October: Reflection Ten


From the Catechism of the Catholic Church. 2199. The 4th commandment is addressed expressly to children in their relationship to their father and mother because this relationship is the most universal.  t also concerns the ties of kinship between members of the extended family. It requires honour, affection and gratitude towards elders and ancestors. It extends to the duties of pupils to teachers, employees to employers, subordinates to leaders, citizens to their country and to those who administer or govern it. This commandment includes and presupposes the duties of parents, instructors, teachers, leaders, magistrates, those who govern, all who exercise authority over others or over a community of persons.”

After an incident where two teenagers had assaulted their own parents the community had gathered at the civic centre to discuss some of the social problems facing them and consider what action could be taken. A panel of community leaders had been put together and at least two religious leaders were included as it was accepted that a moral code of conduct is a religious matter and one that is common to all religions.

“Whatever happened to respect?” This was one of the first questions they considered as Mrs Botha led the discussion. Children do not respect their parents, and also not their grandparents. Too many stories can be told of abuse of the elderly. But then what kind of example are adults being for their children?  If we do not honour or respect ourselves and our bodies or show respect for one another in our families children will not learn respect. Practising our religion at home is more than saying a prayer together but also how we treat one another and ideally religion in that sense is still a value in our society that is losing its sense of right and wrong.

 Fr George reminded them that parents have the responsibility of passing on their faith and their trust in God and his goodness whatever form their religion takes. If they can show and teach how they see life as a gift from God to be valued, shared and enjoyed they will have achieved much.  For this to be possible there need to be rules and laws. The laws are not the laws of the jungle, possibly the rule of law but even more so it is the law of love that should dictate how we live. “And is that not the basis of the word honour or respect?” he concluded. “I suggest we all think about that and share it with the children. And don’t forget to ask them what they think and listen to what they have to say.”

Questions for reflection and action.

The commandment is addressed to children rather than to parents but it involves respect for those in authority, within the family and beyond. In your opinion where does the problem of a loss of respect start?

Should commandments be obeyed because they are “the law” or because of the underlying relationships?

Do we need more policemen, more teachers or better parents in our society today?

What does the concept of Ubuntu teach us about respect for the elderly in our society?

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