Sunday, November 14, 2010

What's In A Name?

"And being found in human form he humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has exalted him and bestowed on him the name which is above every other name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father."                                              -Philippians 2:8-10

I cringe whenever I hear the Lord's name taken in vain, especially when it's used in a negative or derisive manner.  It literally causes me physical pain, particularly on the occasion when it is I who let his name slip from my lips without respect and reverence.  The funny thing is, several years ago, if anyone else had told me they had a physical reaction, I would have been very likely to--at best--give a smirk of dismissal.  Sure, I knew that it was a Commandment, but certainly God would not strike me down for the simple act of letting an utterance carelessly slip from my lips, would he?

The answer is no, but for a very different reason than I used to think, but I'll get back to that in a second.

First, let's take a moment to think about the implication of what St. Paul described in the above passage from his Letter to the Philippians.  Imagine a name so powerful that every creature in heaven, on earth, and under the earth--indeed all of creation itself should bow at its mere utterance.  For all eternity, all of creation, led by the angels and the martyrs, falls down in worship before his throne, "Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!...To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever!" (Rev 5:12-13).  The wind and sea obey his commands (cf. Matthew 8:27), and even the demons who know their days to roam the earth are numbered cower in fear at the recognition of him (cf. Matthew 8:28-34).

The power of his name is not limited to situations of such large consequence.  Try speaking his name in the context of an everyday conversation.  Either it will cause an instantaneous bond, warmly and excitedly received (by fellow Christians), received with  inquisitiveness (by those seeking the Truth but who might not know that he is a person, Jesus Christ), or you will be flat out rejected and dismissed (by unbelievers).  The bottom line is that his name is divisive.  It knocks people out of their comfort zone.  Jesus came to forgive, surely, but also to eliminate the "middle ground."  It is so easy to forget that that the middle ground, in the scheme of eternity, will not exist for very much longer.  Our response to and use of the power of his name will leave us either in the first group or the last.

His name is also incredibly powerful with interior struggles against temptation and evil.  Try speaking and meditating on his name--only his name--when you encounter them.  Set your mental and spiritual focus on him, place yourself at the foot of his cross, and before very long the demons will not be able to stand it.  They cannot stand its power will flee in fear just as quickly as they came.

Back to the reason God will not strike us down.  We are not struck down because of the merciful power--or better the infinitely powerful mercy--of his name.  It is so easy to forget that even the slightest sin merits us being stricken and condemned.   But he, the name, stepped down into our time and took that death and condemnation on himself.  Because he is man, he could suffer for us what we deserved.  Because he is God, he could take it away our offense as if it had never existed.  To carry his mercy forward in time until he comes in glory at its end, he gave us the Sacraments, especially Reconciliation and the Eucharist, as concrete, tangible communicators of that grace and mercy.

So, when I hear that power of his name--the power to create, bless, unify his body, divide the wheat from chaff, forgive sins, and deliver our prayers to the Father--used so carelessly and nonchalantly, it hurts.  Let us pray for the grace that, for love of his heart that bleeds for us, it will hurt all the more.

Benedictus qui venit in nomine domini.


1 comment:

  1. Praise God that it hurts! It would be a sad day if I didn't cringe when I hear His name used irreverently. And like you said, sometimes it's from my own mouth...which is even more painful. Sigh.