Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Ah-choo! Jesus Bless You

Have you ever noticed how often people use the word God in everyday speech? We say things such as “Oh my God!” (also known as OMG in text message shorthand). We say, “God bless you,” “God forbid,” “By the grace of God,” “For the love of God,” “For God’s sake,” “It was an act of God,” “The wrath of God,” “Honest to God,” and, “Thank God it’s Friday!” (the famous TGIF).

Granted, most of the time when people use these expressions they are not consciously thinking about the almighty divine Creator. They instead are using culturally common figures of speech. 

Even many agnostics and atheists use these phrases, and certainly they are not renouncing their secular worldview and suddenly proclaiming faith in God. They’re just using traditional phrases to express everyday surprise, anger, fear, joy, frustration, etc.

Frankly, I’m not really sure if these expressions are violations of the Commandment about taking the Lord’s name in vain. I hope they are not, for the sake of the zillions of us who instinctively use these phrases on a regular basis. I truly believe that God cuts us some slack when we commit sins out of ignorance. So, if these common expressions are in fact taking His name in vain, I think He understands that we’re not consciously trying to be blasphemous. At least I hope that’s the case. I guess we should bring it up for discussion the next time we’re in the confessional.

Anyway, since we regularly use these expressions that contain the word God, and no one thinks we’re making religious pronouncements, we should try an experiment. Instead of saying the word God, let’s substitute the name Jesus. Like this: “Oh my Jesus,” “For the love of Jesus,” “Honest to Jesus,” “Jesus willin’ and the creek don’t rise,” “Jesus forbid,” “Jesus works in mysterious ways,” and, “Thank Jesus it’s Friday!”

Here is the most common one of all. Whenever anyone sneezes, say as nicely as you can, “Jesus bless you.”

Unlike the common expressions using the word God, which no one thinks twice about, if we substitute Jesus, I suspect a lot of people will pause and say, “Huh?” And that’s exactly what we want them to do: pause and ponder the name of Jesus.

If a relative, friend, or coworker pauses and says, “Huh? What’d you just say?” we can reply, “I just said ‘Jesus bless you’ instead of ‘God bless you.’ It means the same thing to me, since Jesus is God.”

I’m not saying that when Dave from Accounting sneezes on a Tuesday afternoon, the goal is to initiate a long and deep conversation about the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, and the fact that in Christian theology, as the Nicene Creed says, Jesus Christ is “true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father.”

That might be a little much, especially since Dave from Accounting is probably more concerned at that moment with finding a clean tissue.

It’s likely that most Christians rarely ponder those words from the Nicene Creed (and I suspect most Catholics have never pondered them, even though we recite those words at every Sunday Mass). But the fact is, those words express a basic Christian belief: Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity, one-in-being with God the Father and the Holy Spirit.

Maybe it’s time we took that belief more to heart and expressed it in a somewhat subtle way to our friends and family. Let’s substitute the name Jesus in all those traditional figures of speech. Try typing OMJ in your text messages, and say, “Jesus bless you,” when coworkers sneeze. I don’t think Dave from Accounting will mind, and it might even get him thinking about faith—right after he finds a clean tissue.

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