First Sunday of Lent
The Second Commandment
The Ten Commandments are relevant today because humanity is much in slavery to selfishness and sin, and we heed a basic moral playbook on what is the best way to live and become free persons. As the first part of the Bible shows, God laid out for us, via revelation to Moses, a top ten moral code from His blueprint for humankind. So far in our preaching series and bulletin teachings, we have covered how the First and the Fourth Commandments can be understood and applied today. Let’s turn our attention on Commandment Two: Thou shall not take the Name of the Lord in vain nor create or worship idols.
This Commandment is too often, reduced, by a minimalist approach as it to only being recognized to the sin of saying God’s name aloud improperly, as in “OMG” or the “J.C.” exclamation or the “G-D” phrases. Surely, these are rude uses of the Holy Name and would need repentance for it, with amendment plans for the mind and tongue. But one is not to stop there. (By the way, if one does commit these things, then a good penance is to pray God’s Name over and over in a good way, as in praying a praise Psalm, or in doing some reparation time before the Blessed Sacrament. Washing one’s mouth out with soup doesn’t seem to work. When can one exclaim God’s Name and blurt it out? One could say “Good God Almighty” to a true statement of awe, as in seeing a waterfall with rainbow. Or one could utter a quick prayer of “Jesus Christ” when in danger – as these wouldn’t be false calls upstairs to God, as is done too many times today to The Holy name. Yet the Commandment is much more than avoiding a verbal faux pas to our Maker.
The real deeper issue of God’s Name being used respectfully is of how you pray and serve under Him. Is your life lived to the Glory of God’s Name, or is it just mostly back to self? Who is given the focus and credit with your life? If it is God whom you invoke, surely then the Second Commandment is being followed. St. Paul says: “Whether in word or action, do so to the Glory of God.” If you profess to be a believer in the Lord, but your life is much an advertisement to your vanity, then you have a problem with obeying the Second Commandment. It’s also likely that this person is unaware of their problem or its severity. They are so used to blowing it off as nothing.
Keeping the Second Commandment is about having a continued witness of praise to God. Its adherents know the spirit of the psalmist: “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless God’s Holy Name.” This kind of practice of involved praise and focus to God makes us newly free in life – in a deliverance to bondages once of habitual selfishness and worldliness and the overly-inward life to self. Taking to God’s ways (Commandment Two) helps us to flourish forth in love and goodness, as we are living and giving life to Him. It offers one true contentment over time, beating away vanity and idolatry.
We are to trust and bless Gods’ Name, neither to doubt it nor to test God to prove anything. In the Scripture example of this 1st Sunday of Lent, note how the serpent-devil couches the temptations to Jesus (and first to Eve) as “ifs”. As in, what if God is not telling you everything, and it is that you can be gods too- equal to Him? What if you were to surrender to me (the cunning fallen angel)? What if you eat from that off-limits fruit –what could happen in your testing of God? Or, Jesus, why not turn those stones to bread – can you justify some human hunger to defy Him? Or, are you ‘not free?’
That’s the devils play and ploy on you– sluefoot is counting on your self-centeredness for a fall.
As for the idols part of the Second Commandment, it’s much more than abstaining from voodoo dolls or images of the devil or new age crystals – though all of these are bad things to keep around, too! Yet the Second Commandment is much more to the positive. We could rename it” Do bless God’s Name and keep remembering the Holy Omnipresence of God, with keeping God on the throne of your life, and with no guests hosts to that first place, that of money, fame, power or ill pleasure. We are meant to thrive on God alone. Thus, the Second of the Commandments asks us to let God be blessed and, likewise to look to eliminate the cheap substitutions that vie for the heart’s throne.
By the positive practice of freedom, the Second Commandment has us hold to faith and say “My love of God will not be controlled by the money or things I have or haven’t got…my red flag of the lust of money (as the root of all evil – 1Tim.6:10) will keep me forewarned of that storm to avoid. I will likewise not get sucked into over- desiring some “fabulous new item’ until I get it at too high a price.
Fame is a similar problem if it’s a must – have thing or a demand to be in its orbit. Celebrity worship is a problem in our culture. Labels for so-called status are also problematic. We should pray: “Oh Lord, help me to keep in discernment empowered by The Holy Spirit, as to avoid these pitfalls.” One more thing we can pray is for power not to go to one’s head, (as we have seen in poor politics these years and media misuse and manipulation tactics). Remember – the Bible specifically says how we are to pray for those in these seats of authority (1Tim.2). Let us do more praying for them instead of tossing more fuel on the fire.
I think of the Holy Mass as a best time of communal freedom to pray our blessings to the Lord. In the Mass we start with the Trinity Name, then Lord Have Mercy, Glory to God, and Praise to you Lord Jesus Christ. Then after the Homily, we add Lord hear our prayer, Holy Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts, Our Father – Holy is Your Name, Lamb of God – grant us peace, and other invocations to His Glory. Right in the middle of the Mass we pray, “it is right and just (to give thanks to the Lord our God).”
Survey it sometime – of how the Holy Mass blesses God’s Name so much – turning the tide from when we have used or lived God’s Name in Vain. One other huge factor – when we pray God’s Name at Mass – we are in a Sacrament and personal encounter with God, a unique moment!!
We hear the Gospel today speak to the devil’s tempting Jesus with such common trip ups to His holiness. Yet, Jesus rebuked Satan and kept Himself morally and spiritually pure. You and I will be faced with such temptations, as even were the Adam and Eve characters – so tells our Scriptures this morning – and we must stand our ground in the goodness of God. Humans were meant to live in the trust of God and the design of The Almighty. So whenever you feel temptation coming on, Pray Jesus’ name and invoke the name of God over and over.