Fr. Bryan Howard
3rd Sunday of Lent – Year C – 24 March 2019
The second commandment of the 10 Commandments is that we are not to take the name of the Lord in vain, and the Jewish people have always taken that commandment very seriously, much more seriously than most Christians do, and I think we would do well to learn something from them here. For the ancient Jewish people names were very important. You name isn’t just what you are designated as, but it’s the description of who you are. So God changes Abram’s name to Abraham, meaning “father of a multitude,” and Jacob’s name to Israel, meaning “who struggles with God.” Similarly, Jesus changes Simon’s name to Peter, meaning “rock.” Jesus means “to deliver,” but Jesus is also called Emmanuel, meaning “God with us.” These names define who those people are, and in our first reading today God appears to Moses at the burning bush and tells Moses His name.
First, God calls Him “the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” In other words God is near to us. He is always seeking to enter into relationships with us, as He did with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. He wants to share His life with us, and His life is love; it is the love the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit share in the unity of the Trinity from all eternity. God created us to share His life and love with us.
God also reveals Himself to Moses as Yahweh, which means, “I am that I am,” or “I am Who am.” God reveals to us that He isn’t just another thing in the universe, or even the highest and greatest thing in the universe; God is existence itself, the One Who Exists. We all exist because of Him, but He simply IS. We all need something to explain the fact the we exist, so we can say that our parents caused us to exist, but they need something to explain their existence, too, and so on and so on all the back to the beginning of time. Well, for anything to exist at all, there has to be something that doesn’t need anything else to explain it’s existence, but simply exists. God is the one who explains why anything exists at all rather than nothing, because He wanted to share His existence with us.
The New Testament explains to us that God has a new name now. St. Paul writes to the Philippians, “Because of this God greatly exalted Him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those 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.” We should have the same reverence for the name of God as the ancient Israelites and modern Jews do. Whenever we take the name of the Lord in vain, whether that is Yahweh, or Jesus Christ, or simply God, we are disrespecting who God is. Most other sins offend God because they harm His children, our brothers and sisters on earth, but taking His name in vain in disrespectful of God Himself.
How do we use God’s name in prayer? Do we call on His name to ask Him to be with us, in our heart and soul? Do we ask Him to give us strength and grace? Do we ask Him to help us to know and love Him better? We need to “take the Lord’s name” because we need God’s help in our lives.
How do we use God’s name in our speech? Do we use the name of the Lord to teach people about Him, to encourage them or console them, and to call people to prayer? How often do we, instead, use God’s name in a profane way, like when we’re upset about something and need to blow off some steam? How often do we use God’s name as a weapon to hurt someone else?
Think about Who God IS and what that means for you. Taking the name of the Lord in vain can very easily become a habit, but if we take the Lord’s name in prayer, then He can help us to break that habit and, by respecting and loving the name of God, come to have a deeper respect and love for God Himself.
(The text for the last 2 minutes of the audio isn’t here, as it’s the introduction to the First Scrutiny which took place at the 4:00 PM Mass on Saturday.)
Fr. Bryan was pastor of Our Lady of Lourdes from July 3, 2017 to June 2022.