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Commandments, Beatitudes, and Christian Morality Page 1

By Michael J. Spoula

Tonight we are going to speak of three subjects: The Ten Commandments,

The Eight Beatitudes and we will tie both of the these up with a discussion

of Christian Morality. To begin let us take a walk with me to another time

and another place. You are a family living in Egypt. You are not free, you

work hard and the work is dirty and back breaking, life was hard. Then

suddenly, through the power and mercy of your God, you are set free. As a

matter of fact your former masters are glad to see you go. You set out on

your trek to freedom across the desert. Suddenly, Pharaoh and his ministers

realize that all of the work you had to previously done would now have to be

done by them. They come after you and suddenly, you are trapped at the

edge of the sea with no way across and you can hear the thunder of

Pharaoh’s horses as the get closer and closer. You cry out to God and

Moses stretches forth his rod and the sea parts. You and your family, your

brothers and sisters, their family and the whole of the Hebrew people walk

across dry land where there used to be water. The water is walled up on the

left and the right. Then in the Egyptians, seeing what happened begin to

chase you again. They walk onto the dry land, the water walled to the left

and the right and again you hear the thunder of many hoofs as they come

after you to bring you back into slavery. Moses once again stretches out his
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rod and she sea returns to it place and the army of Egypt is swallowed up by

the waves and tempest of the water. You march some more through the

desert and make camp near a mountain. The God who saved you called

Moses up the mountain where he hands him the Decalogue, sometimes

called the Ten Words or Sayings of God. We know them as the Ten

Commandments. These ten sayings can be found in Exodus 20 and Deut 5.

IF we go to either of these places in the OT we would find the

commandments laid out and the words recommending that the people follow

them. Those of you from a Protestant background will notice that there is a

slight difference in the way the commandments are numbered between the

Catholic and Protestant versions. It does not matter, the commandments are

the same and what we are to do or not to do remains the same. The original

Scriptural texts do not number the commandments. Let’s touch briefly on

each one. The first three commandments have to do with our relationship

with God. The first of these commandments wastes no time in putting us in

our place: I AM THE LORD YOUR GOD - we are creature and this

validates the commandments which follow. It says that these are not human

laws but those of the Creator, the one and only God of the universe.

Deut 5: 6-21
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'I, the LORD, am your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, that place of slavery.
7 You shall not have other gods besides me. 8 You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of
anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; 9 you shall not bow
down before them or worship them. For I, the LORD, your God, am a jealous God, inflicting punishments
for their fathers' wickedness on the children of those who hate me, down to the third and fourth generation
10 but bestowing mercy, down to the thousandth generation, on the children of those who love me and
keep my commandments. 11 'You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain. For the LORD
will not leave unpunished him who takes his name in vain. 12 'Take care to keep holy the sabbath day as
the LORD, your God, commanded you. 13 Six days you may labor and do all your work; 14 but the
seventh day is the sabbath of the LORD, your God. No work may be done then, whether by you, or your
son or
daughter, or your male or female slave, or your ox or ass or any of your beasts, or the alien who lives with
you. Your male and female slave should rest as you do. 15 For remember that you too were once slaves in
Egypt, and the LORD, your God, brought you from there with his strong hand and outstretched arm. That
is why the LORD, your God, has commanded you to observe the sabbath day. 16 'Honor your father and
your mother, as the LORD, your God, has commanded you, that you may have a long life and prosperity in
the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you.
17 'You shall not kill.
18 'You shall not commit adultery.
19 'You shall not steal.
20 'You shall not bear dishonest witness against your
neighbor.
21 'You shall not covet your neighbor's wife. 'You shall
not desire your neighbor's house or field, nor his male or
female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything that belongs to
him.'

1. I am the Lord your God, you shall not have false gods before me…

Being the one true God, He alone is to be adored. We are not allowed to

worship any one or anything that is not God. We are not to make graven

images. A graven image is something that is to either represent God or

something that is taking the place of God in our life. Okay, do we have a

problem here? Don’t we Catholics fall down and worship graven images -

such as the statues that are in our churches? Our Protestant colleagues think

that we do. But I can tell you that no sane Catholic ever would think to pray

to a statue. A statue is made out of clay, or plaster, or wood or plastic. It has


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no power. We know this. We use statues and other objects of art as all of us

use the pictures carried in our wallets, they serve as a reminder of the person

we love, so a statue can never take the place of God in a Catholic’s life.

God’s name is to be kept holy. Contrary to popular belief, God’s last name

is not damn it. So we must strive to keep God’s name holy as an example to

unbelievers. If we love God we will certainly not use his name as a curse.

The third commandment tells us to keep one day out of seven holy. Like

God we should rest on the sabbath. When I was young, we could not find

any stores that would be open on a Sunday. Today, we cause our brothers

and sisters to disobey this commandment as it is just another business day.

What we should do on a Sunday is refresh our bodies and souls. In an ideal

world a Christian would not work or shop on Sunday, but this is not an ideal

world and many of us have to work on Sunday and do not have an option. Is

this sinful, I don’t believe it is. But for those of us that have to work on

Sunday, do we take one of our days off and offer it to the Lord in place of

Sunday? What we Christians need to be doing on Sunday is to be with our

family, reading, recreating or dare I say it, reading the Bible?

The fourth commandment comes with a promise. If we honor our father


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and mother we will have a long life in the land which the Lord your God is

giving you. What does it mean to honor your father and mother? I think the

answer is simple, love is the key. We must love our parents and do what

love requires of us to see to their welfare. Not that being said, there are

those of us that did not have good parents. Some of us may have had

abusive parents, alcoholic parents, or parents that were not able for whatever

reason to give us the love they owed to us as children, If this is the case, are

we absolved from honoring them? The answer is no we are not absolved

from our duties to them. This is a hard answer. It is not easy to be a

Christian. At the very least we need to forgive them in our heart in the spirit

of the Our Father - forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who

trespass against us. It is not easy following the way of Jesus, for the road

leads to a Cross. The easy road leads to ruin, we are called to the narrow,

rocky and twisty path.

The remainder of the commandments deal with protecting humans from acts

of injustice of other humans. The fifth commandments says we are not to

kill. That is why the Catholic Church considers human life sacred from

conception to natural death. As humans we cannot return the gift of life to

someone who has it taken from them, therefore we are enjoined from hurting
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it. The Church has always taught this and the teaching is seamless. There

are occasions where blood has to be shed, for example in prosecution of a

just war, or when one is defending ones life or that of another. But this goes

beyond what we can discuss tonight. Suffice it to say that the Church expects

us to protect the innocent. The unborn should not be aborted, the weak, the

sick, the children, the aged should be protected. Our old ones should be

treated with dignity care and respect. In sexual matters we should be

faithful to our wedding vows as God is faithful to us. The command against

adultery applies to married and unmarried. By honoring our body and

keeping it chaste and using the power of sex as God intended it to be used,

we show the same type of love God has for us to those around us. We are to

be faithful as He is faithful. The eight commandment tells us we are entitled

to keep our good reputation and we should not ruin the reputation of others

by spreading lies. The ninth and tenth commandments tell us to be satisfied

with what we have. So what if your neighbor has more? Take care of the

things that God has placed into your care. The Ten Commandments express

not only God’s will but the voice of nature as well. The Ten Commandments

encompass laws that are already written on the hearts of each human. These

Ten Sayings of God have always been esteemed as the most precious rules
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of life (Our Supreme Court not withstanding). They form the solid basis for

all Christian legislation.

We move now to the eight beatitudes. Please notice that when God gave us

the ten commandments he presented them to Moses who came up a

mountain to receive them. Therefore God was on the mountain. Observe

that scripture says: “When he saw the crowds he went up on the

mountainside.” This was not just a device that the writer used to set the

stage. What is being said here is that once again God was handing something

to man from the mountain. He sat down, this is the way teachers taught in

those days, the teacher sat, the students stood. He began to teach them from

the top of the mountain…

Blessed are the poor in Spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven…The

word for poor as used here is the word (aynee) which means one that is bent

down, afflicted, miserable poor. It attaches to the person being referred to a

sense of humility or being “beggars before God.” or someone in need of

God’s help. How to be Poor in Spirit in two lessons: (1) Promise right now

that you will never sin again. Then leave this place and carry on with your

life. (2) At sunset tomorrow, review your day. If you find even the smallest

of sins, you have broken your promise to God. You therefore bring yourself
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to a turning point. You can commit the sin of Judas and turn away from God

or you can admit your sin and turning to God realize you depend on Him for

his mercy. Being poor in spirit might also mean you might have to bear with

patience a low estate on this earth. You may have to depend on others. You

might be exposed to injustice…if you bear all these things with patience for

the sake of God, you will be poor in spirit.

Blessed are the meek for they shall possess the land.

Those that humbly and meekly bend themselves down before God and mans

hall inherit the land. The land referred to here is technically the Promised

Land of Israel, but it has always been understood as the Kingdom of Heaven

by Christians.

Blessed be those who mourn, they shall be comforted

This is not the mourning we might feel at the loss of a loved one, but rather

mourning we feel because of the evil we can see in the world.


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Blessed are those that hunger and thirst after justice, they shall have

their fill

If you work for justice, if you hunger for it, that is if you have a strong and

continuous desire of progress in religious and moral perfection, you will

receive your reward and your reward will be the very satisfaction of your

desire to see justice. If you have justice in the world, it follows that you will

have peace. So a Christian is called to this hunger for justice and to live

their life in such a way as to bring it about, sometimes at personal cost.

Blessed are the merciful; for they shall obtain mercy

While we hunger and thirst for justice, our justice should be tempered by

mercy, for it is the way of Our Heavenly Father. Jesus says it best:

Matthew 18: 23-35


23 That is why the kingdom of heaven may be likened to a king who decided to settle accounts with his
servants.24 When he began the accounting, a debtor was brought before him who owed him a huge
amount. 25 Since he had no way of paying it back, his master ordered him to be sold, along with his wife,
his children, and all his property, in payment of the debt. 26 At that, the servant fell down, did him
homage, and said, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back in full.' let him go and forgave him the loan.
28 When that servant had left, he found one of his fellow servants who owed him a much smaller amount.
He seized him and started to choke him, demanding, 'Pay back what you owe.' 29 Falling to his knees, his
fellow servant begged him, 'Be patient with me, and I will pay you back.' 30 But he refused. Instead, he
had him put in prison until he paid back the debt. 31 Now when his fellow servants saw what had
happened, they were deeply disturbed, and went to their master and reported the whole affair. 32 His
master summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you your entire debt because you
begged me to. 33 Should you not have had pity on your fellow servant, as I had pity on you?' 34 Then in
anger his master handed him over to the torturers until he should pay back the whole debt. 35 So will my
heavenly Father do to you, unless each of you forgives his brother from his heart."
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Blessed are the pure of heart; for they shall see God

To be pure of heart means simply that we need to be single minded in the

service of God. We must love God not in the hope of any particular reward,

but because God is God and God is good. We must do the good things we

do not for reward, but because we know God’s will for his children is for the

good things they need. If we keep our eye on the goodness of God, we will

see God.

Blessed are the peacemakers; for they shall be called the Children of God.

A Peacemaker is one who not only lives in peace with others but one that

also helps to preserve peace and friendship among mankind and between

God and man. A peacemaker will also try to restore the peace when it has

been disturbed. We could really spend a lot of time speaking about this one,

because you can go out in many different directions. For example, it is a

disturbance of the peace for protestors to picket an abortion clinic…but in

this case, breaking the so called peace is in defense of the defenseless

children being aborted and is therefore a matter of justice. So you can see

this is a deep subject requiring much thought for the average Christian. But

this is true of all of the Beatitudes.

Finally the eighth Beatitude: Blessed are they that suffer persecution for
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justice sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Notice we have come full circle, the poor in spirit will receive the kingdom

of heaven. What is being said here is that if we do all of these things, if we

are poor in spirit, meek, if we mourn over evil, if we hunger and thirst after

justice, if we are merciful, pure of heart, if we work for peace and justice, we

will most undoubtedly suffer persecution in this world, but we will receive

the Kingdom of Heaven. The very path that the Christian treads will bring

him into direct competition with the prince of the power of the air who

desires us to be proud, joyful over evil, unjust, unmerciful, impure of heart.

When you anger the devil, he will rally his forces against you and

persecution will come. It came to Christ, to Peter and the Apostles, to the

first Christians and it follows us today. Jesus received the cross and was

raised from the dead. We follow in due course and will receive the same

reward. Which brings us to Christian Morality.

When God created mankind, he placed us in a garden. It was a beautiful

place of cool shade, flowing water and waterfalls, abundant food and

complete and total freedom. God did not create slaves, he created free

creatures that are free to either love Him or reject Him. On that fateful day
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in the Garden, man made his choice, he chose to be proud, he chose to

disobey. So our first lesson in Christian Morality is:

Freedom bring choices. The Catechism says that “Freedom makes man

responsible for his acts to the extent that they are voluntary.” So we are free

but we must be responsible in using this freedom. Sometimes our freedoms

are limited by law, either diving law, such as “Thou shall not kill” or human

law such as the penal code in which the act of killing a human is defined as a

crime. God has written into our genetic make up, or as a poet might say it

“upon our hearts” a knowledge of what is right and what is wrong. We are

each equipped with a little voice that tells us what is right and what is

wrong. Christians must listen for this voice and always opt for the right and

always reject the wrong, this in spite of what it might personally cost. For

example, I am a diabetic. If tomorrow they announced that diabetes could be

cured by transplanting cells harvested from embryos, and that the cure was

one hundred percent effective and safe, I would have to reject the cure

because the cells came from murdered, aborted babies. My conscience

would loudly tell me that using the cells would be wrong and I would have

to listen to my conscience and sacrifice my own needs for the good of my

soul and the souls of my fellow Christians. In other words, I am called not
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only to do no evil, but I am called to do good. I am to not only avoid the

bad, but I am commanded to foster the good. All of my choices have to be

made with this in mind. We are responsible before God for the choices we

make and our choices have consequences. Christian morality is therefore

our responsibility to listen to our conscience and choose the right over the

wrong. More then that, we must form our conscience by study and prayer so

that we can more easily recognize the right path when a choice is presented

to us. As I said, God created a free people. There is no force more powerful

that a free committed Christian. Some say the followers of Christ are

crippled by burdens of absurd laws and limits to their freedom. As a matter

of fact, there are burdens, but they are light because Jesus helps us to carry

them. Following Christ brings us an absolute free gift of freedom. We are

free from bondage to law. We don’t look to law to save us, we instead place

our trust into God and our surrender frees us. We are therefore free to say

YES to God and no to evil. Pagan people do not have this freedom. One of

the benefits of being a follower of Jesus is the freedom not to be owned by

the things of this world. We are free to use the things of the world to build

up the Kingdom of God. We use them, but we are not mastered by them.

Jesus does make some demands on us. He came to fulfill the law. He shows
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us the laws deeper meaning. The law of God was meant to lead us to:

1. A trusting relationship with God

2. A radical obedience to God’s will that transcends the law.

3. We must work at discovering the will of God for us. This work comes to

us on a daily basis. It come to us in the form of the people and circumstances

around us. Christian morality therefore is making our response to other

conform to the will of God. To do this we accept our rolse as child of God,

adopted into the Royal Household and appointed as a steward of that house.

We strive to live in unity with God’s will by following Jesus.

“Master, which is the greatest commandment of the Law?” In answer he

said, “You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your

soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.

The second resembles it. You must love your neighbor as yourself. On these

two commandments hand the whole law and Prophets also. (Matthew 22:

36-40)

This is all very well and good but, how do we live a moral Christian life?

Christian morality is not subject to the fashions of the period. One of the best

examples of this is the sad situation in this country of abortion. Up to that


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dark day in the Supreme Court when we were given permission to murder

the unborn, in most states it was a crime to abort a baby. Today, sadly the

“law” says that this wretched form of murder is legal. Christian Morality’s

position is, and has been and always will be that murder is an immoral act.

So we cannot look to the law to decide what is moral. We need to look

inside ourselves, for God has given each of us a conscience. This is a little

voice that helps us decide what is right of wrong. The problem with the

conscience is that it does not compel obedience. As we go through life we

can follow two paths. We can listen to our conscience and it will be a friend

that will help keep us out of trouble. On the other hand we can ignore it and

do what is wrong and after awhile this voice, this instinct becomes harder

and harder to hear. It never disappears completely, but it does diminish in

volume as we get farther and farther away from God. So to lead a moral

Christian life we must learn to listen to our conscience. What about times

when the Church and you disagree. We should make every effort to conform

ourselves to what the Church teaches. Remember, the Church is not a

human invention and it is protected from doctrinal error by the Holy Spirit.

We should leave no stone unturned in researching why the Church believes

as she does. We should consult our pastor or another wise priest. If after all
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of this we remain unable to reconcile our belief with those that the Church

teaches we are free to act on our beliefs. Honest disagreements should not

be confused with stubbornness on our part. This is important. Exceptions

can be made, but only after honest soul searching, research and most of all

prayer. 99.9% of the time, if we are honest, we will be able to reconcile our

belief and bring it into conformity with Church teaching.

We need to love God and neighbor. To express this love we need to take the

higher road when we have a choice. We need to lead our life soberly and

with care for one another. We need to be Jesus to other people who may not

ever see Him except through you. Christian morality is the ribbon that

wraps your life up as a gift to the Lord. In the long run, God is not going to

ask how many abortion clinics or pornography mills we closed, or even how

many people we have fed. He sees our honest attempts at following our

conscience and living a moral life. Often times what we see as a defeat, God

sees as a victory. Remember, Jessie’s son saw David as a dirty little

shepherd boy, God on the other hand saw David as a king. God wants

honest effort on our part. God wants us to trust him to bring fruit out of

even our failures. But what can one person do. Can one person shut down

an abortion clinic? Can one person force a movie theatre to stop showing
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indecent films? Can I, can you, do anything to shut down that pornography

palace? Perhaps we cannot do too much. In the movie “Nasty Habits” , an

unknown movie that deals with the Machiavellian politics of the 70’s, the

chief character, a mother superior in a convent says: “When there is very

little to be done about a situation, one should do at least that very little.” In

God’s eyes, it is our effort that counts. I think that Brother Duane F. Reinert,

OFM.Cap says it best when he says to live a good Christian life all we need

to do are three things: Love God, Clean House and Help Others.

That is the sum total of living a moral Christian life.