Wednesday, October 7, 2009

1st Commandment, part 2

As at least a couple of people have requested, written for our parish bulletin. It is part of a new, occasional series.
Living Our Faith in the Real World
I am the LORD your God:
you shall not have strange gods before me.

All sins are sins against the first Commandment; the first Commandment contains the whole of the Decalogue. For all sin serves some other god, obeys another Commander: the world, or the flesh, or the Devil. So if we obeyed only this one Commandment perfectly, we would need nothing more. St.Augustine says,“Love God and then do what you will.” For if you give your whole heart and will and love to God, then what you will will be all that God wills.

How liberatingly simple is the moral life of the Christian ... only one God, therefore one ultimate object of love and obedience.
Catholic Christianity by Peter Kreeft
At first glance this is bewilderingly simple. Of course, we know that God is “the Lord our God.” That’s why we’re at Mass every Sunday. Secondly, the idea of having other “gods” sounds archaic to a Christian. That was much more of a problem back in the day of the Old Testament, wasn’t it? Or perhaps this applies more to modern day Wiccans. For us it is again a simple prospect. One more time, we’re at Mass to worship “the Lord our God.”

Yet, perhaps we should take another look. After all, this is the main law that Jesus states for us in Matthew:

“You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment.”

Jesus gives us the fullest, strongest interpretation possible. This brings us to the question of how we love God. How do we love Him with every fiber of our being? It sounds almost too simple to say that we love God by putting Him first in our lives, especially when life offers so many ways to distract us. That simplicity is what we need to help us keep God first. Each person must pray, study, and contemplate how to love God, just as Jesus modeled for us.

As nice and positive as Jesus' statement sounds, it is more nebulous than it initially appears. It can be almost a relief to consider the negative side of the commandment, “you shall not have strange gods before me.” We must keep in mind that God is talking about anything that replaces our love for Him in our hearts. It need not be a stone statue such as the Old Testament pagans worshipped. We all know in our heart of hearts how many every day things and events conspire to help us ignore God “just this once.”

This is why it can be helpful to use a tool for self-examination. The questions in an Examination of Conscience are designed to help us look at each commandment from different angles, to shake us out of complacency, and to guide us away from sin and toward God. The questions below are offered in that spirit.

Examination of Conscience: First Commandment*
  • Did I doubt or deny that God exists?
  • Did I refuse to believe what God has revealed to us?
  • Did I believe in fortune telling, horoscopes, dreams, the occult, good-luck charms, tarot cards, palmistry, Ouija boards, seances, reincarnation?
  • Did I deny that I was Catholic?
  • Did I leave the Catholic Faith?
  • Did I give time to God each day in prayer?
  • Did I love God with my whole heart?
  • Did I despair of or presume on God's mercy?
  • Did I have false gods in my life that I gave greater attention to than God, like money, profession, drugs, TV, fame, pleasure, property, etc.?
* An examination of conscience is not intended to be a checklist used only in preparation for the sacrament of reconciliation. The purpose is to help souls know what actions or attitudes are sinful and realize the gravity of committing them. This may help in avoidance or in turning away from sin and towards God and joy.

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