When we think about the 10 Commandments, the First Commandment is one that we can oftentimes gloss over. We read, you shall not have other gods besides me and we think we’ve got that covered. We don’t worship Zeus or the sun god, so we must have moved beyond that commandment. That was for people in the Old Testament times, not us.
But the reality is that there are a number of ways we can make gods out of the things around us – our possessions, our jobs, or even our families. Is God really the center of your life, or does He tend to get pushed down on the priority list? That’s what Fr. Dennis Cooney reflected on recently during an episode of The Inner Life®. He and host Chuck Neff discussed the importance of the First Commandment, and how easy it is for us to make idols out of elements in our everyday life.
On the First Commandment, Fr. Cooney explained, “It’s basically the summation of all of the moral commandments. Because, remember when Our Lord was asked during His earthly ministry, what was the greatest commandment? To love God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength.”
“And therefore when we fall short of that commandment we are violating the First Commandment,” he pointed out. “We are putting something or someone else in the place of God. We are worshiping, we’re adoring something that doesn’t deserve that worship and adoration. We’re taking away from God what properly belongs to God – and that is perfect adoration, love, and commitment to Him and His will.”
Fr. Cooney offered an analogy to illustrate the way we can often relate to God in a manner that falls short of the First Commandment. He said, “When you go to the beach during the summer, most beaches do have a lifeguard. But you really don’t care about his presence there. You don’t talk to him, you don’t have any kind of relationship with him. But you’re very glad that he’s there just in case something terrible happens to you. Just in case you’re drowning and you need his service. I think that’s one of the problems we have with God in our society. We keep him in the background. We’re glad He’s there, but we don’t necessarily want to have any personal relationship with Him.”
If you find yourself putting someone or something else in the place of God, Fr. Cooney offered a solution to help you put God pack at the top of your priority list.
“Adoration and prayer is so vitally important,” he said. “Because the fact of the matter is, it’s very easy to forget God, to push Him to the background, to only turn to Him in times of neediness.”
Eucharistic adoration is a great place to start, because it requires you to give time, attention, and reverence to the Lord. And there are other ways we can adore the Lord in our daily lives.
“To adore is to surrender completely to Him,” Fr. Cooney explained. “To turn our life over to Him completely and absolutely. That is, as it says in the Catechism paragraph 2096, the first act of the virtue of religion. To adore God, and to acknowledge Him as God, the Creator, the Savior, the Lord, the Master of everything that exists, as the infinite and merciful love that He is. It’s to totally give ourselves over to Him, because we have received the totality of who and what we are from Him.”
Perhaps you’re not convinced that putting God first in your life is all that necessary. But Fr. Cooney pointed out that giving God His rightful place in our lives is the beginning of right worship.
He cautioned, “G.K. Chesterton, one of my favorite authors, once said that when man gives up his belief and his adoration of the true God, he doesn’t wind up believing in nothing. He believes in just about anything. And more often than not, the God that we put in the place of the true God is our own ego, our own wants, our own desires. In other words, just simply ourselves.”