Friday, April 27, 2012

What's in a Name? - Sunday, April 29, 2012

Reflections on the Readings

Fourth Sunday of Easter -  April 29, 2012 - Year B

By Dennis S. Hankins

Readings For This Sunday

What's in a Name?

They inquired, "By what power or by what name did you do this?"   Acts 4:7

Choosing a name for a baby is one of those thrilling realities for the expectant mom and dad.  Family stories abound about such things.  Thirty-five years ago this June I remember we had a boy's name and a girl's name picked out as we awaited the arrival of our first-born.  When our son was born we knew his name would be 'Timothy.' We chose that name because it means 'one who honors God.'  Pouring into him our love, the meaning of the faith, and teaching him the value of a disciplined life we watched him grow into a fine young man.  

However I must tell you that I spent many a night praying myself to sleep as Timothy tried other ways and things that did not match the meaning of his name.  But today Debbie and I are grateful that Timothy does honor God along with his wife Kristin.  And we are especially proud to announce that he is entering the seminary this fall to become a United Methodist pastor.

So, "What's in a name? someone may ask.  

Is there anything particularly special about the name of Jesus?  Does the name of Jesus signify something about his identity and mission?  The answer to both of these questions is, "Yes!"  Jesus means in Hebrew: "God saves."  At the annunciation the angel Gabriel gave the name 'Jesus' as the proper name of the Son of the Father.  His name expresses both his identity and his mission. (CCC #430) (Luke 1:31)  An angel appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David,... you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:20, 21)

Moses encounters the living God speaking to him from the midst of the bush that burns without being consumed.  He reveals himself as the God of the fathers:  Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  The combination of the voice and the unburned burning bush causes Moses to hide his face, because he was afraid to look at God.  But God tells Moses of his intentions.  He hears the cries of his people and he sees their oppression.  And in this revelation of himself he commissions Moses to lead his people out of Egypt.

Moses ponders one thing and asks the Lord, "If I go to your people and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?"

God reveals to Moses his mysterious name, YHWH which means: "I AM HE WHO IS," "I AM WHO AM" or "I AM WHO I AM."  Tell them Moses, "I AM has sent me to you...this is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations." (Ex. 3:13-15)  In his name God reveals himself infinitely above everything that we can understand or say: he is the "hidden God," his name is ineffable, and he is the God who makes himself close to men. (CCC #206)  The richness of the mercy of God came to the world in the person of Jesus.  By giving his life to free us from sin, Jesus reveals that he himself bears the divine name: "When you have lifted up the Son of man, then you will realize that 'I AM.'" (CCC 210; Jn 8:28 in the Greek)

Peter exclaims to the Rulers of the people and elders that it is by the mighty name of Jesus that the crippled man now walks and leaps and praises God.  Peter continues, "You crucified him, but God raised him from the dead.  This stone was rejected by you builders but it has become the head of the corner." 

Peter's sermon crescendos with the exalted name of Jesus.  He declares there is no salvation in anyone else.  There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.  The Catechism takes up this theme: Jesus' Resurrection glorifies the name of the Savior God, for from that time on it is the name of Jesus that fully manifests the supreme power of the "name which is above every name." The evil spirits fear his name; in his name his disciples perform miracles, for the Father grants all they ask in his name. (CCC #434) 

The Church has her origin in the salvific identify and mission of Jesus.  In his name she proclaims to all the world repentance and the forgiveness of sins.  From her we receive in his name the sacraments that nurture our soul and that help us to grow in grace.  And in Christ's name she feeds the poor, clothes the naked, and visits those in prison.  In the precious name of Jesus she comforts the sick and soothes the trouble hearted.  She is the very face of Jesus glowing with the immeasurable depths of holy love.  And to every repentant heart she whispers the words of Jesus, "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more!"

The Catechism continues: The name of Jesus is at the heart of Christian prayer.  All liturgical prayers conclude with the words "through our Lord Jesus Christ." The Hail Mary reaches its high point in the words "blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus."  The Eastern prayer of the heart, the Jesus Prayer, says: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me a sinner." (CCC #435)

Many souls have left this world with the one word "Jesus" on their lips.  For two millennia mothers have caressed the feverish brow of their babies while whispering the holy name of Jesus.  At the meals of Christian families a prayer of thanksgiving concludes with "through Christ our Lord."  

Let this sacred name be the inspiration of your thoughts and words and deeds.  Do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Col. 3:17)  Amen.

1. Take the name of Jesus with you, 

child of sorrow and of woe; 

it will joy and comfort give you; 

take it then, where'er you go. 



Precious name, O how sweet! 

Hope of earth and joy of heaven. 

Precious name, O how sweet! 

Hope of earth and joy of heaven. 

2. Take the name of Jesus ever, 

as a shield from every snare; 

if temptations round you gather, 

breathe that holy name in prayer. 

3. O the precious name of Jesus! 

How it thrills our souls with joy, 

when his loving arms receive us, 

and his songs our tongues employ! 


4. At the name of Jesus bowing, 

falling prostrate at his feet, 

King of kings in heaven we'll crown him,

when our journey is complete.

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