The Chief Commandments
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.]
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).
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.]
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.
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]
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.
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.
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.
[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.]
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).
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.].
["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.]
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).
["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.]
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.]
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).
37. How is fraternal rebuke to be given?
With all possible prudence, love, and meekness.
"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.]
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.