LESSON 37: The First Commandment
1. What is the first commandment?
The first commandment is, “I, the Lord, am your God… You shall not have other gods besides Me. You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them.” (Exodus 20: 2-5)
2. What does the first commandment command?
The first commandment commands us to offer to God alone the highest worship that He deserves. We worship God:
- By believing in God and all that He has revealed. This gives us the obligation to study our faith, believe our faith, and profess our faith to others.
- By hoping in God and in all that He has promised.
- By loving God above all things, and our neighbor with God’s love
- By adoring God, thanking God, praising God, and blessing God
- BY praying attentively fervently to God
3. What is the greatest act of worship that we can offer to God?
The greatest act of worship that we can offer to God is to attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the Sacrifice of Jesus on the Cross made present upon our altars. The Mass offers to God infinite adoration, thanksgiving, and praise. The Mass also makes reparation for sin and petitions God for the needs of all the living and the dead.
4. How is every sin against the first commandment?
Every sin is forbidden by the first commandment; since in every sin we are placing something else before God.
5. More specifically what does the first commandment forbid?
More specifically the first commandment forbids sins against faith, hope and love. It also forbids superstition and irreligion.
Sins against faith are apostasy, heresy, indifferentism, and sins of omission against faith.
- Apostasy means leaving our faith in Christ for a non-Christian religion or for no faith at all. To be a Christian one must at least believe in the Holy Trinity; that the Second Person of the Holy Trinity became man; and that He died and rose again for our salvation. Thus, if someone became a Jehovah Witness he would be “apostasizing” from the faith, since Jehovah Witnesses do not believe in the Trinity, and thus do not believe that Jesus is God.
- Heresay is a deliberate denial of one or more of the truths of our faith by one who still beliees in the Trinity, the incarnation of the Son of God, and his redemptive death and resurrection. For instance, saying that the Eucharist is only a symbol of Jesus; or that we cannot pray to the Mother of God; or that a priest does not have the power to forgive sins are heresies.
- Indifferentism is the belief that one religion is as good as another.
- Omissions against the virtue of faith are failure to believe deeply in all that God has revealed to us through the CHruch; failure to continue to study the faith; and failure to profess the faith openly to others.
Sins against hope are presumption and despair.
- Presumption is trusting that yu can be saved without God’s help, or trusting that you can be saved without your own efforts. An example of the first type would be a man who prays very little because he does not see the need to ask God for help. An example of the second type is the man who continues to sin thinking tha the can always repent of his sin later.
- Despair is refusing to believe that God will give you the help you need to be saved.
Sins against love are hatred of God and of our neighbor. The sins against our neighbor are more specifically forbidden by the fourth through the tenth commandments.
Sins of superstition are divination, sorcery, Satanism and the distortion of good religious practices.
- Divination is calling upon demons or the dead in order to know the future or hidden things. Examples of this include consulting horoscopes, astrologers, psychics, palm readers, ouiji boards, or séances, etc.. All of these practices are opposed to the childlike trust that we must have in our heavenly Father.
- Magic or Sorcery attempts to use diabolical, :psychic,: or “praeternatural” powers to help or hurt others. Examples of these are charms, spells, or “limpias.” These actions are seriously sinful even if they are done to help others, and even more so, if they are used to harm others. Magic that is used to help others is called “white” magic. Magic that is used to harm others is called “black” magic. All magic however is “black” magic, since it all comes from the devil.
Fr. Gabriel Amorth, the official exorcist of Rome noted that Satan gives such powers to people who seek them. He gave examples of people who went to sorcerers for healing. The sorcerer will heal the person for a price. The sorcerer however often puts another curse on the person so that within a year or so they have an illness that is worse than the first. They go to doctors, but the doctors are incapable of curing them. Thus, they come again to the sorcerer for healing. This time the sorcerer says it is a much more difficult case and will cost them even more money. Fr. Amorth met people who had paid sorcerers as much as 35,000 for a single healing. Fr. Amorth noted at times sorcerers will heal people, and the people remain healed. Why would Satan ant to do that? Fr. Amorth responds that God had permitted these persons to receive these illnesses so that they could be brought closer to God, and could unite their sufferings to the sufferings of Jesus to bring others closer to God. Satan knew this, and so he gladly removed the suffering through the sorcerer.
- Satanism is the worship of Satan. People who do this are fools. If they do not repent, Satan will treat them with special contempt for all eternity. In hell there is neither gratitude nor love.
- The distortion of good religious practices is also a form of superstition. For instance the ashes received on Ash Wednesday are to be the external sign of an interior desire to convert our lives and go to Confession. A person who receives the ashes on Ash Wednesday for “good luck”, and has no desire to convert his life, is falling into superstition.
Sins of irreligion are tempting God, sacrilege, and simony
- Tempting God consists in putting God’s goodness and almighty power to the test by word or deed. A person is explicitly temption God if he makes a statement to God, such as, “If You exist, work a miracle right now.” A person is implicityly temptin God when he does something like driving recklessly, thinking, “God will take care of me.” Satan wanted Jesus to tempt God by having Him jump from the top of the Temple, so that angels would catch Him. Jesus responded to Satan by telling him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord, your God, to the test.’” (Mt 4:5-7)
- Sacrilege consists in treating unworthily the sacraments and other holy things, persons, or places, which are consecrated to God. An example of a sacrilege would be receiving Holy Communion in the state of mortal sin.
- Simony is buying or selling spiritual things. An example of simony would be selling and buying Masses. We do not buy a Mass, but give a donation for a Mass called a stipend. As Our Lord told the Apostles, “You received without pay. Give without pay.” (Matthew 10:8)
6. Does the first commandment forbid making idols?
Yes, the first commandment forbids the making of idols; that is, it forbids us to make images to be adored or honored as gods, as the pagan nations around Israel had done: “You shall not carve idols for yourselves in the shape of anything in the sky above or on the earth below or in the waters beneath the earth; you shall not bow down before them or worship them.” (Exodus 20: 4-5)
7. Did God command the making of sacred images?
Yes, God commanded the Israelites to make sacred images.
While forbidding the making of idols (Exodus 20:4-5), God in the same book of Exodus commanded the Israelites to make golden images of cherubim (angels ) that were to be placed next to the Ark of the Covenant. (Exodus 25: 18)
HONORING THE SAINTS
8. Does God approve of the images of Our Lord, Mary and the saints?
Yes, these images are pleasing to God when they are used properly.
We use them properly by honoring the person who is represented by the image. When we pray before sacred images of Our Lord or a saint, we are not speaking to the material image, but to Our Lord or the saint who is represented by the image. Images remind us of God. They help us to have holy thoughts and to pray better.
9. Does the first commandments forbid us to honor the saints in heaven.
No, the first commandment does not forbid us to honor the saints in heaven, provided we do not give them the honor that belongs to God.
To God alone and to Jesus, who is God, is given the honor of adoration. Adoration is called “latria.”
To the saints, who are the friends of God, the temples of God, and who participate in the holiness of God, we give the honor of veneration. When we venerate the saints, we are honoring God even more, because it was God who made them so holy . Veneration is called “dulia”.
Since the Blessed Virgin Mary is holier than all the other angels and saints combined – God mad her so holy because she was to be the worthy Mother of God – we give her a special veneration. This special veneration is called “hyperdulia.”
10. How do we best honor the saints?
We best honor the saints by:
- Reading about their lives;
- Imitating them;
- Asking them to pray for us; and
- Respecting their relics and images.
Reading the lives of the saints helps us to become enthusiastic about living a holy life. Most saints were greatly helped in becoming saints by reading the lives of other saints. St Ignatius of Loyola was one of them. HE was a very courageous soldier who had been shot in the leg while defending a city. While recovering from the wound he read the lives of some of the saints. He began to think, “If St Francis and St. Dominic could do these great things for God, why can’t I?” As a result of this good reading he began to imitate the saints and became that saint that God was calling him to become. We can do the same.
11. How can we pray to the saints if Jesus in 1 Timothy 2:5 states that Jesus is the only Mediator between God and men?
When we ask other people to pray for us, whether they are still on earth or are in heaven, we are asking them to pray for us to the Father through Jesus, the one Mediator between God and men.
12. When will our prayers help people more – here on earth or in heaven?
Our prayers will help people more in heaven. In heaven we will no longer sin, and we will be perfectly purified.
St. Dominic said on his death bed, “Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life.”
St. Therese of Lisieux said, “I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth.”
ST PETER CHANEL (1803-1841)
St. Peter Chanel had always had a deep love and devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary. While in the Seminary in France, he wrote what was to always remain his life’s goal, “To love Mary and to make her loved.” He knew that through Mary, Jesus would be even more known and loved. HE was ordained to the priesthood in 1927, and began his priesthood in a parish in France. He desired however to be a missionary in a far off land that had never received the Gospel. In order to do this he joined the newly founded religious Congregation of the Marist, and immediately asked permission to work in the foreign missions. He was sent to the Island of Futuna where he worked with the Marist Brother Maria Nazario. As soon as they arrived on the island they set up a statue of Mary, and consecrated the island, its inhabitants, and all their work to her.
The people were under the influence of the devil. They practiced cannibalism not only on their enemies but also on the members of their own tribe. The people also had idols of their gods that they worshiped. The worst of these gods was “Fakavelikele”, which means “he who make the earth bad.” To appease this god the people offered him human sacrifices. The Marist threw the idols of Fakavelikele and the other gods into a fire while invoking Our Lord and Our Lady’s help.
At first the people were terrified, but when they saw that nothing happened to the missionaries, they began to question their gods, and to show they joy and admiration for the missionaries. This popularity did not remain. After the conversion of the king’s son and daughter, some of the warriors attacked St. Peter Chanel and killed him. At his death, he was heard to say in the warriors’ own language, “This is good, this is a great good for me.” Within a couple of years of his death, because of the sacrifice of his life and his prayers in heaven, the whole island became Catholic. He was able to do more from them in heaven, than he was while on earth.