The Responsorial (Psalm 19) reminds us: “Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.”
Exodus 20: 1-17 shows God ministering to us. Ministry is always communication in some form, and it is always, however indirectly, the communication of God’s truth, God’s love, God’s life to people. Here God is communicating to his People the “operator’s manual” for the human nature he gave us. The Ten Commandments are the “instructions on the bottle,” the manufacturer’s guide for living human life in the way that lets us get the most out of it.
The word “Commandments” might throw us off. We might assume, without thinking about it, that the Commandments are just some rules God arbitrarily lays down for the human race because it pleases him. If we think like that, we will keep the Commandments out of duty, because we are obliged to obey the Creator and God is Boss. But we will look upon them as burdens, restrictions on our freedom, something we would rather be without. We will see Exodus 20: 1-17 as an imposition, not as a loving act of ministry by God.
When we teach others or minister to them in any way, we should never speak of “obligations” and “sins” without explaining why God (or the Church) “commands” this. A Commandment is like a sign on a power line: “Danger: Do Not Touch.” Commandments are given to save our lives from what will destroy or diminish them. For this reason we should always explain how a “sin” does damage to us or others. We haven’t always taken the trouble to do this, or even to think it out for ourselves. But we must.
On a higher and deeper level, the Commandments do more: they reveal to us the mind and heart of God. They show God’s wisdom, God’s ideals, God’s love translated into practical principles of action. The Commandments help us know God. We should study them for this.
In Matthew 13: 18-23 Jesus describes his words as sources of life. His “commandments” are what empowers us grow into the fullness of life. If we do not live by his words we are blocking our growth. And he tells us what keeps us from responding in order to live “life to the full”: we are blinded by our culture (seed on the “beaten path”); we do not think deeply about his words until we come to choices (rocky ground); we are “this world addicts” enslaved to illusory desires (weedy ground). We need to remind ourselves, “Lord, you have the words of everlasting life.”
Initiative: Be a priest. Encourage life. Urge response to God’s life-giving word.