How do I live the first commandment at this time and age when all the while I was born a catholic, I was reared and educated as a Catholic, I go to mass as most Catholics do? Of course I believe in no false gods, no anitos, no anting-anting, no whatsoever. There is only one God in three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. How could I even violate such commandment?
People have often wondered the redundancy of this commandment much more its significance to a believer, in a community of catholic church goers. Indeed how could it become a command to a people who have lived all their lives knowing and worshipping the one true God? Is this particular command referring only to a nomadic people who are consistently duped in worshipping the Baals and the golden calves of their pagan surroundings? How could we live this command, much less violate it today?
Relevance of the First Commandment
The significance and the relevance of the first commandment however could not be gleaned easily if we use the negative statement of “You shall not have false gods before me.” The full meaning comes out, however, if we restate it positively. How so?
In today’s expression we could restate this commandment positively by saying, “Give God his rightful place at the center of your lives, Him alone your should adore and serve.” Stated thus, the command becomes opportune and called for in a world overly preoccupied in its race for power, riches, and prestige. It is relevant with a slight difference from the context in which the commandment was given. The faces of our Baals, Ashteroths and golden calves may have changed but our idols today create the same result - a divided heart and attention which distract us from loyally serving the one true God. They dislodge him from the center of our hearts and from our priorities in life. They demote His role and to some extent diminish His importance in our lives.
Living under His Lordship
Viewing the first commandment from this perspective it becomes easily a path to life which every believer of the true God must trod. For this the questions above changes thus: How can I make God the center of my live? How can I live my life under His Lordship?
First, we can do so by putting our trust in him in faith, hope and love. We live in faith that He is a loving Father who will never leave his flock untended, who will care for us as mother does to her child, so that not a hair from our heads fall without His willing it. Living in Hope that everything will turn out for the good, that he does not give us crosses too heavy for us. Hope that he will forgive my greatest sins and lift me up in my abject need. And finally, living in love that will lead us to praise and thank Him for the good that we experience, and for the trials that come our way. We turn to Him in love that lead us to be sensitive to his abiding provisions which we sometimes hardly notice, the sunrise that brightens our morning, the food that we eat, the experience of the warmth of our human family, the goodness of other people.
Secondly, we can live our lives under His Lordship when we become obsessed of Him. Pleasing him even in the middle of my most mundane work becomes as obsession. Following His commands, seeking His will, consulting Him in prayer regarding my decisions. I can become obsessed by Him when I could decide otherwise even when everything seems advantageous and materially lucrative. Power or a high position becomes nil to me when possessing them contradict everything I held dear and everything that God wants. Material gain is no gain when somebody gets hurt in the process especially when that somebody is equally loved and cared for by the God who cares for me. I know that I am obsessed with God when my motto becomes “I am third.” I am third because my neighbors comes second. I am third because God is first - whether its in my time, my business, my ambition, my desires. God is first. Being obsessed by God we know his proper place in our life - He’s at the center and the rest are peripheral and are subordinated to Him and His will.
Thirdly, we must be Christ-centered in our life of worship and in our devotions. Jesus is the one mediator. We ask the Father for everything in His name. We believe that He is so powerful that when we utter His name, “every knee in heaven, and on earth and under the earth bend in adoration.” Yet, He is so loving, He is the good shepherd who looks after His sheep. It is in Him where we can find rest for our weary souls. We worship the Father through him, with him, and in him, and always in the unity of the Holy Spirit whom he gave to all of us. In our prayers Jesus is central. Our devotions to the saints must lead us closer to Jesus, to relate with Him as they related with him, to love Him as they have loved Him. In our devotions we must see to it that we have in hand our bible to listen to His words attentively and find instruction as the saints did. In the mass we must be at all times attentive to the celebration knowing that it is the highest form of prayer not even a million novenas and rosaries could replace. And above all we must do all we can to make our lives a worship to God - a life that is Christ-centered, where we can love as Jesus has loved, become compassionate to the needy and the erring as Jesus has been. We must make an extra effort to be his comforting hands to people who are burdened with life’s problems, our mouths pouring forth His consoling words, our listening ears showing forth His patience and understanding, and our touch reflecting his gentleness. The first commandment is a path to life - the way of Jesus who made the Father the center of His life and work, and made the Father’s will His daily sustenance.