They’re COMMANDMENTS…. Not Suggestions
March 9, 2012
It is the most physical depiction of Jesus in the New Testament; it is not the most emotive, but it is the most physical. The cleansing scene must have been shocking for all, confusing for some, and angering for others. My prayer images of Christ are not of this very dramatic scene. The main scandal was the concentrating more on cheating others in a coin exchange and profiting on the poor who came to offer sacrifice than it was on the more noble and basic task of giving praise that is always owed to God before all else.
The First Reading presents the Ten Commandments from the Book of Exodus. They are repeated in Deuteronomy 5:6-21. Since the wandering of the Hebrews in the desert, the Ten Commandments serve as the covenant between God and the human race. As we are well aware, the first three precepts bind us in our relationship with God; and the remaining seven precepts order our human relationships. The most striking thing is their name: COMMANDMENTS…not opinions, and certainly not suggestions. Even the Pope as the Vicar of Christ on earth can’t dispense from Divine Law! These first three Commandments pertain to the virtue of religion; that is, things that we owe personally to God because of our relationship with Him.
Idolatry in its many forms (love of power, money) violates the First Commandment, that is, our love of God alone. Divination includes practices like astrology, witchcraft, and devil worship belie our divided love. Perjury (whenever we invoke God in an oath and then lie) is a personal offense against God in the Second Commandment. We violate this Commandment with blasphemy (the degradation in word or deed of our respect for God’s holy name). Purposefully missing the celebration of the Eucharist, personally violates the Third Commandment. As you can see, these behaviors and attitudes are indeed very dark and nasty in our God relationship because they are committed against God alone. They are not to be taken lightly by anyone at all…ever…even when we’re on vacation!
It’s all about our relationships. “Love God, and love your neighbor as you love yourself.” This classic condensation of the Commandments needs to be fully understood. The classic summary is that no one can dispense from Divine Law…. our debt is owed to God, and repaid not out of fear, but always out of love.