How many of us can list the Ten Commandments from the top of their heads? Not many sadly. When asked Jesus lists only the last six. Does this mean Jesus forgot the first four? The passage for the Twenty-eighth Sunday in Ordinary Time begins with the rich young man running to Jesus asking him, “Good teacher…” Jesus responds, “Why do you call me good.” Greek has two words for “Good.” The first two Gospels almost always use Kalos,” or “ὅτι καλῶς.” “Hoti Kalos,” “This is beautiful,” from which we get “OK.” Jesus here uses “Agatha, having class.” John F Kennedy was famous for having class.
One dictionary defines “Good” as, “In early Greek times, good, gentle, noble, in reference to birth. It also meant, “This early sense associated that of wealth and power.” The passage irony is Jesus speaking to the rich young man about what wealthy means.
Jesus lists those commandments. “Do not kill; Do not commit adultery; do not steal; do not bear vain witness; do not defraud.” The Talmud interprets the last two commandments as, “Defraud.” In Deuteronomy, the word for “false,” is used earlier for vain, as in “Do not take God’s name in vain.” It is possible to tell the truth, but not be able to back up one’s words; idle gossip is vain words.
Jesus goes back and mentions his fifth commandment, “Hold as important mother and father.” This is not acting in blind obedience. Hold them as important, learn from their experiences. Jesus then points to the four missing, which point to God.
The prologue to the Ten Commandments states, “The Name, our God, cut a contract with us at Horeb; not with our fathers did the NAME cut this contract, but with us, all of us, alive, here this day.” Remember, “I am the NAME your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, the house of menial labor.” (2) Do not have other gods before my face. (3) Do not invoke the name of the NAME… in vain. (4) Guard Sabbath…Remember you were once laborers in the land of Oppression… That is why the NAME, your God, has commanded you guarding Sabbath.”
The prologue points to remembering what it was like being over there (Europe, Latin America, Africa…) and to your rescue over here. “Give me your tired your poor…) To remember means making sure nobody suffers as we did. “It is not to your fathers, I give this command.” In Passover, Jews relive the Exodus in present time. In the Eucharist, we relive the Passion and death of Jesus, rising to new life, in present time. Thanksgiving Day is about Passover and Eucharist/Greek for Thanksgiving. This passage and Deuteronomy 6:5 command love and charity, as a nation. The rich young man cannot remember the first four commandments. By his order, Jesus points us to these first four. The rich young man’s god is wealth. Can people say the same about us? Are we a people of class or a people who need a class. God gives refresher courses.