Read the text below, preferably aloud. As you hear the word, “listen with the ear of your heart” for a word or short phrase that God has for you this day.
Then God spoke all these words:
I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me.
You shall not make for yourself an idol, whether in the form of anything that is in heaven above, or that is on the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, punishing children for the iniquity of parents, to the third and the fourth generation of those who reject me, but showing steadfast love to the thousandth generation of those who love me and keep my commandments.
You shall not make wrongful use of the name of the Lord your God, for the Lord will not acquit anyone who misuses his name.
Remember the sabbath day, and keep it holy. For six days you shall labor and do all your work. But the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; you shall not do any work—you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns. For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested the seventh day; therefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day and consecrated it.
Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.
You shall not murder.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s house; you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.
As I read the scripture passage above, my mind quickly fills with images from the famous 1956 film, The Ten Commandments that I recall watching on Easter mornings as a child. A terrified Moses clenches the side of Mount Sinai as the swirling Pillar of Fire (God) sends forth fiery rays that carve the Ten Commandments into nearby stone. Moses then takes and cradles the still smoking stone tablets as he utters in awe “written with the finger of God.”
I wonder if Moses had any idea of the radical effects that this seemingly simple set spiritual imperatives would have on the history of the human family. The Ten Commandments have served the basis for living an upright spiritual and moral life for the Jewish people ever since. Christ observed these Commandments and Christians uphold them as part of the Christian ideal. Portions of the Ten Commandments have even served as a basis of civil law. Yet, at the same time, one can easily think of all the political controversies that have surrounded the use of the Ten Commandments as well. Can the Ten Commandments be displayed on courthouse lawns? Can they be taught in public school? What is the role of the Ten Commandments in a society that values the separation of church and state?
As controversial as the Ten Commandments seem in today’s political and cultural atmosphere, it’s clear that they were every bit as controversial on the day that Moses presented them to the people at the foot of Mount Sinai. They were not particularly interested in observing these commands – in fact, they had even managed to construct an idol of a golden calf while they even knew that God was speaking to Moses nearby!
As human beings, we tend to be rebellious. We like to follow our own whims and exalt ourselves and our abilities. The Ten Commandments places a check on our rebelliousness; they allow us to stand back and look at our lives, both in relation to others and to God. As we find ourselves at the beginning of this Lenten journey, the Ten Commandments can serve as a guide as we look to grow in the love of God and of our neighbor.
-Chase M. Becker
©Ten Commandments, Donald Jackson 2003 The Saint John’s Bible, Order of Saint Benedict, Collegeville, Minnesota. Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible, Catholic Edition, © 1993, 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.