WEEK THREE: The Moral Life (Life in Christ)
DAY 2: What’s Your Secret? (The Commandments, Beatitudes, and Virtues)
Did you ever try to find out if someone was planning a surprise party for you or try to find out what kind of gift they may have gotten you for your birthday or Christmas? It’s not easy to pry a secret out of someone!
Thankfully, we have a God who does not keep secrets. In fact, God is quite the opposite. God is all about revealing. One of the things that God revealed to his people Israel is the Decalogue—the Ten Commandments. Unfortunately, we often think of the 10 Commandments as restrictive. In truth, the Commandments FREE us to love as God wants us to.
Think about it this way. If you want to learn how to excel at a certain skill or sport, you may ask someone with more experience to coach you. In turn, that person offers you specific advice and strategies: “don’t do this,” “avoid doing that,” “be sure you always do the following…” In a sense, we can think of the advice that we are given as rules that we need to follow if we want to excel in that area. These rules guide us and actually free us to excel at something. In the same way, God has given us rules to follow—the Ten Commandments—to help us achieve the goal of remaining in relationship with him. The Ten Commandments don’t limit our behavior as much as they free us to live as God wants us to live.
To help us live the spirit of these commandments more fully, Jesus also gave us the Beatitudes…not so much rules as they are a mindset. Being a good Christian is not just standing still and saying, “Look, I’m not breaking any commandments!” It is an active sharing of God’s love with others. The Beatitudes put us in the right frame of mind to share this love, difficult as that may be. One warning about the Beatitudes, however – they are counterintuitive! That means that they go against accepted thinking! The message is clear: happiness is found in how God thinks, not in how we think!
Finally, in order to live according to the Commandments and the Beatitudes, the Church gives us virtues to practice. Think of the virtues as good habits to practice. The more we practice them, the more they will become second nature to us.
As Catholics, we don’t have to go searching for some great secret to a deeper relationship with God. God has revealed to us, through the Ten Commandments and through Jesus Christ, who is the incarnation of the Law of Love, how we are to live in order to remain in grace, in relationship with him. God’s Law of Love is a gift that enables us to live a life that is blessed with God’s presence.
Reflection Questions: Choose one of the following questions and share your thoughts with your fellow retreatants by adding your comments in the comments box below this post.
- When did you try to pry a secret out of someone? When did you try to keep a secret from someone else?
- What does it mean that God does not keep secrets?
- How can laws set us free?
- Why do you think the people of Israel were so thankful to receive the Ten Commandments after being led out of slavery?
- Which of the Commandments do you think our society is most in need of following?
- Why might we call the Beatitudes the “counterintuitive commandments?”
- Which of the seven virtues would you like to be better at practicing?
Thank you, good and gracious God, for the gift of your Law of Love and for revealing the Kingdom in our midst. Thank you for not keeping secrets and for showing us how we are to live in order for us to remain in close relationship with you. Help me to love you above all else and to love my neighbors, especially when that gets challenging. Likewise, help me to be a loveable neighbor so that others may not find in me an obstacle to a deeper relationship with you. Amen.
- Up the Ladder
- Loving God with Whole Mind and Heart
- Eight Attitudes
- The Beatitudes’ Promise
- Virtues and Vice
CCC References: 1716-1728, 1803-1845, 2052-2557
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I hope you’re enjoying our online summer retreat, Preparing for a Year of Faith! Take a few minutes each day at your convenience to “gather” here on my blog as we seek to add some flavor to our faith lives by deepening our understanding of the truths of our faith as given to us in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Learn more about the Year of Faith. Watch a brief video explaining what this online retreat is all about.
I would like to better at practising the virtue of prudence. I often ask God in my prayers to help me make the right choices and decisions in my life. Our conscience is guided by prudence and sometimes as Catholics we are called to go against the grain when asked our opinions on topics such as divourse, abortion, ivf treatment. our commitment to God must be total and not one where we pick and choose the bits we like best !
This is a great breakdown of these topics – I feel that in reading this, it has helped me understand them in relationship to each other and will now be able to better explain them to my students. Thank you so much!
Among all the virtues, I would like to be better at practicing charity. I would love to think myself capable of unconditional love, and for my family I hope I come close to that goal.But for those I encounter on a daily basis, for example, students and colleagues, it’s easy to put up barriers based on circumstances, past experiences, unusual behaviors, whatever the obstacle might be. We once had a Sister of St.Joseph on staff, who would counsel students doing poorly in academics. She would always tell them, if you don’t succeed at anything today, succeed at showing love. I hope I can let the love of Jesus, our master teacher and most perfect example, show through me in this coming school year. There’s nothing better than feeling loved.
I am so thankful that God does not keep secrets. It is hard enough to get through each day making the right choices. If we had to guess between right and wrong i would be in big trouble. God in the form of Jesus very clearly stated the many simple things we can do to lead a good spiritual life and yet it is still a challenge and struggle on a daily basis to always be the best we can be and do what’s best for others not necessarily what’s best for ourselves. Going to mass each week helps me to stay strong and also reinforce’s God’s clear and simple messages to us. I agree that the beatitudes seem counterintuitive. What i have come to realize though is that i am closet to God when my soul is the most troubled and i need his help and support. Struggling, experiencing pain and sorrow are part of life’s journey that help us to be closer to Jesus and hopefully made us better and stronger humans.
I think the Commandment in need of following more is to not covet my neighbor’s goods. We are inundated with ads, commercials on how to improve, better our lives with the latest electronics, apparel etc., if you see it on TV, a star or a friend you need to have it too.
I agree with Mary Kay in the fact that one ont the most important commandments that we struggle with in our daily lives is not coveting my neighbor’s goods. This is evident with the back to school shopping we experienced today. I also was thinking about the Sabbath and keeping God’s day Holy and spending time with family. In today’s society, athleticism is a struggle for me. My family enjoys competitive sports (soccer, tumbling & baseball). It’s great entertainment and builds character about getting along as a team. However, we really struggle when games are held on a Sunday. When did this occur and why do we forget about giving time to God when we choose to give time to sports and/or shopping? We do our best to make Saturday evening mass, but at times we miss. I know that this isn’t what God wants, yet I sin and break a commandment. I like the way you explained the commandments as a way of FREEING ourselves rather than thinking of them as RESTRICTING. I hope to use your explanation this year when I talk to our 3rd graders about the commandments. Thank you Joe!
I think the commandment we are in need of practicing is to keep holy the Lord’s day. It seems like the Lord’s day is the ONLY day people can sleep in nowadays. Their lives are so jam packed with activity, they have forgotten to prioritize! Where I live in a small town, no one would DARE schedule athletic activities during Church times. (I’d be sure to make a stink.) But in much larger places, my friends all tell me about tournaments and events being scheduled for Sunday morning. There is no respect for the Lord’s day. When did it start? When they allowed Sunday shopping? Where does it lead? I believe it leads to the breakdown of family. No longer is Sunday family day in some places…it’s just another opportunity to work and make another dollar. It leads to greed. It leads to a selfish life. We forgot to protect our sacred day…
I AM enjoying our online retreat. Thank you! The Beatitudes are counterintuitive because they ask us to reverse our “American way of thinking” and be less-consumer minded, less ego-centered, and less driven to climb to the top of the ladder. We are not taught to admire the poor, the weak, and those with lowly status. This is something I need to try harder to remember….. Bev
I think the Commandment we need to practice is Keep Holy the Lord’s Day. There are so many of us who don’t think going to Mass is important. When I was growing up Sunday was a day for rest and prayer. There were no stores open. No malls to go to. No Saturday Mass. Now the priority is not on Mass on the weekends. Even with a Mass now on Saturday’s. We have to realize that God always come first. Without God we can do nothing. So with all that God gives us there is no excuse no to give up one day to Praise & Worship Him.
I am enjoying this online retreat very much although I need to catch up! I think everyone’s responses are outstanding and helpful. The statement Joe makes that the Beatitudes are counterintuitive is so true and that is what being a faithful Catholic is all about, becoming countercultural in today’s world. We are to live in the world but we are not of this world! The Ten Commandments and Beatitudes help to free us by giving us clear guidelines to follow..it is like having a recipe right in front of you, no second guessing yourself or trying to remember. God reveals the recipe to us and doesn’t keep it a secret!