The last two commandments of the Decalogue (You shall not set your heart on your neighbor’s house and on your neighbor’s spouse) warn against some human desires, namely the evil desires which come from the heart. These two commandments call for purity of heart.
PUBLISHED ONJan 2021
Pope Francis said that these two Commandments are clearly “heart” Commandments. In fact both of them focus not on actions but on attitudes, evil thoughts and desires without any external action. They tackle: desiring, craving, and setting the heart on something or on a person that one wants but cannot have.
Naturally, not all desires are bad. There are desires which are God-given. For example, the desire to satisfy basic needs like food, education, shelter, work, and sense of belonging among others. The desires of a person become sinful when they are translated into greed.
In our society, there are things which have a wicked role in instigating people to break the two Commandments. Some of these are:
* Publicity which develops strong desires that cannot be satisfied, especially in gullible people.
* Fashion shows which employ so many advertising and exhibitionistic means to create the need for garments that are always new and more expensive.
* The lifestyle of the VIPs such as those who excel in sports, TV, spectacles and business. Their way of living creates desires leading to sin in so many people. I think about the many photographers and camera men and women who enter the villas of the “privileged ones” and feature luxurious furnishings, very expensive garments, jewels, swimming pools, expensive cars, pleasure boats and even magnificent baths with provoking women inside. This gives free reins to unrestrained desires of imitation, with consequent frustrations.
* Human nature wounded by sin. Because of this, all evil things start from within. Pope Francis says: “In the Gospel Jesus says explicitly: from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, covetiousness, wickedness, deceit, envy, licentiousness, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile man” (Mark 7:21-23).
What are we called to do to keep the two Commandments and live the Gospel? Here I indicate three tracks:
1. It is important to remember that only God can heal human hearts, provided that we open ourselves to the Spirit who fills our hearts with His desires, fulfils them and enables us to contemplate Jesus the Saviour through the Beatitudes. This is our number one priority, protecting our communion with God and taking care that it may grow and flourish.
2. It is important to have a true attitude of gratitude through prayer and contentment. St. Paul knew the secret to be content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or want (Philippians 4:12). He always had a positive attitude to the situation he was in.
3. It is important to be good caregivers and good stewards. Caregivers for the people we have welcomed into our lives and to whom we have committed ourselves not just for a while but for good; then stewards for the things given to us as gifts of God’s generosity. The principle “Love people and use things,” is important to remember.
Having the three attitudes described above enables a person to be happy and to avoid believing that “the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence.” Believing this leads a man to think that his friends have better and more beautiful wives than he has, that their houses are bigger and in better areas than his own, and so forth. This creates discontent and may easily make him sin against the Ninth and Tenth Commandments.
Some time ago I read a story: “A frog was put in a pan of cold water and the water temperature increased slowly. The frog stayed there feeling comfortable without realizing that the water was becoming hot. The frog stayed there until it was boiled alive. It seemed that the frog could not see a threat in the slow, but ultimately deadly rise in temperature. I believe that’s what our society is doing to so many people in the area of desires. All around us the temperature is going up, yet so many people simply sit there, stunned and un-protesting, oblivious to their impending fate.” Let’s get these two Commandments to heart and not get boiled alive.