Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!


Ave Maria!
Second Sunday of Lent—21 February AD 2016

Raphael - The Transfiguration

Ordinary of the Mass
Mass Text - Latin
Mass Text - English
Lenten Observance

On the Seventh Commandment

“You know how you ought to walk and to please God—as indeed you are walking—
we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus to make even greater progress.”[1]

    Saint Paul was at Thessalonica, but had to leave in a hurry, under pressure from the Jews.  (Part of his “adventure story.”)  Yet, having more to tell them, he wrote this epistle in the year 53 A.D.

    A major point of this passage is that  Catholics must live a more exemplary life than their pagan neighbors.  The command to “make disciples of all nations” was not directed solely at the Apostles—it is directed to all Christians.  The first, and most important way for any of us to convert the pagans around us is by our own holy life and good example.

    Saint Paul cautions, first of all, about immorality—the sins of the flesh.  He knew that even the pagans were aware of the difference between good and evil—even if they didn't bother very much to avoid that evil.  He knew that they were aware of the need for enduring family relationships; for stable homes in which to raise their children and to spend their old age.  So, Paul cautions us to “possess our vessels”—our bodies—“ in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.”

    Paul also cautions us against another vice which threatened to destroy the Church at Thessalonica; what he refers to as “transgressing and overreaching our brothers.”  Essentially, he is referring to violations of the Seventh Commandment; the acquisitive version of the sin of pride—which is theft.

    It is wrong for us to be concerned with outdoing one another—having more possessions, or being thought “more important” than the next person.  If carried to excess, these are at least sins against the virtue of humility.

    But the “ego trip” of possession and status often enough leads to the direct violation of the Seventh Commandment; “Thou shalt not steal.”  «Since I am more important than He, I have the right to defraud him or to take away his goods. »

    Of course, nothing could be farther from the truth.  The right of a person to his property comes from the Natural Law, and is reinforced by Divine Positive Law.  Man cannot live without rights to personal property.  And society cannot function amid the constant bickering which would arise if ownership were not defined.  The encyclical Rerum Novarum, written over a hundred years ago by the saintly and wise Pope Leo XIII, spells out the Church’s teaching on private property—a writing with which every priest, bishop, politician, and citizen ought to be familiar. [2]

    By the Seventh Commandment we are enjoined from taking the property of another, from keeping it, or from destroying it.[3]  Only by engaging in a just transaction can property rights legitimately change hands.

    We may not take another’s goods; not by violence, not by stealth, not by fraud or cheating.  It is wrong to take advantage of the ignorance of another to his serious detriment; wrong not to pay the debts we have contracted; wrong to do less than a day's work for a day's pay; wrong to pay less than a living wage for that day's work.

    We may not keep the property of another if it has somehow fallen into our hands.  We are obligated to make a good faith search for the owner of lost goods, to return them if we are able.  Certainly, if we have taken something in bad faith, we are bound to make restitution, either returning the property or its just value.  This is a grave matter, and if we have stolen something of serious value, we are bound to confess this sin and discuss terms of restitution with our Confessor.

    Finally, we may not destroy the property of another, either out of envy or for no reason at all.  Vandalism is the most senseless of all the forms of theft, for no one profits from it.  Only if someone were using his property in a dangerous manner, may we act to take it away or destroy it.  (For example, a teacher might be justified in destroying a weapon carried to school by a child.  Or a parent in destroying pornographic pictures found in his child's possession.)  But most cases of destroying someone else's property are such “gray areas” that they must be approached with extreme caution.

    The vision presented to us in the Gospel is intended to tell us something of the glory of God in heaven—the glory of Jesus, really, as Leo the Great reminded us in the Night Office, for no one can see God and live—but also something of the glory we shall possess when we are with Him.  Remember, please, that we will share that glory in heaven, only if are united to His will here on earth.

    “This is the will of God—your sanctification”:

X      Abstain from immorality

X      Do not over reach one another—trying to be more important than the next one.

X      Do not transgress the property of each other.


“What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world,
and lose his own soul?”[4]

“You know how you ought to walk and to please God——we beseech and exhort you in the Lord Jesus to make even greater progress.”



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