us therefore love God, because God first hath loved us' (1 John 4:19). Of this perfect love it is said: 'He that abides in charity, abides in. God, and God in him'; and, 'Every one that loves is born of God' (1 John 4:16). Example: Mary Magdalen: 'Many sins are forgiven her, because she hath loved much' (Luke 7:4?).

 

13. When is our love imperfect?

Our love is imperfect when we love God chiefly because we expect good things from Him.

Example: The Prodigal Son: How many hired servants in my father's house abound with bread, and I here perish with hunger I will arise and will go to my father' (Lk 15:.17-18).

 

14. By what means is the love of God increased and perfected in us?

1. By frequently and worthily receiving the Holy Sacraments; 2. By meditating on the perfection and graces of God, especially on the bitter Passion and Death of Jesus Christ; 3. By self-denial, and patience in afflictions; and 4. By performing good works. [See generally Interior Penance and merit.]

 

16, How is the love of God lessened and banished?

By mortal sin the love of God is banished from our hearts, and by venial sin its fervor is lessened. [On mortal and venial sin see the Gravity of Sin in the Catholic Catechism.]

Application: Exercise yourself assiduously in the love of God by these means: Often think of Him, and often pray to Him; delight in hearing and speaking of Him, do and suffer everything for His sake, and fear nothing so much as to offend Him.

 

§ 2. On the Love of our Neighbor.

 

16. Whom must we particularly love after God?

Our neighbor; i.e., all men without exception.

 

[CCC 1931 Respect for the human person proceeds by way of respect for the principle that "everyone should look upon his neighbor (without any exception) as 'another self,' above all bearing in mind his life and the means necessary for living it with dignity." No legislation could by itself do away with the fears, prejudices, and attitudes of pride and selfishness which obstruct the establishment of truly fraternal societies. Such behavior will cease only through the charity that finds in every man a "neighbor," a brother.

CCC 1932 The duty of making oneself a neighbor to others and actively serving them becomes even more urgent when it involves the disadvantaged, in whatever area this may be. "As you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me." [Matt. 25:40]

 
"27. Coming down to practical and particularly urgent consequences, this council lays stress on reverence for man; everyone must consider his every neighbor without exception as another self, taking into account first of all His life and the means necessary to living it with dignity, so as not to imitate the rich man who had no concern for the poor man Lazarus. [Luke 16:19ff]
In our times a special obligation binds us to make ourselves the neighbor of every person without exception. and of actively helping him when he comes across our path, whether he be an old person abandoned by all, a foreign laborer unjustly looked down upon, a refugee, a child born of an unlawful union and wrongly suffering for a sin he did not commit, or a hungry person who disturbs our conscience by recalling the voice of the Lord, "As long as you did it for one of these the least of my brethren, you did it for me" (Matt. 25:40)." Vatican II, Gaudium et Spes, § 27.]
 

17. Is it, then, not enough if we love God?

'If any man say, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar' (1 John 4:20).

 

18. Why must we love our neighbor?

1. Because Christ our Lord commands us to love him, and by the fulfillment of this Commandment, He will know His true disciples; 2. Because He Himself in His life and death taught us so by His example; and 3. Because every one is a child and an image of God, was redeemed with the blood of Christ, and is called to eternal salvation.

1. 'By this shall all men know that you are my disciple, if you have love one for another' (John 13:35). 2. 'Be ye, therefore, followers of God, as most dear children ; and walk In love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath delivered Himself for us' (Eph. 5:1-2 NIV). 3. 'Have we not all one Father? Has not one God created us? Why then does every one of us despise his brother?' (Mal. 2:10, [compare the NAB and AST]).

 

19. What qualities must the love of our neighbor have ?

It must be, 1. Sincere; 2. Disinterested; 3. General.

 

20. When is our love sincere?

Our love is sincere when we love our neighbor, not in appearance, but as ourselves.

'My little children, let us not love in word, nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth' (1 John 3:18).

 

21. When do we love our neighbor as ourselves?

We love our neighbor as ourselves when we observe the command of Christ 'All things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you also to them' (Matt. 7:12 and footnote 6). 'See thou never do to another what thou would hate to have done to thee by another' (Tob. 4:15-16).

 

22. When is our love disinterested?

Our love is disinterested when we do good to our neighbor for God's sake, and not that we may be praised or rewarded by men.

'When thou make a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, and the blind: and thou shall be blessed, because they have not wherewith to make thee recompense; for recompense shall be made thee at the resurrection of the just' (Luke 14:13, 14).

 

23. When is our love general?

Our love is general when we exclude no one from it, whether he be our friend or our enemy.

'For if you love them that love you, what reward shall you have? Do not even the publicans this? And if you salute your brethren only, what do you more? Do not also the heathens this?' (Matt. 5:46, 47) Ex.: The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25ff)

 

24. Is it not enough if we do not revenge ourselves on our enemies ?

No; God commands us to love our enemies, i.e., to wish them well, and to be ready to assist them in their necessities, as much as lies in our power.

'Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that persecute and calumniate you; that you may be the children of your Father who is in Heaven, who makes His sun to rise upon the good and the bad, and rains upon the just and the unjust' (Matt. 5:44, 45). Ex.: St. Stephen [Acts 6:8-15 and Acts 7].
 

[CCC 2302 "Anger is a desire for revenge. "To desire vengeance in order to do evil to someone who should be punished is illicit," but it is praiseworthy to impose restitution "to correct vices and maintain justice." (Aquinas.) If anger reaches the point of a deliberate desire to kill or seriously wound a neighbor, it is gravely against charity; it is a mortal sin. the Lord says, "Everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment." Mt 5:22.

2303 Deliberate hatred is contrary to charity. Hatred of the neighbor is a sin when one deliberately wishes him evil. Hatred of the neighbor is a grave sin when one deliberately desires him grave harm. "But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven." Mt 5:44-45.]

 

[Rom. 12:14 NRSV "Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another; do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; do not claim to be wiser than you are. 17 Do not repay anyone evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. 18 If it is possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave room for the wrath of God; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." 20 No, "if your enemies are hungry, feed them; if they are thirsty, give them something to drink; for by doing this you will heap burning coals on their heads." 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. "]

25. Why must we love our enemies ?

1. Because the Lord our God commands us to love them ; 2. Because Christ Jesus, our Divine Model, has given us the example of loving our enemies; and 3. Because we also wish to be forgiven by God.

1. 'But I say to you, Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you,' etc. (Matt. 5:43-44; Lk 6:27, 35; NIV) 2. Jesus addressed even His betrayer in the kindest manner, saying: "Friend, do what you have come for." (Matt. 26: 50 NAB). and he prayed on the Cross for his murderers: 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do' (Luke 23:34). 3. 'Forgive us our trespasses, as we,' etc. [Lk 11.1-4 NIV] Parable of the Unmerciful Servant (Matt. xviii. 23-35).

[See CCC 2838-2845] [1 John 4:20-21.]

 

26. What has he to expect who will not forgive him by whom he has been offended?

Judgment without mercy.

'Judgment without mercy to him that bath not done mercy' (James 2:13). 'But if you will not forgive, neither will your Father that is in Heaven forgive you your sins' (Mark 11:25; Matt 6:15) [NIV].

 

27. What must we do when we have offended some one?

We must go and be reconciled to him (Matt. 5:23-24).

["Agatho said, 'I tried never to go to sleep while I kept a grievance against anyone. Nor did I let anyone go to sleep while he had a grievance against me.'" The Desert Fathers.]

 

28. What must we do when some one has offended us?

We must willingly offer to make peace with him, forgive him from our heart, and suffer injustice rather than return evil for evil.

'To no man render evil for evil. If it be possible, as much as is in you, have peace with all men. Revenge not yourselves, my dearly beloved, for it is written: Revenge is mine; I will repay, says the Lord' (Rom. 12:17- 19, NIV ; comp. Matt. v. 39-41). [Matt. 18:21-35, esp. 35 and footnote 24 in the NAB.]

Ex.: Jacob and Esau [Jacob cheated Esau of his inheritance and blessing so Esau thought of killing him. Gen. 27:42, but they reconciled. Gen. 33:1-4] ; David and Saul [1 Sam. 24.].

 ["You are well versed in coloring your own actions with excuses which you will not accept from others, though it would be more just to accuse yourself and excuse your brother. If you wish men to bear with you, you must bear with them." Imitation of Christ, book II, chapter. 3, "Goodness and Peace in man".]
 

["Poemen said, 'There is no greater love than that you should lay down your life for your neighbor. When you hear a complaint against you and you struggle with yourself, and do not begin to complain in return, when you bear an injury with patience and do not look for revenge, that is when you lay down your life for your neighbor.'" The Desert Fathers.]

 

29. What sort of people does Holy Scripture particularly recommend to our love?

The poor, widows and orphans, and in general all those who are in corporal and spiritual need. [Is. 10:1-4, Zechariah 7:8-10 , Psalm 68:5, references to the poor in the NIV, and the use of the word "poor" in the Catholic Catechism.]

[CCC 2444 "The Church's love for the poor . . . is a part of her constant tradition." This love is inspired by the Gospel of the Beatitudes, of the poverty of Jesus, and of his concern for the poor."
 

30. How are we to assist them ?

By the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.

'Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy' (Matt. v. 7). [See CCC § 2447 on the works of mercy.]

 

31. Which arc the corporal Works of Mercy?

The Corporal Works of Mercy are these seven:

1. To feed the hungry;

2. To give drink to the thirsty;

3. To clothe the naked;

4. To harbor the harborless

5. To visit the imprisoned;

6. To visit the sick;

7. To bury the dead. [CCC 2300; With regard to the dead, the Holy Scripture says: 'My son, shed tears over the dead, and neglect not his burial' (Sirach 38:16).]

["Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me." Matt. 25:34-36 NAB.]

 

32. Is it also a duty to perform corporal works of mercy?

Yes, it is such an indispensable duty that Christ condemns the unmerciful to everlasting fire.

'Depart from me, you cursed, into everlasting fire. For I was hungry, and you gave me not to eat; I was thirsty, and you save me not to drink; I was a stranger, and you took me not in; naked, and you covered me not; sick and in prison, and you did not visit me. . . . Amen I say unto you, as long as you did it not to one of these least, neither did you do it to me. And these shall go into everlasting punishment' (Matt. xxv. 41-46).

[On fire the Catechism says: CCC §1034 "Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. [Mk 9:43-48 NIV] Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire," [Mt 13:41-42 NIV] and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!" (Matt 25:41 NIV)]. [See Hell in the Catechism.]
 

["Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." Matt. 5:7 NAB; also Lk 6:36.]

 

33. What good things are promised to those who give alms?

Temporal blessings, and especially spiritual graces, in order to obtain forgiveness of their sins and life everlasting.

'He that gives to the poor shall not want; he that despises his entreaty shall suffer indigence' (Prov. 28:27). Tobias. ''[F]or almsgiving saves one from death and expiates every sin. Those who regularly give alms shall enjoy a full life..."(Tob. 12:9). Ex.: Zacheus the Publican [Luke 19]; Cornelius the Centurion [Acts 10. A centurion is an officer in the Roman army but he was someone who prayed constantly and gave generous alms. He received a vision to call Peter to him. As Peter preached, the Holy Spirit descended on Cornelius so he and his household were baptized. This is a sort of Pentecost for the Gentiles and a reward for his piety and goodness to the poor.]

[See Scripture on Almsgiving. "[G]iving alms to the poor is one of the chief witnesses to fraternal charity: it is also a work of justice pleasing to God..." CCC 2447.
"The pastor, therefore, should encourage the faithful to be willing and anxious to assist those who have to depend on charity, and should make them realize the great necessity of giving alms and of being really and practically liberal to the poor... Priests should also cite those texts which are calculated to persuade (to the performance of this important duty): Give and it shall be given to you (Lk 6:38). They should dwell on the promise of God, the richest and most abundant that can be conceived: There is no man who has left house, or brethren, etc.,that shall not receive an hundred times as much now in this time and in the world to come life everlasting..." (Matthew 19:29; Mk 10:30 NIV) Catechism of the Council of Trent, Seventh Commandment.]

 

34. Which are the Spiritual Works of Mercy?

The Spiritual Works of Mercy are these seven: 1. To admonish sinners; 2. To instruct the ignorant; 3. To counsel the doubtful; 4. To comfort the sorrowful; 5. To bear wrongs patiently; 6. To forgive injuries; 7. To pray for the living and the dead.

["Instructing, advising, consoling, comforting are spiritual works of mercy, as are forgiving and bearing wrongs patiently..." CCC 2247.]

 ["If all were perfect, what should we have to suffer from others for God's sake? But God has so ordained, that we may learn to bear with one another's burdens, for there is no man without fault, no man without burden, no man sufficient to himself nor wise enough. Hence we must support one another, console one another, mutually help, counsel, and advise, for the measure of every man's virtue is best revealed in time of adversity -- adversity that does not weaken a man but rather shows what he is." Imitation of Christ, book 1, chapter 16.]

35 Are we also bound to perform spiritual works of mercy?

Yes, provided we have sufficient knowledge and an opportunity to perform them ; for the spiritual good of our neighbor should affect us far more than his corporal welfare.

'My brethren, if any one of you err from the truth, and one convert him, he must know that he who causes a sinner to be converted from the error of his way, shall save his soul from death, and shall cover a multitude of sins '(James v. 19, 20).

 

36. When are we in general bound to admonish or rebuke our neighbor in a brotherly manner?

When it is necessary, in order to prevent him from committing sin, and there is hope that our admonition will not be in vain.

'If your brother shall offend against thee, go and rebuke him between thee and him alone,' etc. (Matt. 18:15).

["Hyperichius said, 'Snatch your neighbor from his sins, so far as you can, and refrain from condemning him, for God does not reject those who turn to him. Let no evil word about your brother stay in your mind, so that you can say, 'Forgive us our debts, as we also forgive our debtors.'" The Desert Fathers.]
 
[Editor's note: This sort of thing must be done with gentleness. It is not a license to be a vigilante, or to be obnoxious. If you try to instruct someone that an activity is wrong, and they wont listen then I suggest prayer. Ask God to give you an method of persuasion that will work, tell you when the time is right to try, or to send someone who will be effective. Ask God to give them the grace needed to listen.]
 

37. How is fraternal rebuke to be given?

With all possible prudence, love, and meekness.

["Meekness properly mitigates the passion of anger." Aquinas. CCC 1806 "Prudence is the virtue that disposes practical reason to discern our true good in every circumstance and to choose the right means of achieving it; "the prudent man looks where he is going...." Prudence is "right reason in action," writes St. Thomas Aquinas, following Aristotle... With the help of this virtue we apply moral principles to particular cases without error..."] ["Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, (love) is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails..." 1 Cor 13:4-8.]

"Brothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit, looking to yourself, so that you also may not be tempted." (Gal. 6:1 NAB).

Application. Be peaceable and kind to every one, especially to your brothers and sisters, and to your relations. Bear with the faults and frailties of your neighbor; never render evil for evil [Rom. 12:17-18 NIV]; but pray for him who may have offended you. [cf. Matt. 5:43-44 NAB.]

["If, after being admonished once or twice, a person does not amend, do not argue with him but commit the whole matter to God that His will and honor may be furthered in all His servants, for God knows well how to turn evil to good. Try to bear patiently with the defects and infirmities of others, whatever they may be, because you also have many a fault which others must endure. " Imitation of Christ, book 1, chapter 16.]
To see material on the 10 commandments see Basic Belief.


Joseph Deharbe, S.J., Full Catechism of the Catholic Religion, Dchwartz, Kirwin & Fauss, NY (1876) Imprimatur, + N. Cardinal Wiseman, 7/29/1862. The text presented here is for religious and educational purposes only. All rights reserved. Any copyrighted material is used in reliance on 17USC107. The imprimatur above only applies to the orginal text , not the material in brackets.

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