The Name of Jesus

My son is starting to say words (actually, to be realistic, babblings that sound a lot like words). There is the usual “mama” and “dada,” but I’m not totally sure he associates those words with the concepts yet. He will reliably say “cup” when he plays with his cups and “car” when he sees a car or looks at a book with cars in it (or trucks; at this point, they are the same to him).

My husband got him to say “Jesus” by putting pictures of Jesus all over the apartment and handing him holy cards (laminated, so they are indestructible!). One of the pictures of Jesus is in the bathroom, so when I’m done changing my son, I make sure he sees Jesus before he leaves the room. Now it’s a habit, so he will swing around and say hi to Jesus.

This is not to brag about my son (who am I kidding, of course it is!) but to say that all this repetition of the name of Jesus got me thinking about the name itself and what it should mean. Often, we use it as a swear word when we should be giving honor to the name. I pay more attention to the name now. This past Sunday, I was trying to be super focused on the times when the name would be said in the readings or the homily. It isn’t said a lot. Instead, we use Christ or Emmanuel or the Son of God or any number of other titles. I might have heard “Jesus” once or twice. Would we benefit more from hearing the name spoken in a positive way? I think so. It is a nice reminder.

…at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth…

Philippians 2:10, NABRE

The Baby Jesus

Lately, I have been thinking about the baby Jesus. When I was younger (and by that, I mean only about a year ago), I imagined a tiny baby, looking as perfect as one of those Ashton-Drake dolls, wrapped up in a flawless swaddle, in a manger. Mary and Joseph are perfectly calm and nonchalant, as if in a nativity scene.

Like many things about the life of Christ, that was a completely idealized vision. We never think about the one-second-old baby Jesus looking gray and wrinkled, with an umbilical cord, covered in blood, wailing into the cold Bethlehem night. He is always perfect, like when a gorgeous blonde on a soap opera miraculously gives birth to a six-month-old.

We never think about Mary being exhausted from the birth or the constant feedings. She always appears angelic and serene. Yes, she was sinless, but she was still human. I can imagine that she felt much like any other new mother after one of those endless days in the first month or so: hungry and thirsty, totally exhausted, and wishing Joseph would hurry back from his trip to the market so she could have one minute to close her eyes.

Babies are hilarious little creatures. They make weird noises. They pop up in their crib to greet you at 3 in the morning, when any reasonable person would be asleep. They grab their feet and stick them in their mouth. They suddenly shriek with joy at the top of their lungs for no apparent reason. They fling food all over the place when eating. I’m sure the baby Jesus did all these things. He probably kept his Mother awake all night long when he was teething or had colic, but he must have kept her laughing, too.

Babies are also, quite frankly, disgusting. I’m not going to describe the bodily fluids or the incredible degree of literal crap one has to put up with as a parent. I’m sure you can imagine it (and you might have been there). Again, I’m sure the baby Jesus had his disgusting moments. True, he was God himself. But he was fully human and subject to all the nastiness of the human condition. It did not make him less holy, just like all those gross-out times don’t make regular babies any less lovable.

Maybe this Christmas, we should look closer at babies and be reminded that Jesus was once a baby, too. We might even be able to take that a step further and look at grown adult people, especially those who get on our nerves, and be reminded that Jesus was once a grown adult, walking among us, capable of feeling everything that we feel.

How to Fix the Church

The Catholic Church is messed up. We are dealing with the sex abuse crisis, the financial abuse crisis, people who call themselves Catholic but don’t know or follow the Church’s teachings, all the Pachamama drama that went down during the recent Amazon synod, and a host of other issues.

Some of the “traditional” Catholics are saying that these bad fruits are growing from the seed of the Novus Ordo Mass (AKA the form of the Mass that has been done since Vatican II in the 1960s). They believe that the faith has been weakened because of the lack of reverence that has come about since Latin became abandoned. “Progressive” Catholics believe that the “old ways” represent a lack of mercy and an overabundance of judgment.

This finger pointing seems to be an excuse to justify a variety of sins. I’ve said on here before that it is easy to pick out “obvious” sins like the sexual ones. It is harder to tell when someone’s great sin is pride. Ultimately, God is the judge. Our job is to seek him in all things and to purify ourselves so we want nothing more than to be with him for all eternity. Much of what we think is helpful is actually counterproductive, like writing blog posts like this one or arguing on social media.*

What are Catholics supposed to do? At this point, it needs to be a lot less “armchair politics” and social media/blog time wasting and a lot more direct works of mercy, like volunteering, donating, praying, or sitting in front of Jesus during Adoration. The more we fill our time with productive work for God and others, the less time we have to fill our minds with judgment and news of everything that is going wrong. This approach would work regardless of whether you consider yourself a “traditional” or “progressive” Catholic.

*This might be my last blog post on this subject. The more I sit here ranting about the problem, the more I become part of the problem and the less time I have to help solve it, which brings to mind this quote:

She generally gave herself very good advice (though she very seldom followed it).

Lewis Carroll