Today’s Catechism sections discuss the ten commandments and the greatest commandment. Supporting material comes from the homilies of St. John Chrysostom.



"Teacher, what must I do . . .?"

2052 "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" To the young man who asked this question, Jesus answers first by invoking the necessity to recognize God as the "One there is who is good," as the supreme Good and the source of all good. Then Jesus tells him: "If you would enter life, keep the commandments." and he cites for his questioner the precepts that concern love of neighbor: "You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, Honor your father and mother." Finally Jesus sums up these commandments positively: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself."1

2053 To this first reply Jesus adds a second: "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."2 This reply does not do away with the first: following Jesus Christ involves keeping the Commandments. The Law has not been abolished,3 but rather man is invited to rediscover it in the person of his Master who is its perfect fulfillment. In the three synoptic Gospels, Jesus' call to the rich young man to follow him, in the obedience of a disciple and in the observance of the Commandments, is joined to the call to poverty and chastity.4 The evangelical counsels are inseparable from the Commandments.

2054 Jesus acknowledged the Ten Commandments, but he also showed the power of the Spirit at work in their letter. He preached a "righteousness [which] exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees"5 as well as that of the Gentiles.6 He unfolded all the demands of the Commandments. "You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill.' . . . But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment."7

2055 When someone asks him, "Which commandment in the Law is the greatest?"8 Jesus replies: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the Law and the prophets."9 The Decalogue must be interpreted in light of this twofold yet single commandment of love, the fullness of the Law: the commandments: "You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet," and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.10


2075 "What good deed must I do, to have eternal life?" - "If you would enter into life, keep the commandments" (⇒ Mt 19:16-17).

St. John Chrysostom comments on the 19th Chapter of Matthew in his “Homily 64 on Matthew”.

Then answered Peter and said unto Him, Behold, we have forsaken all, and followed You; what shall we have therefore?

All which? O blessed Peter; the rod? The net? The boat? The craft? These things do you tell me of, as all? Yea, says he, but not for display do I say these things, but in order that by this question I may bring in the multitude of the poor. For since the Lord had said, If you will be perfect, sell that you have, and give to the poor, and you shall have treasure in Heaven; Matthew 19:21lest any one of the poor should say, What then? If I have no possessions, can I not be perfect? Peter asks, that you, the poor man, may learn, that you are made in no respect inferior by this: Peter asks, that you may not learn from Peter and doubt (for indeed he was imperfect as yet, and void of the Spirit), but that, having received the declaration from Peter's Master, you may be confident.

For like as we do (we make things our own often when speaking of the concerns of others), so did the apostle, when he put to Him this question in behalf of all the world. Since that at least he knew with certainty his own portion, is manifest from what had been said before; for he that had already received the keys of the Heavens, much more might feel confidence about the things hereafter.

But mark also how exactly his reply is according to Christ's demand. For He had required of the rich man these two things, to give that he had to the poor, and to follow Him. Wherefore he also expresses these two things, to forsake, and to follow. For behold we have forsaken all, says he, and have followed You. For the forsaking was done for the sake of following, and the following was rendered easier by the forsaking, and made them feel confidence and joy touching the forsaking.


1 ⇒ Mt 19:16-19.
2 ⇒ Mt 19:21.
3 Cf. ⇒ Mt 5:17.
4 Cf. ⇒ Mt 19:6-12, ⇒ 21, ⇒ 23-29.
5 ⇒ Mt 5:20.
6 Cf. ⇒ Mt 5:46-47.
7 ⇒ Mt 5:21-22.
8 ⇒ Mt 22:36.
9 ⇒ Mt 22:37-40; cf. ⇒ Deut 6:5; ⇒ Lev 19:18.
10 ⇒ Rom 13:9-10.