Fr. Rusty's Corner

Turn Four: Thoughts from Your Parish Priest

The Ninth Commmandment       

             The Ninth Commandment states: "Thou Shall Not Covet Thy Neighbor’s Wife."  In the Sixth Commandment, we already discussed the command to not commit adultery.  Many times, this commandment and the sixth are considered to be the same.  They are very similar, but the difference is important to our reflection on the commandment.  The sixth reflects on the action of committing adultery.  It acts on the feelings of lust a person has for another.  The ninth commandment shifts from the action to the motivation.  What does it mean to covet something?

              Covet focuses on the yearning to possess or have.  In the case of the Ninth Commandment, a person looks upon another’s spouse and yearns to be with them.  The commandment addresses more than just the sin of lust.  It also addresses the sin of envy - a passion to do anything needed to possess this other person.  Notice the language that is used for covet is “to possess”.  When one covets another’s spouse, it is not just a yearning to be with the person.  It is a yearning to own the person like a piece of property. 

              Pope St. John Paul II speaks on this topic in his work Theology of the Body.   Within the work, he speaks about the subjectivity of the human person versus objectivity.   The issue with us when we fall into the sin of lust is that we view another person as an object.  We wish to own them in order to do as we please.  We fantasize about what we would do with them if we possessed them, but the tragedy of this is that we fail to see the humanness of the other person.  A person with their own life, feelings, and dreams separate from our own.  The other is not an object we can own - like we own a house or a car - and do with as we please because we own it.  People are subjects created in the image and likeness of God.  We belong to God not to be possessed by another.  Ultimately, this desire to covet another as an object actually blocks true love and purity from becoming a reality.  We cannot truly love someone we see as a possession or object that belongs to us. 

              The Ninth Commandment guides us to live a reality that is based in a love for others and not ownership of others.  It is striving for a purification of the heart.  Purity goes beyond just rules of abstaining from sex before marriage and other rules related to sexuality.  The rules only aid our striving towards purity.  To be truly pure of heart is the ability to look at all other people and not see them as objects of attractiveness and sexuality.  Purity of heart leads us to see every person we encounter as a child of God, a beautiful creation. It helps us to see how to love in the same way Christ loves all of us.  The goal of the commandment is to view others in the same way God views all of us. 

              In reflection on this commandment, we must ask ourselves how we view other people.  Do we view them as possessions, things to control, or things to own?  Or do we view others as people who deserve our dignity and respect?  Let us be guided by God’s commandment so that we do not covet others, but rather show purity and charity towards others.

- Fr. Rusty Vincent

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