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Moses with the Ten Commandments –
Rembrandt, 1659

When I admitted in yesterday’s post, Tradition and Commandments, that I needed to commit to memory the Ten Commandments, I didn’t know that the Gospel reading today would also be about the Commandments. Actually, in today’s Gospel, Mark 12: 28-34, Jesus consolidates the ten into two. He explains to the scribe that the First Commandment is to “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.’” Jesus follows this up by saying, “The Second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There are no other commandments greater than these”.

I may not have had all ten Commandments memorized but I did know that the first three of the ten were directed at loving God, and the last seven were intended for loving other people in our society, our “neighbors”. I’m pretty sure they are arranged that way on purpose. Unfortunately, we humans often get confused and get it backwards. We let our pride make us think we are God, that we are in control. We love ourselves but forget the “neighbor” part.

I say, “we”, in a general sense. We are all sinful by nature, of course, but some humans, often those who choose to totally ignore the Commandments in the first place, can take this to extremes. The pride that tells them to play “God” also tells them they can control their surroundings and circumstances, including other people, to suit their personal preference or agenda. The most extreme case of this in our society today is our Culture of Death – that is, the widely held belief that we can arbitrarily kill the most vulnerable in society: our unborn, through abortion, and the elderly, through euthanasia. No matter how sinful I might be, it just blows my mind that anyone can stoop so low as to intentionally kill their own children or parents for convenience sake.

During my morning prayer time, I like to read about the Saints of the Day. Today is the feast day of St. Wulfram of Sens. I know, who is St. Wulfram of Sens, you ask? Well, St. Wulfram of Sens was a 7th century Archbishop of Sens, France, who gave up his bishopric to return to a simple priesthood so that he could evangelize the Frisians. Frisia was a small pagan kingdom that is now part of The Netherlands and northern Germany.

The Frisians had a custom of sacrificing their children to their heathen gods by hanging them, or tying them to posts driven into the sea floor where they were left to drown when the tide rolled in. Another custom was to draw lots and see who from the community, possibly a family member, would be sacrificed by hanging or by being chopped to pieces. All in the hope of bringing about some improvement in their lives.

Close your eyes for a moment and picture a scene from both of those practices. If you can, that is. Even to the most insensible, non-psychotic, among us, it almost defies imagination! The first thing that comes to mind is pure horror that begs the question, “How could they do such a thing?”

Well, fast forward thirteen hundred years and our society is still doing it. Except that we’re chopping up our babies both inside and outside the womb, and smothering the elderly by removing their ventilation tubes. To us Christians, like St. Wulfram, it’s still an unimaginable heathen practice born from pride and selfishness by people who desire to be their own god and be damned to anyone who might keep them from it!

Oh, the rest of the story: St. Wulfram, finally did convert the Frisians by praying for a man named Ovon who was being hanged. After two hours of hanging, the spectators left him for dead. But, once they left, Ovon’s rope broke, he fell to the ground, and lived. St. Wulfram’s faith convinced the Frisian king and his subjects that our God was the real God.

Let’s all remember and keep the Great Commandments in the right order: first, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength; and second, to love our neighbor as ourselves. That God is God and we are not. And, please, let’s all be St. Wulframs and pray for an end to abortion and euthanasia.

“Heavenly Father, I know You love me. I love You because You loved me first. I thank You. You love me even though I am broken and often sin by not following Your Commandments. Lord, have mercy on us all and forgive us when we place ourselves first and relegate You and Your Son, Jesus to second place. Lord, give us the faith of St. Wulfram to pray for conversion from a culture of death to a culture of life and love for our neighbor. Amen.”

(The Greatest Commandments & St. Wulfram of Sens, was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

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