March 22, 2022 | By Fr. Vincent Arisukwu
March 22, 2022 | By Fr. Vincent Arisukwu
“I AM WHO AM.”
This weekend, my homily is based on the encounter between God and Moses in the reading from Exodus. I wish to teach from the Catechism of the Catholic Church for some reasons, primarily to stress on the need to be reverent with God’s name in our time. First, we live in a time where God’s name seems not to be taken very seriously. Second, believers are beginning to witness the subtle silencing of the use of God’s name. Third, this has led to a certain misperception of the use of God’s name. Fourth, to talk about God in the context of religion is in some sense presented in some derogatory fashion, such that society is quick to emphasize spirituality over or without religion. Fifth, unfortunately, Catholics seem to lack the courage to confront the use of God’s name in vain.
My question is, “What is God’s name for you?” The hard truth is that God is not subject to scientific or technological proofs. He is not just one of those “gods” or any superhuman being. God makes his identity clear to Moses, “This is what you shall tell the Israelites. “I Am sent me to you.” “This is my name forever, thus am I to be remembered through all generations” (Ex. 3:15).
I will strongly invite you to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church (nos. 203 – 208). God simply reveals his name as “I AM”, as the God who is always there, present to his people in order to save them. A name expresses a person’s essence and identity and the meaning of this person’s life. God is real. Through Moses, humanity discovers his own insignificance. Before the burning bush, Moses takes off his sandals and veils his face in the presence of God’s holiness. Before the glory of the holy God, Isaiah cries out: “Woe is me! I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips.” Before the divine signs wrought by Jesus, Peter exclaims: “Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.”
In the Old Testament, the name of God was so holy that the average person wasn’t allowed to say it at all and the high priest only said God’s name in the Holy of Holies. The Holy of Holies was the holiest place in the temples where the 10 commandments were kept. If we compare that to today, we know exactly how much we have dropped the ball.
People take the holy name of God and use it as a common curse word. This completely goes against the 2nd Commandment, “You shall not invoke the name of the Lord, your God, in vain. For the Lord will not leave unpunished anyone who invokes his name in vain” (Ex 20:7). It is a sin of blasphemy to take the Lord’s name in vain. If you are in the habit of doing this, I will encourage a change of attitude. It a serious reason to go to confession.
In the New Testament, scripture says, “All who call on the name of the Lord will be saved.” The name of Jesus Christ is the most holy and sacred of all names. Again, the scriptures tell us: Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place and gave Him the name above all names, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, 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.… (Phil 2:10) That is so beautiful.
The face of Jesus is painted after the image found on the Shroud of Turin. The Shroud is believed to be the burial cloth of Jesus with His body and face imprinted on the Shroud. When we look at this, we see the face of Jesus but also the face of God the Father who perfectly formed his own face into the face of Jesus. Jesus says to the disciples, “if you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” This is the face of love and mercy. This is the face of Him who formed you in your mother’s womb, who constantly looks on you with love. It’s so accepted today that people don’t realize the wickedness of attacking the holy name of Jesus. It’s blasphemy! I’m imploring you to stop taking the Lord’s name in vain.
It’s time that we also begin to live as saints, to be bold and courageous. Let’s all decide today to defend the Holy Name of God. We don’t have to be lecturing those who take His name in vain but if you hear someone use the Lord’s name as a blasphemy, you can gently say “Jesus Christ is our Lord and Judge. Blessed be the name of the Lord.” Gently ask the person to respect the holy name of Jesus. Jesus is God and is given the name above all names. We should adore Him.
If I may ask you, what does God’s name mean for you? What emotions does it evoke when you hear it? What happens inside you when you hear people messing with God’s name? As a Christian and a Catholic, you should be concerned when God’s name is used sacrilegiously. As parents, you should teach your children from the cradle to be respectful of God’s name.
We are all respectful when we address our president or governor, the pope or the bishop, our boss or anyone in authority. We all respect our national flag and hold the flag as sacred. Should we not be more respectful of the most holy name of God? It is our duty to teach our children. God is bigger than the world and bigger than any religion. St. Thomas Aquinas calls him “Ipsum esse subsistens” (the subsistent act of to-be itself).
The sciences cannot prove God, because he is not within the confines of scientific experimentation. God is not a thing or a phenomenon to be investigated. Bishop Barron described God as that “Ocean from which the world in its entirety comes forth, the reason for which the world exists.” God’s existence does not depend on whether we believe or not. He exists irrespective of what we think. He says to Moses, “I am!”
Authentic religion helps us to deepen our relationship through worshipping Him. The world exists because of God. The human being is in search of meaning, in search of authentic freedom and cannot secure this of its own. The world didn’t need to exist, yet it does exist, because there is a Supreme Being, an infinite source of reality whose nature is to be. This “Necessary Condition” is the “I am,” “the Condition for the existence of everything else” (Bishop Barron)
In the gospel, Christ uses two incidents to call the people to repentance -the Galileans killed by Pilate and the eighteen people killed by the tower of Siloam. He reminds them that those victims are not worse sinners than those alive. In that context, Christ issues a strong invitation using the parable of the barren fig tree. Just like the barren fig tree, God gives each of us opportunity to repent. The “I am,” implores mercy in his judgment.
My friends, I urge you to realize that God is always there for you. He is your divine mercy. He is the unchangeable God who hears the cry of the oppressed. Whether you are physically, emotionally, or spiritually oppressed by sin, know that God is there for you. Call on his name reverently and He answers.
Again, like Moses, take off your sandals and adore his holy name. Your sandal is the symbol of unworthiness. Drop your sandal by going to confession. That is what Lent invites you to do. Finally, remember this, God is not a being who suddenly popped up. He is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, “For in him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). He is to be remembered forever.
We live in difficult times right now but we have so many opportunities to become a great saint. The halos are on the lowest branches, there for the picking. Defend the Lord and He’ll defend you. And He’ll bless you. There’s a song by Matt Redman called 10,000 reasons and it opens this way: Bless the Lord O my soul, O my soul, worship his holy name. Sing like never before O my soul. I worship your holy name.”
Readings: 1st- Ex. 3:1-8, 13-15; 2nd- 1 Cor. 10:1-6, 10-12; Gospel- Lk. 13:1-9