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Friar’s E-Spirations: God’s Great Gift: The Commandments

Ted and the Ten

In 1988, Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, a multimillionaire, and a man of strong opinions, addressed the National Press Association in Atlanta about the Ten Commandments. He said, “We’re living with outmoded rules. The rules we’re living under are the Ten Commandments, and I bet nobody here even pays much attention to them because they are too old.” If effect, he said, “Get rid of them.”

The Ten Commandments were given by God to Moses on Mount Sinai and have been around for 3,000 years. We would agree that commandments, by definition, put restrictions and limits on our behavior. Parents have commandments for their children. One very important commandment is not getting into a car with a stranger—ever. Some commandments are for our own safety.

Commandments make us think when we are pulled to something that seems enticing or even promising, but which we recognize as wrong. Commandments exist not to make life miserable; rather to make it good and safe. The Ten Commandments are to be a basic guide to human behavior both in relationship to God (Numbers 1, 2, and 3), and to our fellow man (Numbers 4 through 10).

Guide to Living in Harmony

For us wounded human beings with tendencies toward sin, the Ten Commandments point out very directly and specifically what we, as God’s children, should and should not do. Ted Turner’s view is not only thoughtless, but also foolhardy. Maybe it is just that people with wealth and power refuse to be constrained by anything they think holds them back. But if someone embezzled millions of Turner’s money, I doubt he would stand by and say, “Well, that’s life.”

God gave us those basic commands so that humanity could live together in harmony and peace. Who wouldn’t want that? It is an indication of humanity’s perversity that all through history many people have wanted things such as power, wealth, and land even if it meant destroying peace, harmony, and thousands of innocent lives.

We see today enough power-hungry dictators who will stop at nothing to get and keep power. Their goal is not to serve the good of the people. Foolishly, such world leaders see themselves as gods. They presume they are immortal. You would think they would learn from seeing what eventually happens to others like themselves. In the end, they die with nothing.

God Is Wisdom

But something rather simple occurred to me as I considered the economic crises around the world. Can you imagine what would happen if those in power—politically and economically—took just three of the Ten Commandments seriously? Let me name them: “You Shall Not Kill,” “You Shall Not Steal,” and “You Shall Not Lie.” What would it mean if leaders respected all human life as sharing in God’s life? What would it mean if all the financial and investment institutions, such as Wall Street, were conducted honestly?

Unfortunately, there seems a new principle is embraced: “You can’t do business in this world without cheating.” Lying and cheating have become a way for many in conducting business. It might be a new rule for business success: “You better get what you can get in any way you can get it.” Many think they are savvy and clever when it comes to making money and gaining power.

It is God who is the source of all wisdom.

Editor’s Note: St. Francis Day in a Box

Franciscan Media, home of Friar Jack’s E-spirations, is contributing materials to the Humane Society of the United States’ “St. Francis Day in a Box” program, which offers a variety of resources on protecting animals and caring for creation. Suited for home or parish use, the kit includes two of our own Franciscan Media books, St. Francis: A Short Biography and Live Simply: Ethical Eating. You can find out more from the Humane Society’s Faith Outreach program here.

John Feister, Periodicals Editor

Dear Friar Jack: Thank you for your article on Father Mychal Judge OFM. When I first read his prayer after 9/11, I typed it, laminated it, and it has been with my morning prayer book each day since. I make sure that our RCIA candidates hear it and talk about it every year. His life and his simple act of doing what God wanted him to do at the time can be a source of inspiration to all of us. Kathy

Dear Friar Jack: Beautiful article on Father Mychal Judge, OFM. Isn’t it sad, though, that nowhere is it mentioned in the E-spiration that he was an openly gay man and unashamed of the sexual orientation? Especially today, when we have so much bullying and teen suicide related to self-hate about being gay, many need somebody they can look up to. He was a hero to many firefighters and could be even a bigger hero to gay youth. It’s something to think about. Ed

Dear Friar Jack. Your article on Father Mychal Judge, OFM, was an inspiration to us all. Even though he knew the chances of surviving the rescue attempt, he followed God’s word and went to the aid of the fallen due to the due to the tragic attack on the World Trade Center. Father Mychal should be an inspiration not to just us, but to all future men and women of fire departments all over the world. Helping one of God’s creatures in need is the greatest gift one can give. If only more of us, myself included, could follow God’s word, this would truly be a world worth living in. Ted

Dear Friar Jack: What a lovely article! I will be using Father Mychal Judge, OFM’s prayer for my RCIA inquirer class. We will be discussing doubts concerning moral teachings. This little prayer says so much with just a few words. I suspect that Father Mychal was a very down-to-earth man and certainly embraced humor. I know my class will have a few chuckles but after that they will have a lot to ponder after reciting this precious prayer. Linda

A: Dear Kathy, Ed, Ted, and Linda: I am pleased with the many good things you have noted about Father Mychal. Several years ago I had the opportunity to visit the firefighters he had served across the street from the friary where he had a room overlooking the fire station. I also stood in that room and looked down on the station. Those are precious memories—as was Father Mychal’s great act of courage. May God bless all the readers of this column around the world! Friar Jack