August 30, 2012
Showing Our Respect For God
Catechism Readings: Paragraphs 2142 – 2195
Jesus summarized the commandments into just two: Love God and love neighbor. In fact, the two tablets which God gave to Moses had the commandments broken out just that way: one held the first three commandments, focused on God, and the other held the last seven commandments, focused on neighbor. Last week we focused on the first commandment, and the love due to God. After the depths of that commandment, it almost seems like we should ask: “What else important is there to say about God?” Yet the second and third commandments, which we look at today, add some unique and important --- they are commandments – aspects of our love relationship: our respect for God.
The second commandment is: You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. “The second commandment prescribes respect for the Lord’s name. 2142 The gift of a name belongs to the order of trust and intimacy. The Lord’s name is holy. For this reason man must not abuse it. He will not introduce it into his own speech except to bless, praise, and glorify it.” 2143
I guess we don’t often think of this aspect of a name, its intimacy. We expect strangers to call us Mr. X or Miss X, and it is a sign of closeness when we ask them to address us by our first name, but we don’t much think on this. But the proper use of a name denotes respect, and who deserves more respect than God? And a name itself is important. “The name one receives is a name for eternity.” 2159 And unlike us humans, God already has been for all eternity. Our name is important, but His is doubly so.
The doctrines associated with the second commandment and using God’s name include those referencing promises, oaths, or vows, and blasphemy, which is directly opposed to the second commandment. “A false oath calls on God to be a witness to a lie.” 2151 “When an oath is required by illegitimate civil authorities, it may be refused. It must be refused when it is required for purposes contrary to the dignity of persons or to ecclesial communion.” 2155
“In Baptism, the Lord’s name sanctifies man, and the Christian receives his name in the Church. This can be the name of a saint, that is, a disciple who has lived a life of exemplary fidelity to the lord, (or) express a Christian mystery or Christian virtue. Parents, sponsors, and the pastor are to see that a name is not given which is foreign to Christian sentiment. 2156 The Christian begins his day, his prayers, and his activities with the Sign of the Cross: ‘in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.’ The baptized person dedicates the day to the glory of God.” 2157
I thought it an interesting reminder that the Sign of the Cross is neither about the sign nor the cross, but about the name of God which we are invoking. The first commandment told us of the importance of God, but the second told us of the importance of even His name, which reminds us of Him. When I think of Jesus’ words in describing some other commandments, where he says not only breaking them is a sin, but even thinking about breaking them (in our heart) is a sin, it makes me believe that if we truly understood the importance of the first commandment in all its depth, we wouldn’t need the second one, but it is there to stress the importance of the issue.
So few Christians would think of breaking the fifth commandment, yet how easily they break the second. Which, I wonder, is more important in God’s eyes?
The third commandment is: Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work.
I view this commandment as almost a transitional one: the first two spoke strictly about God, but this one speaks to God and man, and their relationship here on earth. “God entrusted the Sabbath to Israel to keep as a sign of the irrevocable covenant. The Sabbath is for the Lord, holy and set apart for the praise of God, his work of creation, and his saving actions on behalf of Israel. God’s action is the model for human action. If God ‘rested and was refreshed’ on the seventh day, man too ought to rest and should let others, especially the poor be refreshed.” 2171-2
“Jesus rose from the dead on the first day of the week. Because it is the first day, the day of Christ’s Resurrection recalls the first creation. Because it is the “eighth day” following the Sabbath, it symbolizes the new creation ushered in by Christ’s Resurrection. For Christians it has become the first of all days, the first of all feasts, the Lord’s Day – Sunday. 2174 The celebration of Sunday observes the moral commandment inscribed by nature in the human heart to render to God an outward, visible, public, and regular worship. 2176
The catechism, quoting St. John Chrysostom, goes on to describe not only the commandment, but the need to attend Eucharist with your parish family. “You cannot pray at home as at church, where there is a great multitude, where exclamations are cried out to God as from one great heart, and where there is something more: the union of minds, the accord of souls, the bond of charity, the prayers of the priests. 2179 The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation unless excused for a serious reason. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin. 2181
Next week we will look at the beginning of the section of the commandments focused on our love of neighbor, starting with the fourth commandment, and its definition of our most special neighbors: our father and mother.