SUNDAY SCHOOL: The First Commandment of God

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The Baltimore Catechism
Revised Edition (1941)

Lesson 16
The First Commandment of God

198. What is the first commandment of God?
The first commandment of God is: I am the Lord thy God; thou shalt not have strange gods before Me.

Thou shalt not have strange Gods before me. Thou shalt not make to thyself a graven thing, nor the likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or in the earth beneath, nor of those things that are in the waters under the earth. (Exodus 20:3-4)

199. What are we commanded by the first commandment?
By the first commandment we are commanded to offer to God alone the supreme worship that is due Him.

It is written, “The Lord thy God shalt thou worship, and him only shalt thou serve.” (Luke 4:8)

200. How do we worship God?
We worship God by acts of faith, hope, and charity, and by adoring Him and praying to Him.

201. What does faith oblige us to do?
Faith obliges us: first, to make efforts to find out what God has revealed; second, to believe firmly what God has revealed; third, to profess our faith openly whenever necessary.

Therefore, everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge him before my Father in heaven. (Matthew 10:32)

202. What does hope oblige us to do?
Hope obliges us to trust firmly that God will give us eternal life and the means to obtain it.

Paul, a servant of God and apostle of Jesus Christ, in accordance with the faith of God’s elect and the full knowledge of the truth which is according to piety, in the hope of life everlasting which God, who does not lie, promised before the ages began. (Titus 1:1-2)

203. What does charity oblige us to do?
Charity obliges us to love God above all things because He is infinitely good, and to love our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God.

And one of them, a doctor of the Law, putting him to the test, asked him, “Master, which is the great commandment in the Law?” Jesus said to him, “‘Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with thy whole heart, and with thy whole soul, and with thy whole mind.’ This is the greatest and the first commandment. And the second is like it, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.’ On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:35-40)

204. How can a Catholic best safeguard his faith?
A Catholic can best safeguard his faith by making frequent acts of faith, by praying for a strong faith, by studying his religion very earnestly, by living a good life, by good reading, by refusing to associate with the enemies of the Church, and by not reading books and papers opposed to the Church and her teaching.

I know that after my departure fierce wolves will get in among you, and will not spare the flock. And from among your own selves men will rise speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30)

205. How does a Catholic sin against faith?
A Catholic sins against faith by apostasy, heresy, indifferentism, and by taking part in non-Catholic worship.

206. Why does a Catholic sin against faith by taking part in non-Catholic worship.
A Catholic sins against faith by taking part in non-Catholic worship when he intends to identify himself with a religion he knows is defective.

This is why I was born, and why I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice. (John 18:37)

207. What are the sins against hope?
The sins against hope are presumption and despair.

208. When does a person sin by presumption?
A person sins by presumption when he trusts that he can be saved by his own efforts without God’s help, or by God’s help without his own efforts.

Nay I do not even judge my own self. For I have nothing on my conscience, yet I am not thereby justified. (I Corinthians 4:4)

209. When does a person sin by despair?
A person sins by despair when he deliberately refuses to trust that God will give him the necessary help to save his soul.

May no temptation take hold of you but such as man is equal to. God is faithful and will not permit you to be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also give you a way out that you may be able to bear it. (I Corinthians 10:13)

210. What are the chief sins against charity?
The chief sins against charity are hatred of God and of our neighbor, envy, sloth, and scandal.

Charity does not envy. (I Corinthians 13:4)

211. Besides the sins against faith, hope, and charity, what other sins does the first commandment forbid?
Besides the sins against faith, hope, and charity, the first commandment forbids also superstition and sacrilege.

212. When does a person sin by superstition?
A person sins by superstition when he attributes to a creature a power that belongs to God alone, as when he makes use of charms or spells, believes in dreams or fortune-telling, or goes to spiritists.

Neither let there be found among you any one that … consulteth soothsayers, or observeth dreams and omens. Neither let there be any wizard, nor charmer. (Deuteronomy 19:10-11)

213. When does a person sin by sacrilege?
A person sins by sacrilege when he mistreats sacred persons, places, or things.

They have set thy sanctuary ablaze, they have profaned the dwelling of thy name on the earth. (Psalm 73:7)

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