Do we still abide by the Ten Commandements?
Before we chorus “Of course!” consider the recent news we may have read or watched.
A former secretary of Justice and incumbent senator is accused of having an affair with her married driver and using him as bagman for drug money solicited for her election campaign.
So, either she is violating the Sixth Commandment against adultery, the Seventh against stealing (since corruption is theft), and the Eighth against falsehood (since betrayal of public trust in government officials is dishonesty).
Or her accusers, including the highest official in the land, is breaking the Eighth.
Law enforcers and so-called vigilante groups, along with drug syndicates, have allegedly killed more than 1,500 suspects, the latter two assailant groups with no legal authority, and the police with utterly impossible claims that most of the hundreds who ended up dead fought back.
So there goes the Fifth Commandment.
Now, picture and replay the last ads you saw, heard or read. The ones enticing you to buy the latest, the finest, the priciest. And those that get your gaze with some scantily clad, suggestively gesturing models. Plus commercials promising more pesos for your centavos. These are pretty much all the kinds of ads we see these days.
That’s our covetous culture, stirring desires for money, sex, luxury, status and other worldly wishes. The very coveting forbidden by the Ninth and Tenth Commandments.
As for the First, Second and Third, well, God’s near-absence in our daily thinking, feeling, and living shows how we have other gods besides the Lord our God, how much we take His name in vain, and what lack of holiness pervades pretty much every day in the week, with many of the baptized not even willing to set aside an hour, let alone a day, to keep holy.
In this world where Ten Commandments are broken everywhere and everytime, it seems a hopeless, even mindless undertaking to heed heaven’s dos and don’ts. Why bother when so few do, and many, if not most, don’t.
And with worldly enticements and social pressures to dismiss the Decalogue, including the disdain of family and friends who resent being reminded of the ten tenets of right and wrong, it’s hard not to think that it’s normal and acceptable to disobey.
Thus, the devil succeeds in convincing us that there’s no way humanity can win against our sinfulness, that’s understandable and forgivable to break commandments here and there, and for all our striving with God’s grace, our bit of sanctity dissolves in the sea of sins engulfing our world.
So we give up the struggle for goodness and right, and just plead for divine forgiveness— a defeatist stance which Pope Francis’ paramount advocacy for God’s boundless mercy may buttress, though he certainly doesn’t intend it.
Repairing the broken tablets
For many a believer surrounded by unbelief and disobedience, from one’s own family to the world at large, what’s he or she to do?
Many probably feel like Moses, who threw down the Ten Commandments etched by God Himself, breaking the two stone tablets. Anger and dismay over the widespread and entrenched disregard for the Divine is a start, and Moses then admonished the Israelites, even as he made new tablets with the Decalogue for all to read and heed.
Certainly, the influential and powerful among us may crack the whip. In his well-meaning but flawed way, President Rodrigo Duterte is raging and charging to cleanse the country of lawlessness, corruption and drugs that enslave the will and distort minds and morals.
For ordinary believers, though, taking the pulpit and calling down fire and brimstone isn’t an option. Rather, we work within our much smaller circles of influence, which may be just down to ourselves and our home, our workplace, our church, and our community.
And that’s plenty — when laced with God’s grace.
In fact, what can often make a difference in reviving religiosity and morals, especially in Asia, is the Fourth Commandment. For in our filial region of Asia, that’s one divine edict that most people find hard to break. We revere and listen to our elders.
So parents, teachers, bosses, leaders and other authority figures can lead the people looking up to them back to God, as Moses did to the Israelites.
Problem is many dads, moms and chiefs are either reluctant to espouse age-old beliefs and morals disdained in our time, or they themselves disbelieve and disobey. Then they can hardly put the broken tablets back together and get others to believe and obey.
How many parents just let their teenage children, and even young kids, have their way even if it’s not God’s way?
If they don’t care to go to mass, we let them. If they ask for things they don’t need just because their friends have them, we buy the stuff. And when they frown at being told why they should or should not give time and attention to corrupting media, we just stop bothering with what they watch, listen to, download and play.
And that happens not just between parents and children at home, but even superiors and subordinates at work, and leaders and citizens in the body politic, especially where liberal democratic thinking advocates letting people do as they please.
It’s a free country; everyone can do as he pleases — not as heaven wishes.
It’s high time those who believe and live by the Ten Commandments conveyed God’s will by word and example, starting with the souls they father, mother, boss or lead.
In today’s mass readings, Saint Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews admonishes: “Brothers and sisters, you have forgotten the exhortation addressed to you as children: ‘My son, do not disdain the discipline of the Lord or lose heart when reproved by him; for whom the Lord loves, he disciplines … it brings the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who are trained by it.’”
Let’s deliver that same message to those entrusted by God to our care and teaching. We are responsible for their souls. Amen.