There’s more, though. He was a man. A dude. Like me. Well, kind of like me. Actually, He wasn’t really very much like me — but He hung around a lot of guys like me. His disciples and relatives, the men and women who were his friends, the Pharisees and Sadducees and the others who hung around the synagogues.
He gets us. God gets us.
We heard some of that recently in John’s Gospel, in the story about Jesus clearing the money-changers out of the temple. Somehow, the situation there had degenerated to the point that it was about more than worship. After cleansing the temple, Jesus started drawing a lot of attention with his teachings and miracles. He also had to watch His back. He understood not everyone supported Him.
“He did not need anyone to testify about human nature,” John wrote. “He himself understood it well.” (John 2:25)
Jesus understood because He was a man and because He lived among men. And He understood because He was Divine. Don’t underestimate God’s ability to grasp the nuances and the character of His creatures. I like what Paul wrote in his First Letter to the Corinthians: “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength.”
That’s why God gave us the Ten Commandments, which we heard in the first reading on the Third Sunday of Lent. That’s a Scripture passage made for everyday, not just Lent.
God gave those Commandments to us because He understands us. He made human nature, so he gets it. God knows if left to drive our own devices, with no guardrails or lane dividers, we would veer into oncoming traffic or off the road completely most of the time.
Breaking a commandment is a sin and separates us from God and alienates us from some part of humanity. Keeping the commandments allows us the freedom of living with God and being happy.
Our sins may distract us from hearing God calling to us. Our sins may muffle God’s voice in our lives. When is the last time you deeply examined your life and whether you are truly living with God? What wrath and anger and hateful things are you holding on to? Of what do I feel ashamed? To what am I finding difficult to admit, even to myself? What is separating me from God?
When have I last thought about the commandments, let alone how I have broken them? Maybe it was the last time you received the Sacrament of Reconciliation — and maybe not even then. Lent is a good time to make a truly good confession, to consider those Ten Commandments:
1. I, the LORD, am your God. You shall not have other gods besides me.
What has become more important than God in my life? Have I allowed status and wealth to consume my thoughts? Has ego, greed or lust shaped my relationship with you, God, instead of letting You shape my stance in the world? God, please help me to place You above all things in this world Lord.
2. You shall not take the name of the LORD, your God, in vain.
Lord, I bear your Name as a Christian. Have I worn this title honorably, or have I spoken angry and hateful words, then remained silent when I should have spoken out? Let my words reflect You and what You would say in my place. Strengthen me, O Lord, that I may speak always as I would if I were speaking to You.
3. Remember to keep holy the Sabbath day.
Have I failed to treat the Sabbath as Your day, Lord? Have I spent the day selfishly, devoting it to myself instead of to You and my family? Help me, O Lord, to remember to thank You, to love You. Give me the desire to study Your word. I wish to spend my time wisely, growing closer to You, Lord.
4. Honor your father and your mother.
Give me the grace, Lord, to forgive my parents for the times they neglected me and hurt me, for the times they failed to love me the way I needed to be loved. Help me to love my children with my whole heart, to be patient with them, respect them, encourage and praise them. Help me to follow the example of Mary and Joseph in wisdom, understanding and love.
5. You shall not kill.
Lord, the world is full of hatred and violence. I am surrounded by it. Have I allowed myself to become indifferent to death in the name of justice, in poverty and in war? Help me, Lord, to stand firm in Your name, to oppose all intentional death, and to pray for the victims.
6. You shall not commit adultery.
Have I lacked devotion to my wife and allowed my unfaithfulness to come between us? Have I sinned against decency and purity? Have I broken my vow of fidelity and jeopardized the sacrament of marriage? Lord, I am sorry in my heart. Please heal the wounds I have inflicted. Allow me to reconcile my failings with You and with my wife.
7. You shall not steal.
Have I deprived men of their liberty, dignity, opportunity or personal property? Have I stolen from them their God-given rights? Have I stolen from You, Lord, by robbing You of Your credibility by my inconsistent behavior? Have I selfishly withheld my time and talents from those who need them the most? I ask that You help me to always try to give more than I take.
8. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
Have I failed to uphold the honor of my fellow man? Have I planned revenge, harbored grudges, spread rumors, and made judgments? Have I been quick to believe the worst about someone? Have I refused mercy and failed to respect my fellow man? Have I ignored their pain, Lord? Help me to forgive those who make life difficult for me.
9. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife (spouse).
Have I betrayed my spouse by comparing him or her to others, by desiring another with impure thoughts and desires? Have I failed to be understanding and unconditionally loving toward her? Have I not returned the trust and friendship that she has freely given to me? Have I failed to stand by her when she needed me most? Please help me to appreciate my wife.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor’s house or anything that belongs to him.
Have my eyes become occupied with the things of this world? Has what I own become more important than who I am? Am I envious of others who have achieved more than I have? Have I used my position, my strength and my will to reach my goals, to obtain wealth, to mark my success? Have I injured others with my unrelenting ambition? Help me, Lord, to understand the true meaning of wealth here on earth.
Have you yet received the Sacrament of Reconciliation this Lent? What is stopping you?