Reverence in prayer the cross and the name of God
“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” (Matt 6:9)
“Do not take the Lord’s name in vain.” As Jesus said, we are to “hallow” the name of God. God’s name is holy and deserves our utmost care and respect in its use. It seems that we can grow very casual in our use of God’s name or things related to God. It is possible to wear religious objects and sacramentals such as crosses in a very casual or thoughtless way. We may use them in vain just as we can use God’s name in vain. So, our spiritual fitness this month will focus on how can we increase our love and reverence for the name of God and the cross of Jesus Christ. If we have misused either of them, there is a way in which we can find forgiveness – through contrition (sorrow) for our sins, and confessing those sins to a priest in the sacrament of reconciliation. Before we enter the spiritual exercises, let’s consider the cross of Jesus.
The cross is at the heart of our Lenten journey. It stands as a sign of contradiction to the wisdom of the world. “The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to those who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18)
As Catholics, we begin our prayers and worship of God by making the sign of the cross on our bodies and saying, “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.” It is so automatic for Catholics, we do it without much thought. In marking ourselves with the sign of the cross, we acknowledge that the cross of Jesus claims us. The cross of Jesus saves us. St. Bernadette Soubirous, who saw our Blessed Mother at Lourdes, France, was observed making a very reverent and thoughtful sign of the cross as she began her prayers. It was not a hurried action, but full of devotion and care. Bernadette was imitating Mary! How important it is for us to know the meaning of the cross in our lives. The cross of Jesus puts sin to death in us. We each have a cross to carry that unites us to the suffering of Jesus. If we have such an understanding, we respect and reverence the cross. Knowing that the cross is precious and sacred, we should not make the sign of the cross or wear the cross in vain.
Through the cross, we have access to the grace of baptism and entrance into the family of God. This is also the focus of our Lenten journey. We renew our baptismal graces as we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus. We actively participate and experience Christ’s saving death and resurrection. In dying with Jesus on the cross, sin dies in us. This is the same dying that occurs in baptism. When we rise from the waters of baptism, we rise with the risen Christ as adopted sons and daughters. We are born through baptism in water and the Spirit new children of God’s family. At this time, we receive the ability to call God a new name – Father! So, our knowing God as Trinity was made possible by the cross of Jesus Christ. No wonder we begin our prayers with the sign of the cross and speaking out the name of the Most Holy Trinity.
To speak someone’s name is to acknowledge that person’s presence. When we speak the name of God the Father or our Lord Jesus or the Holy Spirit, we acknowledge they are present. And not only that, we also acknowledge that we are adopted children of the Trinity. I can say, “In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” because I am “in” the family. I belong! As a son or daughter, I have a status in the family. As the letter of John says, “See what love the Father has bestowed on us that we may be called children of God. Yet, so we are.” (1 John 3:1)
So, if we misuse God’s name, we hurt ourselves, for we are misusing our own family name. We hurt our own identity, not recognizing that God is our beloved Father, Jesus our beloved Savior and brother, and the Spirit our beloved Advocate and Counselor. We end up joining those who surrounded Jesus while He died on the cross and blasphemed Him. They reviled Christ, not recognizing that God was present before them. That is the worst use of the human tongue.
Our spiritual exercises this month are aimed at helping us overcome bad lip habits and a routine or empty use of the sign of the cross. If we can rid our mouths of unholy words, our minds and hearts will be emptied, too. If we fill our mouths with holy words, our hearts and minds will become holy, too. The cross of Jesus is essential to this because before the cross we either confess Him as Savior, asking for forgiveness and adoring Him, or we show our indifference and unbelief and curse Him.
1. With deliberation and care, make the sign of the cross. Hold a cross in your hand. If you wear a cross, take hold of it.
2. Read Mark’s account of the passion of Jesus in Chapter 15. Consider what came out of the mouths of those who were in the presence of Jesus Christ.
3. Read Luke’s account in Chapter 23:33-48. Again consider what came out of the mouths of those who were with Jesus.
4. Imagine yourself before the cross of Jesus. Think about the way you have talked about God in your life. How have you talked about people? How have you used your lips? Ask for forgiveness if you have sinned in speech.
5. Express your sorrow – contrition of heart – to Jesus.
6. Pray this litany before a cross and feel the words on your lips. I have listed many titles and names for God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, so when you come to them, it is better to take time to say a few names and consider their meaning, than to rush through them all. The words in bold print can be said after pronouncing each name to continue the litany.
Father in heaven, have mercy on me.
Jesus, Word of God made flesh,
Holy Spirit, Breath of God,
Jesus, most gentle of heart,
Jesus, who suffered revilement,
Jesus, who suffered indifference,
Jesus, who was scourged with words of abuse and unbelief,
Jesus, whose words give life,
Jesus, whose words give hope,
Jesus, whose words heal,
Jesus, whose words forgive,
Jesus, whose words encourage,
Jesus, whose words console,
Jesus, whose words strengthen faith,
Jesus, whose words defend,
Jesus, whose words dispel evil,
Jesus, whose words correct error,
Jesus, whose words destroy what is false,
Jesus, whose words enflame our hearts with love,
Jesus, whose words bring joy,
Jesus, whose word is truth,
Jesus, whose word is love,
God the Father, your Name is holy. Help me to know you.
Abba, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Father of Mercies, Father of Lights, Father of Glory, Father of Spirits, Almighty God (El Shaddai), God of our Fathers, God of All Comfort, God of Peace, God of Glory, Living God, Most High God, Majestic Glory, Eternal Immortal Invisible King, Holy Mighty One, Holy Immortal One, Father of Heaven and Earth.
God the Son, your Name is holy. Help me to serve you.
Jesus, Good Shepherd, Wisdom of God, Substitute for Sinners, Suffering Servant, Lord of Righteousness, Lord our Portion, Glory of the Lord, Messiah, Prince of Peace, Child of Bethlehem, Faithful One, Morning Star, Desire of Nations, Fountain Opened for Sinners, Sun of Righteousness, Son of David, Son of Man, Son of God, Lamb of God, Ascended Lord, Crucified Savior, Power of God, Reconciler, Joy of Saints, Hope of Salvation, Coming Lord, Bread of Life, Beginning and the End, Light of the World, Risen Lord.
God the Holy Spirit, your Name is holy. Help me to love you.
Holy Spirit, Spirit of Truth, Spirit of Grace, Spirit of Goodness, Giver of Life, Giver of Divine Gifts, Eternal Spirit, Power of the Most High, Spirit of the Father, Spirit of the Son, Advocate, Paraclete, Counselor, Spirit of Love, Spirit of Wisdom, Spirit of Knowledge, Spirit of Understanding, Spirit of Courage, Spirit of Holy Fear, Purity of God, Holiness of God, Healer of Souls, Protector of the Poor, Defender of the Persecuted, Giver of Praise, Giver of Holy Speech, Love of God. Amen.
7. Express your sorrow for your sins by going to the sacrament of reconciliation. What a great way to celebrate the power and mercy of God that has come to us through the cross! What a great way to use our lips!