Exodus Chapters 19 to 22 These four consecutive chapters of God’s Revelation to Moses are known as the MOSAIC LAW. This is the covenant that governed the Israelites and prepared the way for the promised Messiah. The Law that was at the heart of the covenant that God made with the Chosen People; this covenant was fulfilled by Christ’s new Law of GRACE AND LOVE. (CCC 708, 2059-2060)
Exodus 19:3-8 The assembly of people at the foot of Mt. Sinai is a type (TYPOLOGY!!) of the foundation of the Catholic Church, which gathers all of God’s people, regardless of RACE OR NATIONALITY, into the Mystical Body of Christ. (CCC 751, 762)
Ch 19:5-6 A kingdom of priests, a holy nation: The Israelites, who were the assembly of the Chosen People as a priestly people, were to offer prayer and sacrifice, and, as direct recipients of God’s Word, they were called to keep the covenant, i.e., to obey the Law that God would give them through Moses. Throughout their history, God drew the Israelites continually back to fidelity to the covenant by means of humbling military defeats and captivity by gentile nations. The Liturgy of Good Friday recognizes this special status of the Jews in the Solemn Intercessions. (CCC 63, 709, 1539, 2810)
Ch 19:16-25 God’s presence on the mountain was manifested by thunder, lightning, clouds, and a trumpet blast (I’d rather imagine it being the Gsus Power Chord on a guitar…..get it? 😉). By such theophanies God showed his power and glory to the Israelites. (CCC 2085)
Ch 20:1-26 The Ten Commandments, or the DECALOGUE (from the Greek for “ten words”), were written with “the finger of God” (Ex 31:18). The Decalogue is the first stage of revealed law in the Old Testament and serves as the summary of moral law. Its precepts provide the fundamental moral principles that correspond to the requirements of human dignity as a child of God. As Christ taught, ALL the Commandments and the ENTIRE MORAL LAW are based upon the Great Commandments: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.. You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mt 22:37,39) The decalogue explains the proper attitude and behavior for those who love God and neighbor and reveals the gravity of the obligation to abide by the Law. While it expressed natural law already accessible by human reason, the effects of Original Sin had so limited the mind and weakened the will that the Revelation of the Decalogue was required to ensure clarity and certainty. The first three Commandments relate our obligations to God; the next seven establish our moral conduct toward our neighbor. (CCC 1954-1964, 1980, 2052-2082)
Ch 20:2-6 The First Commandment begins by reminding the Israelites that God loves his people and delivered them from slavery. It acknowledges the attributes of the one true God, who is All-powerful, All-loving, and ALWAYS FAITHFUL despite our transgressions. (CCC 2083-2086)
Ch 20:4-5 The First Commandment calls us to acknowledge God as our Creator and ultimate good through acts of adoration, thanksgiving, contrition, and petition. This absolute recognition of God’s infinite perfection forbids the practice of SUPERSTITION, IDOLATRY, DIVINATION, COMMUNICATION WITH THE DEAD (SEANCES AND OUIJA BOARDS), SACRILEGE, SIMONY, ATHEISM, AND AGNOSTICISM. (CCC 2110-2132)
THE FIRST COMMANDMENT mandates the exercise of the theological virtues of FAITH, HOPE, and CHARITY (LOVE) which should influence EVERY ASPECT OF OUR LIVES. Faith guides a life marked by accepting the teachings of the Church and putting them into practice; Sins against faith include WILLFUL DOUBT, INCREDULITY, HERESY, and SCHISM. Hope consists of trusting in God’s loving providence to lead us to salvation and holiness; sins against hope include DESPAIR and PRESUMPTION. Charity consists of loving others as Christ loves; sins against charity include INDIFFERENCE TOWARD GOD, INGRATITUDE, LUKEWARMNESS, ACEDIA (SPIRITUAL SLOTH), HATRED OF GOD, and COLDNESS TOWARDS NEIGHBORS. (CCC 2084, 2086-2094)
THE PROSCRIPTION OF IDOLATRY extends far beyond pagan idol worship to include ANY FORM OF GREED, LUST, ATTACHMENT, or other distraction that views these partial goods as if they were the fullness of goodness. The veneration of images of Christ, Mary, angels, and the saints IS NOT AN OFFENSE AGAINST THE FIRST COMMANDMENT since this practice is directed toward the one REPRESENTED BY THE IMAGE rather than TO THE IMAGE ITSELF; such devotion is justified by the mystery of the Incarnation, whereby God the Son became visible and tangible by assuming a human nature. (CCC 2129-2132)
Ch 20:7 The Second Commandment calls us to respect the name of God in our speech. This veneration of God’s name extends to the name of Jesus, the Holy Spirit, Mary, the saints, and the Church; this Commandment also requires respect of any sacred object. Since an oath involves the invocation of God’s name, truthfulness under oath is a serious obligation. Sins against the Second Commandment include BLASPHEMY AND PERJURY. (CCC 2142-2155, 2156-2167)
Ch 20:8-11 The Third Commandment enjoins us to observe a weekly day of worship and rest in commemoration of God’s rest after his work of creation. The early Christians fulfilled this Commandment by observing Sunday as the Lord’s Day and setting it aside for Eucharistic worship and rest. This commandment obliges the faithful to attend Mass each Sunday and on Holy Days of Obligation unless prevented from doing so for a grave reason. The Sunday rest involves refraining from unnecessary work and other activities that detract from the worship of God; the faithful are also encouraged to use this day for works of charity and the study of the Faith. One of the practical advantages of this day of rest is the chance to recover both physical and mental energy and to spend time with family. (CCC 2168-2196)
Ch 20:12 The Fourth Commandment requires that we honor our parents as well as those who exercise legitimate authority over us. Children are to respect, assist, obey, and be grateful for their parents and thereby build harmony within the family. Parents are obliged to educate their children in the faith, in prayer, and in virtue and to provide for their physical and spiritual needs. Because their children must follow their call from Christ, parents should encourage and respect their children’s vocations. (CCC 2197-2257)
Ch 20:13 Intimately linked to the transcendental value of the human person is the right to life. From that context, the Fifth Commandment FORBIDS the taking of innocent human life from conception until natural death. Egregious violations of the Fifth Commandment include HOMICIDE, ABORTION, EUTHANASIA, and SUICIDE; additionally, medical experimentation that involves the manipulation, harvesting, and destruction of human embryos is gravely evil. The FIfth Commandment extends to respect for the moral life of others (avoiding scandal) and for our health, and forbids any actions that could cause bodily injury, including non therapeutic bodily mutilation and sterilization. HATRED AND A DESIRE FOR VENGEANCE are sins against charity that are proscribed by this commandment. Finally, we must respect the mortal remains of the dead by providing for proper burial or interment. (CCC 2258-2330)
Ch 20:14 The Sixth Commandment prohibits all sexual acts outside the marital covenant, and thus covers a wide range of sexual sins, including masturbation, fornication, prostitution, rape, homosexual acts, lust, and the use of pornography. (CCC 2331-2400)
Ch 20:15 The Seventh Commandment applies to all acts in which a person takes something he or she does not have a right to possess. This includes damaging property intentionally, producing goods or services poorly, breaking contracts, evading taxes, forgery, spending wastefully or excessively, and cheating. Commutative justice, which governs the rights of individuals and institutions, demands that reparation for theft be made whenever possible. (CCC 2401-2463)
Ch 20:16 The Eighth Commandment calls for us to be truthful both in word and in deed. Telling the truth consists of communicating what is seen and understood to correspond to reality. Some violations of truthful expressions include false witness, perjury, slander, libel, rash judgement, detraction, calumny, flattery, adulation, complaisance, boasting, and outright lies. The ultimate truth is Christ, and we live by the truth to the degree that we reflect the life of Christ in our personal lives. (CCC 2464-2513)
Ch 20:17 The Ninth and Tenth Commandments admonish us not to be covetous of another person’s spouse or property. LIke the Sixth Commandment, the Ninth Commandment calls us to chastity in THOUGHT AND DESIRE. This Commandment involves self-control and self-mastery over our internal inclinations towards inordinate pleasures of the flesh; it also seeks to help us control tendencies toward greed and to help us set our hearts on Christ and his teachings. (CCC 2514-2557)
Leviticus 13:1-59 Leprosy, also called HANSEN’S DISEASE, is an infectious disease that, left untreated, disfigures, maims, and ultimately kills its host. As there was no cure for leprosy at the time, many of the laws in Leviticus served as measures to help prevent the spread of the disease. In practice, the Law led to a distancing of lepers from the community, as they were labeled “unclean” and lived as outcasts apart from their families and community. Christ reversed this sad state of affairs by showing them COMPASSION AND HEALING THEM. (CCC 1503-1506)
Psalm 74 Written not long after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians in 587 BC, this lament tries to understand how this tragedy occurred. The sense of abandonment by God loomed large, and there is a note of anger in this hymn as the psalmist challenged God to reassert himself in favor of Israel against its enemies.
(*The Didache Bible RSV-CE Ignatius Edition, 2006)
Israel travels six weeks and arrives at Mount Sinai.
Ancient Jewish tradition counted seven more days of encampment at the foot of Mount Sinai before God reveals the Ten Commandments.
Thus, seven weeks (forty-nine days) pass, making the day of God’s revelation the fiftieth day.
The Jewish feast of Pentecost (meaning fifty) commemorates this day when the Torah was given on Mount Sinai.
A careful reader will note that the name of the mountain of God has changed from Mount Horeb, when Moses first came to it (Ex 3:1), to Mount Sinai, when Moses returns with Israel (Ex 19:1, 19:18).
This change likely results because the Hebrew word for “bush,” which Moses saw burning on the mountain, is SENE.
In this Book of Names, Horeb becomes Sinai to recall the great encounter between Moses and God at the burning bush.
Just as God gave Moses his vocation at the burning bush, now God gives Israel their vocation on this same mountain: Israel is to be a holy nation and a kingdom of priests (Ex 19:5-6).
During the Exodus, the firstborns were consecrated to God in priestly service (Nm 3:11-13).
Similarly, as God’s firstborn (Ex 4:22), Israel is consecrated for God’s service, which is precisely what the phrase “kingdom of priests” signifies.
If Israel is a kingdom of priests, to whom are they called to minister?
ALL THE OTHER NATIONS!!
Abraham was told by God that his descendants (Israel) would be a channel of blessing for all the families of the world (Gn 12:3).
Blessing is a priestly prerogative.
Israel’s call to be a kingdom of priests means that they are, according to God’s purpose, intended to bring blessing to all nations.
Thus, far from calling Israel “in spite of” all the other nations, God is blessing and raising up Israel in order to bring about universal blessing upon all nations.
The challenge, however, is in the word “IF,” for God promises that Israel will be a kingdom of priests “IF” they obey his voice.
For Israel to be a kingdom of priests and administer God’s blessing to all nations, they need to be a holy people.
Therefore, God gives Israel the Ten Commandments, which aim to shape their lives so that they can receive the fullness of God’s blessing and communicate that blessing to others.
These commandments are rooted in the Exodus narrative and must be read in that context; reading them in isolation of the narrative often leads to a narrow and legalistic misunderstanding of the law.
Exodus 20:2 precedes the commandments and puts them in the proper context: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.”
The commandments are given in the context of relationship, only after the Lord manifests his love in freeing Israel from bondage.
As the Catechism notes, “The Commandments properly so-called come in the second place: they express the implications of belonging to God through the establishment of the covenant” (CCC 2062).
In first place is the covenant relationship into which God invites Israel.
A life lived according to the commandments is simply a return of the love God has first bestowed.
The first three commandments pertain to the relationship between God and his people, and are codifications of the lessons of the Exodus.
The first commandment, “YOU SHALL HAVE NO OTHER GODS BEFORE ME” (Ex 20:3), gives the great precept of monotheism.
The renunciation of all gods but the one Lord is at the heart of the conflict between God and Pharaoh.
The second part of this command is a prohibition against graven images.
The Egyptians viewed and worshipped creation as manifesting the divine.
The plagues taught Israel that God is distinct from and sovereign over his creation, and he is not to be worshiped in the form of idols.
The second commandment, “YOU SHALL NOT TAKE THE NAME OF THE LORD YOUR GOD IN VAIN” (Ex 20:7), follows the revelation of God’s inmost and personal name (Ex 3).
To invoke God’s name is to invoke his presence, and so God’s name should always be called upon in reverence and love.
To invoke God’s name without attending to his presence is to call upon him in vain.
Much later, Jewish tradition will guard God’s name with such piety that only the priests in the Temple can pronounce the Name (Yahweh).
This tradition recognizes the close connection between presence and name; God could be named only in the Temple, where he is present.
The third command, “REMEMBER THE SABBATH DAY, TO KEEP IT HOLY. SIX DAYS YOU SHALL LABOR, AND DO ALL YOUR WORK, BUT THE SEVENTH DAY IS A SABBATH TO THE LORD YOUR GOD” (Ex 20:8-10), recalls the battle over whom Israel would serve (avad), Pharaoh or Yahweh.
Now, after being delivered from Egypt, God establishes the Sabbath to “let Israel go” rest and worship (avad) him every week.
The Exodus is renewed every week.
The work of the world is given six days, but the seventh day reminds God’s people that all their work should be ordered to what is eternal and lasting.
A failure to observe the Sabbath, which was ordained from creation, is a refusal to be an Exodus people, a people freed from the world for a relationship with God.
The remaining seven commandments direct relationships among God’s people.
These commandments also contain lessons taken directly from the Exodus narrative.
The first of these is the command to “HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER.”
Just as Israel is called to honor God their Father (after all, if God can refer to Israel as his “firstborn son,” then God must be Israel’s Father), so too must they honor their fathers and mothers here on earth.
Next is the prohibition against murder.
Pharaoh, who was systematically taking the lives of the firstborn Hebrew male children, learned well that God alone gives and takes life.
These last commandments end with the prohibition against coveting, which was what motivated the Egyptian plan to enslave the Hebrews and kill their male children.
(*Walking With God: A Journey Through the Bible by Tim Gray and Jeff Cavins)
What a gift it is to be able to receive The Lord’s Word
Today, what we see is God who is revealing Himself to His people on Mt. Sinai
Not only does he reveal Himself, but he enters into a COVENANT with them (hmmmm sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)
God establishes His desire to be the God of Israel and they will be His people
More will happen in the future to seal the covenant
The Lord’s desire is for COVENANT
A COVENANT is incredibly different from a CONTRACT
A Contract is an exchange of goods or services based off of a condition
“I’ll do this for you, if you do that for me”
“If you don’t do what you said you would do, then I don’t have to do what I said I would do”
A COVENANT is profoundly deeper
A COVENANT is profoundly more significant
A COVENANT is an UNCONDITIONAL EXCHANGE OF PERSONS
“I will be Your God”
“You will be my people”
“I desire to be YOURS”
“I desire for you to be MINE”
It is a gift of SELF that is meant to happen
We’ve seen this before in God’s COVENANT with ABRAM
We see it again and again as God DEEPENS His COVENANT and EXPANDS His COVENANT until we get to…….
THE NEW AND ETERNAL COVENANT
What is that?
In the NEW AND ETERNAL COVENANT, Jesus says, “This is the COVENANT of my blood, the NEW ETERNAL COVENANT.”
Jesus GIVES HIMSELF TO US
TRULY HIS BODY, BLOOD, SOUL, AND DIVINITY
Jesus makes a gift of Himself
When we receive the EUCHARIST, we are making a gift of OURSELVES back to Jesus
THAT IS THE EXCHANGE OF THE NEW COVENANT
Marriage is another example
Husband and Wife give themselves to each other in the COVENANT
The next piece of the COVENANT is the Ten Commandments
If God had the Ten Commandments WITHOUT a COVENANT, then it would be RULES WITHOUT A RELATIONSHIP
God is establishing COVENANT BEFORE COMMANDMENTS
God is establishing RELATIONSHIP BEFORE RULES
So often when we first learn about God, we first learn about the “rules”
This isn’t necessarily bad
This is how we teach people
But God taught people in a different way
NAME------>KNOW----->SERVE (Remember these themes?)
First, God reveals Himself
Second, God states that he wants a COVENANT RELATIONSHIP with His People
Finally, come the rules
Isn’t this true with any of our human relationships?
When you date someone, do you first talk about the rules of your dating relationship over coffee? Or do you get to know each other first in order to perhaps start a relationship?
The rules come later
God is very wise and knows EVERYTHING
He establishes the relationship first
Then, he gives the rules that will GIVE LIFE to the relationship
He gives the rules that will GROW the relationship
He gives the rules that will PRESERVE the relationship
He gives the rules that will DEEPEN the relationship
And those are the Ten Commandments
COVENANT then COMMANDMENT
RELATIONSHIP then RULES
The commandments STRENGTHEN the relationship
That’s why we need to know them
That’s why we need to do everything we can to say YES TO THE LORD in the midst of this broken, secular world
We also say YES TO THE LORD when we pray for each other
Father Mike is begging us to pray for him, so let’s do it
We are all of us a community travelling through Scripture knowing that the Lord has His Word for us, a plan for us, and a WILL for us
That plan is each of us becoming more and MORE HOLY each day, to become MORE LIKE GOD each and every day
Prayer by Fr Mike: "Father in Heaven, we thank you. We give you praise for your Word. We thank you so much for revealing yourself to us, revealing your heart to us, and revealing your commandments to us here in the Book of Exodus and in the Book of Leviticus. Lord God, we know that you have called us by name, that you know us, and that you love us. We in response say that we also desire to know you. We also desire to love you more and more fully every single day. In Jesus name we pray. Amen."