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I am a Third Order Franciscan of the Province of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Blessed be the name of God

This is the second of a series of reflections on the Divine Praises that began here.

God is called many names in the Scriptures – El-Shadai, Adonai, I AM WHO AM, Theos, Father, Abba. The most important name is YHWH – the Tetragramaton, which we generally pronounce Yahweh. None of these names, of course, represents the true name of God but they describe in a limited way the one who is Lord, Master, Deliverer, the Just One, the Merciful One. Indeed, the names that we give and can give to God are limited only by our limited expression.

From our Jewish brothers and sisters we have learned to treat the name of God with deep respect. The Jewish peoples avoid writing the name of God – not because it is prohibited but because it is forbidden to deface or erase God’s name. If I write God’s name on a piece of paper, something bad might happen to the paper – someone might mistreat God’s name. The Jewish people will, therefore, often write God as G-d as a way of ensuring a respectful treatment of God’s name. The Jewish people will also not say YHWH, because that name is reserved only for the High Priest.

We too should show great respect for the name of God. God’s name should be a blessing, not a curse or an expletive shouted out in anger or condemnation. Nor should the name of God be just another word in our vocabulary. How often will we speak the name of God without really thinking of the one about whom we are speaking? Do we treat the name of God worse than we treat the name of our parents?

The name of God is holy because God is holy. While we have many names of God, God is above and beyond any name we can speak. When we say God, we speak of the one alone whom we worship, the one alone who is worthy of worship.

Yet, we are not like the pagans Christ speaks about. We do not worship an “unknown god” or many gods. Christ himself is our high priest and he has revealed to us that we can always call our God Father. Our God who is above all things desires to be in intimate relationship with us and so when we pray “Blessed be the name of God” we remember not only God’s awesome transcendence, his awesome glory – we also remember his awesome closeness, his awesome love for us.

What a great blessing it is for us to be able to call our God Father! What a great blessing it is that we can come before our God as his sons and his daughters! What a blessing it is that we have a God who hears our prayers and answers them! Just think of it, we don’t need an elaborate ritual to get God’s attention. He is always attentive to us and we can begin speaking to him the very instant we say, “Father”, the very instant that we call upon his name.

Blessed be the most holy name of God,
Adonai, El-Shadai, Yahweh.
To Abraham, you showed yourself as a flaming torch
To Moses, you appeared as a burning bush
Now, thanks to your son Jesus, we can call you Father.
Be father to me now as I struggle to grow as your child.
Protect me in times of trial.
Strengthen me in times of doubt.
But most especially, help me to always know your love.


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