March 1st, 2004
Ray Bucko, S.J.
Department of Sociology and Anthropology
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When I was a mere sprout I loved novelty records.
One of my favorites was Prince Buster’s “The Ten Commandments.”
This was back in 1967 – I checked the internet which stores
more information more reliably than my own read/write memory.
Well, the record started “Thou shalt love no man but me”!
That really made me laugh! I guess growing up in a Catholic
grammar school where we would sing about prepositions, times
tables, the ten commandments, seven sacraments, twelve apostles,
and state capitals made someone singing a modified version
of the Top Ten Commandments really tickled me!
Interesting though that when we think of commandments we
think of “shalt nots” – even Prince Buster engaged in that
genre in his magnum opus.
In the school yard of Our Lady Star of the Sea Grade School
we would ask each other what we were GIVING UP for Lent—candy,
television and the standard Bayonne juvenile one-liner “HOMEWORK.”
But there are more than 10 commandments as we find out in
the readings today. And clearly there are many SHALLS
among the SHALT NOTS.
God kicks off with “be holy” and then explains how……
with the nots and with the shalls.
Jesus recasts the Father’s “be holy” with a set
of positive prescriptions; feed the hungry, clothe the naked, welcome
the stranger. Just like God said, in the first reading
“love your neighbor as yourself.”
So the commandments are not about not but about yes
and not about me (even if you are Prince Buster) but
about us—holy relationships among ourselves and with
So as we journey through Lent let us seek for the shalls
and not for the nots and put into action this commandment of love.
Let us give to others rather than give up for ourselves.
Sure beats giving up homework!
to the writer of this reflection.
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