How many of us can remember when we learned the Ten Commandments in our catechism classes? Well, I can recall that I had to memorise the whole list, so that I could recite them any time our catechism teacher called on me or the parish priest stopped to ask me before I could receive my First Holy Communion. And it seemed to be that the commandments I most remembered always began with, "You shall not..!"
However as we mature we realise that the commandments are not simply negatives but are really something very positive. For they show us the way of love, how to live a life of love, how to promote the consequences of love around us. Jesus reduced the Commandments to a short phrase: "Love God completely and love your neighbour as yourself!"
We can sometimes experience law as a burden imposed from without that restricts our enjoyment of life. Laws formulated by humans can have these characteristics but not the law of God. It is the law most true to our human nature. If we are faithful to this law we will be at rights with God, and in harmony with our fellow human beings and with all of creation.
Worshiping God means that we do not worship the false idols of our day—possessions, money and power.
Honouring God's name means we seek to be truthful in all our dealings with others. Honouring our parents means that we strengthen our family lives by respecting our parents, our children, and all our relatives. In our relationship with others we are asked to show reconciliation, justice and peace. We are challenged to show respect for life from the moment of conception to the moment of death, honesty in all business dealings, faithfulness and chastity before and during marriage.
These are just a few of the obvious consequences of trying to follow the commandments and our understanding that they lead us to life.
To dispense with anyone of them would be to impoverish the human race, indeed to threaten its very survival.
Today's psalm speaks of God's law as refreshment for our journey through life.
"The law of God revives the soul;
it gladdens the heart and
brings light to the eyes "