Fourteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Do you like your given or baptismal name? If you could, would you change it-or perhaps you already have, for something you like? Fortunately I am happy with mine, as I've often said Robin is simply a diminutive of Robert, and I answer to both, one being my formal name the other what I've been known by in family circles all my life. I have spent a great deal of time looking at saints who have these names, deciding for myself which Robert should be a patron! (I settled on St Rigobert of Rheims, 7th c Archbishop of that place! But there are others who dislike what they have been given ('imposed' says a very disgruntled friend of mine) and yet often we do find that our names suit us, of course some of us have more than one, but their meaning often has a surprising ring about it.
Names feature in Scripture, changing a name soften signified a change of direction or a new start, Saul into Paul, Abram into Abraham for instance, one of the best name illustrations is Jesus' laboured pun on Peter, Cephas, Rock, which is very droll considering Peter was anything but the stable rock suggested! And yet there is another layer to names and naming, as Christina we take on one of the most powerful names of all, that of the Trinity, you and I were baptized in their name, and we always pray and worship in their name! This is the power of connection to the inner soul and being of another that is revealed in their name.
It gets deeper, to call someone by their intimate name suggests a close relationship, a connection that is really important, so what does Jesus mean when he says to the seventy two he has sent out in ministry, as they return after a successful mission: "Nevertheless, do not rejoice because the spirits are subject to you, but rejoice because your names are written in heaven."(Lk 10:20)
Is there something here for us? Of course there is. Ministry and Mission are part of who we are as Christians (see-yet another name!) they are the vocation each one of us exercises in different ways. I go out and try to be a Christ-like figure because of the Masters call to love, but I don't go it alone, because I partially know the name of God and call on it, I am given the immense power of those who are part of the Kingdom of God. I bring many things through the power of calling on the name of God, mercy and compassion. When as a priest I utter the words of God's forgiveness to a repentant sinner, I offer the compassionate love of God, but above all, when I gather in Christ's name, there the power of God is with me and others, for Christ our true God is there.
But what of that book of life in heaven? The image is clear; our names are inscribed in the Lords book of life in the Kingdom so that we may be present there always. For our names are written in it by God as one who is destined to have a place in the Kingdom. We have an echo of this in baptism, in the tradition of naming others, but there is another we have known only to God, that name will be revealed at the end of the ages and it will sum up who we really are! Be joyful, you never walk alone!
Richard Rolle, a mystic of fourteenth century England, taught about the Name of Jesus:
If you will be well with God, and have grace to rule your life, and come to the joy of love: this name Jesus, fasten it so fast in your heart that it come never out of your thought. And when you speak to him, and through custom say, "Jesus," it shall be in your ear, joy; in your mouth; honey; and in your heart, melody: for men shall think joy to hear that name be named, sweetness to speak it, mirth and song to think it.
If you think the name "Jesus" continually, and hold it firmly, it purges your sin, and kindles your heart; it clarifies your soul, it removes anger and does away slowness. It wounds in love and fulfils charity. It chases the devil, and puts out dread. It opens heaven, and makes a contemplative man. Have Jesus in mind, for that puts all vices and phantoms out from the lover.
"Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone's name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire"
Fr Robin is an Eastern Rite Catholic Chaplain for Melkites in the UK. He is also an Ecumenical Canon of Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.
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