This Sunday we continue to reflect on the Acts of the Apostles, who proclaim the Name of Jesus in defiance of the Sanhedrin (the highest Court in Jerusalem). The apostles continue to do acts of mercy, charity, and none of them do it in their own name, but offer all the credit to Jesus Christ Himself, who is alive and well.
I think this is a good opportunity to reflect on “names” and how we use them. First we should start with God’s name, because if we cannot respect His, who is worthy of all praise, all honour and all glory (as we see in the Second Reading), then how can we respect those who merely imitate his goodness?
God’s name carries with it a reputation. That is to say, who God is, is captured by his name. Perhaps a better way of stating this without sounding like I’ve put God into a box, is to say that His name should evoke within our memory all the good that He has done for us.
When his name is mentioned it should remind us of the inner healing he has offered us, how He has freed us from the burden of sin and shame. How He has promised us everlasting life. How He died for our own sake. How He continues to be present to us through our neighbour and dwells deeply inside of us.
The name of Jesus should evoke peace, comfort, and endow faith. With the name of Jesus, we make our faith explicit, just as a parent would share the name of their beautiful child with everyone, so would we boast of God’s name, since he is more dear to us than our own children, but the very reason why we may have children in the first place.
But to many this is simply not possible. It is much easier to take God’s name in vain, than it is to say it seriously, with conviction in the public sphere. Why? Because we are fearful of entering into polemics, into a stereo-type of being labeled a Jesus-Freak, et cetera. But all of these fears and attitudes are the result of a faith that is dead or forgotten. We do not actually love God, we love an idea of him. If Christ were truly our friend, we would boast of him more than we boast of our own mother, father, sister, brother, and best bud.
God is real, God is ours, and we are His. Lets boast of his name instead of reducing it to a mere sentiment that only gets mentioned at Church.
St. Thomas Aquinas teaches that “familiarity breeds contempt.” Meaning that when we lose track of the mystery or the grandness of another person, let alone God, we lose the reverence that we ought to give to them. We develop a hard-heart that feels entitled before God or neighbour.
Not taking God’s name in vain is a serious command if we realize that God is in fact real, and is the one whom we should love above all else. If we are embarrassed or fearful to make mention of his name in public, we ought to hear the same question Jesus asks Peter: Do you love me?
Peter denied the name of Jesus three times (so we are in good company). But Jesus undid this denial by demanding Peter to profess his love for Christ.
After the Resurrection we also notice that the lot of the Disciples were locked up in a room, out of fear of the Jews. Jesus gave them peace, and taught them to go out into the world proclaiming his name.
In the acts of the Apostles we see clearly that this brought about conflict. But instead of becoming downcast that they met resistance, they rejoiced that they were found worthy of being publically scorned and disciplined. It is fair to say that their attitude as Christians is far from our attitude here in North America, where we keep God localized to the Parish, 1 hour a week. It’s a common temptation when we grow in a culture that interprets religion to only offer polemics. But to us Catholics it’s not about that, it’s about a relationship!
If God is nothing more than an Idea that we worship, we need to acknowledge that fact as Peter did, and hear Jesus ask you the question: Do you love me? When you respond yes…hear him say: “Feed my Sheep.”
The dying of the Church takes place when the Name of Christ is not shared. If we do not share His name explicitly, than people will remain ignorant of the infinite love God has for them, and the culture of souls craving and hungering for that love will go unfed.
The Liturgy itself gives us some practical suggestions about how we can actively, with our bodies, remember to keep his name holy. If we can get this right, we can also stop gossiping about one another, and hold, with reverence those created in His Image and Likeness. This is why you will notice in the GIRM that the name of God and the saints are honoured, because both are worthy of our respect, 1st God’s name, then all those who are faithful.
Here is the passage form the GIRM:
275. A bow signifies reverence and honour shown to the persons themselves or to the signs that represent them. There are two kinds of bow: a bow of the head and a bow of the body.
a) A bow of the head is made when the three Divine Persons are named together and at the names of Jesus, of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and of the Saint in whose honour Mass is being celebrated.
Heavenly Father, you desire us to honour your Son out of justice for all he has done for us. It is truly right and just to boast of God’s name, and this ability to praise God is your gift, burning within us. Help us to brave the world as the Apostles did to share the name of Jesus through acts of mercy and charity. Never let his name be used in vain or for foul judgment and hatred. But rather let your Son’s true Love be manifested, that all who hear the name of Jesus may experience their call to follow him, and to share him with all the sheep wondering, lost. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen