A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

What’s in a name?

For many years one’s name was considered to be very important, precisely because the name stood for the person.  I suspect that throughout history the classic example for illustrating this was the Bible.  For example, Mary Magdalen was from a town called Magdala.  When the name was common (as “Mary” was) then the place of birth served as further identification to avoid confusion.

However, it is highly probable that the quintessential illustration for the name representing the person is the name of JESUS.  The name comes from the Hebrew word for “savior,” for that is what he did.  In the story of the Annunciation, the angel Gabriel tells Mary that she is to name the child “Jesus.”  (Luke 1:31)

In the first reading of the vigil Mass for the feast of Peter and Paul (Acts 3:1-10) , Peter and John go to the Temple to pray.  It is crucial to note that Pentecost (the coming of the Holy Spirit) had recently happened, so Peter and John are “fired up” to proclaim the message of Jesus to the world.

As they are about to enter the Temple, they encounter a beggar, crippled since birth, asking for money.  After a brief pause, Peter looks at the crippled man and says, “Silver and gold I have none.  But what I do have I will give you.  In the NAME of Jesus the Nazorean,  rise and walk.”  Peter reached out to the man, gave him his hand, and as the crippled man began to stand, he was healed from his infirmity.  Sight of this miracle brought wonder to those who watched.

What happened here? Note the context of the miracle.  Three things seem rather significant:  Prayer; the Name of Jesus; and Touching the infirmed.

First,  Prayer.  After having received the Holy Spirit and ready to proclaim Jesus, Peter and John go and place themselves under the influence of divine help.

Second, the Name of Jesus.  Since Jesus was no longer physically accompanying the disciples, the mention of his name, along with the presence of the Holy Spirit, was sufficient to bring about this miracle.

Third, Touching the sick person.  Peter took the sick man by the hand and immediately the sick man was cured.  The healing power from the Holy Spirit and Jesus passed through Peter to the sick man.

After reflecting on this reading, what can we learn from it?  Well, we can use the tripartite schema as a guide.  To be effective Christians, we must be immersed in prayer.  Why?  So that we can be assured of divine help whenever we continue Jesus’ ministry.  In addition, when we are baptized we receive the NAME “Christian” and the power of the Holy Spirit.  To be a Christian means to be a follower of Christ.  This is what the word Christian really means.

Finally, Touch.  Peter touched the man physically, and the healing took place.  We can touch others emotionally by means of our patience, understanding, compassion, and forgiveness.  There is high probability that a healing will take place.

Consequently, by means of prayer, we are placing ourselves under the influence of the divine.  Our Baptism reminds us that as Christians, we are followers of Jesus, for the name represents the person.  We do what he did to others, especially as we touch others emotionally through compassion and forgiveness.  In effect, what’s in the name of  “Christian”? The potential power to heal.


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