What's in a name?
FR. TOM'S HOMILY FOR THE 7th SUNDAY OF EASTER, May 16, 2021:
“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet.” That’s the famous question pondered by Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet. What’s in a name? It’s a question we’re also invited to ponder today as we hear Jesus say, “Holy Father, keep them in your name that you have given me.” Keep them in your name. So, what is in a name? Well, just think of your own 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 example, I was named Thomas after my great-grandfather. And even though I never met him, a few years ago when I was doing some genealogical research, I discovered we share the same birthday – separated by about a century. But, having that name makes me feel connected to generations that came long before me. And every time someone tells me they are pregnant, I always take the opportunity to 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?
Another tradition in naming is to give children a religious name – either a name from the Bible or after a favorite saint. This used to be the common practice, which is why we had so many Michael’s and Anthony’s, and many Mary’s, Maria’s, and Elizabeth’s. This was a popular custom 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 to be unique (by the way Unique is also a popular name).
Studies have shown, though, that over the last roughly 10 years, people are returning to Biblical names for their children. For example, among the top 10 boys names last year were Noah, Elijah, James, and Benjamin– 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 for last year – the #18 name was Blessings.
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 Christian 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 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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