The Ten Commandments for 2015

User's Guide to Sunday, March 8


March 8 is the Third Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year B).


Mass Readings

Exodus 20:1-17 or 20:1-3, 7-8, 12-17; Psalm 19:8-11; 1 Corinthians 1:22-25; John 2:13-25


Our Take

In a time when we read off of tablet computers instead of stone tablets, the Ten Commandments can seem hopelessly antiquated to modern life.

But they are very relevant to our day.

The first reading lists the Ten Commandments, and our Gospel is about Jesus cleansing the Temple.

They both speak to us today as much as they ever spoke to anyone. Jesus could find a reason to shake up many American parishes. We know that we can easily backslide in our churches to treating religion as something for us instead of something for God.

And the Ten Commandments could have been written for 2015 as much as for the Hebrews in the desert.

Think of it: How should we assess our commitment to the commandments in modern life?

The first one is about media.

When the commandments were first written, the most dangerous form of media was the golden calf. We may think people silly for worshipping a golden calf, but they had never seen anything like that before. It was sparkly and shiny and seemed to capture the essence of a powerful creature.

We should not feel too superior to them. They as a culture loved sparkly, shiny images of cows; we as a culture love sparkly, shiny images of famous people — and we give far more time to our celebrity-worship entertainment than they did to the golden calf.

The second commandment is about taking the name of the Lord in vain — and in our day and age, taking the Lord’s name in vain was the first profanity to be allowed on television and is the most common one to this day.

Third, the commandments warned the Israelites to rest from their work on the Sabbath. We still haven't learned the lesson, with many people feverishly working and shopping seven days a week.

They were told to honor their fathers and mothers. We have a crisis in family life and have stopped honoring fathers and mothers in many ways in our laws.

You shall not kill, says the Fifth Commandment — but millions of the unborn are killed by abortion every year.

You shall not commit adultery, says the next commandment, but pornography and sexual imagery have become commonplace in our culture.

You shall not steal, says the Seventh Commandment, but we often spend so much on ourselves that we can’t give to the poor.

They say you can’t bear false witness against your neighbor, but many create new versions of themselves on social media that become a way of bragging dishonestly.

The commandments say you can’t covet your neighbor’s wife, but we spend more time judging people by their appearance than getting to know their hearts and minds.

The commandments say you can’t covet your neighbor’s house, but we are locked in a consumerist race to have all the right things.

The Decalogue is “a great ethical code for all humanity” whose principles for living “match the criteria of every human person’s right conscience,” said Pope Benedict XVI.

That is as true today as it ever was.

Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,

where he is writer in residence at Benedictine College.