The Rules of Godís House
Everyone is born with a sense of right and wrong. We understand that it is wrong to disobey our parents, hurt others, lie, cheat, steal, kill, commit adultery. Most cultures have laws which include these basic norms. Tension develops within us when we are not following Godís rules.
Most of us have a tendency to make excuses for sin or to pretend that something is not a sin when we know in our heart that it is. We also develop a certain blindness to sin when we are deeply immersed in it. When facing imminent death or a severe crisis, our hearts seem to return to the truth. We know we canít fool God. And we know in the depths of our hearts what we have done to offend Him, what we must ďget off our chestĒ to make things right. This is similar to what husbands and wives face when they know there is something in their relationship that is causing tension, something that must be addressed no matter how painful it is to face if the relationship is to continue. These tensions, these sins, jump out at us. We know and God knows what needs repentance. All God expects is sincerity of heart as we repent of all the sins that stand between us and a renewed relation with Him.
Still, some desire a list of rules to help them see possible offenses. Obviously, we donít have time to review a list of possible offenses against God in times of crisis. But once the crisis has passed and we have been reconciled with God by repenting of our sins, we seek a closer relation with Him. Just like the troubled daughter who has asked forgiveness from her father and lives once again in her childhood home, she now wants to be sure that she does not offend her father, to be a loving daughter. She tries to recall the rules of her home and to follow them as best she can.
What I offer below is a list developed from several lists rooted in the tradition of the Catholic Church excluding items that are uniquely Catholic such as attendance at Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation. This list will at least offer a guide from a long tradition of trying to discern rules for our moral life. Hopefully, it will help see how we have broken God's rules, lead us to repentance, and help us improve our relationship with God, our Father.
How have I violated Godís Rules?
Have I replaced God with other gods, like money, sex, power, superstition, possessions?
Have I prayed to God regularly?
Have I sought guidance from those who pretend to know my future (what only God knows): palm-readers, fortune-tellers, etc?
Have I joined organizations that deny the existence of God?
Have I denied or seriously doubted the existence of God?
Have I despaired of Godís mercy (that I can be forgiven)?
Have I profaned a sacred person, place, or thing?
Have I failed to try my best to fulfill the promises and resolutions that I made to God? Have I irreverently sworn or taken an oath in Godís name?
Have I made use of Godís name mockingly, jokingly, angrily, or in any other irreverent manner?
Have I attended films or listened to music that is blasphemous?
Have I worshipped God regularly in a place of worship or elsewhere?
Have I showed proper respect during the service at my place of worship?
Have I contributed generously to my place of worship?
Have I made unnecessary demands of others that hindered them from fulfilling their duties of worship?
Have I neglected to teach my children about God?
Have I given them a bad example?
Have I neglected to watch over my children; to monitor their companions, the books they read, the movies and TV shows they watch?
Have I been disobedient toward my parents or other lawful superiors?
Have I neglected to help my parents when my help was needed?
Have I treated my parents with proper affection or respect?
Have I done my chores?
Have I neglected to show proper concern for family members in need?
Have I failed in my duties as a citizen (paying taxes, voting, defending my country)? Have I failed to respect the rights and freedoms of others?
Have I hurt others when angry?
Have I been envious or jealous of others?
Have I injured or taken the life of anyone?
Have I been reckless in driving?
Have I risked my life and the lives of others by driving under the influence?
Have I told jokes or engaged in conversation which is religiously, racially, or sexually offensive?
Have I dressed to sexually arouse others?
Have I neglected my health?
Have I attempted to take my life?
Have I mutilated myself or another?
Have I been drunk or used prohibited drugs?
Have I eaten or drank more than a sufficient amount, allowing myself to be carried away by gluttony?
Have I participated in any form of physical violence?
Have I considered euthanasia, or suicide?
Have I excluded God in reproductive decisions by taking part in direct sterilization (tubal ligation, vasectomy, etc.) or in various forms of birth control?
Have I consented to, advised someone about, or actively taken part in an abortion?
Have I caused harm to anyone with my words or actions?
Have I desired revenge or harbored enmity, hatred, or ill feelings when someone offended me?
Have I asked pardon whenever I offended anyone?
Have I insulted or offensively teased others?
Have I quarreled with one of my brothers or sisters?
Have I been brutal towards animals?
Have I been a racist in thoughts, words, or actions?
Have I discriminated against others because of sex, race, color, social conditions, language, or religion?
Have I, in anger, desired the injury or death of another?
Have I hated anyone?
Have I used rude, abusive language toward others?
Have I willfully entertained impure thoughts?
Have I dwelled on impure desires even though I may not have carried them out?
Have I engaged in impure conversations?
Have I started them?
Have I looked for entertainment in dances, movies, shows, or books with immoral content?
Have I immersed myself in pornography?
Have I been involved with prostitutes or kept bad company?
Have I placed myself in situations such as sharing a room with a person I find sexually attractive, or being alone with such a person in circumstances that could lead to sin?
Have I willfully looked at an indecent picture or cast an immodest look upon myself or another?
Have I led other to sins of impurity or immodesty?
Have I committed an impure act? By myself, through masturbation? With someone else? With someone of the same or opposite sex?
Have I maintained friendships that habitually lead to sexual sins? Am I prepared to end them? Have I committed homosexual acts?
Have I sexually abused someone?
Have I, without serious reason, deprived my spouse of the marital right?
Have I claimed my own rights in a way that showed no concern for my spouseís state of mind or health?
Have I betrayed the fidelity of marriage in desire or in deed?
Have I exposed children to indecent movies or television programs?
Have I stolen from an individual or from the workplace? How much money? Or how much was the object worth?
Have I given it back or a least have the intention of doing so?
Have I caused damage to another personís property? To what extent?
Have I harmed anyone by deception, fraud, or coercion in business contracts or transactions?
Have I unnecessarily spent beyond my means?
Have I spent too much money because of vanity or caprice?
Have I been envious of my neighborís goods?
Have I neglected to pay my debts?
Have I knowingly accepted stolen goods?
Have I desired to steal?
Have I been lazy, neglecting my duties to work or study?
Have I been greedy?
Have I desired wealth for myself at any price?
Have I wasted or damaged the goods of others; wasted time?
Have I cheated others?
Have I exploited those who work for me?
Have I damaged private or public property or defaced it with vandalism?
Have I gambled with funds necessary to pay my obligations to family, my own welfare, or for providing for the poor?
Have I engaged in business fraud?
Have I shared my wealth (time, talent, treasure) with the poor?
Have I told lies?
Have I repaired any damage that may have resulted as a consequence of this?
Have I unjustly or rashly accused others?
Have I sinned by detraction, that is, by telling the faults of another person without necessity?
Have I sinned by calumny, that is, by telling derogatory lies about another person?
Have I engaged in gossip, backbiting, or tale-telling?
Have I revealed a secret without due cause?
Have I willingly listened to the defaming of another?
Have I judged others rashly?
Have I boasted or bragged to elevate myself at the expense of others?
Have I kept professional secrets?
Reading all the rules of God's house can be overwhelming. In our culture it is so easy to become calloused to His rules. We easily make excuses for our behavior or drown out the voice of our consciences with noise, drugs, or continually breaking the rules. Soon we lose a sense of offending God and become insensitive to His rules.
Working on our relationship with God is like working on our relationship with our spouse. We need to continually work on reconciling conflicts, disagreements, hurts, etc. to maintain a happy marriage. So, in our relationship with God we need to do the same. If we look over the list of Godís rules we can develop a sensitivity to how we might offend Him. Then, when we realize that we have offended Him, we can repent to maintain a good relationship. I suggest a quick apology and saying the Prayer of Repentance. Once memorized, it is always handy. The problem is, like in any relationship, saying weíre sorry over and over becomes meaningless unless we are taking some action to stop offending the other person. We are fortunate that God is patient and loves us with a patience far beyond that of any spouse. Still, we need guidance to help us stop breaking the same rules. Carefully choosing a spiritual director who has demonstrated success in helping others to avoid breaking the rules will help. We need to seek guidance on a regular basis to make progress. This will have two benefits: (1) We will have a plan to develop a better relationship with God; (2) We will be taking a spiritual shower by repenting on a regular basis washing away the dirt of sin and learning how to stay cleaner before our next shower. This process will lead to true conversion, a change of heart, a radical reorientation of our entire life away from sin and evil, and toward God. There will be no doubt in Godís mind that we love Him and are trying to make our relationship with Him better all the time.