Since this is the period of Lent, the forty days of preparation for Easter, it is appropriate for us to do an examination of conscience, to confront our own sins, in order to prepare ourselves for the Easter experience, the celebration of our salvation from sin and death. After all, it is for our sins that Jesus came among us, to show us the depths of the Father’s love for us. One of the most effective ways to examine our consciences is to do so in the light of the Ten Commandments. Over the next 10 days, then, we will reflect on one of the commandments each day, and our own experiences related to that commandment.

The first commandment states: “I am the Lord your God…you shall have no other gods before me” (Exodus 20:2). At first we might think that this is an easy one. Of course, as Christians, we believe in God. We know what God has done. We know that only God could have created all things, seen and unseen, that he is the One who generates, supports, and sustains all life in every single moment. We know that he is the One who called Abraham, who promised him that he would make a nation out of his progeny. We know that he is the One who called on Moses to lead the people out of slavery in Egypt, who guarded them and led them, who fed them and gave them precious water to drink. We know that it was God who gave us the Ten Commandments to guide us in our daily lives and to show us how to be righteous in his sight. We also know that the people often fell away, got lost, and, in their weakness, began to worship other gods. Yet, for all of this, God’s love and faithfulness toward his children was never diminished. When, in their desperation and in their suffering, they cried out to him for his mercy, his protection, and his aid, he was there. He saved them, brought them back to safety every time.

In an even more intimate way, we Christians have come to know God, and his love for us in Jesus. When he came among us, he taught us who we are and what our relationship is to God. Through his life and death on our behalf, he showed us the depths of God’s love for us. And he challenged us to follow him, to live in his ways, so that we might, on the Last Day, be welcomed into his heavenly kingdom forever. Did he not say to us, “If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him” (John 14:7).

Yes, we know all of this, but have we not also been guilty of putting other gods before him, just like the Chosen People did in the times before Christ? Have there been times in my life where I abandoned God, and his teachings, putting my own will before His? Do I “love” money, or power, or sex, or fame, or prestige, or any other earthly thing more than God and give the majority of my time, thought, and energy toward that, instead of God? Have I presumed God’s mercy without a need for repentance? Or have I despaired that I have gone too far beyond his love to be forgiven by him? Remember this: God knows our sins, our weaknesses, and yet, he loves us with a never ending love. Jesus is the proof of this truth. “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:7-8). To believe this truth and to honor it is to honor it, is to live in accord with the First Commandment. If you have sinned against this commandment, turn to him with a humble and contrite heart and you will know the great and comforting peace of his forgiveness.

Lord, give us the courage to recognize and to turn away from the subtle ways that we put other things, or other people before you. Teach us the wisdom that in loving you above all else, we will be better able to more properly love your creation, and our neighbors as ourselves. We pray this in Jesus’ name. Amen!

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