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Thou Shall and Thou Shall Not

Sermon on the Mount, James Tissot, 1886-1896


The Gospel at this morning's Mass was the well known beginning of the Sermon on the Mount, the recitation of the Beatitudes. (Mt 5:1-12) If you read a little farther you hear Christ say,

 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill."
Christ did not negate the Ten Commandments. Instead he completed them. The Ten Commandments are written as a series of prohibitions: Thou shall not...  The Beatitudes give us the alternatives. Instead of doing the sins specified in the Ten Commandments, live according to Beatitudes.

Sometimes it is so easy to get tied up in the thou-shall-not's that we forget that giving up the vice does not leave us empty. Rather, it makes room for us to be filled by something even more wonderful.

Perhaps as we evangelize others, we would do better to focus on the thou-shall's instead of the thou-shall-not's. Emphasize what will be gained through virtue instead of what will be lost by giving up vice.

It is easy to grow angry as we watch our culture elevate and even celebrate sin. Certainly, we need to speak out. But sin will never bring true joy. The best rebuttal is to live a life of virtue with great gladness such that others seek the source of your happiness. And when they ask, you can respond with today's Psalm

My help is from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.(Ps121)

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