” Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving. ” (Ephesians 5)
St. Paul is not a fan of obscene speech. But the heart of profanity isn’t four letter words but presumption. If you remember your high school latin vocabulary, profanity literally means “before the temple.”
Even though it’s more than four letters, presumption (taking for granted God’s grace) is the Church’s “F” word. Sirach offers us ten ways to avoid use the equivalent of our “F” word:
- 5:3 Do not say, “Who will have power over me?” for the Lord will surely punish you
- 5:4 Do not say, “I sinned, and what happened to me?” for the Lord is slow to anger.
- 5:6 Do not say, “His mercy is great, he will forgive the multitude of my sins,” for both mercy and wrath are with him, and his anger rests on sinners.
- 7:9 Do not say, “He will consider the multitude of my gifts, and when I make an offering to the Most High God he will accept it.”
- 11:23 Do not say, “What do I need, and what prosperity could be mine in the future?”
- 11:24 Do not say, “I have enough, and what calamity could happen to me in the future?”
- 15:11 Do not say, “Because of the Lord I left the right way”; for he will not do what he hates.
- 15:12 Do not say, “It was he who led me astray”; for he had no need of a sinful man.
- Do not say, “I shall be hidden from the Lord, and who from on high will remember me? Among so many people I shall not be known, for what is my soul in the boundless creation?
- 31:12 “Are you seated at the table of a great man? Do not be greedy at it, and do not say, “There is certainly much upon it!”
The stakes are high.
In Mark’s Gospel (9:41-50), Jesus describes His idea of a presumption free temple:
- If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life maimed
than with two hands to go into Gehenna, into the unquenchable fire.
- And if your foot causes you to sin, cut it off. It is better for you to enter into life crippled than with two feet to be thrown into Gehenna.
- And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out. Better for you to enter into the Kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into Gehenna,
where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.
God expects our leaders (e.g. bishops) to lose a hand or foot when it comes to standing for the truth. Jesus exhorts us to do “whatever it takes.” Church father, Origen followed Jesus advice:
“Origen Adamantius (“man of steel”) was a third century “religious fanatic” gave up his job, slept on the floor, ate no meat, drank no wine, fasted twice a week, owned no shoes, and reportedly castrated himself for the faith. He was also the most prolific scholar of his age (with hundreds of works to his credit), a first-rate Christian philosopher, and a profound student of the Bible.” (cf. Origen, Biblical Scholar)
The Catechism states: “There are two kinds of presumption. Either man presumes upon his own capacities, (hoping to be able to save himself without help from on high), or he presumes upon God’s almighty power or his mercy, (hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and glory without merit).”
Follow the advice of Pope John 23 when asked, “Do you know, that you know that you know you are saved?” and say, “I hope so.” Any more than that is using the “F” word in Church.