Do not Covet. That’s our homily theme, while we work in today’s Scriptures around it.
Moses is the key recipient figure or agent of God in all these Commandments given out. In him, God has met and given His people the guides and instructions for freedom on how to live well ahead. Recall its key timing was in the Exodus of the Hebrews. The Decalogue is given for freedom’s sake, not as just some
restrictive rules, as some resistant folks tag them. Rather, they are inviting ways back to God with respective red flags over the wrong turns to that fulfillment.
Moses was a man of God who dearly tried to practice these “Ten Words” (as given to him for the exodus people), and he knew that to trust and obey God was what the people ought to be doing. Yet the pilgrim people had their impatience, their coveting of all sorts of bad things, and their testing of God at Meribah and Massah in the wilderness– and Moses saw the whole operation freedom slow down nearly to a crawl, and he died at Mt. Nebo, just short of where Joshua would next lead the Hebrews into the Promised Land of Israel. Regretful, yes– that he came up short. But Moses got a better deal as he was translated up to heaven, THE Promised Land, as we hear in the Transfiguration Gospel today. Translated means to be delivered up in a special way, so we hear in this account that he skipped right up to THE Promised Land, Heaven.
We have the dramatic Gospel of Matthew 17 of this 2nd Sunday of Lent. In it, Moses, along with the good prophet Elijah, are summoned down from the clouds to give Jesus a salute to His unveiling His identity to Peter, James and John. Jesus shines forth as Divine before them, showing Himself as Lord over Moses and Elijah and all. This happens up on the mount at Tabor on the Feast of Sukkoth/the Meeting of Booths celebration. It is a timely gospel for our theme, since it is about Moses’ ‘graduation’ and the fulfillment of the dream to be home with God. Jesus is good on His covenant and salvation and Coming Home promises. It is inspiration for us who long for to be home with God, tented within Christ in His Body of believers, now, with dreams for Heaven and an abode in God there, once after this life. Moses sought out to be holy and decent in his earthly living. He got his reward.
The 2nd Timothy instruction today from St. Paul certainly beckons us to come heartily to God, for the reason that “He saved us and called us to a holy life. According to His own design…that we can live in strength and grace bestowed on us in Christ.”
We live now the moral life as inspired by Christ and His Spirit blessing is in the New Covenant. God still has His laws and blueprints to show to us of how human life is supposed to work. Lust and envy and all forms of coveting and ascribing to the fallen ways of the world, the flesh and the devil– this is not being truly human. We need to be free, not captive people. Covetous people are enslaved by fallen passions. St. Augustine wrote all about this and the thorny issue of our “concupiscence.”
So we can look at the last two Commandments that deal with the poor mindset of coveting. They are sins of one’s loss of focus on God and His realm, reign and kingdom. If God reigns over all, then all belongs to Him. Our drifting attentions of lust and envy are of a selfish, spoiling, taking mindset that, what belongs to another should be ours. It’s so wrong. It is a bit desperate, fearful and arrogant self-spirit, that I am better than others, as more ‘deserving.’ These are the ones in 9th and 10th Commandment lawbreakers club– the coveters.
This coveting mindset–and note how these last two ones of the Decalogue are thought and heart directives– it is basically wrong because it bypasses the higher understanding that all existence belongs to God. All is God’s. It also misses the point of how we people were offered to be stewards on this earth. A stewardship mindset is a happier plan overall, when God is the ultimate distributer of His goods and talents. It is why Stewardship Spirituality is a key concept of the mature and authentic follower of Christ and God. This, of course, is of giving over to God our due time, talent and treasure for His kingdom come plans. Tithing, sacrificing, sharing, communal gathering, social justice working, serving, giving– these all the hallmarks of true believers’ lives– as they overcome the temptations of what lust and envy lifestyles suck us into– by misdirected desires and attentions. This is all under the 9th and 10th commandments.
As a three decade priest, I think that many Catholics sin in some way versus #9 and #10, just first in their skirting about the Stewardship plan of Spirituality. WHEN all is brought to light, that God IS our supply and life, that His kingdom in Christ is our KEY MISSION, and how we are truly co-servants with co-responsibilities to one another, THEN you are on the proper pilgrimage home. Remember, the 10 Commandments are written for freedom and exodus pilgrimage home.
I especially value Confessions of this return to God, of people getting or re-setting in this mindset, for us Catholics are so surrounded and taken in by gross consumerism, pleasure over-seeking, fearful me-ism, and now even ungodly socialism, with all the secular humanism that is overwhelming the Church and her practice.
The last pair of Commandments are on “coveting.” One humble Catholic commented, “I am pretty sure coveting is a bad thing, but can someone tell me what it is?!”
In definition: It’s a wrong desiring, a mistaken impulse on our normal emotions, a craving. In the Bible story examples, King Ahab and Queen Jezebel crazily craved Naboth’s vineyard and other properties and dominance over people. Coveting has that brazen force to it. These two sinful royals were acting as enemies to the prophet Elijah.
Coveting is getting lured in to some disorientate want, as in David for Bathsheba and vice versa.
Coveting is the sin that the convert tax collectors of Levi and Zacchaeus gave up to follow Jesus. Levi became Matthew, who wrote today’s gospel. He also quoted Jesus in saying that any “disciple of His would then first deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow Him.” It sounds like an anti-coveting path…
Coveting is being stuck in living as too inbound, when life is actually God-designed to be an outbound sharing and participation, in people living in the likeness of The Holy Trinity. Covet is from the Hebrew word “lachmod,” the negative word for seeking to take away and the seeking to own something that belongs to another.
Getting down to earth, the 9th Commandment is a poor lusting after, rather than keeping in the steadfast spirit with people. C. Joybel C. says: “People wait around too long for love. I’m happy with all my lusts!” A jolting point, it sums up that people desire short-cuts and spoilsport ways over the faithful and true ways. Sylvia Path comments on songs of modern society, ‘If they substituted the word lust for love in them, then it would come nearer the truth out there.’
Reflections found in the bulletin, Fr. Virginus Osuagwu
“You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife…or anything that is your neighbor’s” (Exodus 20:17)
The ninth and tenth commandments are usually separated into two: the one dealing with coveting persons and the other with coveting things. “You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.” You shall not covet your neighbor’s goods.” The unique thing about these two commandments is that they have to do with the intentions and dispositions that underlie our actions as human beings; simply put, they direct us to that part of us that only God has access to: the heart.
To covet is the intentional desire and longing to have what is not yours – either your neighbor’s wife or their goods. Covetousness is to be located in the traditional word the Church uses: “concupiscence,” which is the weakness we inherited because of “the original sin” and which in the understanding of the great saint Augustine finds expression in our “desire to dominate” and manipulate others. The two commandments are about displacement, which is the substitution of the fulfillment given by God alone with persons and things and the battle between the virtues of temperance and lust.
The sins against the ninth and tenth commandments strike at the heart of the tripartite lusts that the apostle John describes in his first Epistle, “the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 Jn 2:16 NIV). While “the lust of the flesh” speaks the insatiable desire for sexual pleasure, “the lust of the eyes” refer to the unending craving of the eyes for more and more and more. This would rightly fit into what Jesus calls “adultery of the heart” (Matt 5:27); the coveting of another’s wife. “The pride of life” is the uncontrolled and inordinate desire for relevance in a way that a person is willing to dominate, control, coarse and subjugate others. The sin of covetousness manifests itself in other subtle but dangerous forms: theft, the feelings of envy, greed, and jealousy in reaction to what other people have, attachment to earthly things instead of to God and the worship of self, persons and things instead of God.
Whenever and wherever there is the obsessive or compulsive desire to have or to possess what others have, the sin of covetousness is at work. When we think thoughts that are intentionally directed at manipulating others for pleasure, we sin against the ninth and tenth commandments. What then is God calling us to do? God is calling us to a re-discovery of our dignity as sons and daughters, made in His image and likeness (Gen 1:26-27), called to relate with others with a respect that does not dominate or manipulate them for our pleasure.