By Father Joachim Ifezuo Oforchukwu C.S.Sp.
You shall have no other gods before me (Ex 20: 2 -5). You shall worship the Lord and Him only shall you serve (Mt 4: 10).
God revealed the Ten Commandments to the Israelites through Moses (Ex 34:28). The Ten Commandments are the words of God, written with the finger of God (Dt 5:2). The Decalogue is a path of life which points out the conditions of a life freed from the slavery of sin. The commandments take on their full meaning within the covenant. God engraved the Ten Commandments in the human heart.
In the First Commandment, God calls on man to accept and worship him. It is important to note that the First Commandment forbids honoring gods than the One Lord who led the Israelites out of Egypt.
Jesus also acknowledged the Ten Commandments. Following Christ involves following the Commandments. Jesus says, you have heard that it was said to the men of old, you shall not kill…but I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment (Mt 5: 21 -22). For Jesus, the emphasis is on love, compassion and mercy. Thus, Jesus sums up these Commandments positively: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 19: 16 -19).
The dictates of the First Commandment parallels the question I was asked on the day I took the Naturalization test. I was interviewed by the USCIS officer, Ms. G. Gaetano, who was once an immigrant. Ms. Gaetano was full of compassion, love and understanding. I relaxed throughout the interview period because of her kind words. One of the six questions she asked me was: “What is one promise you make when you become a United States citizen?” The answer to this question can be:
— Give up loyalty to other countries
— Defend the Constitution and laws of the United States
— Obey the laws of the United States
— Be loyal to the United States
It is important that one satisfies these requirements before becoming a citizen of the United States. I admire these requirements, and they made me reflect deeply on the Ten Commandments, which God himself revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai. Jesus came to fulfill the law. It is a challenge to any of us to obey the laws (both the Ten Commandments and the laws of the land) and become citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20). As an American citizen, I hold that it is even more honorable to be a citizen of heaven. Our efforts here on earth must be to obey the laws which will enable us to become citizens of heaven.
The Decalogue must be interpreted in light of love. Jesus sums up the commandment in these words, “You shall love God and love your neighbor as yourself. In simple words, love does no wrong to a neighbor. Love is therefore the fulfilling of the law” (Rom 13: 9-10).