Print Version    Email to Friend
Honour your parents and grandparents

It is widely recognised that the Ten Commandments are organised into two groups: The first through to the third can be broadly categorised as “You shall love the Lord, your God, with your whole heart” and the fourth through to the 10th as “You shall love your neighbour as yourself.”

While it would be somewhat unfair to think of the commandments as being ranked by importance, it is certainly noteworthy that the first of those that deal with love of neighbour is, “Honour your father and your mother.”

First, love God—then, honour your father and your mother. The first three deal with our relationship with God, and the first of the rest is this.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church emphasises this in its section on the fourth commandment—and the fact that it applies not only to parents. In No. 2199, it points out that the commandment concerns kinship between not just children and parents, but also members of the extended family. “It requires honour, affection, and gratitude toward elders and ancestors.”

We can take a cue from the Book of Sirach, “Do not dismiss what the old people have to say… from them you will learn how to think and the art of the timely answer” (Sirach 8:9). 

As we age and mature, a funny thing happens. Not only do we grow in wisdom, but we suddenly realise that our elders may have been wiser than us all along.

While this is certainly rife with sarcasm, the point is well-made. 

The wisdom of our elders is something we too often disregard or deny in our younger days, but as we age, we come to recognise that wisdom and realise the honour that is their due.

In scripture, we encounter many examples of elderly people being lifted up, venerated and respected. Just think of Noah, the patriarch of his family, spawning the rejuvenation of human civilisation following the deluge.

We are reminded of Abraham, father to God’s people; Jacob; Methuselah; Simeon; Naomi, mother-in-law to Ruth; and countless other examples come to mind.

Each of these examples brings us back to the fourth commandment. The honour due to our elders is of such importance that God included it among “You shall not kill” and “You shall not have other gods beside me.”

As scripture shows us, we would do well to acknowledge and fully live up to this ideal.


 Paul Senz Catholic News Service