"I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt not have strange gods before Me."
In order to try Abraham's faith, God ordered him to sacrifice his beloved son Isaac. In perfect obedience Abraham was on the point of sacrificing Isaac, when an angel appeared and stopped him, saying that God was satisfied with his obedience. Saint Stephen, the first Christian martyr, is an excellent example of charity. He prayed for his enemies while they were stoning him to death.
By the first commandment we are commanded to offer to God alone the supreme worship that is due Him.
The first commandment requires us to worship and adore God, and God alone. We must render God exclusive adoration. He alone is the creator and sovereign Lord of Heaven and earth. We worship and adore Jesus Christ, because He is the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, true God even as the Father and the Holy Spirit. This commandment forbids idolatry, false worship.
"It is written, the Lord they God shalt thou worship, and him only shalt thou serve" (Matthew 4:10). We adore God because He is infinitely exacted above us, and we are entirely dependent on Him as our Creator and our Father.
Exterior as well as interior worship is due to God, because our bodies, as well as our souls, belong to Him. Very often exterior acts serve to arouse and increase interior devotion.
Our worship is interior when we adore God by inward acts of the heart and mind, such as acts of faith and love, without visible manifestations. Our worship is exterior when we accompany our interior worship by outward acts, such as vocal prayers and genuflections.
Without interior worship or devotion, external manifestations are worthless. "Hypocrites, well did Isaiah prophesy of you, saying: This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me."
We should render particular worship to God upon arising and retiring, on entering a church, during religious services, and when receiving the sacraments.
However, it should be our aim to worship God every moment of our lives, by consecrating ourselves and our intentions all to Him each day. Even while working, we should once in while pause to give a thought of love to God, and offer ourselves to Him.
Adoration of God includes public worship, that is, worship in which a number of persons participate. From the earliest times, God has given commands about public worship to be rendered to Him. Public worship edifies and gives good example to the different participants, so that they are encouraged to greater love of God. In public worship, we show ourselves a united body openly manifesting by visible signs our adoration of God.
Public worship is rendered in Mass, benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, processions, etc. Some signs of public worship are kneeling, genuflecting, making the sign of the cross, vocal and community prayers, singing of hymns, and sermons. A magnificent example of public worship is an international eucharistic congress.
We should honor and reverence creatures who reflect the perfections of God. Thus we venerate saints, and honor and love persons on earth; but we do not adore them.
We worship God by acts of the virtues of faith, hope, charity, and religion.
True piety and adoration of God do not include a gloomy manner, a melancholy expression, and a hard exterior. True piety is cheerful, full of joy. "Serve God in gladness" (Psalm 99:2).
They are mistaken who think that a forbidding demeanor, continual groaning and sighing, weeping, etc., are pleasing to God. They only serve to repel others. We should remember that of all creatures, God love most an innocent child. We shall not be mistaken in practices if we imitate Him.
In our devotions we should avoid all singularity and exaggerations; those only make piety ridiculous and subject to contempt. All devotions of extraordinary character, such a spraying with outspread or upraised arms, should be done in private.
Here are some examples of singularity that, if done in public, may do harm rather than good, and cause our religion to be looked upon with contempt. In a crowded public restaurant it would be out of place to stand conspicuously, make the sign of the cross, and say grace. It would be ridiculous upon hearing the Angelus bell while walking on the street, to kneel down and pray there.
Faith obliges us to make an effort to find out what God has revealed. If one is ignorant of his religion, he must seek instruction. Parents are strictly forbidden to send their children to anti-Catholic schools.
It is forbidden to read, print, lend, give or sell, books or periodicals against faith or morals.
Faith commands us to believe firmly what God has revealed. We worship God by faith when we firmly believe all the truths God has revealed. Once we are sure God has revealed something, we must believe it. Faith does not require us to believe anything contrary to reason. Even if we cannot understand what is revealed, like the mystery of the Blessed Trinity, we act according to reason in believing it, for our reason tells us God cannot err, lie, or deceive nor be deceived.
We are asked to profess our faith openly whenever necessary. We are obliged to do so when we are challenged to make profession of it, or when an omission to do so would harm our neighbor or bring religion into contempt, or when we are questioned by lawful authority. We must never deny our faith.
Our Lord says: "Therefore everyone who acknowledges Me before men, I also will acknowledge him before My Father in Heaven" (Matthew 10:32).
Hope obliges us to trust firmly that God will give us eternal life and the means to obtain it.
We worship God by hope when we firmly trust that God, Who is almighty and faithful to His promises, will help us attain eternal happiness. To Him we look for eternal salvation and the means to obtain it. "In Thee, O Lord, have I hoped" (Psalm 302).
Charity obliges us to love God above all things because He is infinitely good, and to love our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. We worship God by charity when we love Him above all things for His own sake, and others as ourselves for love of Him. Charity is the pure and true love of God, which includes all virtues, and all the commandments.
Religion obliges us to acknowledge God's infinite perfection, our complete dependence upon Him, our utter subjection to His will; and, to render Him due worship with all our faculties and acts of body, intellect, and will-adoring Him and praying to Him.
Next Thursday: The First Commandment part two - Veneration of Saints