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A Beacon Of Light… The Tenth Commandment: Corruption Of The Heart

June 7, 2022 Frontpage No Comments


(Editor’s Note: Fr. Richard D. Breton Jr. is a priest of the Diocese of Norwich, Conn. He received his BA in religious studies and his MA in dogmatic theology from Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Conn.)

  • + + Today we come to the final and tenth word of the Decalogue: “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s goods.” The Tenth Commandment is linked to the Ninth Commandment. In discussing the Ninth Commandment we were concerned with concupiscence, or the desire of the flesh. In a like manner, the Tenth Commandment is concerned with the intentions of the heart. Some common temptations associated with this commandment are avarice, envy, and jealousy. These temptations hinder us from recognizing the blessings and joys of our own life, because they force us to see another’s possessions as greater than our own.
    Isn’t this what happened in the Garden of Eden? Adam and Eve were living in perfect paradise everything they had was God’s gift to them. Their sensible appetite, however, was enticed through the cunning serpent. The serpent convinced them that they could have more; that they could be like God. Don’t worry, the serpent said. Eat of the tree and you will know everything. In an instant, perfect paradise and complete union with God was interrupted by corruption of the heart.
    The sadness that follows is a lifelong struggle. This struggle we call “purification of the heart.” The heart is the place of our moral personality and from it flows evil thoughts, murder, adultery, and fornication. These things are not from outside the body, but are from within. They are the result of the purity lost in the Garden of Eden. Our entire life is a kind of purification of the heart. Why? Well, because are always fighting the adverse passions that lead to temptation. In His Sermon on the Mount, when Jesus is explaining the Beatitudes, He reminds us that only the pure of heart will see God face to face and be like Him (1 Cor. 13:12; 1 John 3:2).
    It is here we encounter what we call the sensitive appetites. These are what lead us to desire something pleasant that we don’t have. Things like money to live, eat, and keeping warm when we are cold, are good in themselves, but can often morph into unpleasant desires. These unpleasant desires can lead us to covet something others have.
    Let’s imagine new neighbors move in next door to you. As the movers carry in their belongings, you see their big screen television and fantasize about what it would be like to have the same television. You know you cannot afford one like that, but you want it so badly you cannot stop thinking about that lovely television. The desire morphs so much, you get in the car and buy that television. Sadly, you spent money you did not have and were unable to pay next month’s bills.
    Or as your new neighbors move in, they place an amazing mailbox at the end of their driveway. It’s a fish mailbox, one where the mouth opens to put in the mail. You are obsessed with it and put one up yourself. In both of these situations your sensible appetites get the best of you, and you crave or desire your neighbor’s goods.
    This we call envy. Envy is a capital sin and causes us to become sad at the wealth of possessions of another. The Catechism explains envy well:
    “The Tenth Commandment requires that envy be banished from the human heart. When the prophet Nathan wanted to spur King David to repentance, he told him the story about the poor man who had only one ewe lamb that he treated like his own daughter and the rich man who, despite the great number of his flocks, envied the poor man and ended by stealing his lamb. Envy can lead to the worst crimes. ‘Through the devil’s envy death entered the world’” (CCC, n. 2538).
    There is a sadness that exists from envy, similar to what Adam and Eve experienced in the Garden. Our envious desires of wanting more cause us to deny the blessings that God has bestowed on us in this life. Adam and Eve had everything, and yet, eating the “apple” was thought to bring even more happiness.
    The opposite happened. Happiness was transformed into fear and anxiety. When we crave or desire someone else’s things, we demean ourselves, and our hard work. All the sacrifices we made in acquiring our possessions and way of life are turned upside-down. Envy is just the beginning, however. It leads to other temptations and sins like hatred and joy at another’s misfortunes.
    There was a family who had many possessions and lived a good life. They always enjoyed vacations and having the best of the best. One day while on vacation, their home caught fire and they lost everything. I mean everything! Even the cars melted in the garage because the fire had gotten so hot. Sadly, they never knew the fire happened until they returned home and drove up the driveway to see a huge, charred mess. All of their belongings, memories, and sentimental stuff was lost.
    It was an enormous loss, but soon its impact would have a healing effect on their lives. As they began the process of rebuilding their lives, it became apparent to them that the possessions were secondary in comparison to the loss of life that could have happened. As they built their new home, they began thanking the Lord for the blessings and benefits they had received from Him. After four years of “conversion of heart,” they were able to move into their new home. Last week, I had the privilege of participating with them in the blessing of their new home.
    Offenses against the Tenth Commandment involve a lack of charity. All of the baptized are predisposed, or ordered, toward love and charity. In fact, charity is one of the virtues received in Baptism that enables us to always look for good.
    Today we must ask ourselves a question: Have I practiced the works of mercy in dealing with others? The works of mercy were particularly important in the life and papacy of Pope St. John Paul II. On November 30, 1980, Pope St. John Paul II, issued a papal encyclical entitled: Dives in Misericordia. Within this encyclical, Pope St. John Paul II said: “Jesus Christ taught, not only that man receives and experiences the mercy of God, but that he is also called to practice mercy toward others” (n. 14).
    There are two sets of works of mercy: spiritual and corporal. The spiritual works of mercy assist us in helping our neighbor. They are: instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, admonish sinners, patiently bear with those who wrong us, forgive offenses, comfort the afflicted, pray for the living and the dead. The spiritual works of mercy assist us in living our faith well. In addition, the corporal works of mercy are: to feed the hungry, give water to the thirsty, clothe the naked, shelter the homeless, visit the sick, visit the imprisoned, ransom the captive, and bury the dead. The corporal works of mercy remind us of our need to remember those less fortunate than ourselves.

Eternal Glory

In the end, we all desire to see God. All we acquire in this life is meant to help us in attain eternal glory. St. Augustine explains in a beautiful way the importance of this when he says:
“There will true glory be, where no one will be praised by mistake or flattery; true honor will not be refused to the worthy, nor granted to the unworthy; likewise, no one unworthy will pretend to be worthy, where only those who are worthy will be admitted. There true peace will reign, where no one will experience opposition either from self or others. God Himself will be virtue’s reward; He gives virtue and has promised to give Himself as the best and greatest reward that could exist….‘I shall be their God and they will be my people’.”
This is also the meaning of the apostle’s words: “So that God may be all in all.”
“God Himself will be the goal of our desires; we shall contemplate Him without end, love Him without surfeit, praise Him without weariness. This gift, this state, this act, like eternal life itself, will assuredly be common to all” (CCC, n. 2550).
We have completed the third section of the Catechism dedicated to living: Our Life In Christ. We have arrived at the final section of the Catechism dedicated to Christian prayer. We will take a break, however, before continuing with the next section of the Catechism.
I’m going to be away on vacation for a couple of weeks, so I thought it would be advantageous to write a couple of articles on the current affairs in society. Many have asked me to write about this, so I do so will over the next couple of weeks. Enjoy the warm weather!

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