December 21, 2000
volume 11, no. 268


The Commandments of God
seventeenth segment

The Fifth Commandment
part two:

Caring for Our Health and Life

    After betraying Our Lord, the Apostle Judas fell into despair. "Then Judas, who betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priest, and the elders, saying: "I have sinned in betraying innocent blood'. But they said 'What is that to us? See to it thyself.' And he flung the pieces of silver into the temple, and withdrew, and went away and hanged himself with a halter" (Matthew 27: 3-5). If Judas had repented, instead of despairing, and had asked pardon, Our Lord would have forgiven him, as He forgave the good thief.

    We have the obligation to preserve our health and life. Man has no right to encroach upon God's dominion over life; man created no human being, and he may not kill any human being, not even his own self. Our body is not our own; it belongs to God. We are bound to take care of it, and to do with it not what we wish, but what God wills. God created our body as an abode for our immortal soul.

    This is an excellent argument against abortion and today when we hear the refrain that a woman has a right to do what she wants with her body, we cringe not only for the sake of the unborn babies, but the souls of those who condone this barbaric act that cries to Heaven for vengeance. Pro-aborts are wrong on every level for it is not her body, but God's Who lends it to her and only He can give or take a life. For a woman, for society, to think that she can kill the living organism in her womb directly violates the Fifth Commandment and is punishable by eternal damnation.

    Very often the condition of the body affects that of the soul. If the body is unhealthy, the soul suffers. There is a wise Roman proverb: "A healthy mind in a healthy body." However, we are not obliged to employ unusual means involving great expense, or extraordinary suffering. We must exercise prudence in preserving our health and that of those under our care. Prudence would imply cleanliness, temperance, regularity, industry, and the use of remedies during sickness.

    Driving a car at excessive speed, crossing the tracks when a train is approaching, playing with loaded firearms, jumping into or out of a car when it is in motion, hanging on the running board of a car, etc., are imprudent actions, taking risks for insufficient reason.

    We have the obligation to do nothing which tends to injure or destroy health or life. It injures health to indulge to excess in eating, drinking or smoking too much, dancing until all hours when temptations are more apt to lure us into sin, and vanity in dress that can cause envy or even worse. Some women and girls are gravely responsible for not eating proper food out of a desire to keep thin and thus be more pleasing in the eyes of others, to the injury of their health. Some men and boys form the vice of drunkenness, taking so much of intoxicants as to lose their reason.

    Drunkenness is a sin because it injures the health, and often leads to other sins. "Let us walk becomingly as in the day, not in revelry and drunkenness, not in debauchery and wantonness, not in strife and jealousy. But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and as for the flesh, take no thought for its lusts" (Romans 13:13). By drunkenness one deliberately benumbs without just cause his reason, a precious gift from God to man. Saint Paul said: "The works of the flesh are manifest, which are…enmities…drunkenness, carousings, and suchlike. And concerning these I warn you, as I have warned you, that they who do such things will not attain the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:19-21).

    When committed publicly, drunkenness occasions bad example and scandal, and has often promoted fights and even murder. By habitual drinking, a person not only injures his health, but neglects the support of his family, and not unlikely also fails in his obligations to the State and to God.

    Drunkenness is a form of slow suicide; drunkards do not live long. If a man would reason the matter out, he would never submit to the vice of drunkenness, which lowers him in the sight of God and of his fellow men.

    Suicide is the deliberate taking of one's own life. Suicide is a great sin; it is self-murder. The Church denies Christian burial to those who knowingly take their own life. By this the Church does not mean that those souls are surely condemned to hell. Their judgment is in the hands of God. The Church merely wishes to show public condemnation of such sins. One who commits suicide sins against God, Who is the exclusive arbiter of life or death; he sins against himself, by plunging his soul mercilessly into hell; and he sins against his family, whom he leaves to bear his shame and perhaps to live in want for lack of his support.

    Suicide is the result of lack of religion. Experience teaches that as religion weakens in a land, the number of suicides increases. Suicide is usually committed by one who has gotten into trouble or committed some great sin, lost his fortune, or cannot bear some disappointment. If we get into trouble we should have patience and trust in God.

    Suicide is the sin of those in despair who do not believe or hope in God's mercy and ability to carry them through all adversities. Suicide is a sin of Judas. The suicide no longer holds that God forgives anything and everything when a sinner repents. He no longer holds that God is infinitely merciful and infinitely powerful, that He can draw good out of the most horrible evils.

    If one committed great sins, the remedy is not to commit suicide, but to repent. The thing to do is not to hang or shoot or poison oneself, but to cling to God in sincere sorrow. Even if one has to suffer contempt and disgrace in this life for his sins, he will only be preparing his soul for Heaven. But if he commits suicide, he will only be preparing it for the torments of hell.

    A duel is a combat carried out by agreement between two persons, fought with deadly weapons, usually before witnesses called seconds. Dueling is nothing else but suicide and murder combined. A Catholic is bound to refuse to fight a duel. Christian burial is denied to those who are killed in a duel. The duelist is guilty of a double murder; he intends to kill his antagonist, and he risks his own life. The Church excommunicates those who challenge or accept a challenge to a duel, the seconds, and all who sanction a duel by their presence.

    This also holds for gang fighting and "chicken" car chases or racing when one puts their life in danger. The same holds true for daredevil stunts and dangerous antics such as skydiving or bungee jumping without proper instruction and strict safety precautions. Teens and young adults are more prone to these stunts because they have more of a sense of "invincibility" and often, only age and the wisdom of their faith can mellow their thinking.

    It is not wrong, but highly meritorious, to endanger our health and life in order to gain everlasting life, or to rescue our fellow men from physical or spiritual death. Christ Himself knowingly gave His life to save souls. Martyrs, priests and missionaries, doctors and nurses who expose their lives, merit an eternal reward. Those who lose their lives rescuing others deserve renown. "And do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather be afraid of him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (Matthew 10:28). "He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake, will find it" (Matthew 10:39).

Next Thursday: The Fifth Commandment - Bad Example and Scandal

December 21, 2000
volume 11, no. 268

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