Reconciliation Lectionary: Deuteronomy 5:1-3, 6-7, 11-12, 16-21a, 6:4-6

mary-the-penitent.jpgOne option for proclamation and preaching the Rite of Penance is the Ten Commandments. Defended by many, and known in detail, perhaps, by far fewer.

This is the version in the last book of the Pentateuch, and it begins (seems to me) in a rather liturgical way. Moses issues a call. And he does so not at Mount Sinai, but at a location where Israelites in large number abandoned their Redeemer God for Baal.

It is here that Moses begins a lengthy address (through Deuteronomy 28), which only begins here:

Moses summoned all Israel and said to them,
Hear, O Israel,
the statutes and ordinances
which I proclaim in your hearing this day,
that you may learn them
and take care to observe them.
The LORD, our God, made a covenant with us at Horeb;
not with our ancestors did the LORD make this covenant,
but with us, all of us who are alive here this day.
I am the LORD your God,
who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of slavery.

Moses inspires a reminder in his people. He urges them to hear. Not just listen. It is interesting that they would be reminded of God’s commandments at a place in which many of them invoked a pagan god. This isn’t just a listening session. The intent is to urge people to go deeper. Which hopefully is in play when a parish celebrates this sacrament, either with an individual penitent, or with a community.

You shall not have other gods beside me.
You shall not invoke the name of the LORD, your God, in vain.
For the LORD will not leave unpunished
anyone who invokes his name in vain.
Observe the sabbath day—keep it holy,
as the LORD, your God, commanded you.
Honor your father and your mother,
as the LORD, your God, has commanded you,
that you may have a long life
and that you may prosper
in the land the LORD your God is giving you.
You shall not kill.
You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not steal.
You shall not bear dishonest witness against your neighbor.
You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife.
You shall not desire your neighbor’s house or field,
his male or female slave,
his ox or donkey,
or anything that belongs to your neighbor.

We skip to the greatest commandment, as cited by Jesus:

Hear, O Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD alone!
Therefore, you shall love the LORD, your God,
with your whole heart,
and with your whole being,
and with your whole strength.

Take to heart these words which I command you today.

Can we be commanded to love God? Isn’t love a free gift: God to us, and we loving God in return? Perhaps a good preacher might explore this: how love for God underscores the commandments given here. Perhaps it is an impulse of gratitude welling up within us. Perhaps it is how we are made and we have no choice, ultimately. Recall Saint Augustine’s feeling of utter restlessness until he rested in God.

In employing this Scripture passage, I would hope it becomes something more than an examination of conscience, much as we need something like that. In the first example of form II (reconciliation of several penitents with individual confession) in the Rite of Penance (no. 48ff) this is the designated first reading. Clearly, those who formulated the rite thought the rendering of the Ten Commandments in Deuteronomy was very important.

Your thoughts?

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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