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Reflection: Third Sunday of Lent Mar 1, 2024

Third Sunday of Lent
3rd Sunday of Lent

The Old Testament is full of stories! If I were to ask you to name three Bible stories from the Old Testament that you could remember from your childhood what would they be? Chances are you would come up with ‘Adam and Eve’, ‘David and Goliath’ and ‘Noah and the Flood’. I bet ‘Moses receiving the Ten Commandments’ would also be in the mix. Well, this weekend’s First Reading comes from Exodus and it gives us all a chance to revisit the story of Moses receiving the Ten Commandments from God. It is a story we all know, or at least think we know!
Way back in 2007 Promenade Pictures released the animated movie, The Ten Commandments, which used the voices of Ben Kingsley, Christian Slater and Elliott Gould. As part of their marketing, the producers commissioned Kelton Research to poll 1000 people and test their knowledge of the Ten Commandments. The research company asked the 1000 people to recall the ingredients of a ‘Big Mac’ burger from McDonalds, as opposed to their ability to recall the ‘Ten Commandments’.

 

Almost 80% of the respondents knew that the ‘Big Mac’ was made up of two all-beef patties; while just over 50% knew ‘Thou shalt not kill’ was one of the commandments. Only 14% knew all 10 commandments.  Even those in the survey who considered themselves ‘religious’ had a bit of trouble naming them all. The top two mentioned commandments – ‘Thou shalt not kill’ and ‘Thou shalt not steal’ – were recalled by 70% and 69%respectively. The ‘Big Mac’ was more memorable – 79% knew of its all-beef patties and 76% knew that it came with lettuce.

 

If you can name all of the Ten Commandments – well done – if you can’t get them all, I have printed them here below. The question is not whether I can remember all 10 commandments, but why remember them at all?

 

 

First of all I think we need to look at the commandments not as strict and unyielding laws, but as God’s love letter to his people! For the Israelites, God took on the role of leader of the clan. The first three commands describe Israel’s relationship with God, and the last seven commands describe Israel’s relationships in the community. God makes a covenant – a bargain of sorts – with his chosen people.  If they follow his 10 rules, he will ‘show steadfast love’ down through the generations. It is basically an agreement which gives a framework for the way to live and be right in the relationship with God and other people.

 

It is significant that these 10 rules were one of the earliest codifications of behaviour, and, of course they are still relevant today because they make sense if we are to live in community – to live as family – to live as a Parish – even if I no longer covet my neighbour’s donkey. The principle is still the same!

 

The do’s and don’ts of the Ten Commandments were meant to remind the chosen people that God cared so much about them that he gave them a discipline for the way to live. That principle is also still true today. Being able to rattle off the Ten Commandments is one thing. But being honestly prepared to let the principle that underpins the commandments, positively guide our actions and attitudes during the course of living in this third week of Lent, is much more important!

 

Wishing you every blessing on your Lenten journey.

Fr Peter Brannelly

 

 

 

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