Pillar III

The Commandments

A young man approached Jesus one day and asked him, "Teacher, what good must I do to have eternal life?" Jesus answered, "If you would enter into life, keep the commandments," and then he added, "Come, follow Me." (please read the Compendium and scroll to 434-441) Christ sums up the commandments into the "Great Commandment"- to love God with all our hearts, souls, and minds, and to love our neighbor as ourselves.

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind."

Rembrandt, 1659
I. I am the Lord your God: you shall not have strange gods before me 
God must come first in our lives. Things like astrology, nature/animal worship, superstition (i.e. lucky rabbits foot), fortune tellers, etc. are all contradictions to this Commandment. Money, fame, power, pleasure, entertainment, comfort.. these too can become our "gods." We must be very careful not to make these our focus in life. God is our focus. see #442-446

II. You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain
We use God's name with great reverence. His name is holy, we must never intentionally do or say anything that would make it seem less than so. see #447-449

III. Remember to keep holy the Lord's day
The Lord's Day is Sunday, and going to Mass on Sundays is what's commanded here above anything else. If we miss Mass, we miss our participation in the "Source and Summit" of our Christian faith. Think about it.. What is the Eucharist but the Lord himself made present among us? Serious reasons need to be present for one to miss Mass (i.e. illness, care of infants). Catholics are also obliged to attend Mass on Holy Days (i.e. Christmas, Immaculate Conception). see #450-454


"You shall love your neighbor as yourself."

IV. Honor your father and your mother
The Commandments are grouped into two categories - love of God (first three), and love of neighbor (next seven). The first Commandment that applies to us loving our neighbors has to do with our parents. This implies that in the order of loving, we must focus on God first, then our parents, then everyone else. We owe our parents our love, our gratitude, and our respect. After our parents, we must also honor others whom we owe our life, our security, and our well-being (i.e. step-parents, older relatives, teachers, employers). The Church, however, does not require us to honer anyone who asks us to sin. see #455-465

V. You shall not kill
We need to preserve life in every way possible. Everyone has dignity from the moment of conception. This is why the Catholic Church is so adamantly against abortion. This little "blob of cells" is a life, with a complete set of DNA containing instructions for all aspects of "its" development. We must also preserve our own life such as fostering healthy habits and lifestyles, but also in self-defense. We must also be careful not to kill someone's spiritual life. Scandal is an example of this (i.e. calling one's self a Catholic, but publicly supporting anti-Catholic morality in word or deed). Hatred, which is ill-will towards another, is also related to this Commandment. "Love your enemy, pray for those who persecute you.." see #466-486

VI. You shall not commit adultery
Adultery is cheating on your spouse, or with the spouse of another. This is the extreme violation of this Commandment. This hurts the most fundamental unit of our society, the family. But this Commandment promotes the sanctity of the sexual union between a husband and wife in general. Society as well as the individual must work to preserve this. In God's will, the sexual act is beautiful, life-creating, and unifying. Outside of God's will, it is selfish and destructive. see #487-502

VII. You shall not steal
We respect the property of others. We directly steal by taking property which does not belong to us, but indirectly steal by accepting stolen property or vandalizing public property. On a deeper level, the basis of this commandment is justice. Are we being just to our neighbor? For example, when the Lord provides for us, do we in-turn provide for others? We must remember that all God gives us is not solely for us. We have the right to private property. However, in the end, it's all God's property. So we must learn to be stewards of it. see #503-520

VIII. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor
To be truthful in word and in deed, this is the essence of this Commandment. We also observe secrecy when required (i.e. priests have to observe this in the Sacrament of Penance). see #521-526

IX. You shall not covet your neighbor's wife
What the 6th Commandment forbids in action, the 9th forbids in thought and desire. Jesus states, "Everyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." We must purify our minds. This takes prayer, practice, patience... see #527-530

X. You shall not covet your neighbor's goods
Jesus tells us,"Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." We must detach from worldly riches. This is necessary in order to enter into the Kingdom of heaven. If we are detached, we have no envy of what others have. We do not covet our neighbor's goods. The true desire of man is to be be with God eternally. see #531-533

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Links above are from the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic ChurchVatican.va. For a more thorough exploration of the Commandments, consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church. For an explanation which may be more engaging to youth and young adults, consider purchasing a copy of the YOUCAT (Youth Catechism).