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. Why the Ten Commandments as a base?

 

 How have I violated Godís Rules?

 

 

WHATíS NEXT?

 

            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.