If ye love me, keep my commandments.--John 14, 15


He that loveth his neighbor, hath fulfilled the law. For thou shalt not commit adultery: Thou shalt not kill: Thou shalt not steal: Thou shalt not bear false witness: Thou shalt not covet: and if there be any other commandment, it is comprised in this word: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.
ROM, xiii. 8, 9.

St. Paul is here pointing out to the Roman Christians the necessity of keeping the Commandments of God. It is true he mentions only the second table of the law, and says in fact that all the commands which God has given to men can be summed up and are contained in the precept to love our neighbor. And this, indeed, is correct, because when our love of the neighbor is, as St. Paul supposes, active, universal and supernatural, that is, when we love our neighbor because he is the image of God, the love of God is really included in our charity and is at the bottom of it. Another reason why St. Paul insisted in this Epistle only on the second table of the law was because in ancient times the obligation to love one's neighbor was not at all felt or lived up to. The pagans and Jews alike were conscious of the need of worshipping God, a Supreme Being, even though in the case of the former the worship was erroneous; but the love of one's neighbor was seriously unrecognized and neglected. There was great need, then, to remind the Roman Christians of this duty, and to present it to them in such a vivid and insistent manner.

I. Meaning of the Decalogue, 1. According to its etymology the word decalogue means the ten words, because it contains the ten Commandments which sum up the entire law of God.

Those ten Commandments, as we have just seen from the Apostle, can all be reduced to the law of love. 2. From man's very creation God, through the light of reason, imprinted on his soul the unwritten or natural law, which enabled him to discern right from wrong, good from evil. The ten Commandments are only an explicit declaration of this natural law, and hence the precepts of the Decalogue have obliged all men without exception from the beginning of the world. Idolatry, theft, adultery, lying, etc., have ever been contrary to the law of God in all places and among all men. 3. When the light of reason became obscured and men's hearts hardened, it was necessary that God should promulgate more definitely the law of nature, and this He did by the ten Commandments, given on two tables of stone to His own chosen people, the descendants of Abraham, whom He had just before delivered from the bondage of Egypt. The Commandments were given to Moses, the leader of the Israelites, on Mt. Sinai in the desert of Arabia. 4. In abrogating the judicial and ceremonial precepts of the Mosaic Law, our Lord did not abolish but confirmed the moral code contained in the Decalogue, although He did reject the false interpretations given the latter by the Scribes and Pharisees.

II. Reasons for keeping the Decalogue. I. The Commandments have God as their Author and were confirmed by Christ our Lord; hence they begin, "I am the Lord thy God." 2. The Commandments are just. Since God is our Lord and we His servants, it is right that we should consecrate to Him our hearts, words and works, as the first table prescribes. It is likewise reasonable that we should honor our parents, and do to others as we would have them do to ourselves, which is the object of the second table. 3. God is a mighty and jealous Lord and will punish violators of His law. 4. The observance of the Commandments brings with it abundant rewards both in this life and the life to come; our salvation depends upon it.

CONCLUSION, 1. Thanks to God who has deigned to declare His will in all that concerns our salvation, and who facilitates the observance of His law by the abundant help of His grace. 2. We should strive to the best of our ability to know and understand the law of God and to fulfill its requirements with exactness, fidelity, and fervor. 3. Let us frequently examine our consciences and compare our daily lives with the precepts of God's Commandments.

Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part III


St. Augustine in his writings remarks that the Decalogue is the summary and epitome of all laws:(1) "Although the Lord had spoken many things. He gave to Moses only two stone tablets, called 'tables of testimony,' to be placed in the Ark. For if carefully examined and well understood, whatever else is commanded by God will be found to depend on the ten Commandments which were engraved on those two tables, just as these ten Commandments, in turn, are reducible to two, the love of God and of our neighbor, on which 'depend the whole Law and the Prophets.'"(2)


Since, then, the Decalogue is a summary of the whole Law, the pastor should give his days and nights to its consideration, that he may be able not only to regulate his own life by its precepts, but also to instruct in the law of God the people committed to his care. "The lips of the priest," says Malachy, "shall keep knowledge, and they shall seek the law at his mouth, because he is the angel of the Lord of Hosts."(3) To the priests of the New Law this injunction applies in a special manner; they are nearer to God, and should be "transformed from glory to glory as by the Spirit of the Lord."(4) Since Christ our Lord has called them "light,"(5) they should be "a light to them that are in darkness, the instructors of the foolish, the teachers of infants";(6) and if a man be overtaken in any fault, those who are spiritual should instruct such a one.(7)

In the tribunal of penance the priest holds the place of a judge, and pronounces sentence according to the nature of the offense. Unless, therefore, he is desirous that his ignorance should prove an injury to himself and to others, he must bring with him to the discharge of this duty the greatest vigilance and the most intimate and practiced acquaintance with the interpretation of the Law, in order to be able to pronounce according to this divine rule on every act and omission; and, as the Apostle says, to teach sound doctrine,(8) free from error, and heal the diseases of the soul, which are the sins of the people, that they may be acceptable to God, pursuers of good works.(9)


In the discharge of this duty the pastor will propose to himself and to others motives for keeping the Commandments.


Now among all such motives the strongest is that God is the author of the law. True, it is said to have been delivered by angels,(10) but no one can doubt that its author is God. This is clear not only from the words of the Legislator Himself, which we shall subsequently explain, but also from innumerable other passages of Scripture, which the memory of the pastor will readily supply.

Who is not conscious that a law is inscribed on his heart by the finger of God, teaching him to distinguish good from evil, vice from virtue, justice from injustice? The force and import of this unwritten law do not conflict with that which is written. How unreasonable then to deny that God is the author of the written, as He is of the unwritten law.

But, lest the people, aware of the abrogation of the Mosaic Law, may imagine that the precepts of the Decalogue are no longer obligatory, the pastor will inform them, that these precepts were not delivered as new laws, but rather as a renewal and development of the law of nature; its divine light, which was obscured and almost extinguished by the crimes and long-continued perversity of man, shines forth in the Decalogue with increased splendor. The ten Commandments, however, we are not bound to obey because delivered by Moses, but because they are so many precepts of the natural law, and have been explained and confirmed by our Lord Jesus Christ.


A most powerful argument for enforcing the observance of the law is the thought that the founder of the law is no less a person than God Himself--that God whose wisdom and justice we mortals cannot question, whose power and might we cannot elude. Hence, we find that when by His prophets He commands the law to be observed, He proclaims that He is "the Lord God." The Decalogue also opens with the same solemn admonition: "I am the Lord thy God";(11) and elsewhere we read: "If I am a master, where is my fear?"(12)

That God has deigned to make clear to us His holy will, on which depends our eternal salvation, is a consideration which, besides animating the faithful to the observance of His Commandments, must call forth their gratitude. Hence the Sacred Scriptures, in more passages than one, setting forth this invaluable blessing, admonish us to know our own dignity, and to appreciate the divine bounty: "This," says Moses, "is your wisdom and understanding in the sight of nations, that hearing all these precepts they may say: 'Behold a wise and understanding people, a great nation'";(13) "He hath not done in like manner to every nation"; says the royal psalmist, "and his judgments he hath not made manifest to them."(14)


The circumstances which accompanied the promulgation of the law, as recorded in the Sacred Volumes, are well calculated to convey to the minds of the faithful an idea of the piety and humility with which they should receive and reverence a law delivered by God Himself. The Jews were commanded by God that for three days before the promulgation of the law they should wash their garments and abstain from conjugal intercourse, in order that they might be more holy and better prepared to receive the law, and that on the third day they should be in readiness to hear its awful announcement. When they had reached the mountain from which the Lord was to deliver the law by Moses, Moses alone was commanded to ascend. Then the Lord, descending from on high with great majesty, filling the mount with thunder and lightning, with fire and dense clouds, spoke to Moses, and delivered to him the law.(15)

In this the Divine Wisdom had solely for object to admonish us to receive His law with pure and humble minds, and to impress the salutary truth, that over the neglect of His commands impend the heaviest chastisements of the divine justice.


The pastor will also teach that the Commandments of God are not difficult of observance, as these words of St. Augustine are alone sufficient to show: "How, I ask, is it said to be impossible for man to love--to love, I say, a beneficent Creator, a most loving Father, and also, in the persons of his brethren, to love his own flesh? Yet,(16) 'he who loveth has fulfilled the law.'"(17) Hence the Apostle St. John expressly says that "the commandments of God are not heavy,"(18) for as St. Bernard observes, "no duty more just could be exacted from man, none that could confer on him a more exalted dignity, none that could contribute more largely to his own interests." (19) Hence St. Augustine, filled with admiration of God's infinite goodness, exclaims: "What is man that Thou wouldst be loved by him? And if he loves Thee not, Thou threatenest him with heavy punishment--is it not punishment enough that I love Thee not?" (20)

But should anyone plead human infirmity to excuse himself for not loving God, it is not to be forgotten that He who demands our love pours into our hearts by the Holy Ghost the fervor of His love;(21) "and this good Spirit our Heavenly Father gives to those that ask him."(22) "Give what thou commandest," says St. Augustine, "and command what thou pleasest."(23) Since, then, God is ever ready to help us, especially since the death of Christ the Lord, by which the prince of this world was cast out, there is no reason why we should be disheartened by the difficulty of the undertaking. To him who loves, nothing is difficult.(24)


Another thought that will go far to persuade obedience to the law is that such obedience is a necessary duty. It is specially necessary to dwell on this point in these our days, when there are not wanting those who, to the serious injury of their own souls, have the impious hardihood to assert that the observance of the law, whether easy or difficult, is by no means necessary to salvation. This wicked and impious error the pastor will refute from Scripture, especially from St. Paul, whose authority they invoke in favor of their impious doctrine. What, then are the words of the Apostle? "Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of God."(25) Again, inculcating the same doctrine, he says: "A new creature, in Christ, alone avails."(26) By a "new creature in Christ" he evidently means him who observes the Commandments of God; for, he who observes the Commandments of God loves God, as our Lord Himself testifies in St. John; "If anyone love me, he will keep my word." (27) A man, it is true, may be justified, and from wicked may become righteous, before he has fulfilled by external acts each of the divine Commandments; but no one who has arrived at the use of reason can be justified, unless he is resolved to keep all of God's Commandments.


Finally, to leave nothing unsaid that may be calculated to induce to an observance of the law, the pastor will point out how abundant and sweet are its fruits. This he will easily accomplish by referring to the eighteenth psalm, which celebrates the praises of the divine law, among which its highest eulogy is that it proclaims more eloquently the glory and the majesty of God than even the heavenly bodies, whose beauty and order excite the admiration of all peoples, even the most uncivilized, and compel them to acknowledge the glory, wisdom, and power of the Creator and Architect of the universe.

The law of the Lord also "converts souls to God"; for knowing the ways of God and His holy will through the medium of His law, we learn to walk in the way of the Lord.

It also, "gives wisdom to little ones";(28) for they alone who fear God are truly wise. Hence, the observers of the law of God are filled with a profusion of pure delights, are enlightened by the knowledge of the divine mysteries, and are blessed with plenteous joys and rewards both in this life and in the life to come.

In our observance of the law, however, we should not be actuated so much by a sense of our own advantage as by a regard for the holy will of God, unfolded to man by the promulgation of his law. If the irrational part of creation is obedient to God's will, how much more reasonable that man should live in subjection to its dictates?


A further consideration which should not be passed over is that God has preeminently displayed His clemency and the riches of His bounty in this, that whilst He might have commanded our service without a reward. He has, notwithstanding, deigned to identify His own glory with our advantage, thus rendering what tends to His honor, conducive to our interests. This is a great and striking consideration; and the pastor should not fail to impress it on the minds of the faithful, telling them in the language of the prophet whom we have last quoted, that "in keeping the commandments of God there is a great reward."(29) Not only are we promised those blessings which seem to have reference to earthly happiness, such, for example, as to be "blessed in the city, and blessed in the field";(30) but we are also promised "a very great reward in heaven,"(31) "good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over,"(32) which, aided by the divine mercy, we merit by our holy and pious actions.


The law announced in the Decalogue, although delivered to the Jews by the Lord from the summit of Sinai, was long before written and impressed by nature on the heart of man, (33) and was therefore rendered obligatory on mankind at all times by the Author of nature. It will be very useful, however, to explain carefully the words in which it was proclaimed to the people of Israel by Moses, its minister and interpreter, and to narrate briefly the history of the Israelites, which is so full of mysteries.

The pastor will first show that from among the nations of the earth. God chose one which descended from Abraham; that it was the divine will that Abraham should be a stranger in the land of Canaan, the possession of which He had promised him; and that, although for more than four hundred years he and his posterity were wanderers before they obtained possession of the land, God withdrew not from them His protecting care. They passed from nation to nation and from one kingdom to another people; He suffered no man to hurt them, and He reproved kings for their sakes.(34)

Before they went down into Egypt, He sent before them one by whose prudence they and the children of Israel were rescued from famine. In Egypt such was His paternal kindness towards them, that although opposed by the power of Pharaoh who sought their destruction, they increased to an extraordinary degree; and when they were severely harassed and cruelly treated as slaves, God raised up Moses as a leader to conduct them from bondage with a strong hand. It is especially this deliverance that is referred to in the opening words of the law: "I am the Lord Thy God who brought thee out of Egypt, out of the house of bondage."


From all this the pastor will remark that of all the nations of the earth God chose only one whom He called "his people," and by whom He willed to be known and worshipped;(35) not that they were superior to other nations in justice or in numbers, and of this God Himself reminds them, but rather because He wished by the multiplication and aggrandizement of an inconsiderable and impoverished nation, to display to mankind the extent of His power and the riches of His goodness.

Such having been the circumstances of the Jewish nation, "he was closely united to them, and loved them," (36) and Lord of heaven and earth as He was. He disdained not to be called "their God." He desired that the other nations might thus be excited to a holy emulation and that mankind, seeing the superior happiness of the Israelites, might embrace the worship of the true God. In the same way St. Paul says that by placing before the Jews the happiness of the Gentiles and the knowledge of the true God, "he provoked to emulation those who were his own flesh."(37)


The pastor will next inform the faithful that God suffered the Hebrew patriarchs to wander for so long a time, and their posterity to be oppressed and harassed by a galling servitude in order to teach us, that to be friends of God we must be enemies of the world, and pilgrims on earth, and that an entire detachment from the world gives us an easier access to the friendship of God. Further He wished to show all who have been brought to His service how much happier are they who serve God, than they who serve the world. Of this Scripture itself admonishes us: "Yet they shall serve him, that they may know the difference between my service and the service of the kingdom of the earth." (38)

The pastor will also remind the faithful that God delayed the fulfillment of His promise until after the lapse of more than four hundred years, in order that the Israelites might be sustained by faith and hope; for, as we shall show when we come to explain the First Commandment, God wishes His children to depend on Him at all times and to repose all their confidence in His goodness.


Finally, the time and place, in which the people of Israel received this law, deserve particular attention. They received it after they had been delivered from the bondage of Egypt and had come into the wilderness; in order that, impressed with a lively sense of gratitude for a blessing still fresh in their memory, and awed by the dreariness of the wild waste in which they journeyed, they might be the better disposed to receive the law. For man becomes closely attached to those whose bounty he has experienced, and when he has lost all hope of assistance from his fellow man, he then seeks refuge in the protection of God.

From all this we learn that the more detached the faithful are from the allurements of the world and the pleasures of sense, the more disposed are they to lend a willing ear to the doctrines of salvation. "Whom shall he teach knowledge," says Isaias, "and whom shall he make to understand the hearing? Them that are weaned from the milk, that are drawn away from the breasts." (39)

1. Quaestio 140. super Exod.
2. Mal.ii.7.
3. Matt. xxil. 40.
4. 2 Cor. iii. 18.
5. Matt. v. 14.
6. Rom. ii. 19, 20.
7. Gal. vi. i.
8. Tim. iv. 3.
9. Tit. ii. 14.
10. Gal. iii. 10.
11. Exod. xx. 2.
12. Deut. iv. 6.
13. Malach. i. 6.
14. Ps. clxvii. 20.
15.Exod. xix. 10. et. seq.
16. Serm. 47. de temp.
17. Rom. xiii. 8.
18. I John v. 3.
19. Lib. de diligendo Deo, lib. I.
20. Confess, c. 5. 21. Rom. v. 5. 22. Luke ii. 13.
23. Lib. 10. confess, c.29, 31 et 37; de bono persever. c. 20.
24. Aug., in Ps. iii.; Bern., Serm. de Dom. in ramig palm.; in. serin, de Magdal.
25. 1 Cor. vii. 19. 26. Gal vi. 15.
27. John xiv. 21, 23. 28. Ps.xviii. 8.
29. Ps. xviii. 12.
30. Deut. xxviii. 3.
31. Matt. v. 12.
32. Luke vi. 38.
33. Rom. i. 19, 20.
34. Ps. civ. II.
35. Deut. vii. 6, 7.
36. Deut x. 15.
37. Rom. xi. 14. 38. II Far. xii. 8.
39. Is. xxvili. 9.



A young man one day addressed this question to our divine Saviour: "What good shall I do, that I may have life everlasting?" Jesus replied: "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matt. xix. 16, 17). There is no more important question for each one of us than that which this young man asked our Lord, for the salvation of our immortal soul, the possession and enjoyment of life everlasting, is our end, our final destiny. All other things are only secondary to our eternal salvation. To secure it we must have faith, for "without faith it is impossible to please God" (Heb. xi. 6), and "he that believeth not shall be condemned" (Mark xvi. 16). But faith, to be a genuine saving faith, to conduce to and effect salvation, must be a living, active and practical faith. If our faith is not a rule of life for us, if it does not produce corresponding works, it is practically dead, for, says St. James (ii.14, 17, 26), "what shall it profit, if a man say he hath faith, but hath not works ? Shall faith be able to save him? . . . Faith, if it have not works, is dead in itself . . . Even as the body without the spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead"; that is, such a faith is useless for securing our salvation. Our divine Redeemer declares that heaven can be gained only by doing the will of God, for He says: "Not everyone that saith to me. Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doth the will of my Father who is in heaven, he shall enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matt. vii. 21). The good works required for salvation are those prescribed by the commandments of God, for when the young man had asked Jesus, "what good shall I do, that I may have life everlasting," Jesus replied:

"If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." From these words it is evident that the Commandments of God are, for us all, the Christian rule of life.


Our divine Saviour abolished the Jewish legal sacrifices, ceremonies and customs, but not the ten Commandments solemnly promulgated on Mount Sinai. On the contrary, He confirmed them, making, as we have just heard, their observance the indispensable condition of salvation. "Do not think," He said, "I am come to destroy the law or the prophets, I am come, not to destroy, but to fulfill" (Matt. v. 17).

The ten Commandments are the essence and expression of the natural law imposed by the Almighty and All-wise Creator to govern and regulate the conduct of man in accordance with his nature, his obligations, his final end. They are also the rule of all human actions, of all human laws. Civil laws, the precepts of parents, of superiors, that do not conform to the ten Commandments, are unjust, can impose no obligation, must not be obeyed, for, as the apostles rightly said: "We ought to obey God rather than men" (Acts v. 29). When there is a doubt as to the justice of human laws, of human commands, the Church is divinely empowered to decide whether they may be lawfully obeyed, and her decisions in such matters are binding on the conscience of everyone.

The Commandments of God are our rule of life, for they determine and regulate our duties toward God, toward ourselves and toward our neighbor. They are, as our Lord declares, reducible to the two great Commandments of the love of God and of the love of our neighbor as ourselves. The first three Commandments regard our duties toward God, and the other seven regard our obligations toward our neighbor and our own selves. The ten Commandments may be summed up in these words of the Apostle: "Avoid evil and do good" (l Pet. iii. 11).

Each Commandment forbids certain evil actions or thoughts, and prescribes certain good actions or thoughts. The prohibition of evil is obligatory at all times and everywhere; no person, no power, can lawfully dispense from such prohibition, or allow or prescribe what is evil, v.g., hatred of the neighbor, false oaths, drunkenness, adultery, etc. Each Commandment, in so far as it prescribes some good to be done, is obligatory only at certain times, on the occasions that occur of performing the good prescribed, v.g., acts of obedience to superiors, of charity toward the neighbor, of divine worship, etc. If we truly love God, we shall find no great difficulty in observing the Commandments, for, says our divine Saviour, "if anyone love me, he will keep my word" (John xiv. 23), that is, my Commandments.

The ten Commandments are as binding on us as on the Israelites of old, for, says St. Paul, "circumcision is nothing; uncircumcision is nothing; but the observance of the commandments of God" (i Cor. vii. 19). This means that the keeping of the Commandments of God is the only important, necessary and indispensable obligation for all men without exception. Nay, even more; as Christians we have a far stricter obligation to keep them than the Jews, since the Christian religion is as superior to the Jewish as the reality is superior to the figure. It behooves us Christians, therefore, to keep the Commandments more perfectly than was required of the Jews, since our holy religion requires us to be more perfect than they: "For I tell you," says our beloved Redeemer, "that unless your justice abound more than that of the scribes and pharisees, you shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven. ... Be ye therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect" (Matt. v. 20, 48).


We have many powerful motives for keeping the Commandments. In the first place, we should keep them because it is the express will of God. He orders us to "keep the commandments" (Matt. xix. 17). He has made us for heaven, but says expressly that we cannot gain heaven without keeping the Commandments. The Holy Ghost tells us: "Fear God and keep his commandments; for this is all man" (Eccles. xii. 13), that is, it is the whole duty of man. Secondly, we are commanded to love God with our whole heart and soul, with our whole mind, with all our strength. But we cannot truly love Him, unless we keep His Commandments, for our divine Saviour says: "If you love me, keep my commandments . . . He that hath my commandments and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me" (John xiv. 15, 21). Hence, he who willfully breaks a Commandment, does not really love God. Thirdly, we should keep the Commandments out of gratitude to God, for He is our greatest benefactor, and to Him we owe all that we have and all that we are. "God so loved the world," says Jesus Christ, "as to give his only-begotten Son . . . that the world might be saved by him" (John iii. 16, 17). For love of us "God," says St. Paul, "did not spare his own Son, but delivered him up for us" (Rom. viii. 32). And the Son of God "loved us and delivered himself up for us" (Eph. v. 2), dying a most cruel and shameful death, to save us. He could not have shown us greater love, for He Himself tells us that "greater love than this no man hath, than that he lay down his life for his friends" (John xv. 13). And Christ laid down His life for us, who were His enemies, through our sins. Gratitude demands that we love Him in return, striving to please Him in all things, and carefully shunning whatever might cause Him the least displeasure. We can do this only by faithfully keeping the Commandments. In the next place, our earthly peace and contentment require it, for, asks holy Job (ix. 4), "who resisted God, and hath had peace?" Disobedience to God's law is a source of uneasiness, of unhappiness. The good Christian, even amid poverty, afflictions, disease, misfortune and other trials, however great they may be, is not unhappy, but enjoys a peace of mind and a contentment which the world can neither impart nor take away, and which, as experience proves, is denied to the sinner amid his apparent happiness, amid the honors, riches and pleasures of the world, for in them the sinner, like Solomon, actually finds only "vanity and vexation of spirit" (Eccles. i. 14). Finally, heaven, with its ineffable joys and perfect happiness can be gained only by faithfully keeping the Commandments. "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matt. xix. 17). Such is the express teaching of our divine Saviour.


We must keep all the Commandments without exception, for St. James declares (ii. 10), "whosoever shall keep the whole law, but offend in one point, is become guilty of all." This means that the breaking of any of the Commandments in a matter of importance will prevent us from entering heaven, although we may faithfully observe all the other Commandments. To transgress a Commandment in some important point is a grievous sin, which inflicts spiritual death on the soul, and forfeits all rights to heaven. Just as the lesion of a vital organ causes the death of the body, although all the other vital organs may remain sound, so also the violation of one important Commandment brings death to the soul although the other Commandments may have been faithfully observed. Hell, in fact, is full of Christians who kept some of the Commandments, who never, v.g., committed murder, theft or adultery, who never got drunk, but either slandered or hated their neighbor, or yielded to lustful thoughts and desires, etc.

Sin, which is committed by transgressing the Commandments, is the cause of all the evils, sufferings, misfortunes and calamities, which abound in the world. They are the fruits, the punishment of sin in this life. In the next life the punishment of light sins consists in the fearful pains of purgatory, and of grievous sins the endless torments and despair of hell.


Some deluded persons look upon the obligation of keeping the Commandments as a sort of slavery, as degrading to human nature. But nothing is more ennobling, or better adapted to impart to men the true liberty of the children of God than the faithful observance of God's Commandments. He who transgresses a Commandment commits sin and yields either to the suggestions of Satan, to the deceits of the world, or to his own base passions. He thus debases himself, becomes the slave of Satan, of the wicked world, or of his own animal passions, and thus degrades his own noble human nature. "Whosoever committeth sin," says our Lord, "is the slave of sin" (John viii. 34). On the other hand, he who keeps the Commandments, overcomes the devil, conquers the world, subdues his own passions, and submits only to the God of infinite power and perfection, who alone is above him, and thus complies with the law of his nature and attains his end. Hence, as the Church says, to obey and serve God, to keep His Commandments, is actually to reign, to rule over everything that tends to degrade the nobility of man's nature. Nothing in this world can then be more ennobling than the faithful observance of the Commandments of God.

God loves and distinguishes those who keep His Commandments. To them He says: "You are my friends, if you do the things that I command you" (John xv. 14). What an honor to be considered by God Himself as a friend! Nay, even more; Jesus Christ holds them so dear, that He hesitates not to say: "Whoever shall do the will of God, he is my brother, my sister, my mother" (Mark iii. 35).


Many persons pretend that the Commandments are too difficult to keep. Not a few refuse to believe in the Catholic religion, not so much, in truth, on account of its mysteries, as on account of the obligation of keeping the Commandments; were the Church to allow them to act as they like and to dispense them from the observance of the Commandments, they would most readily accept all her doctrines and become Catholics. But this the Church neither will nor may do, hence they never become Catholics. In like manner some fallen-away Catholics try to justify their course under the plea that they can no longer believe the doctrines they so willingly believed so long as they kept the Commandments and practiced their religion; but it is evident that the real reason of their giving up the faith is that they fear the Commandments and the obligation of confessing, combating and overcoming their weakness in yielding to their passions and transgressing the Commandments. They prefer giving up their faith to giving up their passions!

The Commandments, though difficult of observance in themselves, are not beyond the power of those who have a good will, of those who are not moral cowards. Jesus Christ, who is Truth itself, tells us clearly: "Take up my yoke upon you . . . for my yoke is sweet and my burden light" (Matt. xi. 30. 31); and St. John (l Jo. v. 3) tells us that "His commandments are not heavy." Their observance does not exceed our strength, for, in the first place, God, being infinitely just, wise and good, cannot and will not lay on us intolerable burdens; secondly, however difficult His Commandments may appear to our human weakness, He will make them easy for us, if we but ask Him for the necessary strength. "God," says St. Augustine, "does not command impossible things, but He admonishes us to do what we can of ourselves, and to ask Him for grace to do what is beyond our power, and He gives His grace to all who pray for it," so that, as St. Paul says, each one may be able to say: "I can do all things in him who strengthened! me" (Phil. iv. 13). Thirdly, how many as weak as we, beset by even greater passions and more violent temptations, have, by their earnest efforts aided by God's grace, perfectly kept the Commandments, and become great saints! What they were able to perform, what so many, in our own day, can effect, we also can do, if we only have a serious and sincere good will to do all in our power and to beseech God to help us to do what we feel unable to accomplish of ourselves.

The Commandments are not an obstacle to us in this life, but rather a powerful help. They are to us what wings are to a bird. These, whilst adding weight to the bird, do not impede it in its flight; on the contrary, they are indispensable to enable the bird to fly. A bird with its wings cut off is perfectly helpless and unable to fly. In like manner, if we cut off, or break the Commandments, we become not only useless in the world, but even injurious to ourselves, to our neighbor, to society itself by our wickedness and evil example, and are spiritually helpless to reach heaven.


Let us have a good will, let us cheerfully keep God's Commandments, for, says St. Paul, "God loveth a cheerful giver" (2 Cor. xi. 7). Let us not imitate the sick who refuse to take the prescribed remedies, or who take them only with reluctance. Let us keep the Commandments of our good God, not because it is the only way to escape the torments of hell; but let us keep them out of love of God, who is so full of love for us, from a desire, a longing to gain heaven and then share the very happiness of God, our Creator, our Father, our greatest benefactor, our best friend, who loves us exceedingly, and we shall find their yoke sweet and their burden light.

That we may the more faithfully keep the Commandments, let us often reflect on them, on the duties they impose upon us, and examine our conscience as to how we observe them, in what points we transgress them, and how we may avoid further transgressions. Let us imitate David, who loved the Commandments, because he loved God; who constantly meditated upon them, in order to be guided and ruled by them. He exclaims: "O how have I loved thy law, O Lord! It is my meditation all the day. Through thy Commandments thou hast made me wiser than all my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have understood more than all my teachers; because thy testimonies are my meditation. I have had understanding above ancients, because I have sought thy Commandments. I have restrained my feet from every evil way; that I may keep thy words. I have not declined from thy judgment, because thou hast set me a law. How sweet are thy words to my palate! More than honey to my mouth. By thy Commandments I have had understanding; therefore have I hated every way of iniquity. Thy word is a lamp to my feet, and a light to my paths. I have sworn and am determined to keep the judgments of thy justice" (Ps. cxviii. 97-106). Were we, like David, to meditate often and earnestly on the Commandments, and make every effort to observe them faithfully, we should also be able to speak like David. When about to die, he sent for Solomon, his son and successor, to give him his parting advice. He insisted especially on one thing: "Show thyself a man," he said, "and keep the charge of the Lord thy God, to walk in his ways, to observe his precepts" (3 Kings ii. 2, 3). Take this admonition to yourselves, saying: "Show thyself a true Christian, keep the charge of the Lord thy God, walk in his ways and observe his commandments."

This we will cheerfully do if we really love God. A lover finds nothing too difficult when there is a question of avoiding what may displease his beloved, of doing what may cause pleasure to the one he loves. In like manner, if we really love God above all things; if, like the saints, we are enamored of God, we shall love Him as the saints did, and shall find no sacrifice too great when there is a question of avoiding His displeasure or of pleasing Him. In fact, to be able faithfully to keep God's every Commandment, it behooves us to be willing to make every sacrifice, however painful to nature, to be ready to undergo every loss, every suffering, and even to shed all our blood and give up our life as the martyrs did. That they might not break any of God's Commandments, and especially the first, which forbids giving divine honors to anyone but God, millions, not only of strong men, but of weak women and children, suffered the loss of their goods, imprisonment in fetid dungeons, fearful tortures, and cruel deaths! We should be ready to imitate them, were it necessary for the keeping of the Commandments! When we are tempted to transgress any of the Commandments, let us reflect for a moment on hell and its endless torments, to which such a transgression exposes us! Or, rather, let us then look up to heaven, to the beautiful heaven, where God, our loving Father, dwells, to that abode of delights and joys unspeakable, where endless happiness awaits those who, during their short term of life, faithfully keep the Commandments, and this will persuade us that heaven is well worth all our efforts, all our sacrifices! Yes, dear brethren, look up to heaven, and behold the glorious crown promised to those -who keep the Commandments of God, for He says to each one of us: "Be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee the crown of life" (Apoc. ii. 10).

(Music: If you Love Me by Tomas Tallis (16th Century)
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