The following homily was given by Monsignor William Belford, during the 8 AM Mass at Saint Patrick's Cathedral on February 13th, 2008.
Everybody knows that there are Ten Commandments, but many people are fuzzy about what they are and what they require us to do.
Ignorance of the Ten Commandments weakens us; breaking the commandments makes us vulnerable to big trouble.
Sometimes our disobedience leads just to personal unhappiness. Sometimes breaking the commandments leads to public embarrassment.
For example, many people will be paying attention today to testimony given before Congress by a baseball player and his long time trainer.
As the papers present it, the key issue now is, "Who said what?"
The trainer says that the player used drugs to help him perform better;
the player denies the charge and calls his old friend a liar.
It seems that only one of them can be telling the truth - and therefore, that one of them, knowingly or not, is breaking the eighth commandment.
What is the eighth commandment that God gave to Moses and to us? As read in the Bible and explained in The Catechism of the Catholic Church, it is this:
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church presents the teachings of God and explains them so we can be wise and safe from sin in its many forms. It goes on to say, "The eighth commandment forbids misrepresenting the truth in our relations with others." Holy people have to bear witness to their God. Not telling the truth makes us unfaithful to God and scandalous to others.
What are some examples of breaking the eighth commandment?
The very first one cited in the catechism is the word being heard on every newscast today: "perjury." "When it is made publicly, a statement contrary to the truth takes on a particular gravity. In court it becomes false witness. When it is under oath, it is perjury."
Remember, God gave this law many centuries ago, so that people could live together in peace. Lying about one another causes unhappiness and breaks friendships and sometimes even starts wars. Obviously, this baseball player and his trainer are not at peace with each other. One of them is lying - and many of us are disappointed and saddened to see it.
This Lent, let each of us pay new attention to the Ten Commandments. Read them again today, in your Bible in the Book of Exodus chapter 20, or for a fuller explanation, in Part III of The Catechism of the Catholic Church.
Let us pray to God for ourselves, to know our sins and correct them early. It is better to admit our mistakes, and not make things worse by lying.
Related to that: try to admit the truth to yourself if you have been in denial about an addiction or a bad habit that needs to be corrected.
Remember: following the Ten Commandments is part of the best way to a clean heart and a clear conscience and a good relationship with God.