Daily Reflection
of Creighton University's Online Ministries
July 22nd, 2011
Brian Kokensparger

Arts & Sciences
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A few years ago, I occasionally observed a group of student visitors arriving or leaving by school bus over a two-week period. They were high school students who were participating in a preparation program at Creighton. In the morning, as each student stepped off the bus, a staff member of the program greeted that student by name, bidding him or her welcome. At the end of the day, that same staff member shook hands with and greeted each student by name again as he or she boarded the bus for home.

“What an outstanding staff member,” I thought. “Surely I could learn something from this person.”

I did not have any idea how effective that person was as a teacher. He might have been really lousy. Yet, I bet he wasn’t. How could he be? If he put that much effort and attention into merely learning the students’ names, how much more must he have put into teaching those same students?

Today’s readings cover a great amount of ground. The first reading presents the great commandments, which always seemed to me like a bunch of no-brainers. However, upon further review, the wording of the commandments leaves a lot of room for interpretation. Take the second commandment, for instance, taking the Lord’s name in vain. Often this commandment is interpreted as to not curse or swear. That’s what Sister Mary taught me in first grade. Now I find out, from a different text, that it actually has more to do with using the name of the Lord for self-profit, using His name not in praise but more in utility or commerce. Sometimes when and how and why you say a name makes a difference.

In the Gospel, we have the story of Mary Magdalene at the tomb. Today we honor her service to Jesus and His disciples. Yet I am impressed once again, this time by Jesus, who calls Mary by name. It is not until He actually calls her by name that she recognizes Him. How does she respond? She calls him “Rabbouni,” teacher.

I think about the people with whom I work. I know their names, mostly. I definitely know the names of my superiors, the people who have authority over me. I know the names of my direct reports, those who report to me. The others? The guy who always nods and says hello to me when we pass in the hall? Well, I know his face when I see it. The lady who sets out the food and stands nearby whenever I attend Creighton functions? Again, I know her face, not her name. Is there a pattern?

Here in the U.S., there is a great recurring skit on the television show “Saturday Night Live.” It mimics a game show where famous people are offered a million dollars to correctly identify, by name, people who provide services for them during the day, such as their doormen. They fail. Sometimes they are told the name of the person, who is trotted back out just a few minutes later, and again they fail the test.

Let’s think about the people who serve us during the day, who make us look good or feel good in one way or another. Do we know their names? As they board the bus to go home, could we look each of them in the eye, shake each hand, and thank each of them by name? No doubt, Mary Magdalene was often overlooked by Jesus’ other disciples. Perhaps many did not even know her name. But Jesus did.


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