(A biblical refection on THE 26th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME 30 September, 2012)
First Reading: Num 11:25-39; Psalms: Ps 19:8,10,12-14; Second Reading: Jas 5:1-6; Gospel Reading: Mk 9:38-43,45,47-48
The power of a name to sell is seen in the world of marketing. If a bottle of wine has the reputable name of Ernest and Julio Gallo on its label, it will sell. If bottles of beer have the long respected Strohs signature, they will sell.
The power of a name to attract is seen in the way names of celebrities are used. If Lee Iacoccas name appears on a book cover, it will grab our attention. If Bruce Springsteens name is on a marquee, it will draw a crowd.
A name also has power to influence. If you get the right name on a letter of reference, you might get a job youre seeking. If you have the right names to promote some cause, your movement has a better chance to succeed.
The power of the name of Jesus comes up in todays Gospel. John complains to Jesus that someone not of their group was using our Lords name to expel demons. Instead of backing up Johns efforts to stop this man, Jesus seems to approve of such people working miracles in His name, as long as they are doing good works.
In his commentary of Marks Gospel, William Barclay points out that in the time of Jesus everyone believed that demons were the cause of all their physical and mental illnesses. A common way to exorcise demons was to use the name of a more powerful spirit. This ancient belief continues in our own day.
In the movie, The Exorcist, the priest called in to expel the demon from the young girl uses the name of Jesus. Healers like Kathryn Kuhlman, Oral Roberts and Fr. Ralph DiOrio use the name of Jesus when they pray over people.
Yet, in spite of these contemporary Christian expressions of an ancient religious belief, most of us suffer from a failure in confidence in the power of the name of Jesus. While unbelievers are not ashamed to misuse the name of Jesus in expressions of slang, vulgarity or cursing, believers hesitate to call on the name of Jesus in times of temptation, trial or necessity.
We seem to have lost our nerve, or perhaps even our faith. What we need is a revival of the ancient Christian custom of invoking the name of Jesus in prayer. We need to recall what some of the early Fathers of the Church wrote about the power of that name.
For example, in his classic sermon on the Holy Name, St. Bernard compared the name of Jesus to oil. He wrote: Oil gives light, nourishes, and anoints. Oil feeds the flame, sustains the body, and eases pain. It is light, food, and medicine. The same may be said of the name of Jesus. It throws light on what is preached, it nourishes our thoughts, and it heals the troubled.
If names like Gallo Wines and Strohs beer move us to buy products, then why shouldnt the name of Jesus move us to fight racism and defend human rights, or to resist tyranny and support freedom?
If the names of Lee Iacocca and Bruce Springsteen have such power over us, then why shouldnt the name of Jesus make a stronger impact on our lives in what we think, in what we say, in what we do?
Invoking the name of Jesus is not a magical trick, and yet miracles have happened in that name. Using the name of Jesus is not a superstitious practice, but rather a sacramental which brings us Gods grace.
Perhaps our Lords message today is: Dont stop using My name to do good. Use it more so that its power can become more operative in your life.
Note: Taken from Albert Cylwicki CSB, His Word Resounds, Makati, Philippines: St. Paul Publications, 1991, pages 184-185.
Daily Marriage Tip for September 30, 2012:
Whoever is not against us is for us. (Mk 9:40) Remember, that us is more than just family and friends. If others act in accord with the values that Jesus taught, welcome them and learn from them regardless of creed. Who do you know like this?