Each issue carries an
Archdiocese of Cincinnati.
The First Three Commandments
The great St. Augustine once said, —We all want
to live happily. How is it then that I seek you, Lord? In seeking
you I seek the happy life.—
Do you agree with St. Augustine that happiness
is something you want? Jesus taught the same lesson long before
His Sermon on the Mount begins with eight guides
to happiness—the Beatitudes. He follows this with other ways
to be happy, all based on the Ten Commandments (see Matthew,
You know there—s no way to escape rules. H. Jackson,
Jr., in his Life—s Little Instruction Book, advises:
—Praise in public. Criticize in private. Don—t rain on other
people—s parades. Put the cap back on the toothpaste. Refill
the ice cube trays. Do nice things for people who will never
find out it was you.— Rules like these lighten the load of life.
God first entered into a love relationship with
Moses and his people at Sinai. Scripture calls this a covenant.
It—s like having flowers and candy and the prom and a movie
and a hug and a kiss all at once.
Only after God expressed his love, did he give
the Ten Commandments as a method for staying in love and being
happy. You give signs of love before you issue the rules of
Your desire to be happy is a great motive for
being moral. But you cannot do this by your willpower alone.
You also need prayer, the sacraments and God—s graces to keep
In this Youth Update, we will look at the
first three commandments. Legend says that they were listed
together on one of the two tablets given to Moses.
These three deal with expressing your love for
God. In another issue, we deal with the other tablet, the rest
of the 10, which deal with expressing your love for others.
How It's Done
Before we look at the rules, let—s look at a
role model. Her name is Th—r—se of Lisieux. When she was very
ill at only 24 years of age, her Carmelite sisters said, —Th—r—se
will die soon. What will the prioress [the sister in charge]
put in her obituary? —She entered our convent, lived and died.—
There really isn—t much else to say.—
Yet within a few months of her death, such a
storm of interest and affection for Th—r—se began that one cardinal
declared, —We must hurry to canonize Th—r—se, otherwise the
people will go ahead and do it without us.—
What accounted for this enormous interest? It
was the publication of her spiritual journal, The Story of
a Soul. It became an immediate international best-seller
and revealed her story. You might want to read it.
Her advice was simple: What is important is not
great deeds, but rather to do everyday acts with great love
for God and neighbor. She wrote, —I will return to earth to
teach people to love Love.— Her way found practical expression
in love of people.
The story of St. Th—r—se highlights the way in
which she lived the love of God. Her life expresses the ultimate
meaning of the first commandments, as they are found both in
the rules given to Moses and in the teaching of Jesus.
Each commandment that is given in the Old Testament
is repeated and enlarged in the New. So, together with the words
of Deuteronomy, you will read a verse from the New Testament,
which shows us Jesus— —spin— on what Moses heard from God.
I, the Lord, am your God....You shall
not have other gods besides me (Deuteronomy 5:6-7).
Your love for God can begin with telling him so.
St. John Vianney liked to say, —My God, if my tongue cannot
say in every moment that I love you, I want my heart to repeat
it as often as I draw breath.—
Another way is called adoration, which means to
worship or honor God as divine. Stop by your parish church.
Sit a while before the Blessed Sacrament. Your very presence
can be a way of loving God.
Such love implies that you have faith in a real
God. The Bible tells us that people frequently worshiped unreal
gods. The Egyptians adored the sun. The Babylonians worshiped
the moon. The Assyrians idolized the stars. Even the Israelites
erred when they knelt before the golden calf. They worshiped
a creature instead of the Creator. That would not be keeping
the First Commandment.
Every commandment has a positive side and a negative
one (see box on last page). On the positive side (also called
virtue) are acts that express and strengthen our love
for God. The negative side (which is intended to lead you away
from vice) guards against acts that weaken love of God and others.
The First Commandment—s positive aspect is the
call to love God. At the same time it prohibits adoring a false
god, a practice called idolatry (eye DOLL uh tree). Today, few
people make gods out of sun, moon, stars or statues of imaginary
gods. Idolatry today is more likely making a god out of money,
power, popularity or sex.
We substitute a created thing for our loving Creator.
This usually happens when faith in the real God grows cold.
For instance, if you totally denied that there was a God, that
would be atheism, which is contrary to the First Command-ment.
Agnosticism, which claims we can—t know whether there is a God
or not, is also a sin against this commandment.
A wise old rabbi, or Jewish teacher, Abraham Heschel,
had this to say about faith in the true God: —Faith in God presupposes
an awareness of the presence of God. God—s temple is a sanctuary
without walls. If the sanctuary is everywhere, then we can sense
the ark or the altar somewhere.—
A healthy love relationship with God frees you
from superstition, a magic mentality and idolatry. In this way
of relating, God frees you from thinking of him as a super-parent
or a divine policeman. Love creates closeness, not a cold distance.
God watches over you to protect you from harm
and guide you to love. —If I take the wings of the dawn, if
I settle at the farthest limits of the sea, even there your
hand shall guide me, and your right hand hold me fast— (Psalm
So God is leading us to belief and hope and love.
We are keeping this First Commandment by adoration and worship
and by avoiding superstition. Atheism and agnoticism are against
Most people are more interested in their own names
than anyone else—s. You probably want people to pronounce your
name properly. You probably want it spelled right as well.
You shall not take the name of the
Lord, your God, in vain (Deuteronomy 5:11).
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be
your name (Matthew 6:9).
Your school may be named after some famous person,
as are many colleges, museums, theaters and stadiums. Streets
are named and renamed after famous people. Companies pay millions
of dollars for what are called —naming rights.— You may even
like to wear clothes and shoes that bear the imprint of a special
name, that of a person or company that has come to symbolize
prestige and value.
Now, just as humans are protective about their
names, so is God. The Second Command-ment asks us to respect
and reverence God—s name, to keep it sacred.
The word sacred means —set apart.— It implies
a dignity and sense of worth that require setting apart in order
that the value be recognized and cherished.
This feeling for the sacred may be found in many
of our experiences. It is the foundation of our appreciation
of the sacredness of God and his holy name. It is the reason
why we are moved to honor God—s Name. It also cautions us never
to use the divine name with disrespect or carelessness.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC)
focuses on the sacred. The sense of the sacred is part of
the virtue of religion. —The second commandment prescribes respect
for the Lord—s name....God calls each one by name. Everyone—s
name is sacred....It demands respect as the sign of the dignity
of the one who bears it— (CCC, #2142, 2158).
Would you not treat with respect those you love?
Surely you speak their names with affection. Freedom of speech
in America is a precious right, but that right is endangered
when it is abused and exploited.
It is no secret that the entertainment world—especially
movies, plays, novels and popular music—has frequently become
coarse and uncivilized in expression. The sense of the sacred
has vanished from many productions.
The dialogue in many films and books routinely
uses the name of Jesus Christ in a casual, disrespectful and
unloving way. Frequently the holy Name is tangled up in a stream
of obscenity, vulgarity and raw language. Authors and filmmakers
argue this is simply a reflection of the way people talk in
You might suspect, however, that this is either
an excuse for a lack of imagination in their creative process
or, worse, a deliberate effort to insult the holiness of God.
This careless and corrupt use of language pulls down and insults
readers, viewers and listeners instead of lifting up their souls.
It is certainly contrary to the intent of the
Second Commandment. —The second commandment forbids the abuse
of God—s name, i.e., every improper use of the names of God,
Jesus Christ, but also of the Virgin Mary and all the saints....Blasphemy
[abusive or irreverent language] is contrary to the respect
due to God and his holy name. It is also blasphemous to make
use of God—s name to cover up criminal practices, to reduce
peoples to servitude, to torture persons or put them to death—
(CCC, #2146, 2148).
This happens when people use God—s name to swear
that what they have said is true when it isn—t. It is against
the Second Commandment to say that you are doing evil—for God—s
Art critic Sister Wendy, commenting on sacrilegious
art (art that is gross, irreverent, disrespectful to God or
God—s saints), says that such art is shallow. It appeals to
the superficial reaction of people. It leaves them just where
they are—on the surface of life.
The Second Commandment says: Love God—s name.
Value the sacredness of oaths. Do not blaspheme by using God—s
name with disrespect.
Take care to keep holy the sabbath
day (Deuteronomy 5:12).
The sabbath was made for
man, not man for the sabbath. That is why the Son of Man is
lord even of the sabbath (Mark 2:27-28).
—For many baby-boom-generation Catholics like
Catherine Dillon, childhood memories of going to Mass are— —vivid——
. She will never forget how her mother seemed transfixed at
the consecration of the bread and wine: —She didn—t even blink.—
And she can hear as if it were yesterday the words of her father,
when any of his children expressed doubts about getting out
of bed for morning Mass: —There are people who live where they—re
not allowed to worship. You should consider yourself fortunate.—
They did. They still do.—
This excerpt from U.S. News & World Report
continues: —For Dillon, 39, the celebration of the Mass
remains the center of her spiritual life. —It gives a sense
of calm to my day, to my week,— she says. —There can be ups
and downs in other aspects of my life, but the Mass is one of
Catherine Dillon, though a lot older than you
are, gives voice to the attitude encouraged by the Third Commandment.
This is why your parents—just like Dillon—s—work hard to get
you up on Sunday mornings.
The word sabbath comes from the Hebrew
word for rest. They rested on Saturday, the last day of the
week. From early times the Church has celebrated the Eucharist
every Sunday, the Lord—s Day. Christianity moved the sabbath
observance to Sunday because this was the day Jesus rose from
The day of Christ—s resurrection is the first
day of the week and also remembers the first day of the new
creation. The apostles designated the celebration of the Lord—s
Supper as the center of Sunday worship for the whole community
of faith. Sunday Eucharist celebrates the Passover of Jesus
Christ which fulfills the hopes and expectations of the original
Passover. Keeping holy the sabbath involves not only sabbath
rest, but also worship. On Sundays and other holy days of obligation,
—the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist— (CCC,
The Third Commandment asks us to keep holy the
sabbath day by worshiping God and by relaxing.
The wisdom of this is that life should be a rhythm
of work and rest. Without a break from school and other responsibilities,
you will be stressed out and set yourself up for tension-related
God made us and knows what is best for our human
development. While God cannot grow tired and needs no rest in
the strict sense of the word, even he —rested— on the seventh
day to give us an example (Genesis 2:2).
Sunday worship will mean more to you when you
live the Eucharist daily. Consider the prayers of the consecration
at Mass, which repeat what Jesus did at the Last Supper. There
Jesus takes, blesses, breaks and gives the apostles the bread
changed into his body and the wine changed into his blood.
You could pray, —Jesus, take me, bless me, break
me, give me as your love for the world.— Then, when you celebrate
the Lord—s Day, you will be ready.
God loves you. In your freedom you are asked
to return that love. In your prayer, tell God you love him.
Love God—s name by your reverence in speech and behavior. Love
God—s Sunday by participating in the Mass and taking time to
relax. Finally, love God by loving your neighbor. Live in God—s
Kristen Fike (13), Mandy Hunt (14), Alysha
Lavey (14) and Megan Magoto (13) are all members of Immaculate Conception
Parish in Bradford, Ohio. They met over pizza to read this issue
on the commandments, suggesting some simplifications and posing
the questions you see answered here. Parish youth minister Sue Vickroy
gathered the teens.
I see how people dishonor God's name. Can
you explain how to actually honor it?
Think of your own name. It represents you.
Like everyone else, you want respect. It is the same with
God's name and God himself. Would you not want your name spoken
honorably? It is the same with God. Do you not require others
to treat you rightly? So does God. Honor the name. Honor the
person: your own and God's.
I see how to love God on Sunday. It's not
so clear how to do this the rest of the week. Could you say
During the week, express your love for
God through prayer. Talk to God. Say hello and goodnight with
a prayer or a loving word. Set aside three minutes each day
for a calm, quiet visit with God. Insert God reminders or
bookmarks in your schoolbooks or place them on your mirror.
Allow yourself the freedom to tell God how much you love him.
I don't understand the passage, "The sabbath
was made for man. . . ."
Jesus makes this remark to religious leaders
who have exaggerated sabbath rest to the point that a miracle
of love can't be performed because it is "work." Jesus says
this is making "man for the sabbath" when the sabbath is meant
as a blessing. But God "made the sabbath for man," meaning
it is a gift to help people have time to love God and to rest.
An act of kindness doesn't go against this, because God wants
us to express love to everyone.