The entire first commandment

In exodus 20 verses 1- 17 are listed the ten commandments. We all know them. We can all conjure up the image of Charlton Heston standing with the two stone tables, one in each arm, after coming down from Mount Sinai.

While we may or may not be able to recite all 10, there might be one or two that get a bit jumbled up, we all know the first one. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.”

The rest of that first commandment might not be as familiar:
“You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.”

This commandment is in full view in both of today’s readings. In the first reading Moses sets the stage. “’This is your God, O Israel, who brought you out of the land of Egypt!’ The LORD said to Moses, “I see how stiff-necked this people is. Let me alone, then, that my wrath may blaze up against them to consume them. Then I will make of you a great nation.”

The Jewish people have gotten impatient, easily distracted. Although I have to say that in all of my years of being distracted never have I though of melting down some of Mary’s jewelry and making my own god.

In the gospel Jesus speaks of Moses as the great accuser.

“Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father: the one who will accuse you is Moses, in whom you have placed your hope. For if you had believed Moses, you would have believed me, because he wrote about me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?”

Like with much of scripture we can look at these two readings any of a number of ways. The simplest would be for me to say, “Nope, I have never built myself a golden idol …. Check … I’m good”. But that would be wrong.

Remember the longer version of the first commandment? We should not make for ourselves an image in the form of anything that we would bow down to. Because our God is a jealous God.

As Catholics, these statues that surround our church are a form of concern to our Christian brothers. They would say that we are clearly forming images and are bowing down to them. But there is a big difference between a statue to Pope Pious and a brand-new sports car.

In the statue we see the image of Gods constancy, Gods love, and Gods sacrifice. All are noted characteristics of Pope Pious. In a new sports car, we see a graven image that we can fall into the habit of placing before our God.

The line in the second half of the first commandment strikes me as being relevant, “for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God”. Sitting before an image of Pope Pious, or Saith John Vianney, or Saint Francis and considering their devotion to our Lord and their resemblance to various virtues to be found in our savior would not be offensive to the Lord our God. While spending all of our free time cleaning and polishing that car might.

As we get closer and closer to Easter and Holy Week these are good points for us to consider. “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. “You shall have no other gods before me.” Is a great reflection. It is a great point of perspective.

The second psalm, this morning, went, “They forgot the God who had saved them, who had done great deeds in Egypt, Wondrous deeds in the land of Ham, terrible things at the Red Sea.”
Let us not forget all the wonderous deeds that our God has done for us.

JN 5:31-47

Jesus said to the Jews:
“If I testify on my own behalf, my testimony is not true.
But there is another who testifies on my behalf,
and I know that the testimony he gives on my behalf is true.
You sent emissaries to John, and he testified to the truth.
I do not accept human testimony,
but I say this so that you may be saved.
He was a burning and shining lamp,
and for a while you were content to rejoice in his light.
But I have testimony greater than John’s.
The works that the Father gave me to accomplish,
these works that I perform testify on my behalf
that the Father has sent me.
Moreover, the Father who sent me has testified on my behalf.
But you have never heard his voice nor seen his form,
and you do not have his word remaining in you,
because you do not believe in the one whom he has sent.
You search the Scriptures,
because you think you have eternal life through them;
even they testify on my behalf.
But you do not want to come to me to have life.

“I do not accept human praise;
moreover, I know that you do not have the love of God in you.
I came in the name of my Father,
but you do not accept me;
yet if another comes in his own name,
you will accept him.
How can you believe, when you accept praise from one another
and do not seek the praise that comes from the only God?
Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father:
the one who will accuse you is Moses,
in whom you have placed your hope.
For if you had believed Moses,
you would have believed me,
because he wrote about me.
But if you do not believe his writings,
how will you believe my words?”

March 23, 2023

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