The Commandments - God's Indicator Panel

Homily for the Twenty-Second Sunday of Year B

by Fr. Tommy Lane

On February 3rd 1959, at 35,000ft. above the Atlantic, Captain Lynch took a last look at the flight panel of the Boeing 707. The co-pilot was studying a map. Captain Lynch decided to stretch his legs, thinking that the worst was over. Shortly after leaving Paris they had run into a very strong headwind. But by now they had climbed above the storm. The captain made his way down the aisle between the rows of seats. All the passengers still had the seatbelts fastened. At the back a baby was crying in its mother’s arms and the captain reassured her saying, “It will be better now. Your baby will be able to sleep.” Just then Captain felt the right wing tip and he was thrown against the seats on the right hand side. At the same moment all the lights in the plane went out. Next he found himself lying on the floor. At least he thought it was the floor. But then he realized it was the ceiling he was on. The Boeing was on its back. He also knew it was dropping like a stone head first. He began to make his way back to the cockpit. The co-pilot had been knocked unconscious. He came to again and he and the captain managed to bring the Boeing to the horizontal. The aircraft lost 29,000ft. but finally at 6,000ft .Captain Lynch regained control of the aircraft. A few more seconds and the plane would have crashed into the Atlantic. The whole incident lasted four minutes. What caused it? While the co-pilot was studying the map he did not notice the blue light on the indicator panel warning that the automatic pilot had become disengaged.

(The story above is a shortened and edited version of the original which I found in One Hundred Stories to Change your Life by Pierre Lefèvre and published by St Paul Publications, Middlegreen, Slough SL3 6BT, United Kingdom. Reports of the incident are online here and here )

God has given us an indicator panel to guide us through life and prevent us from getting turned upside down and crashing. That indicator panel is the Commandments. The Commandments are a gift from God to help us enjoy life by not getting lost along the way. That is why our first reading said, “observe them that you may have life.” (Deut 4:1) Not only are they a gift from God but they are also a sensible way to live. Again the reading states, “they will demonstrate to peoples your wisdom and understanding.” (Deut 4:6) The Lord said to the people through Moses, “And what great nation is there that has laws and customs to match this whole Law that I put before you today?” (Deut 4:8)

There are many ways in which God has given us an indicator panel to guide us through life and help us not get turned upside down and crash. Above all God has revealed his indicator panel to us in Jesus. God has also given us the Bible, and the teaching of the Church. Thank God for all the helps he has given us for our journey through life. God’s indicator panel is to help us find happiness in life. Our second reading today, the letter of James, reminded us,

Accept and submit to the word which has been planted in you and can save your souls. But you must do what the word tells you, and not just listen to it and deceive yourselves. (Jas 1:21-22)

There are many temptations and attractions all telling us that they are offering us happiness but any happiness they offer is shallow and not lasting. Sinning never brings happiness, only unhappiness. Sin is sin and never brings happiness only unhappiness. Only by following God’s indicator panel will we arrive at our destination safely and find true happiness. Let us resolve to leave sin behind and follow God’s indicator panel. It is the only way to life and the only way to guide us safely above the storms of life.

If we do get turned upside down let us return to the Lord in the Sacrament of Reconciliation because he is all merciful and rejoices over sinners who repent. There is more rejoicing in heaven over one repentant sinner than over ninety-nine who have no need of repentance. (Luke 15:7) I conclude with the words of our Psalm:

Lord, who shall dwell on your holy mountain?
He who walks without fault;
He who acts with justice
And speaks the truth from his heart.
He who does no wrong to his brother
Who casts no slur on his neighbor. (Ps 15:1-3)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Twenty-Second Sunday Year B

Jesus' Prescription for Holiness and Purity 2012

Related Homilies: Love flows from the Heart of Jesus to us  - Cor ad cor loquitur 2019

Eat what you want but love your neighbor! 2011

The Ten Commandments Forming Our Conscience

stories about the Commandments