In anticipation of the Feast of the Immaculate Conception coming up this Friday (a holy day of obligation, for those who didn’t realize), I want to put down a few of the thoughts I’ve been having lately about this and related issues.  I don’t know whether I’ll get as much written out as I’d like by then, but here’s the first bit. 


The command to honor father and mother comes right after the commands about worshiping God.  There are two things that I think are very noteworthy for Catholics. 


The first is that this command follows on the heels of the admonitions against idolatry.  Sometimes in an admirable zeal to avoid idolatry, certain Christians will go overboard  – remember the original iconoclasts, for example.  The commandment to honor father and mother – mere humans, mere creatures – is a reminder that alongside the worship due to God alone, it is right and good to honor certain people.  Not to treat them as gods, but to honor them nonetheless.


The second thing I think is noteworthy I have mentioned before: the command to honor father and mother is a positive command – something to be done, not something to simply avoid doing.  We often talk about it in terms of avoidance – don’t talk back to your parents, or don’t say bad things about them, or don’t neglect them in their old age.  But the actual command is not simply to avoid bad behaviors, but to carry out a good one.

So not only is God saying that we may honor father and mother without fearing that to do so will be construed as idolatry, but that we must honor them.