THE TEN WORDS
THE TEN WORDS
By Father John Walsh
Michael has asked me to respond to his question: There are many commandments that are common to all of us, and many that are unique to our own faiths. Do you experience a commandment primarily as an act that gives glory to God, or primarily as an act that adds value to our lives – and if the latter, how do you maintain that feeling when the commandment seems burdensome or meaningless?
The ten words, commonly referred to as The Ten Commandments, were given to Moses on Mt. Sinai. Moses begins the history of the people of Israel with the One God. However the basis of the covenant of the commandments is a Hittite Covenant which lists the respective gods of the parties and a description of their common history. An absolutely new relationship of God and the People of Israel has begun; no gods and no history. God is an historical God, an active God in the midst of his people. Moses descends Jebul-Nusa with the tablets on which God had inscribed the Ten Words and he sees the people worshiping a Golden Calf. He smashes the tablets on the ground and shatters them. He returns to God on the mountain and returns with a new set of tablets. He places the broken tablets and the intact tablet in the Ark of the Covenant, the very presence of God to be carried in the midst of the people. The idea of brokenness appears in a number of significant places in Judaism. Brokenness and wholeness exist side by side. The commandments are to be observed but when a person fails to observe one or other of the commandments it deters from one’s relationship with God. God always remain faithful and merciful in the midst of our brokenness. Wholeness comes when we recognize the merciful God in whom all three monotheistic religions believe.
As a Christian we learn: Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. The fulfillment is found in the two commandments: Love of God and love of neighbor. A learned Rabbi once told me that “as yourself” cannot be supported in Hebrew and the commandment should read “love your neighbor, she or he is just like you.” Commandments are not an imposition but an invitation to be right with God. To be right with God leads to being right with our neighbor, and vice-versa. Matthew‘s Gospel: My yoke is easy and my burden is light. As the song says, He ain’t heavy, he’s my brother.
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