A Reflection on the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-26)
Rev. Michael Patella, OSB
Human society and civilization depend upon right relationships, and those relationships can only succeed when there is proper respect shown to God and neighbor. The Ten Commandments, as a compendium of laws foundational to the well-being of all humankind, connects the homage due to God alone (Ex 20:1-11) with the obligations and deportment shown to neighbor (Ex 20:12-17).
In Laudato Si’ Pope Francis proclaims that when we neglect to identify God as the all-powerful One who alone has created the world, “we end up worshipping earthly powers, or ourselves usurping the place of God” (75). When we place ourselves at the center of the universe, our personal and communal lives will disintegrate and vanish as do the letters at the bottom of the page. Only when we as humans recognize that God is the Lord of the cosmos and we are the fruit of his loving creation do human relationships function in a way that reflects the love and goodness of our Creator.
Exodus 20:1 says, “Then God spoke all these words…” What does God’s voice sound like as you hear the Ten Commandments? In what ways do God’s commands allow you to love more freely?
Rev. Michael Patella, OSB, SSD is professor of New Testament at the School of Theology and Seminary at Saint John’s University, Collegeville, MN where he also serves as seminary rector. He served as chair of the Committee on Illumination and Text for The Saint John’s Bible. He is author of Word and Image: The Hermeneutics of The Saint John’s Bible (Liturgical Press, 2013).