I’m a RCIA sponsor now. Samantha, a parishioner Tawnya and I have known for years called and asked if I would be willing to sponsor her husband Rich. I said yes, but I feel so unworthy.
In the parochial school basement after Mass, the RCIA director played a short video on the Ten Commandments by Bishop Robert Barron. When he explained the genius behind the three commandments concerning God, I was floored. I had never before looked at it the way he presented it. First, you shall have no other gods before me. He said that we all worship something, we just don’t think of these things as gods anymore. What we love most defines us. For us, our love for God must define us. He called it our center of gravity, and I like that. When God is our center of gravity, the rest of our spiritual and moral life falls into place, Barron says.
Then he moved on to the second commandment: You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain. In other words, he says, once you make God your center of gravity, you have to “instantiate that conviction in your speech and in your actions. Otherwise, it becomes an abstraction.”
We bend that commandment until it looks like something recognizable. “Oh, John took the Lord’s name in vain.” It has something to do with vanity, maybe. No. A woman traditionally takes her husband’s name when they marry. The people of God took His name through a covenant. “I will be your God and you will be my people.” They took his name. What then, is the second commandment talking about, “you shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” What does it mean to do something in vain? John gave up cussing and decided to learn to play the violin. However, he didn’t have the knack for it. All of his lessons were in vain.
To do something in vain means to do it to no effect. For us, it means as Barron said, that we never instantiated it in our speech or actions. It means we don’t take it seriously. It means we’re all sizzle and no steak.
What of the third commandment? Remember to keep holy the sabbath day. This God thing isn’t merely interior. It isn’t just a matter of the heart. We are social beings and worship is a public action, not a private one. If we don’t gather together as the people of God, present ourselves at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, our spiritual life is going to go off the rails sooner or later. For a Catholic, not going to Mass is like cutting the heart out of his or her religion.
How does the Bible show the people of the Old and New Testaments keeping the sabbath day holy? We rest from our labors. We focus on God, who created the heavens and the earth and everything within them in six days, and rested on the seventh. So we’re not supposed to go to work on the sabbath, or for Christians living under the New Covenant, on the Lord’s Day, what the early Church fathers called “the eighth day.” But what are we supposed to do? We’re supposed to worship. We’re supposed to be at leisure. We’re supposed to be focused on the higher things, not workaday concerns. We are to celebrate and feast.
Who even does that anymore?
Someone at RCIA lamented the fact that everyone in the parish was invited to the parochial school basement after Mass, but only a handful show up. Is Mass the beginning and end of the celebration and festival that every sabbath day should be for us? It is certainly the source and summit. But attending Mass alone does not discharge one’s duty to keep the sabbath day holy. We need to relearn that. Joyfully. Singing. Playing or watching others play. Belonging. Talking about the important things. Loving.
Do we even know how to do that anymore?