The First Commandment In Our Own Day

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The First Commandment of God is:

"I am the Lord your God; you shall not have strange gods before me."

This commandment requires all men to recognize or acknowledge God as the one true God, Creator and Lord of all things, and to worship and adore him as our God.  This is demanded of us because as creatures we owe everything to God; we are completely dependent on him.  By our reverence and worship we acknowledge our debt and gratitude to our Creator.

To give God loving worship we must believe in him and believe all that he has revealed to us.  This means that we must learn more about God, especially if he has given us the means to do this; we have no excuse for being ignorant about God and his truths.

Just as this commandment requires certain behavior from us, it also forbids us to act in any way contrary to what we owe God.  It is wrong if we are superstitious or impious, which means being irreverent and disrespectful of God or sacred things.  It is also wrong if we willfully doubt some truth about God or refuse to know what we should about God and our religion.  There are times when some people are so willful that they publicly acknowledge their disbelief in or disagreement with the truths of the faith.  This is called heresy - the denying or disagreeing with one particular truth, or apostasy - deserting or leaving the true religion.

Strange Gods

We have read about people in ancient times who used to worship idols - false gods, things like golden calves.  Remember when the Israelites worshipped the golden calf in the desert before God gave them the law?  This is called idolatry.  We don't run into too many people who worship golden calves today, but many still place "strange gods" before God in their lives.

Not to have "strange gods" means that we are not to love anyone or anything as much as we love God.  We are to worship and adore him - that is, give him a special love which is owed to him alone, a love which acknowledges his supreme position above all creation.

In our love for God, we are to put nothing he has made before him.  No creature is to be adored - that is, worshipped with that special love which we owe to God alone.  Our love for, or attachment to things God has made, is not wrong in itself - it is not wrong for a car or a pet to have a place in our life.  But these things must never compete with our love for God or with his plans for us.  For example, if we desire an object so much that we steal it, then we have put it before God.  There is a story from the Gospel which makes all this clear

The Rich Young Man

A rich young man received an invitation from Our Lord himself to give up his riches and become a follower of Jesus.  St. Mark tells us that Jesus looked at the young man and loved him, for the youth had always kept all of God's commandments and wanted to do even better.  Jesus said to him:  "There is one thing more you must do.  Go and sell what you have and give to the poor; you will have treasure in Heaven.  After that, come and follow me"  (Mk 10:21).

But the young man turned away sadly and left Jesus because, as the Gospel says, he "had many possessions."  He could not follow Jesus because he loved "creatures" too much.  They may not have been the same creatures we have - not cars or pets - but whatever they were, he could not find it in his heart to give them up.  He missed the chance to follow Jesus because creatures were competing in his heart with love for God.

Therefore, there is danger in having many possessions, because they may turn our hearts from God.  Our love for such things must be a "detached" love, a love that is ready to let go of things when God asks it of us.

Due Worship

In ages before Christ, the Hebrew people offered public sacrifice by slaughtering a valuable animal, like a lamb, upon an altar to honor God, to acknowledge him as Creator of all, and especially to make up for their sins.

The sacrifice of the Hebrew people pleased God but could never really make up for sin.  As we know, the sin of Adam had closed the gates of Heaven.  None of the many sacrifices offered by the Hebrews could change this.  For sin offends God who is so great, and no offering of man alone, no matter how valuable, can make up for it.

Man's helplessness was not an obstacle to God who wanted to save man.  God himself became man and offered himself on the Cross as a fitting sacrifice, which was far more than enough to make up for all sins of all men.  This sacrifice is renewed daily in every Mass around the world.  The sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross is the greatest gift we can offer to God.

The sacrifice we offer in the Mass is the highest possible act of worship.  It contains all that is necessary for giving due worship to God.  In the Mass we acknowledge God as Creator, our Lord and Master.  We offer thanks to him in gratitude for all he has given us.  And, in recognition that we are dependent on him, we ask for all we need and for what will help others.  Finally, we offer in the Mass the only thing that can make up for our sins and offenses.  We offer the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the Cross.

We can give God the love and worship we owe him when we participate in Holy Mass.  Let's do so often!

Used with the permission of The Ignatius Press 800-799-5534

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