The Name that Empowers
The name that millions of Catholics around the world behold in the holy host is also a name without boundaries and millions of Catholics in every nook and corner of the Earth is a monumental witness to this.
By Joe Palathunkal
Peter said in Acts 3:6 - “I have no silver or gold, but what I have I give you; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, stand up and walk.” There is no better reference in the New Testament that shows how the name of Jesus empowers a human person. Here is a man being lame from birth carried by people to the Beautiful Gate to beg which in itself is a sign of powerlessness – begging.
It is to this man Peter says, what you think as source of power, the silver and gold, he does not have but he has a name that empowers the lame man and that name works the wonder instantly. For the first time in the history of Jerusalem temple, the Beautiful Gate became beautiful in its true sense when this lame man walked by the power of that name.
It was a revolution, the biggest revolution in the spiritual history of a people who were forbidden even to take the name of God and the Jewish people were very scrupulous about it; the Ten Commandments clearly prohibits it and the second commandment (Exodus 20) clearly speaks about it. But the name of Jesus brought in a radical thinking that anyone who believes in him can take this name without fear or reprimands and whoever takes that name will be empowered both psychologically and physically.
The lame man’s praising of God in joyful thankfulness was a clear indication of his psychological empowerment; one who has a grateful joy is filled with inner strength. And this man had no fear that the Pharisees and other Jewish religious authorities who ‘killed the Author of life’ (Acts 3: 15) would catch him for publicly witnessing the strength he received through that name.
Courage is a clear sign of empowerment and Peter who took the name of Jesus in front of a hostile crowd epitomized that courage. All the apostles were courageous to take the name of Jesus in front of a crowd that did not look at it favourably, but these simple fishermen were simply courageous because they had the name of Jesus in their hearts and on the tip of their tongues.
By taking the name of Jesus who was hypostatically divine and human, the apostles believed firmly that God was with them: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8: 32) That is the power that emerges from the heart of a Christian who believes Jesus is with him or her.
That is why Jesus has the other name Emmanuel: “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means God is with us” (Matthew 1: 23). This Emmanuel is a revolutionary concept because for the Jews, God was always at a distance, occasionally appearing to reprimand or to make a covenant.
By taking the name of Jesus freely and fearlessly, the disciples deleted the distance between God and human beings which was very much there until then among the Jews who were forbidden to take the name of God, and Jesus made that God a loving Father waiting to embrace his prodigal children, no matter what their faults or failures are. You can easily get into the lap of that Father whenever you want provided you become like a child who only can build the kingdom of God.
So far God spoke to us indirectly through the prophets but now God speaks to us directly in the person of Jesus as Paul says (Hebrews 1: 1 – 2): “Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son…”. This means God has become closer to man.
The son is so close to God that they are indeed one: “The Father and I are one” (John 10: 30). This is the oneness you experience when you take the name of Jesus and definitely this experience of oneness makes you strong and empowered, and that is why in the Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus we say: “Jesus, the mighty God / Jesus, most powerful”. What more you need to feel empowered than the feeling of being one with Jesus who is mighty and most powerful. That is why Bernardino of Siena and John of Capistrano took upon themselves the mission of spreading the most holy Name of Jesus to all the people.
In this mission of Bernardino, the Italian priest, Pope Martin V and Pope Eugene IV gave wholehearted support. To make the name of Jesus more visible, Bernardino devised the symbol – IHS – the first three letters of the name: Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. Today millions of Catholics watch this reverently as the priests elevate the consecrated host during the Holy Mass in thousands of churches around the world.
The name that millions of Catholics around the world behold in the holy host is also a name without boundaries and millions of Catholics in every nook and corner of the Earth is a monumental witness to this. When Jesus commanded his disciples “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16: 15), he was indicating that his name had no boundaries, and the missionaries who went to the ends of the earth proved it.
The 1521 languages to which the New Testament alone translated is a proof of this name going beyond all the boundaries. Again, the name comes in when Jesus emphasizes that those who believe in his gospel should be baptized in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And those who are baptized will be empowered and he has enumerated the signs of that empowerment – “by using my name they will cast out demons; they will speak in new tongues; they will pick up snakes in their hands, and if they drink, any deadly thing, it will not hurt them; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” (Mark 16: 17 – 18)
Today beyond all the boundaries that name from Nazareth has worked wonders in various ways. Think of the empowering activities the Christians as individuals and organizations are engaged in prompted and promoted by one name the angel Gabriel told Mary: “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus” (Luke 1: 31).
Feeding the hungry, administering medicine to the sick, ensuring human rights for the exploited as we have seen through the life of Oscar Romero and Dorothy Day, bringing justice to the marginalized through legal aid like Constant Lievans in Chotanagpur, Joseph Idiakunnel in Gujarat, being with the most unwanted people like lepers through a dedicated life as shown by Dr. Graham Staines and Baba Christudas – these are all empowering activities in the name of Jesus.
All these actions and the people behind them remind us what the angel told Joseph in his first dream (Matthew 1: 21) “you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins”. There is something very special about this angelic communication – in the whole of New Testament; this is the only instance where “saves his people” appears with “sins”. And what is saving but empowering and “sins” the powerless condition of a human person due to an inhuman force which can be injustice or exploitation.
This reminds us of what Kay Warren said: “The greatest weapon we have against evil is doing good in Jesus’ name.” And that is what Peter did at the Beautiful Gate against the evil of killing the Author of life: “And by faith in his name, his name itself has made this man strong, whom you see and know, and the faith that is through Jesus has given him this perfect health in the presence of all of you” (Acts 3: 16)
To do good, there is no better inspiration than the name of Jesus and people like Mother Teresa of Calcutta kept on saying that she nursed the sores of the lepers because the very name of Jesus enkindles in her that irresistible prompting. And every care provided in the name of Jesus is indeed an empowering act because only the powerless in one way or the other needs care.
In the name of Jesus when you care for the sick, feed the hungry and bring justice to those it is denied, you are empowering and transforming the world. John Henry Newman has told this in his own inimitable way: “To holy people the very name of Jesus is a name to feed upon, a name to transport. His name can raise the dead and transfigure and beautify the living.” There is no wonder, then, if the Russian hermit kept on reciting only that name as his only prayer throughout The Way of a Pilgrim.
To such a name that empowers and ennobles the weakest and the least, that beautifies the life, it is worth singing with Saint Paul (Philippians 2: 9) the most powerful poem ever written on him who has become “as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs” (Hebrews 1: 4) because that was the only name that chose to die for the other to empower him (Philippians 2: 9): “Therefore God also highly exalted him and gave him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
(Joe Palathunkal is Associate Editor, Living in Faith)
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