Bishop’s Note: March 8th -Love the Law
Beginning the first Sunday in Lent, I’ve been opening the liturgy with a recitation of the Ten Commandments – often referred to as the Decalogue. Last Sunday, the 3rd Sunday in Lent, we also read the 10 Commandments in our Old Testament Lesson from Exodus chapter 20.
How sad that we, for the most part, only use these during the penitential season of Lent. It’s almost as if we are saying that we follow the Ten Commandments as a sign of penance. On the contrary – we do not follow the commandments out of penance; we follow the commandments out of LOVE!
God, our heavenly Father, loves us more than we can imagine. When he, through Moses, gave the 10 Commandments to the people of Israel – and by extension to us – he did so out of Love; the way a loving parent gives their child restrictions out of love. The Ten Commandments fulfill what Jesus sums up in the Great Commandment. Remember when the Pharisees tried to trip up Jesus by asking what the greatest commandment was? How did Jesus answer? “And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.’” (Mt. 22:37-40)
The first four commandments are about how we are to love God. We are to love God exclusively (1st Commandment). We are to love God reverentially (2nd & 3rd Commandments). We are to love God by spending time with Him (4th Commandment).
The next six commandments are about how we are to love our others, beginning with the 5th Commandment – honoring our fathers and our mothers. It begins with family, and then moves to our neighbor. Loving others means that we would seek to see them, and treat them, the way that God does. So naturally, we would not murder, or steal, or commit adultery, or lie, or covet after a person or material possessions of our neighbor.
In the Ten Commandments, God gives us a means to respond to His love first given to us. In the Old Testament, the Pharisees seemed to think that the Law was given to us as a means of getting closer to God, like climbing a ladder will bring you higher. What they forgot is that God had already come down from heaven in the form of pure love found in the person of Jesus.
Next Sunday, as we are reading and responding to the Decalogue, let us do so in Love; picturing the Father with His arms outstretched, ready to embrace us!