What’s in a name anyway?
Most often we don’t give it much thought, but in ancient and tribal cultures names have power; names contain power. A name told something about the person in the depth of their being. In Israel “The Name” stood for God (Yahweh). To call on Him was to enter into communion with Him. For Christians to pray and act in the name of Jesus was to be in intimate union with His power and presence. The Catholic Catechism puts it this way, “The name Jesus is not just a name, it encloses the mystery and power of the Person of Christ.” The name Jesus in Hebrew means “God saves”.
But saved from what? There is no ‘saving’ going to go on unless we have a felt need to be saved…but saved from what? Well, for starters, how about fear, resentment, lust? Experience tells me that the big three just mentioned have a capacity to pollute my psyche and spirit if they are not intervened on in some way. How do I do that? Prayer in general helps, but one of my own spiritual directors has led me to calmly intervene on these negative impulses with the name of the One who comes to save: Jesus. The Name is medicine, the Name is presence, the Name is power; more powerful than the negative spirit afflicting me at the time. A beloved mentor once called such short prayers hurled to heaven in times of temptation ‘Javelin prayers’. He named the habit of clinging to “The Name” at such times practical mysticism.
Another use of the name of Jesus that fosters union with God is by simply saying the Name in conjunction with our breathing. Simply saying the word can symbolize our desire to consent to the presence and action of God deep within us at this moment. And what is that action of God in us? “God so loved the world that he gave us His only Son….that all might have eternal life.” That all might know that they are Beloved children of God, that the Word is now, at this moment, being born in us.
“All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God.” Ps 98
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