|The Burren, West of Ireland|
When I was a child I remember getting lots of orders and warnings from my parents. In fact sometimes it seemed to be nothing but warnings. ‘Don’t do that’ and ‘Be careful not to fall!’ ‘Stay away from the fire.’ It’s only later in your life that you realize how important all these commands and warnings were. They are part of what formed us, taught us, and probably kept us alive a lot of the time. A few days ago I saw a little boy almost run out under a car, but thankfully didn’t. He was met with a sharp reprimand from his mother and hopefully he learned from it.
We are also given commandments by God. They are not suggestions, they are commands and they are also there to help us. Everything God gives us is to help us. The fact that they are still relevant 2500 years later tells us something. The word of God is timeless and I always find it helpful to often ask myself, do I believe the Scriptures are from God? If I do, then there is nothing more important that I could listen to.
The Lord knows exactly what we need to do in order to survive, flourish and blossom as a society. His commandments are a kind of blue-print for living. If we ignore those commandments we will slip into chaos. Look at what is happening to our world at the moment. Why? because people are ignoring God and what God has taught us. The whole Middle East is falling apart because of lust for power and basically ignoring what God has taught us and so people think they have a right to take over land and to kill whoever is in their way. They will be held accountable for their actions, just as all of us will.
The first thing that God commands us is to recognize him, to worship him and to put him beforeeverything else; everything else. So when we come to church on Sundays it is not just about seeing what our parish has to offer us this week, it is about making the sacrifice of our time to worship God because God deserves to be worshipped. There is no other reason needed. Everything we have is from God and we would not exist except that God willed to create us and so the very least we can do is to give some of our time to give thanks and praise to our God and that means making the sacrifice of some of our time. We are constantly being told that we shouldn’t have to make any sacrifices and that we should be able to have almost everything our way. That is not the teaching of Jesus and we must decide who it is we follow.
Keeping Sunday as a holy day—which the Lord also commands us to do—means that we give of ourselves to God. It also means we should think a little about how we spend the day. Is it based on, giving time to God, recreation and family, or is it just another day for shopping? Remember these are God’s commandments, not the Church’s suggestions.
The Lord also tells us that his name is holy. It is not to be used lightly, or as a swear word. Think of what the name of Jesus means. It is because of Jesus that we will be able to go to heaven if we make the right choices.
The last commandment I want to mention today is the commandment to honor your father and your mother. It is interesting that it doesn’t say ‘love’ your father and your mother. Why is that? Sometimes when we have been hurt by our parents we may find it hard to love them for a particular reason, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t honor them and give them the respect and care which is their due. I have often been told by grandparents that for some reason their children will not speak to them or let them see their grandchildren. Unless there is a very serious reason for this, it is wrong and it is breaking the fourth commandment. The Lord commands us to honor our parents and we must take that seriously because all of us will be held accountable for our actions.
While the Lord teaches us that He is infinitely merciful, God also makes demands of us, just as our parents made demands of us and didn’t let us have everything our way. Whatever God tells us to do is for our own good, and even if we cannot always see that, the Lord asks us to trust that He only has our best interests at heart. Whatever God asks us to do is for our own good.
‘You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind... You must love your neighbor as yourself’ (Matthew 22:37-40).