In the July 11, 2021, edition of our Cathedral bulletin, I reflected in my column on the fourth commandment, “honor your father and your mother.” This fourth commandment begins the second part of the decalogue (the ten commandments). The first part of the decalogue includes the first three commandments. In these three, God reveals his will for our relationship with Him. The second section consists of the last seven commandments in which God makes known his will for our relationships with one another. This week, I want us to reflect on the fifth commandment – YOU SHALL NOT.
In several places in the Pentateuch (the first five books of the bible), Moses made the law against killing very clear (Exodus 20:13, 21:12; Deuteronomy 5:17). But in the Gospel, Jesus goes further to explain this commandment in detail. After stating that whoever kills is liable to death, Jesus expanded the notion of killing to include any actions that attack the human life’s dignity and sacredness (Matthew 5:21-26).
Killing is evil. The Church condemns it in the strongest terms, especially with Pope Francis’s recent abolition of the death penalty as an act that is “morally inadmissible.” While this is so, one may not easily deny the near-justifiability of some killings – specifically, those imposed by states as legal punishments for some heinous crimes.
In reflecting on the fifth commandment that openly condemns killing, I want us to ruminate over another action that involves a deadlier form of killing. One that comes to mind readily is grudges. In many ways, living with grudges has become natural to our human condition. While living with grudges is a moral error and one that we must always endeavor to confess, it is a sin that primarily attacks the dignity and sacredness of the bearer’s life. Bearing grudges against others negatively affects those people in some ways. And, the fact of living with grudges destroys the bearer spiritually and emotionally.
One who bears grudges has a high propensity to self-hate, passive aggression, and unforgiveness. These sins deny the bearer of grudges the ‘peace of mind’ that disposes one to good and charitable actions towards self and others. When this happens, the spiritual strength of the soul begins to deteriorate, and one’s ability to make moral judgments starts to decline. Sometimes, these happen even while we carry ourselves around as good and devout Christians.
Moving forward, let us keep in mind that living with grudges is a form of killing – not just killing the ‘other’ but also killing oneself. When the scripture tells us that we shall not kill, it does not say we shall not kill others but ourselves. So, let us do well to pay closer attention to this commandment by staying away from actions and inactions that directly or indirectly attack the dignity and inviolability of the human person.