The Ten Commandments are a rightly celebrated synopsis of the natural law

Father John A. Kiley

The most fundamental unit of society is not the individual, the American Bill of Rights notwithstanding.  There would be no society at all if it were not for the couple — one man, one woman, in a lasting, fruitful relationship. Sociologists have a fancy word for this union; they call it the “dyad.” The rest of us might call it a pair, or a couple, or, even more happily, a family. Yes, a family. The family unit is the basis of any and all society. Adam by himself would never have produced a society. Eve by herself was incapable of generating any population at all. Only when Adam and Eve became a “dyad,” a pair, a family, did humanity have any hope of producing a society, a culture, a civilization.

The Christian believer, of course, will not be surprised that the basis of society is not the lone citizen but rather the family unit. After all, when God created “man,” he created humanity in His own image and likeness: “Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness. God created mankind in his image; in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them (Gen1:27).” God’s image and likeness clearly means the image and likeness of the Most Holy Trinity, the eternal loving union of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Even God is not an isolated person. God by his very nature is an enduring relationship of three persons. The Father loves the Son; the Son loves Father; their perfect bonding is the Spirit. Obviously, mankind reflects God best in the enduring and fruitful male and female relationship known universally as the family. “…male and female he created them.”

The Scripture readings for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, celebrated this coming Sunday, quite pointedly recall that the interpersonal relationships of family and community which constitute human society reflect quite well the very image of God himself as an eternal bonding. The first reading from Exodus celebrates Moses trekking up Mount Sinai “taking along the two stone tablets.” The Ten Commandments are not a declaration of human rights; rather they are a declaration of human responsibilities. Humanity’s responsibilities toward God, toward his Holy Name, and toward his Sacred Day top the list, and rightly so. Worship is mankind’s paramount duty. Then respect for authority, respect for life, respect for marriage and family, respect for private property, and respect for another’s reputation all follow. The Decalogue concludes with the pointed demand that these aberrations not even be considered: “Thou shalt not covet…” Don’t even think about it. The Ten Commandments are a rightly celebrated synopsis of the natural law. They take for granted that relationships toward God and neighbor are the very bases of society and need to be solemnly affirmed and steadfastly observed.  Family and community relationships must be recognized and respected.

St. Paul, in much more endearing terms, lays out practical advice for the Corinthian Church on sound and saving relationships. “Brothers and sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you. Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the holy ones greet you. The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you.” Note Paul’s tender guidance on practical interaction: “…mend ...encourage …agree …greet…” which he roundly affirms by invoking the Holy Trinity. The grace, love and fellowship found in the three Divine Persons are cited as the root and foundation of all mankind’s worthwhile interactions. As at the Creation and as in the Ten Commandments and now in Corinthian community life, man must image God. The dyad, the family, the community, and the Church must all reflect the inner life of God, the inner life of the Trinity – sharing, communicating, relating. “No man is an island,” wrote the poet Donne, affirming in poetry what had been taught in Scripture.

The Gospel passage from St. John confirms the benevolent inner life of God. St. John celebrates Jesus Christ as God’s “only Son,” warmly indicating the love within the Trinity. But then, St. John reveals that the Father generously “gave” his Son to mankind that the human race might be rescued from its sinful ways. The word “gave” here means much more than God simply sent his Son. God was donating his Son, if you will, bequeathing his Son to the human race to insure the forgiveness of sin and re-establish the union of God and man. The arrival of Christ testifies to the immeasurable love of the Father for mankind, reflecting the immense love that the Father and Son themselves shared from all eternity. The love within the Trinity, the Trinity’s inner life, is bestowed through Christ on redeemed mankind. Indeed, God is love!