Tuesday 28 March 2017

Ten: How the Ten Commandments Can Change Your Life - Mary Elizabeth Sperry

Ten: How the Ten Commandments Can Change Your Life
Mary Elizabeth Sperry
Franciscan Media
ISBN 9781616364083

This book was a really intriguing read. In fact it was so thought provoking that I added it to my next year's reading list after finishing it, I have thought about this book for over a week now before writing my review. The title of the book caught my attention right away. I thought for a while before buying this book. I was wondering how the author could speak to the commandments in a new way. But I kept seeing it in my news feeds, or it kept coming back to mind so I took the plunge. I am very thankful that I did. The description for this book is:

"The Ten Commandments, Sperry explains, teach us habits we need to live in right relationship with God, self, others, and things-habits such as:

  • creating priorities
  • seeking intimacy
  • spending time
  • giving respect
  • recognizing dignity
When our relationships are healthy, our lives are in balance. We know a joy that goes beyond fleeting pleasure. We are surrounded by love, and we live our call to holiness."

And it does that. In fact I found that I stopped reading a few times just to process Mary Elizabeth's writing. There are few books that I read and need to pause, with this one I paused a number of times. There are few of us who are not familiar with the 10 Commandments, though in this day and age I believe few could cite them all. Either the version from Exodus 20:1-17 or the version from Deuteronomy 5:6-21.  The way Mary Elizabeth speaks to each of the specific commandments are:

The First Commandment - Creating Priority
The Second Commandment - Seeking Intimacy
The Third Commandment - Spending Time
The Fourth Commandment - Giving Respect
The Fifth Commandment - Recognizing Dignity
The Sixth Commandment - Maintaining Integrity
The Seventh Commandment - Living Gratitude
The Eight Commandment - Upholding Honesty
The Ninth Commandment - Promising Fidelity
The Tenth Commandment - Bestowing Generosity

Archbishop Joseph E. Kurtz in the forward states: "While it can be tempting to treat the commandments as almost a self-help manual and fall victim to the ancient heresy that marred the life of the fourth-century monk Pelagius of "earning salvation," this treatment portrays God's grace in our response to our loving God. The emphasis is on the action of God in our hearts that brings about the internalizing of these precious ten words so that good and faithful habits result. On a personal note, I have had the privilege to know the author and have seen her admirable efforts to live what she presents in writing." And I would agree. Mary Elizabeth states: "The Ten Commandments. The very words conjure up memories of the booming, majestic voice of God and ancient laws engraved on stone tablets while Moses stood on Mount Sinai. But what can they possibly have to say to us? We live in a digital world; stone tablets are things we see in museums (or in photos on the Internet that we access from our real tablets). How can these commandments apply to us? It's not like we're going to go out and commit murder or armed robbery. It's easy to see the Ten Commandments as outdated, legalistic, not meaningful to us."  But she does not leave us there, she goes on to unpack the heart of the commandments and in many ways make them more relevant and central to our life than many of us likely have though in a long time, if ever.  In how to use this book she says: "I recommend reading this book one chapter at a time, taking time after each chapter to do the journaling exercises and to examine the way you follow (or don't follow) each commandment. The chapters build on each other, so it's important to go in order. Move to the next commandment when you feel ready to move forward. Feel free to go back to earlier chapters when things begin to feel out of balance. You might also want to keep this book on your shelf for a while, returning to it occasionally (perhaps each Lent) as a checkup on your spiritual development or as a refresher course to help deepen your relationship with God." And to be honest I agree. I could not read this book straight through as I do with many other volumes.

Mary Elizabeth has points to remember from the introduction:

  • Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments when he gave the Two Great Commandments: "You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:37-40).
  • Our lives are formed by the choices we make. We can choose to do what is right or to do what is easy. Over time, those choices will determine the path of our life.
  • The Ten Commandments help us to make the right choices, leading us to right relationships in all aspects of our lives.
Each chapter of this book follows the same format. First we have the commandment, which is followed by a main teaching section. This is followed by Points to Remember, then a Culture Connection, and a Role Model. And then activities, Try This, Talk it Through and a section to Pray through.

This was a really interesting read. It got me thinking, reflecting and writing a bit on some very varied topics. I encourage you to give this book a try and read it with an open heart and see where the word and Spirit lead you.

Note: This book is part of a series of reviews: 2017 Catholic Reading Plan!

Books by Mary Elizabeth Sperry:
Ten: How the Ten Commandments Can Change Your Life
Scripture in the Parish: A Guide for Catholic Ministry
Bible Top Tens: 30 Fun and Intriguing Lists to Inspire and Inform
Bible Top Tens: 40 Fun and Intriguing Lists to Inspire and Inform
Real Life Faith: Bible Companions for Catholic Teens

Contributed to:
The Liturgy Documents, Volume One: Fifth Edition: Essential Documents for Parish Worship

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