Many years ago there was a comedian by the name of Flip Wilson. He channeled a character named Geraldine who, whenever she got in trouble, would announce: "The devil made me do it!"
How often do we look for excuses, aka, "extenuating circumstances," when we do something wrong? We blame it on our parents, on how we were raised as a child. We cast blame on some teacher or coach who corrected us and lessened our self-esteem. In some few situations it may be true, but most of the time it isn't.
Allso, it flies directly in the face of the words from Sirach: "If you choose, you can keep the commandments." No more playing the "victim" game. And, Jesus, too, has more confidence in us than we do in ourselves by getting beneath the exact words of the commandments to the underlying emotions that cause us to sin.
Now, I would like to change the wording of one of the commandments from a negative prohibition to a positive statement: "Thou shall not kill." To: "You shall enable life." (1)
I suspect that almost all of us here in the parish can say that we haven't killed anybody. Or, if we did, we can claim it was justified, for example, in self-defense, in time of war, etc. But, this revised wording doesn't allow for many excuses. "Every time we are not actively working to sustain life, all life anywhere, we are actually undermining life everywhere." (2)
Actively working to sustain life includes things like: Medicare, Social Security, fair housing, minimum wage, food stamps, equal opportunity, unemployment compensation, health care, and education. These are part and parcel of dignified human life. To not support them is at least as much a sin as war, abortion, capital punishment, euthanasia, and stem-cell therapy (3), the things the Catholic Church has problems with or has said is a sin.
A much more inclusive view, and it makes me a little less confident I'm really keeping the 5th Commandment.
How about you?
1 The Ten Commandments: Laws of the Heart, Joan Chittister, 2006, p. 71
3 Ibid., based on p. 72 and p. 68
-Fr. Sas, February 16 Homily
6th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A