Thou Shalt not Kill. Many think we’ve probably got that one down. Most of us don’t routinely kill other people each day or even once in a lifetime. So, on to the next commandment! Well….not so fast.
First of all, Jesus warns that the heart of the 5th Commandment not to kill includes not only the act of killing but also the things that lead up to killing. He uses the example of holding on to vengeful anger (cf Matt. 5:22) and of hateful attitudes that depersonalize and dehumanize others (cf Matt 5:22). In some of these matters we may all fall short from time to time. We may not actually have killed but our anger or hatred can be such that some one “might as well be dead for all we care.” We can get to the point where we stop reverencing the dignity of another’s’ life and in this we have transgressed the heart of the 5th commandment according to Jesus.
A second and even more common way we might transgress the 5th Commandment is reckless behavior that endangers the life of others. The most common form of this is reckless driving and also “distracted driving.” Excessive speeding and erratic lane shifting, blowing through stop lights, texting while driving, excessive chatter and banter with other passengers, drunk driving and so forth are all ways we can endanger the lives of others. The catechism teaches the following regarding reckless behavior:
Unintentional killing is not morally imputable. But one is not exonerated from grave offense if, without proportionate reason, he acted in a way that brings about some one’s death, even without the intention of doing so. (CCC 2269).
The following video is difficult to watch. It is NOT for the faint of heart. But it is meant to strongly admonish especially the young, but also the not so young, that distracted driving can have awful consequences. If we are not serious about driving safely then we are reckless and endanger the lives of others. This is a violation of the respect for life demanded by the 5th Commandment.
St. Paul used the image of an athlete to describe the Christian life in Several places. Consider this one:
Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. Every athlete exercises discipline in every way. They do it to win a perishable crown, but we an imperishable one.Thus I do not run aimlessly; I do not fight as if I were shadowboxing. No, I drive my body and train it, for fear that, after having preached to others, I myself should be disqualified. ( 1 Cor. 9:25-27)
Clearly there are many virtues necessary to the athlete that are also of great necessity to the Christian:
Discipline – The athlete must carefully and persistently train the body. Without a clear and repetitive discipline the sport will not be mastered and neither will the body have proper stamina, strength and coordination. Athletes train every day and work to perfect their mastery of the sport. So too must Christians undertake a clear discipline and persistently train in the ways of faith through prayer, scripture, sacraments, moral virtue and self mastery. The Christian must practice every day.
Persistence – The Athlete must follow discipline all the time, not just occasionally. To fail in persistent training not only jeopardizes good performance but it risks injury. So too for the Christian. We cannot expect much progress with an on again, off again regimen. Without a persistent good habit of prayer, scripture, sacraments and practicing of moral virtue the Christian not only stunts progress but also risks injury (sin).
Rules – every sport has rules that must be accepted and followed. The athlete is not free to reinvent the game. They must play by the rules or risk exclusion and disqualification. S0 too the Christians must play by the rules set by God. If we are going to be on the winning team and secure the victory we have to abide by the rules. To refuse this is to risk being disqualified. We are not free to reinvent Christianity as so many try to do today. There is only one playing field and one game. Follow the rules or be ejected.
Alert for Injury – A good athlete listens carefully to his or her body and any signs of injury. If injury is detected they see the team doctor quickly and take measures to heal as quickly as possible. Further they avoid injury by learning proper form, stretching etc. So too for the Christian. We must monitor ourselves for injury and upon discovery of even minor injury we should consult our team physician, the priest and get on the mend quickly. Further we should avoid injury by learning proper Christian form (moral life) and avoiding what ever leads us to sin (a kind of stretching to avoid moral injury).
Teamwork – many sports involve learning to work together for the goal. Athletes cannot merely seek glory for themselves, they must have the good of the whole team in mind. They must learn to work with others toward the common good and overcome any idiosyncrasies or selfishness that hinders the common goal. So too Christians must strive to overcome petty and selfish egotism and work for the common good, learning to appreciate the gifts of others. The team is stronger than the individual alone. Life is about more then just me. When others are glorified so am I if I am on the same winning team.
Well, you get the point. Why not add a few of your own thoughts on how sports is a good analogy for the Christian life?
I almost think I need to establish a new series on this blog: the “Self-inflicted Wounds Department.” This latest issue of Gloria TV news once again demonstrates how we as Catholics frequently do not see eye to eye on matters of great significance and thereby become an ineffective witness to the world. The lack of a united front, the lack of consensus on how to interact with a world increasingly at odds with us has become a crucial issue that impacts our ability to be coherent to the world. It amounts to a self-inflicted wound.
For example on the issue of Abortion, the Catholic teaching is clear. But we seem to have little consensus on how to speak to the world that prefers euphemisms such as “choice” and “reproductive freedom” and “privacy” to the simple and clear truth that abortion is the killing of children in the womb. Now take this item from the news today:
According to the editor-in-chief of the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, US-President Barack Obama in his pre-presidential voting record may have “made decisions that certainly cannot be defined as pro-life,” but this does not make him “pro-abortion.” “He was, rather, pro-choice,” Gian Maria Vian claimed in an interview for the National Review Online. The interview came after a series of articles in L’Osservatore praising Obama and soft-pedalling the opposition of the US bishops. The articles have been heavily criticized by pro-life leaders.
Now mind you, this is not merely an average Catholic speaking, this is the Editor in Chief of the Vatican’s own newspaper, a paper that, theoretically speaks for the Vatican and represents its views. Now I don’t actually think this is the view of the Vatican but Mr. Vian cannot simply be ignored. Further he was commenting on a series of articles in L’Osservatore Romano which all raised problems for pro-life Catholics. If the Editor in Chief of the Vatican’s own newspaper seems ambiguous about our President’s stand on Abortion, and if it’s editor uses the euphemistic language of the pro-abortion movement, where do we stand? I cannot begin to understand his motivation since I do not understand European politics. But as a casual observer of European thinking (filtered through our own media) it seems that Europe is quite fond of President Obama. He has taken positions they strongly support on a whole range of other issues (war in Iraq etc.) and thus they are disposed to find ways of overlooking the fact that he is perhaps the most pro-abortion president we have ever had. He even refused to support the “born alive infant act” and limits on partial birth abortion. There are many reasons for Catholics, both Americans and Europeans, to like and support President Obama, but Abortion is not one of them. And speaking in the language of our pro-abortion opponents and using their own euphemisms is a self-inflicted wound. We need to work more carefully to develop coherent and consistent ways of speaking and acting so that we communicate our teaching clearly.
A second issue on this same video involves a Madonna Concert in Poland on August 15, the Solemnity of the Assumption. While this issue is far less serious than the one above, it also illustrates how Catholics are seen as quite divided by the world. Many Catholics there have protested the concert of Madonna, who has quite a record of anti-Catholic antics. But a Jesuit priest is quoted in the media as flippantly remarking that August 15 seems to be a fine day for a concert. Enter this too into the “Self-inflicted wounds Department of this blog.” (Sigh)