These four months of COVID-inspired quarantine and isolation, I guess, are starting to take its toll on people. Yesterday, while walking my dog, I encountered a neighbor I had not seen in a while, and we stopped on the street – keeping our social distance – to catch up with one another.
In venting his frustration at the current surge in the coronavirus, he frequently muttered the name of Jesus or God to express his anger, consternation or whatever it was he was trying to convey. “Jesus Christ” was his frequent go-to swear word.
Luckily, I had the dog and his mission as an excuse to cut the conversation short. I am not a prude and salty language does not always offend me, but this man’s casual and irreverent use of God’s name was a sin. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says that blasphemy consists of “misusing God’s name... Blasphemy is contrary to the respect due God and His holy name.”
The name of Jesus and God should never be used frivolously. God Himself has decreed that we should not profane His name. In Leviticus 20:3, God says that “I will set my face against that man and I will cut him off from his people; he has defiled my sanctuary and profaned my holy name.”
Our respect for the holy name was stressed by St. Paul in his Letter to the Philippians. Calling Jesus “the name that is above every name,” St. Paul said that when the name of Jesus is uttered “every knee should bend, of those that are in heaven, on earth, and under the earth.” (Philippians 2:9-10).
As a matter of fact, the name of Jesus is considered so holy, that it is in itself a prayer.
“The invocation of the holy name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always. When the holy name is repeated often by a humbly attentive heart, the prayer is not lost by heaping up empty phrases,” the catechism says. “The prayer of the Church venerates and honors the Heart of Jesus just as it invokes His most holy name.”
Basically, that name should be used not to express anger or discontent or damnation, but to thank almighty God for all that He has given us.
“My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord. Let every creature praise His holy name for ever and ever,” we read in Psalm 145.
The Gospel of Mark (16:17-18) makes it clear that invoking the name of Christ can help the faithful in all their needs. The evangelist recounts that before Jesus’s ascension in heaven, Our Lord said, “In my name they will drive out demons... They shall take up serpents; and if they shall drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them: they shall lay their hands upon the sick, and they shall recover.” In the Acts of the Apostles (9:34-40), we see that the Apostles used the name of Jesus to heal the lame.
Respect for the holy name of Jesus is not just some meaningless pious little action. Uttered with faith and devotion, it is through Christ’s name that the Church prays. Almost all prayers end with the words “We ask this through Christ, Our Lord, Amen.” Jesus promised us (John 16:23) that “If you ask the Father anything in my name He will give it you.”
In a way, I am glad that I encountered my neighbor because in that interaction I was reminded that through calling on Jesus I am offered comfort and refuge and solace during these uncertain times. And, I praise His holy name for that.
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