I can still hear her voice, all these years later: A coworker at the local newspaper where I was working was angry — very angry — and launched into an explosive tirade with one word. She sprang from her chair and practically shouted His Name, emphasizing the two syllables: “Je-SUS!”
I gulped. I’d never heard His beautiful Name spoken so violently. As a rookie on staff, I knew not to cross this woman. She was powerful and I didn’t want her wrath poured out on my head. She wasn’t talking to me, so I kept my eyes fixed on the screen in front of me, typing away, seemingly oblivious.
Years later, I still cringe when I recall that scenario. What might I have said or done differently? Why do people kick God’s Name around? Why such casual disregard toward His Holy Name? These thoughts came to mind earlier this month on the Feast of the Holy Name Jan. 3.
Fr. Carlos Martins, CC, once an atheist and now a well-known priest who travels the world evangelizing, offered some strong words of his own regarding the sin of blasphemy.
While you and I have names, Fr. Martins wrote on his Facebook page, “God IS His Name. God and His Name are equivalent realities. An attack on His Name is an attack on Him. To do so is to curse yourself and the place where the blasphemy is uttered.”
As a priest who has participated in more than a few exorcisms, Fr. Martins said he has never heard a demon trash talk the Name of God. “I have seen them show disdain for the things God loves. I have seen them ridicule God’s reign. But I have never seen them disrespect His Name. That is a domain where, apparently, even the demons fear to tread,” Fr. Martins wrote.
In an age in which spineless politicians and Hollywood celebrities offer profuse apologies for violating the norms of political correctness, this strikes me as ironic. Heaven help us if anyone demonstrates insensitivity toward the sacred cows of a secularist society. But God’s Name? Well, that’s fair game. Christians are a bigoted, ignorant bunch anyway, right?
St. Paul tells us in Philippians 2:10 that “at the Name of Jesus, every knee should bend” and we need to take his words to heart. Now is the time for courage, not cowardice or complicity. Now is the time to have the courage of our Christian convictions. We can get up and walk out of the theater when actors insert crude language alongside God’s Name. We can pray on the spot for the person who has blasphemed. We can develop the habit of bowing our heads when we hear or speak God’s Name. We can ask the Lord to help us become the kind of people who love Him so much that others see that love and automatically censor themselves in our presence.
What it really all comes down to is evangelization — sharing God’s love and hope with others, helping them get to know Jesus and follow Him. When that happens, blasphemy becomes unthinkable. It begins with God’s invitation to turn from sin and be reconciled with Him. His love and mercy impel us to share the Gospel with our lives, our actions and our words.
We’re not alone in this endeavor. The Holy Name Society has been at it for centuries, tracing its roots to the 13th century. The society promotes reverence for the Name of God and fidelity to the teachings of the Catholic Church. It also helps its members grow in holiness and in their love for God and others through the spiritual and corporal works of mercy.
With myriad Catholic organizations and worthy causes vying for our time, you might wonder why the Holy Name Society should merit our attention. As our country drifts further and further from the ideals of Christianity, we must stand firm against the tide. Visit NAHNS.com and take the pledge to develop a love and reverence for God’s Name. May His Holy Name be praised from age unto age and may each of us grow in our devotion to Him.