One of the most beautiful things about our Christian faith is that we have all the guidelines for doing the right things and avoiding the wrong things. These guidelines come in different forms throughout the scriptures. The Church has also articulated them through the many books of the sacred deposits of our faith, particularly the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2052-2534). While we find these guidelines of our faith in both the bible and the catechism, they are summed up in the ten commandments (Exodus 20:1-17).
In two of my most recent bulletin articles, I have discussed the third commandment. This third commandment is about honoring the sabbath day and keeping it holy.
In this issue, I want us to reflect on the fourth commandment – honor your father and your mother. While we first see this and the rest of the ten commandments in the Old Testament, St. Paul commented on all of them in various places across his epistles in the New Testament. In his letter to Ephesians 6:1-3, he noted the promise that God attached to the fourth commandment. This promise, “…that your days may be long… carries a lot of weight for St. Paul. So, St. Paul proceeded to say that whoever honors his father and mother have more chances of having a good life on earth.
As Christians, we can always interpret this fourth commandment to mean different things in different contexts. But in this reflection, I want to see how it applies to us in the ways we treat our parents (and their bodies) when they pass on to the next life. Do we honor them by keeping their wishes and decisions as they made them? Or do we dishonor our parents by doing what we want with their bodies and their decisions once they pass on?
Recently, I traveled to Nigeria for the funeral of my father. During his burial, a problem arose with the place of his final rest. He had decided where he wanted to be buried. Some members of the family wanted to do otherwise during his burial. They insisted on a different place, though not without legitimate reasons. But the question I was able to ask them was, “Is this about our convenience or about honoring our father even unto death?
Many people have witnessed this problem, especially with some of our devout Catholic men and women. When these staunch Catholics pass on, anyone would expect that their children will accord them a befitting catholic funeral in the most sacred and honorable way. Unfortunately, the reverse is sometimes the case. This treatment of one’s parents is highly dishonorable and goes against the fourth commandment.
Honoring one’s parents is a commandment we should do well to keep even when our parents have passed on to the next life. Praying for them and keeping their wishes and legacies to the best of our strengths is not just a charity. It is also a moral obligation based on the fourth commandment – honor your father and your mother that your days may be long (Exodus 20:12).