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The other day while I was at the gas station waiting in line for my turn to pay, I could not help but overhear several conversations going on around me, and frankly I was appalled by the profanity that was being thrown around in public—especially in front of little children. Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t recall being exposed to that degree of vulgarity when I was a child and I certainly don’t think it is acceptable today.  This event made me reflect on the over-all moral decay of our society and how just about everywhere you turn, you are constantly bombarded by profanity and vulgarity. It has become so pervasive that many of us have become all but numb to it and it doesn’t even register as offensive anymore; so much so, that it has become a regular part of our own day-to-day vocabulary.  This is a true tragedy, particularly when it involves taking the Lord’s Name in vain.

In Exodus 20:7 we find the Second Commandment: “You shall not invoke the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. For the Lord will not leave unpunished anyone who invokes his name in vain.” Of all the thousands of sins that the Lord could have put on the list of the Ten Commandments, God found this one an egregious enough offense to list it second only to idolatry- that ought to make us take notice! In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) #2162 we read: “The second commandment forbids every improper use of God’s name. Blasphemy is the use of the name of God, of Jesus Christ, of the Virgin Mary, and of the saints in an off offensive way,” and CCC #2148 states: “Blasphemy is contrary to the respect due to God and his Holy name. It is in itself a grave sin.” In other words, taking the Lord’s name in vain is kind of a big deal—in the not-so-good sort of way.

If you find yourself or someone you love falling into the habit of taking the Lord’s Name in vain, perhaps it is time to start taking steps to correct this behavior.  They say that the easiest way to break a bad habit is to replace it with a good one. So every time you find yourself “slipping up,” follow it up immediately with praise of God’s name; even a simple: “Lord, may your Holy Name be praised” said quietly to yourself should be enough to do the trick. If you find yourself with family or friends who are using the Lord’s name in vain, perhaps you could offer a simple, nonthreatening, non-preachy reminder that you do not appreciate that language—you might even be surprised how genuinely apologetic people will be.

Remember our God is a merciful and loving God and this is the Year of Mercy; so do not be afraid to bring this sin to the confessional and turn it over to the Lord. God’s name is Holy and Powerful, Psalm 8:1 states: “O Lord, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth,” and in Proverbs 18:10 we read: “The name of the Lord is a strong tower; the righteous man runs into it and is safe.” Let’s run to the Name of the Lord and make it our refuge.

In Christ through Mary,

Fr. Curtis Hecker

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