Saturday, February 6, 2016

Taking Care With the Most Holy Name

We all have bad habits. Some of them we want to break, others we really don't care about. Since I'm a pretty imperfect (not-so-angelic, you could say) person, I have a lot of bad habits. There's plenty of things I need to work on to make myself a better person and a better Catholic Christian. One thing that I've had some success with is taking God's name in vain. Of course, this is against the second commandment, which tells us plainly "You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain." This is something I used to do pretty frequently, but I'm getting better at cutting it out of my vocabulary. However, I've heard some people say that it's not as big a deal to use the Lord's name in vain as one might think. According to one religious, I've seen it said that, "Simply because we may blurt out one of these phrases without the full awareness of their significance, does not render them disrespectful." And I can understand that outlook... to a degree, though.

If for instance, someone tells me that their aunt got in a car accident, or someone is suffering from a horrible disease, then I could see "Oh my God" being permissible to say; perhaps it could be offered up as a prayer as in, "Oh my God, have mercy on that person."

However, I think I disagree with the particular viewpoint above for the most part. It would appear other men who have been ordained to the priesthood have given a contrary answer to the question of if it is a sin to say something like "oh my God!" when not used as a prayer. It's not all as cut and dry as we might make it out to be.

One priest reminds us that "Our common exclamations which use the name of God are quite self-centered. They express surprise, anguish, disgust or whatever. But they do not 'bless, praise, and glorify' God’s name. If we must exclaim, we should pick out something harmless. I know a devout Catholic father of a large family who on occasion expresses deep negative emotions with a simple word: 'Argh!'"

Another comments that "When 'OH, MY GOD' becomes a mindless expression of wonderment, surprise, approval or disgust over something trivial, vile or mundane, yes, it is a sin and even potentially a grave sin against the Second Commandment, Thou shalt not take the Name of the Lord Thy God in vain."

Following a similar train of though as the other two, another priest comments "that Catholics--or anyone--who takes the Name of the Lord in vain is guilty of a terrible sin, against the explicit commandment of the Lord. Granted, some people get into the bad habit of foul language, but to actually abuse the Name of the Lord is a mortal sin."

Of course, we need to recall when reading that last comment that full knowledge of the act is necessary for something to be considered a mortal sin, so it's always possible that a deeply ingrained habit mitigates one's culpability of such a sin to one that is venial. However,

I think the second commandment is pretty clear, we shouldn't take our Lord's name in vain. So yes, to do so doesn't necessarily mean we're blaspheming His name, and maybe sometimes uttering it can help us be aware of the need for divine help... however it's quite clear that taking God's name in vain in situations other than these instances is contrary to keeping the Lord's name holy. The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) says:
"The gift of a name belongs to the order of trust and intimacy. 'The Lord's name is holy.' For this reason man must not abuse it. He must keep it in mind in silent, loving adoration. He will not introduce it into his own speech except to bless, praise, and glorify it.
"Respect for his name is an expression of the respect owed to the mystery of God himself and to the whole sacred reality it evokes. The sense of the sacred is part of the virtue of religion...
"The holiness of the divine name demands that we neither use it for trivial matters, nor take an oath which on the basis of the circumstances could be interpreted as approval of an authority unjustly requiring it. (CCC 2143-2144, 2155)
I fail to see how mindlessly blurting out our Lord's name, especially if we're Christian, shows respect to the mystery of God. Whenever one of my younger cousins or a child in my religious education class I know says "Oh my God", I ask them to please not say that; that we should have respect for God's name and not use it so carelessly without thought.

Christ Weeping Over Jerusalem- Ary Scheffer

As for saying Jesus' name in vain, there is a really good article by professor Peter Kreeft that shows how holy His name is. In it, he writes:
"The fact that this holy name of Jesus actually brings about the presence of God explains why God gave us, as the second of all his commandments, 'You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain' (Ex 20:7). In the Old Testament, the self-revealed name of God was YHWH, in Hebrew: a name is always written without the vowels because it was forbidden to pronounce it, since it meant 'I AM', or 'I AM WHO AM', and to pronounce that name is to claim to bear it. You can pronounce any other name, like 'Ivan' or 'Mary' or 'Hey, You' without claiming to be the person who bears that name; there is only one name that you cannot say in the second person (you) or the third person (he or she), and that is 'I'. Thus no Jew ever dared to pronounce that holy name, or even guess how the vowels were supposed to be pronounced, because it could be truly spoken only by God himself."
There was a discussion at work one time at lunch that it was "ridiculous" for a friend of mine to tell another co-worker that saying God or Jesus' name in vain was wrong. The one co-worker couldn't wrap his head around what my friend had said. The co-worker said, "What's the differenc eif you say 'Christ!' or 'Gadzooks!'". I wanted to interjected, but waited until later and told my friend "One is God's name; the other is not." I also mentioned how Jesus' very name is a prayer, going back to the desert fathers, as Kreeft eloquently lays out in his article above . Of course the Jesus prayer is typically spelled out as, "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." However, it's sufficient to just say "Jesus". As the CCC says,

"The divine name may not be spoken by human lips, but by assuming our humanity The Word of God hands it over to us and we can invoke it: "Jesus," "YHWH saves." The name "Jesus" contains all: God and man and the whole economy of creation and salvation. To pray "Jesus" is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One, and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him." (CCC 2666)

Was my lapsed Christian co-worker welcoming the Son of God by taking Jesus' name in vain? Vain is defined by Webster's dictionary as: "without effect or avail; to no purpose." What I'm asking is, should we be saying God's name for no purpose? Again, I am guilty of this and am doing better in stopping myself from saying God's name in vain. Now if Jesus' name is a prayer, and "Oh my God" can be used as a prayer... I think we can conclude from the words of the religious above and from the CCC we should take more care in just blurting out the name of God. Even if it isn't outright blasphemy, it's still being done in vain. There should be a purpose in mind each time we use the Most Holy Name.

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