Saturday, May 12, 2018

What's in a name?

HOMILY FOR THE 7th SUNDAY OF EASTER, May 13, 2018:

The Navy Chief noticed a new sailor and asked, “What’s your name?” “John,” the young man said. “Look,” said the Chief, “I don’t know what they’re teaching in boot camp nowadays, but I don’t call anyone by his first name. It breeds familiarity, and that breaks down authority. I refer to you by last name only; Smith, Jones, Baker, whatever. And you call me as ’Chief’. Am I clear?” “Aye, Aye Chief!” the sailor said. “So let me ask again, what’s your name sailor?” The man sighed and said, “Darling. My last name is Darling.” Without skipping a beat, the Chief said, “Okay, John, you’re dismissed.”

What’s in a name? We heard Jesus say, “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me.” Keep them in your name. That phrase brings to mind the famous question pondered in Romeo and Juliet, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” Our Gospel invites us to ponder the same question, what is in a name? Just think of your family. One of the outward signs that unites a family are the common names we share. Last names and their meanings are important. First names are also important. For myself, every time someone tells me they are pregnant, I remind them what a beautiful name Thomas is. No takers yet. But, isn’t it a source of pride when the newest member of your family becomes your namesake?

Time Magazine recently had an interesting article about names. You know, not too long ago, Catholics always gave their children religious names – naming them after Biblical individuals or saints. Why? Because a name says something, means something. It says something about who we are, and it says something about who we hope to be. Today, though, we live in an age where names come from different sources – movies, television, sometimes just made up.

But, the good news, according to the Time article is that in the last 10 years, people are returning to Biblical names for their children. Among the top 10 boys names last year were Jacob, Michael, Noah and Anthony – all good Biblical or saintly names. Popular girls names are not necessarily Biblical, but definitely spiritual. Girls are being named things like Destiny, Genesis, Trinity and perhaps the most interesting one I saw, Nevaeh. That’s Heaven spelled backwards.

So, what’s in a name? We hear in Acts of the Apostles that it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians; a name which means literally “little Christ.” This is a name that each of us has been given through the grace of our Baptism. We too are called Christians. We are called to be little Christ’s going out into the world witnessing to the One in whose Name we have been claimed. As we sing in the familiar hymn, “They will know we are Christians by our love.” It is up to each of us to claim the name we have been given, the name of the daughters and sons of God. It is up to us to live up to that name and all that it challenges us to and all that it promises.

So, what is in that name? Well, in the name of Jesus, the Son of God, since the day of our Baptism, we have been claimed for eternity; named for the Savior, welcomed into the family of God. In the name of Jesus, in this Church today, bread and wine will become His Body and His Blood. In the name of Jesus we will be blessed at the end of Mass. In the name of Jesus, sins are forgiven, the sick are healed, the blind can see, the deaf can hear, demons are driven out, the dead are raised. In the name of Jesus, we can pray for what we need with a confidence that what we ask for in His Holy Name will be granted. In the name of God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, we were welcomed into this community of faith and it is in this same name that we will be commended to the joy of Heaven when our final day comes.

“Holy Father, keep them in your name.” Let us allow ourselves to be kept in God’s Name. Embrace the name of Chistian that has been given to you. Live as a daughter or son of God; as a little Christ in the world. We pray, in the words of the Divine Praises, “Blessed be God, blessed be His Holy Name.” And may we be blessed in the name He has given us.

May the Lord give you peace.

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