From our FOCUS Missionary, Joseph Gruber…
Merry Christmas, people of St. John the Evangelist and St. Joseph Oratory! And especially, happy Feast of the Holy Family!
Have you ever noticed that the 10 Commandments come in a set of three and a set of seven, one set devoted to God and the other devoted to our neighbor? The first set begins with the statement, “I am the Lord your God”—and all three commandments flow from that one—no idolatry, no using His name in vain, and keeping the sabbath. Our attention is arrested by God revealing Himself: “I am the Lord your God, Who brought you out of Egypt…” Knowing that He is the one Who reveals Himself, we can respond rightly by obeying His commands.
When we switch over to the second set of commandments, a funny thing happens. Instead of drawing our attention directly back to Him, God tells us to honor our father and mother. From there, all of the other commandments flow: don’t murder, or commit adultery, or steal, or lie, or covet. There’s a beautiful lesson here that is very appropriate for our feast this weekend: the family is the source of and primary arena for our social virtues. When God tells us to honor our mother and father, He is telling us to look at our origin, which is found in how two people, male and female, related to one another to create and educate new life.
In the set of three commandments about God, He tells us to look at Himself first, which is perfection, and that makes sense to us. In the set of seven commandments about our neighbor, God tells us to look at our parents first, which is perhaps confusing for us. For many of us, our parents may not have followed the commandments about murder, adultery, stealing, lying, or coveting, or even about honoring their own parents. And by turning our attention to them, God is telling us that we don’t have to commit those same sins. God never gives a command that He doesn’t also grace us with the ability to follow Him. Our parents may indeed be a helpful reminder of why these commandments are so important for us to follow, not only by their negative example, but primarily by their positive examples. After all, their union created us. Even if covered by a multitude of sins, our parents participated in the creative act of God in conceiving us. An immortal soul came into existence because of our parents. One of the best ways to honor our parents is to learn how to live well with others.
On this feast day, we honor a reality that is incredibly precious: God Incarnate chose His own parents, and more than that, He chose to adopt our humanity so that we could, in turn, be adopted into His divinity. In our baptisms, we’ve been given the life of Christ…and that includes membership in the Holy Family! Jesus gives us, through the Holy Spirit, two parents who show us the positive side of the Law—a mother untouched by Original Sin, and a father who is righteous. In a harsh and precarious world, Mary and Joseph kept choosing to live rightly with each other and with their neighbors. Far from breaking the ten commandments, they exemplified the good life. Mary’s heart was pierced when her Son was murdered; neither Mary nor Joseph were ever unfaithful to one another, even though the world suspected Mary; they gave generously their entire lives to God Incarnate; they received Truth Himself and spoke God’s praises; and their desire was to share the good that they received, not to covet what others had. As we gaze on Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, may we choose to honor our adopted parents by loving our neighbors, beginning in our homes.
Joseph Gruber, MA
Fellowship of Catholic University Students