"The Ten Commandments In The Law Of Christ".
In the Old Testament there are two places where the commandments are written -- Exodus 20:1-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21. In both contexts, though some variations between the two lists occur, they are to be seen as part of a much larger body of social and religious legislation. The commandments stand as the essential -- but not the exhaustive -- summary of how God wants his people to live in both their individual and community serial relationships. The whole of God's revelation, including the Ten Commandments, is called the Torah or the Law of God in the Old Testament.
The title of the series connecting the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament to Jesus Christ may challenge a reader to go to the gospel narrative to see what Jesus had to say about the Ten Commandments.
Of course, the commandments are not repeated as such in the New Testament. This does not mean that Jesus ignored them or denied their existence, significance or importance. Jesus makes it clear that he did not come to abolish the law but to fulfil and transform it (Mt 5:17). He also makes it plain that a man cannot keep the commandments by external observance, but only through a far more radical and difficult purification of the inner self and through love (Mt 5:20-48; Mk 10:19-21).
Christ is the principle, the norm, the center and the goal of Christian Moral Theology. The law of the Christian is Christ himself in person. He alone is our Lord, our Savior. In him we have life and therefore he is the law of our life. The Christian life is following Christ, but not through mere external copying, even though it be in love and obedience. Our life must above all be a life in Christ. The essential orientation in our moral theology is mystical identification of our whole being in Christ through Sacraments, a manifestation of the divine life in us.
What is the place of the Ten Commandments in Christian (and by extension non-Christian) education? Do they still have a definite role to fulfil in life? These are some of the questions Dr. Podimattam sets out to answer in these series.
The Ten Commandments were first destined for one small branch of the Semitic people over three thousand years ago. They were part of that people's complex legal code. Yet today they are applied to many facets of modern life. Is this application justified? Does not the original narrow context of the Ten Commandments prevent them from having a relevance for contemporary Christianity, and why not, for the entire human race? Dr Podimattam's treatment of Ten Commandments, as constituting the Catholic moral theology, attempts to answer these queries.
According to Dr Podimattam, at the instance of the First Commandment, for example, we need not think of "gods" solely in terms of the powers of the culture-religions of the ancient Middle East. It is the material or ideal possession that takes the place of God for many of us. It may be money, woman, power or nation, or race. Perhaps knowledge entices us with the possibility of world dominion and thereby makes us willing to build a finished power system to which the life of mankind and of the individual is unscrupulously delivered. Wherever our faith and trust are turned to such powers, the worship and service of strange gods occur and the lordship of the only true God is violated.
It is true, of course, that the gross idolatry of heathen religious worship found in the second part of the First Commandment, is not a very dangerous temptation to modern Christians. But the reproach of anti-religious philosophy indicates where a contemporary "image" of God might be hidden. Faith in God, so this charge goes, is only a form of self-projection into the world beyond. There is enough truth in this accusation to show that there can be images of an intangible sort that are even more powerful in vivifying the hidden majesty of God to the human imagination than the crude idols of ancient cultures.
Just as the covenant people of the Old Testament were authorized to call upon the name of Yahweh, so also the Christians are authorized and empowered to call upon the name of Jesus Christ. This is matter of the Second Commandment, and it is sometimes violated by using Christ's name as a cloak for ecclesiastical power pleasure hunting politics selfish money-making.
As regards the Third Commandment, the Christian Sunday is not merely a substitute for the Jewish Sabbath. Sunday must be understood in the light of the new creation which is in Jesus Christ. Christ and his Resurrection bring this new creation to its rightful destiny and open the door to the world of God's peace and rest. The Sunday observance is a weekly reminder of this fact.
In the Fourth Commandment, we find a sort of normative wisdom that sees a reflection of the divine majesty in all authority. Here rule has not only its sanction, but also its limitation.
In the Fifth Commandment, we see not only a reference to the right position concerning the question of euthanasia (whether it be the killing of incurables or the destruction of germinal life) but also directions for the positive fostering of life.
Since the Sixth Commandment guards the neighbor's marriage against the instinctive passion of his fellowmen, it directs us generally to the restrictions that God has placed on instinctive sex life. Only deliberate subordination to the bounds set by God and the determination to have a healthy family life can turn the powers of sexuality into streams of blessing and of inner riches.
The Seventh Commandment does more than protection of property. It warns against taking advantage of a brother's need and against all exploitation of the weak. It is, therefore, a guide for all social and economic action and restraints.
The Eighth Commandment goes beyond the witness in the courtroom to the edifying power of the truth in community life. This commandment is fulfilled only by the strenuous effort to bring the truth to expression in public life, in political life and among political opponents, in order that it may exercise its constructive power.
The Ninth and Tenth Commandments are like the First in its all-inclusive meaning. Respect for the existence of one's neighbor, together with all that is needed for his life and welfare, is the only way for those who fear God.
In these volumes, apart from answers to the complex questions of Catholic morality there are instances from the various scientific and other researches of today. Dealing with the second commandment, it explains not only the moral dimensions of different forms of worships, prayers and devotion, but presents an encyclopedic analysis and information about the different forms. The popular devotions are critically presented and clearly shown as to what extent they are desirable or permissible. The author also has raised the question of the need for reinterpretation of the honouring of saints.
Dealing with the topic of extraordinary phenomena, the issues of extrasensory perception and para-psychology are treated in quite useful and interesting manner.
In the context of the fourth commandment, the author deals with moral responsibility in community life and takes a close look at concepts like nation, state and the failure of the social order.
Discussing the moral questions under the fifth commandment, there is an extensive discussion on ecological ethics which is most relevant to modern problems including ethical implications of space exploration and eco-feminism. "What we perceive as body is itself a dynamic manifestation of energy in motion, continually transforming and reconfiguring itself in the subatomic, atomic, organic and cosmic levels," the author asserts at one place.
It would have been more reader-friendly if it had both a collective content and an overall index to the volumes. This would have helped a reader or researcher to identify and access one's preferred topics and places.
Over all, this compendium of 20 volumes would be very useful for the people, institutions and libraries as an authentic reference on Christian morality, particularly in training institutes for priests, religious and the laity.
Published by HT Syndication with permission from Indian Currents.
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