The first three of the Ten Commandments point to the primacy of God in our lives, summed up by Jesus as he quotes the central teaching of the Hebrew Scriptures, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”
Since God the Father created and sustains us, because Jesus saves and forgives us, with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit within us, our love relationship with the Lord is our origin, our purpose and our destiny. God has an absolute claim on us as his adopted children and we will only discover joy, peace, love and eternal life in union with him.
Throughout the history of Israel, the people periodically abandon authentic worship and turn to idols. The clearest example of this occurs in Exodus Chapter 32 when Moses is on Mount Sinai, speaking to the Lord and receiving the Ten Commandments, while the people below become impatient with waiting. Under Aaron’s leadership, they make and worship a golden calf, created from their own jewelry. The first commandment is a prohibition against idolatry and a call to worship the living God.
What are the idols in our lives? When we tire of the seeming obscurity and silence of God, how do we try to fill the aching void within?
Work, entertainment, money, alcohol, busyness, food, an unhealthy relationship, just about anything can become an idol for us, if we try to make it the meaning and purpose of our lives.
A good question to ask ourselves is what do I so fill my time with, when I have no energy or desire for prayer, Scripture reading, relationships, volunteer work or the Eucharist? The spiritual life demands a constant purification of our motives, desires, attitudes and actions, in order to let God be God, the center and purpose of everything.
The second commandment forbids us to take the name of the Lord in vain. For the Jewish people, God’s name was so sacred that it could not be fully uttered or written down.
“God confides his name to those who believe in him; he reveals himself to them in his personal mystery. The gift of a name belongs to the order of trust and intimacy. The Lord’s name is holy. For this reason man must not abuse it.” #2143
When we come to know God through our personal experience, we respond with an ever-deepening reverence, awe, joy and respect for the holiness, mystery and love of God. We reflect this relational stance through our speech and actions.
Consequentially, a Christian refrains from lies, deception, malice, blasphemy, cursing and swearing, for any speech or action that is violent, false, disrespectful, vulgar or abusive does not glorify God, serve our neighbor or respect ourselves as children of God.
Take away violence, swearing and illicit sex from television and movies today and you would be left with very little of substance. Living the second commandment in our culture at this moment is challenging and difficult, but also prophetic and transformative. If you simply refrain from swearing, telling off-color jokes and gossiping, you will probably be considered a saint by your co-workers and friends.
The third commandment bids us to keep holy the Sabbath. For Christians, this observance falls on Sunday for it is the day of the Lord’s resurrection. We keep this day holy by celebrating the Eucharist, the ultimate expression and experience of our relationship with God through Jesus’ life, death and resurrection.
Imagine how different the world would be if every Catholic went to Mass every Sunday! It’s just an hour a week to praise and thank the Lord for myriad of glorious gifts we have received. We continue to keep Sunday holy by refraining from unnecessary work, shopping and regular activity. Ideally, this day of rest is marked by holy leisure, time spent with family and friends, praying and reading, sharing a festive meal, taking a nap or going for a walk.
As spiritual people, we need time to feed and replenish our minds, hearts and spirits. Even in the Middle Ages, the harsh lot of the serfs in the fields was mitigated by observance of the church’s many holy days and feasts, sacred times when they did not have to work. In our insomniac, workaholic, 24-7 society, maybe one of the greatest ways we can evangelize others is to simply keep holy the Sabbath.
These first three commandments of the Decalogue call us to right relationship with God as the source and foundation of right relationship with others, expressed in the following seven commandments. When we truly desire and attempt to love God with every fiber of our being, life becomes full for us and we discover joy, love and peace. God’s rules exist only to make us happy and bring us to the glory of eternal life. The Ten Commandments serve as an infallible road map to heaven.