There is a pretty sizeable shift that needs to happen in the life of every Catholic.
For whatever reason, over the course of hundreds of years and up to the present day, our cultural heritage teaches us to know about God. We understand how to welcome people into a religion that has a code of living and an intellectual package. But, in very significant ways, we have really forgotten how to introduce people to Jesus. We are not very good at welcoming people into the dynamic, deeply personal Lordship of Jesus. By the grace of God, we have gotten better at this, but there is still a long way to go.
Thus, the shift that needs to happen is going from knowing about God (which is so obviously not enough) to knowing God. This is always and forever what the essence of being a Catholic has been about – to be a follower of Jesus. He is not some guy who lived ‘back then’ or who just lives ‘up there’; but the real Jesus – the one who can be intimately known and drawn close to as our intimately present Master.
There is an interesting difference between the ‘knowing about’ and the ‘knowing’. In the former stage, we can have a kind of discomfort when saying the name, ‘Jesus’. We principally stick to ‘Christ’ or ‘God’ or, if we venture to utter the name of Jesus, we usually say, ‘Jesus Christ’. Now, of course, none of those are bad words and we should go on saying them. Let that be clear. But, Scripture does not say, “At the name of Christ (or ‘God’) every knee shall bow”. His name is Jesus (and ‘Christ’ is not His last name) and it is “at the name of Jesus that every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Phil. 2:10).
But our daily habit is to shy away from saying that Name. It has the ability to make us uncomfortable; it shakes us, disrupts us, exposes us. It has a kind of concussive effect. It’s really peculiar, but perhaps it makes sense.
If we only know about God, then He is still mostly some kind of abstraction to us. But the name of Jesus is utterly personal. To say, ‘Jesus’, is to almost get a split-second flash of His Face. His name has tremendous power. It immediately demands a response. To say it is to make Him present, and to make Him present is to be caught in a riptide that pulls us out to sea – the sea of a relationship, of a knowing. We can feel this when we say it. So, if we are unprepared to leap from knowing about to knowing, we subconsciously shy away from that jarring, alarming riptide when we say His Name.
But this is exactly the seismic shift that needs to happen in the life of every Catholic! We need to know Him! Alighted by the Holy Spirit, we need to be brought “to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that [we] may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:19). We need to meet Jesus.
And, strangely, once we have, we use the title ‘Christ’ a lot less. We are then on a first-name basis. We stop talking about ‘this guy who is the leader of my religion’ and we start talking about our Friend, our Master, our Lord, the one with whom we are in love. We begin to very easily, joyfully and deliciously say, “Jesus”. We long to be overshadowed by the power of that name.
The main point of talking about this is not to shame us or have us think that ‘Christ’ and ‘God’ are inappropriate words (they are Biblical, after all)! Of course we should go on using those words. The point of this post is not to talk about what words we shouldn’t say, but what Word we should be able to say.
The point is simply to ask this question: How easily can you say the name, “Jesus”? Does the power flowing from that name delight you? Does it naturally provoke a glad surrender in you? Or does saying it out loud, even in private, make you feel weird, discombobulated, embarrassed and uncomfortably ‘seen’?
The name ‘Jesus’ – that name above all names – measures and diagnoses us. Just speaking it can show us where we are at (knowing about or knowing), and can help us jump over the chasm.