Ye Know What Commandments We Gave You
2nd Sunday in Lent
One of the first things we learn as a
child is the list of the Ten Commandments given to Moses on Mount
Sinai. This was a long time ago, but they haven’t changed
since, and when we prepare our children for First Communion, it’s
with the same list that was written by God on those two tablets of
stone. The little Jewish children of the Old Testament learned
the same list, the Christian boys and girls of the early Church knew
them by heart also.
Thus it comes as no
surprise when St. Paul doesn’t bother to remind the Corinthians in
today’s Epistle what the Ten Commandments are. He merely
points out that they already know them. “For ye know what
commandments we gave you by the Lord Jesus.” Not that the Lord
Jesus gave us any new commandments—his mission was not to change the
law but to fulfill it. “Think not,” he said, “that I am come
to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but
to fulfil.” And fulfil them he did, showing us how all the Ten
Commandments can be summarized into two: to love God and to love our
neighbor as ourselves. Two commandments, two tablets of stone
given to Moses. Both of them admonishing us that we must love.
To love God first and
foremost above all things is the First of these Commandments.
The second and third commandments tell us how we must love God, by
keeping his Name holy and by keeping his Sabbath holy. Of all
the ways that we are expected to love God, we may be surprised at
the emphasis placed on these two directives. But these are the
very key to a loving relationship with God—by respecting his holy
Name and setting aside time to pray. By remaining conscious of
his holiness, we maintain a respectful distance from God—a social
distance if you like—and yet, through our constant conversation with
him in prayer, we remain close.
The other seven commandments deal with
our love of neighbor. They list the things we must do and not
do, and are straightforward enough to understand, even if sometimes
difficult to follow. St. Paul admonishes his readers in
Corinth about just two of these commandments, the sixth and the
seventh. Many people find these two the most difficult to
keep, as they deal with the deadly sins of lust and avarice.
Our love of pleasure and money often vie for pre-eminence with our
love of God, and it is only our faith that keeps us on the straight
and narrow by reminding ourselves that the rewards of the life
hereafter are so much greater than the transitory satisfaction of
our lower appetites and the other comforts of life.
Our Lord plainly said, “If ye love me,
ye will keep my commandments.” With a few weeks of Lent to go, let’s
fulfill our duty by persevering in his divine law.