In the first commandment, God defines His identity as the savior, the one who rescued His people from slavery. By claiming that He is the only true God, He asks the faithful to believe and put their trust only in Him.
PUBLISHED ONApr 2020
"You shall have no other gods before me.” (Exodus 20:3) I believe that the first commandment determines all the ones that follow. In fact, in it, God defines Himself in a clear way, establishing His identity and His right to formulate commandments for all His children to obey. He does not begin with a theory but in history, defining Himself as the one who rescued His people from Egypt, fulfilling His promise to their fathers: “I am the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.” (Exodus 20:2)
Along this line and within the context of the life of God’s children, Pope Francis has asked: “Why does God make this proclamation about Himself and about liberation? This is how He has answered the question: because one reaches Mount Sinai after having crossed the Red Sea; the God of Israel first saves, first gives, and then asks to trust in Him. In other words, the Decalogue begins with God’s generosity. Such is our Father: a good God.”
It is important for us to remember that this commandment was given to people who were convinced that there were many gods with the possibility of coexisting with the God of Israel. In this situation of polytheism God meant to claim that He was the only true God, that the people of Israel were meant to believe that the God of their fathers was the only God, and that they were called to believe and to put their trust only in Him.
What is the meaning of the first commandment for us today? Well, in our society there are so many idols. They are not called Golden Calf, Baal or whatever but they are so real, so dangerous and even deadly.
Pope Francis has defined an idol as that which is at the center of one’s life and on which one’s actions and thoughts depend. An idol takes the place of God. Pope Francis has mentioned so many of them: success at any cost, pleasure no matter what, power to dominate over people—even oppressing them, riches acquired in dishonest ways, public opinion, efficiency above values, a career, fame, drugs, a do-it-yourself religion, physical beauty for which many hours are spent in front of a mirror and much money is wasted on makeup in wellness centers, etc.
Pope Francis has challenged all people to question themselves, each person asking: “How many idols do I have and which is my favorite one?” He has stressed the importance of the answer given to this question because “recognizing one’s form of idolatry is the beginning of grace and puts one on the path of love.”
We know the empty promises coming from the different idols. Around us we see a growing number of people who are sad because they are victims of different forms of idolatry. But when God is at the center of our hearts, we experience harmony and peace within.
If we allow God to be the only true God for us, then we become true human beings and true children of God who guarantees our freedom. Idols of any kind can do nothing else than enslave us. The first commandment then aims at defending and consolidating our human dignity destined as we are to live in freedom.
In the New Testament Jesus has confirmed the first commandment within the precept of love. To the question of a rabbi about the most important command of the Law, Jesus answered: “You must 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. (Matthew 22, 37s)
In this way Jesus referred to Deuteronomy 6, 4: “Listen, Israel: Yahweh our God is the one, the only Yahweh.” To love this God truly, means to direct our desires, thoughts, expectations and actions towards Him. And Jesus makes us understand that to love God in this way, means to love at the same time all our brothers and sisters.
Through the intercession of Mary, we ask the Holy Spirit to enable us to be truly in love with God, all our neighbors and the whole of creation.