Catechism Lesson 8: The Ten Commandments (Part 1)
What are the Ten Commandments? These were the commandments which God gave to His people on Mount Sinai (Exodus 31:18). In the Book of Exodus, God had liberated His people from slavery in Egypt, and so He made a covenant with them through the Ten Commandments. By giving the commandments, God made known to them His holy will. By obeying the commandments, the people made known to God that they belonged to Him.
In the Gospel of Matthew (22:36-40), someone asked Jesus which commandment in the Law is the greatest. Jesus replied: “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. The second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.” The first and greatest commandment to love God can be demonstrated by following the first three of the Ten Commandments. The second commandment to love our neighbor can be demonstrated by following the fourth to tenth of the Ten Commandments.
Ever since the time of St. Augustine (354-430 AD), the Ten Commandments have been an important part of the catechesis of people who were seeking baptism, as well as those who have already been baptized. The numbering of the commandments in the Catholic Church today follows the numbering established by St. Augustine. Take note that most of the Protestant churches follow a different numbering.
The observance of the Ten Commandments is obligatory for Christians. The Catholic Church affirms that the mission of teaching all peoples and preaching the Gospel is so that all men may attain salvation through faith, baptism and the observance of the commandments. Therefore, it is not enough for a person to say that he has faith; he must also observe the commandments.
The First Commandment: I am the Lord your God, you shall have no other gods before me.
Jesus used the First Commandment to overcome Satan’s temptation; He said: “Get away, Satan! It is written: The Lord, your God, shall you worship and Him alone shall you serve.” (Matthew 4:10) The First Commandment necessitates that we have complete faith in God and acknowledge His authority; it requires us to protect and deepen our faith with prudence and vigilance, and to reject everything that is opposed to it. Some examples of the sins opposed to the First Commandment are: (1) neglect of duty of worshipping God, (2) worship of Satan, evil spirits and other gods, (3) idolatry, (4) practicing superstition, (5) apostasy, heresy, schism, and (6) sacrilege.
Idolatry consists of worshipping what is not God. A person commits idolatry when he honors and reveres a creature in place of God, whether they are Satan, demons, gods, power, money, pleasure, sex, race, government, etc. Catholics are often accused of idolatry by some groups of people. However, Catholics do not worship anyone other than God. What is often misunderstood is the way that Catholics honor the angels and saints. We should honor the angels and saints because they are faithful servants of God, and they constantly intercede for us with God. We should also honor holy images because in doing so, we are honoring those whom they represent. The honor we give to angels, saints and holy images lead us to God. On the contrary, worship of pagan idols and false gods lead us away from God.
Apostasy is the total repudiation of the Catholic faith, heresy is the denial of some truth in the Catholic faith, and schism is the refusal to acknowledge the authority of the Pope or refusal to be in communion with the members of the Church subject to him. Sacrilege is the profanation or irreverence towards persons, places and things which are sacred. Sacrilege against the Eucharist is a very grave sin against the First Commandment. Other related sins are: doubt, despair, presumption, acedia (spiritual laziness), ingratitude to God, etc.
Not only are we to avoid sins against the First Commandment, we are also obligated to praise, worship and adore God through prayer and sacrifice.
- True or False. God gave His people only two commandments on Mount Sinai.
- True or False. The numbering of the Ten Commandments is the same in the Catholic and Protestant church.
- True or False. Christians are not required to obey the Ten Commandments.
- True or False. Catholics do not worship the angels or the saints; they merely honor them.
- When a person denies some truth in the Catholic faith, which sin does he commit?