|Posted on December 21, 2020 at 9:00 AM|
Here we are in the final week of Advent, leading up to the birth of Jesus at Christmas! It is a celebration of life, as Jesus came down to earth to die and therefore save us humans! So in a way, it is very appropriate to talk about the next commandment in the series, the fifth commandment, which is “You shall not kill.”
Killing another human being, one of God’s children, is tantamount to killing a loved family member. Human life is sacred, because from the beginning it involved the creative action of God. In the Old Testament, way back in the beginning in Genesis, Cain killed his brother Abel. Abel’s blood spilled onto the earth, and God said to Cain “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to me from the ground.” (Gen. 4:10)
The Old Testament always considered blood as a sacred sign of life. Deliberate taking of another’s life is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human being. Accidental killing, or killing in self-defense is different, but any other deliberate killing is murder and a violation of this commandment.
Sadly, our society has legitimized killing of certain people. Often these killings are made in the name of convenience – we get rid of someone who is unwanted, who is different from us, or who gets in the way of our own lifestyle. Euthanasia of sick or elderly persons is a deliberate act of killing, as is abortion. Contraception, especially when a conceived fetus may die, is also a sin. We are stewards of our lives and the lives of all others. We are morally responsible to live our lives as best we can until the time of natural death, and to help others do the same.
The Catechism states that the fifth commandment involves respect for the dignity of all persons. Anyone who uses power at his disposal to harm a human being can be guilty of violating this commandment. Persons who do any kind of physical harm or torture to themselves or to another, those who withhold reasonable care such as food and shelter to others, and those who kidnap people or hold them hostage are not showing proper respect for people. Even the neglect of one’s personal health can be a sin under the fifth commandment, such as falling into an addiction or suicide.
Scientists too may be guilty of sins against the fifth commandment. Experiments involving people or body parts must truly be for the good of humankind and must show utmost respect for the human body. I have heard that some abortions are done to harvest fetal tissue to use for research, and if this is true, even though there may be a good that comes out of it, the means to the end was wrong.
This is a tricky commandment when we look at it deeply. Often the temptation to violate this commandment comes from anger or a desire to profit. Deliberate hatred toward others is a sin as bad as killing them. Violence in most forms, including war (unless in self-defense) is another violation of this commandment. It’s so easy to fall into sin in this way, as anger is a common human emotion. But unchecked, anger can lead to violence.
Some questions you may ask yourself when reviewing this commandment are: Have I avoided judging others and purposely thinking evil thoughts about them? Have I caused harm to anyone, especially in anger or because something was inconvenient for me? Have I caused others to sin by encouraging them in evil practices?
Thankfully I have not killed anyone or done bodily harm to anyone, but I have violated this commandment numerous times. I used contraception for a time. I have lashed out in anger at others. I have had bad thoughts about people more times than I want to recall. But the key for me to overcome these sins was once again (you guessed it) confession. As a frail human being, I was not able to change my ways until I received God’s grace.
I suspect some of you reading this blog post may disagree with my thoughts on the sacredness of life and what leads to sin under the fifth commandment. But regardless of what you think about this post, I still encourage you this week to look at your own life and see how well you have been keeping the fifth commandment. Think seriously about what it means to harm another person. If you have fallen short, it’s not too late to seek forgiveness for your sin and work to improve your life.
Four days from today will be Christmas! We celebrate God at this most sacred holiday – a God who willingly came down to earth to be one of us, who experienced everything that a human being experiences in life, and who came to die to save us. God came in the person of a tiny human life. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, became powerless as a little baby and had to be sheltered and cared for by loving parents. Mary and Joseph did everything they could to honor and respect their Son as they helped Him to grow and thrive. And we, poor humans, are Jesus’ brothers and sisters! Let us strive to live lovingly with all our brothers and sisters as part of God’s great family.
I wish you and your families a very merry and joyous Christmas!
Have a blessed Monday!
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