Ten Commandments: a building plan for God’s temple
For the last ten weeks we’ve been covering the Ten Commandments in my 6th grade catechism class. “Today,” I say to the class, “we will study the 8th commandment. Does anyone know the 8th commandment?” They all look at the wall, to the Ten Commandments poster. “Thou shalt not lie!” they shout. Let me try that right now with you all: what is the 4th commandment? Honor your father and mother. The seventh commandment? Thou shall not steal. The tenth commandment? Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods. Now, which is the most important commandment? Yes, that’s right, it’s the First Commandment, Commandment Number One: “You shall have no other gods before me.” God commands us to love him above all else. If we get that first commandment right, everything else will follow. But because we are a little slow sometimes, and a little forgetful, God spells out what loving Him looks like: no cussing, lying, stealing, fornicating, or killing. And go to church on Sundays!
These Ten Commandments reflect the natural law. They make us all—even atheists—better people. They make for an ordered and peaceful culture. Those commandments are a building plan for God’s temple on earth, but if we invite Christ’s Holy Spirit into this temple, the Church becomes a living body. We are that living body, and each of us temples of the Holy Spirit. These temples need cleaning out from time to time, as we see Jesus doing in the Gospel. In Jerusalem, the god, “money,” was edging out the true God. Jesus had to clean it out, like he cleans out our souls every Lent. He sweeps out our lust, impatience, selfishness, cussing, gluttony, and material greed, through prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. We all need a good Lent every year to keep His temple pure.
Scrutinies: Jesus thirsts for you.
Today we move sixteen people one step closer to Catholic Church by having them undergo a “scrutiny,” part of the long process of initiation. The Gospel for this Mass is always the Samaritan woman at the well, John 4. Jesus is thirsty—for water, of course, but much thirstier for the love of this woman. He thirsts for your love and my love, and we give Him so little. He will end up dying on the Cross, abandoned by almost everyone, with these words on his parched lips: “I Thirst.”
Let’s talk about love. This Samaritan woman by the well was thirsting for love, but not finding it. She had been married five times, and was on Man Number Six, though not married to him. Jesus knew this of course, but does not condemn her. He loves her utterly. In time, she comes to know of His tender love for her, His enduring love, his perfect love for her.
Enochs: “it feels so good…”
I want to talk to you about what happened at Enochs High School recently. Some call it love, and some call it disgusting. You know the story: 41-year-old Mr. Hooker left his wife and three children to move in with his 18-year-old student. I want to entirely respect Mr. Hooker and his young friend, Jordan. Like Jesus, we must not condemn them, but evaluate what they did. Letters flooded the Modesto Bee after this incident, and every one of them expressed disgust. But we must ask: why are we disgusted? We used to object to unmarried people living together, but that was long ago; we don’t find homosexual relationships disgusting; we don’t find pornography disgusting—I mean the stuff you see all the time on HBO and MTV. We have accepted all these sexual aberrations. We say, that’s their choice. Elvis Presley wrote a song in 1965 called “It feels so right; how can it be wrong?” If you google that line, you will pull up dozens of rock songs since then that say the same thing. If it feels right for me, it must be right for me. Mr. Hooker and his young friend insist that they feel so very right about their relationship. So who are we to say it is wrong?
I think we object to a teacher having sex with his student because we do, after all, want to believe in real love. Genuine love is not defined merely by feelings. Feelings come and go, but love is a decision. It is a decision to give to a wife and children rather than to take from them. It is described by words like fidelity, reverence, sacrifice, commitment, and devotion. We are disgusted when someone is so selfish as to leave his wife and three daughters for a private fantasy. He disregards not only his own family but all of us, because a stable society is built on marriage and family life, not personal fantasies. How long do you think Mr. Hooker and Jordan will stay together? Do you think they will build a beautiful family together? What will happen to Mr. Hooker’s wife and children, to whom he has already committed himself?
Contraception: Why Not?
How did America get so confused about love and sex? It started, of course, with Adam and Eve eating that darned apple. But more recently, it was the artificial contraceptive pill—hormonal contraceptives—that pushed us from genuine love into self-centeredness. Now, I apologize if you’ve never heard the Church’s teaching on contraception presented well. The Church, up this point, has not done a decent job of teaching it, and she has lots of enemies who love to confuse the issue. Artificial contraception is much in the news these days—everyone’s talking about it, so I too will talk about it.
When the hormonal pill was first marketed in the 1950s, marriages and families were strong. So were our school systems, our social structures, and our economy. As artificial contraception gained acceptance, the Church reaffirmed her constant teaching: that every act of marital intercourse, to be a genuine act of love, must be open to the transmission of new life. That teaching stands, while the culture around it has disintegrated. If you separate sex from babies, then the whole culture will disintegrate. Marriages will disintegrate, and with them families and eventually society will revert back to a kind of dark ages, where the strong rule the weak. Love and trust will fade from public life, to be replaced by violence, distrust, and fear. Is this happening?
There is a much better way to plan our families. There is a natural way, more effective than drugs, a way that respects a woman’s natural cycles and enriches relationships. Those who plan their families in the natural way almost never divorce—less than 3% compared with the national rate of 55%. It costs no money, but it does take commitment, discipline, and trust—the very stuff of true love.
Trust the Church
So, dear brothers and sisters, let us trust the Church. She knows what she’s talking about, because she was established by Christ and is guided by the Holy Spirit. Even if you are not Catholic and don’t believe in the Church, you must admit that couples who plan their families naturally—who refuse artificial contraception—have healthier, longer-lasting relationships. Despite this evidence, the government and the media pundits insist that natural family planning does not work. Almost every political cartoon in the Modesto Bee over the last three weeks has mocked the Church’s proven wisdom on contraception. Now is the time for Catholics to understand what has always been taught. Now is the time to do our level best to live the genuine nobility that Christ calls us to through his holy Church.