Don’t be an Animal

Latin Mass:  11th Sunday after Pentecost
‘And he said: Ephpheta, that is, Be thou opened: and his ears were opened, his tongue was loosed, and he spoke right.’
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Friends in the Lord, in the Gospel today, it seems that this man healed by Jesus, was not entirely unable to speak,[i] but rather, after being healed, his tongue was loosed so that he would speak rightly.
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A spiritual interpretation of this text points us to our own use of the tongue. There are times when we almost need such a healing miracle from Christ, in order to speak rightly.
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There is a little-known Commandment of God called the 2nd commandment: Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord Thy God in vain. We are commanded to keep respect for God’s holy name.
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One day, driving down North Ave, I happened to notice a billboard, that had on it an acronym, OMG. I thought nothing of it – some acronym that I don’t know. But one day it dawned on me what this was. ‘Oh my God.’
Apparently ‘OMG’ is also an abbreviation being used today in texting. Friends in Christ, how far have we come, that the Lord’s name would be used in vain on billboards, in texting.
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A very good lady I know, in conversation, kept using the Lord’s name as a throw-away phrase. OMG I said, hold on a minute, why don’t you say ‘Oh brother,’ or Oh my word, or something, we can’t say this, the Lord’s name. ‘Oh, its just a habit, she said – Yeah, a sinful habit.
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All sins are hateful to God, but dishonoring his name directly insults the Lord. St. John Chrysostom[ii] says that no sin exasperates the Lord so much as blaspheming his adorable name.
But living the 2nd Commandment according to the Law of Christ, is more than just avoiding OMG. The Christian fulfillment of the commandments means an entirely new way of life.
St. Paul says, ‘You must put to death that part of you that is earthly: cursing and obscene language that comes out of your mouth.’ We must put to death that part of us, that is crude and base; we must always be fighting against the animal-side of ourselves, and seek the angelic, godly side.
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This Commandment of God: ‘Thou shalt not use the name of the Lord in vain,’ is for us, speaking with reverence of God, and also keeping the words from our lips worthy and pure – this makes us more like God, and less like animals.
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There was a radio program[iii] a while back, it said: ‘If your child ate his breakfast cereal like a dog, with his face down in the bowl, you would say, ‘stop eating like an animal.’ Even unbelievers would agree that this style of eating is inappropriate, why?
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Well, when your dog eats with his face down in a bowl, we don’t think anything of it. But when a person mimics an animal’s behavior, it is repulsive.
There is something about human life, that makes us want to act in a way different from animals. There is something in us, that is different, that is higher, and we call that the soul, the image of God.
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Animals don’t wear clothes, and no one is surprised; but when people wish to be vulgar or shocking, they go without clothes. The more that one acts like an animal, the further we are from holiness.
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So: if you met someone who was using vulgar speech and indecent words, they may be an ethical person, who knows – but you would know one thing for sure: they are not close to God. They are not holy.
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St. John Vianney says that the person who tries to tell you something by using God’s Name or vulgarity, he thinks his vulgarities make himself more convincing; but they are not convincing; because someone who has no religion can’t be believed or trusted.
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The world will ask: ‘If I am obscene in my words, or indecent in my dress, who is hurt by it? Well this is the standard today. Anything goes, as long as no one is hurt.
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But the trouble is, the higher part of ourself is hurt. The higher part of you and me is wounded. ‘But there is no higher part, there is no soul, ‘we are just animals’, they say. Yes. And that’s what holiness fights against. That is what the 2nd Commandment fights against.
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When I see a car with a bumper sticker that has an obscene word on it, I don’t know if the person in the car is immoral or evil, but I know one thing: They are not holy.
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Vulgar language or behavior leads people away from God, leads them to become more like an animal; but using God’s name with reverence, speaking with polite and pure language – this helps us remain close to God.
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St. Augustine says, those who speak obscenely are the ministers of Lucifer; their tongue is fired in hell, and is used to burn themselves and others.[iv]
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St. John Vianney says, alas, how many parents there are with so little religion, that bad words are always on their lips; many little children are weak and sour and even vicious because of the tongues of parents.
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Father Sabatino[v] tells of a 15 year old boy who having heard an obscene word began to indulge in impure thoughts, and died that night. A priest started to say Mass for him, but the boy appeared and told him that he was already damned.
Obscene words lead to the ruin of others.
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We don’t eat with our faces in a bowl like an animal, because even in today’s society, it is still felt that we are different from animals. But as you will notice, routine insults to God: OMG, vulgar language on tv and the movies, routinely – people are losing their godliness as they seek to be an animal.
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St. Paul says, ‘seek what is above. ‘Think of what is above, not of what is on earth. For your life is now hidden with Christ.’ St. Paul is urging us to live a ‘higher’ life, and he means holiness.
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Some people feel very bad when they have used God’s name, Jesus’ name badly, they confess it. well, thank goodness that they at least recognize their fault, at least they are hearing their conscience.
St. Josemaria[vi] says that the deaf and dumb man in the scriptures, represents the person who is deaf to his conscience, and who is unable to confess his sins.’
‘Never let evil talk pass your lips; say only the good things others need to hear, things that will really help them.'[vii]
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‘We are just animals’, they say.’ Yes. And that’s what the 2nd commandment fights against. Keeping God’s name holy, pure words – this is to fight for the higher, godly nature in Man.
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O Mary, our Mother. Mary, pray for us, that by honoring God’s Holy name, and keeping our words innocent and pure, we will fight to live that higher, godly life, the life of Jesus Christ.

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[Entrusted to the prayers of little Audrey Santo]

 

[i] Sermons of St. Alphonsus Liguori, p. 301.

[ii] Sermons …, p. 401.

[iii] Dennis Prager radio show.

[iv] Sermons …, p. 301

[v] Sermons …, p. 304.

[vi] Christ is Passing By, p. 300.

[vii] Eph 4:29

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