He Who Must Be Named
Homily for the Third Sunday of Easter
Preached on April 17-18, 2010 at Holy Spirit Parish/The Newman Center at the University of Kentucky, Lexington KY
Readings: Acts 5:27-32, 40b-41; Psalm 30:2, 4, 5-6, 11-12, 13; Revelation 5:11-14; John 21:1-19
In the world of Harry Potter, the mere mention of he-who-shall-not-be-named was enough to incite fear and trembling. So evil was the name of Voldemort and so dangerous was his memory that most of the characters in JK Rowling’s universe avoided saying his name. Nothing but trouble and pain and death ever came out of the Dark Lord so he might as well never be named.
In the Acts of the Apostles, there is another he-who-shall-not-be-named. But unlike the name of Rowling’s villain, the mere mention of this other name is enough to inspire hope and thanksgiving. So good is the name of Jesus that the apostles couldn’t help but proclaim Him the Messiah (Acts 5:42), but so dangerous is His memory that the high priest and the Sanhedrin had forbidden the name of Jesus to be said (Acts 4:17-18, 5:28). So the high priest spoke of “that name” (Acts 5:28), and the Sanhedrin warned against speaking to anyone in “this name” (Acts 4:17).
But the apostles firmly and rightfully believed that Jesus is He-who-must-be-named, because “there is no salvation through anyone else, nor any other name under Heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved” (Acts 4:12). And so, in the name of Jesus, the apostles healed the crippled beggar at the Beautiful Gate (cf. Acts 3:2-8) and many others who were sick (Acts 5:15-16). In the name of Jesus, they preached the Good News of the Resurrection (cf. Acts 4:33) in Jerusalem, in Galilee, and in many distant shores. For the sake of the name of Jesus, they willingly suffered dishonor, imprisonment, and persecution (Acts 5:18, 41).
Unfortunately, in our own day the most mention people make of that name is usually in vain. It is still He-who-shall-not-be-named in the public sphere, lest we offend those who do not believe. The name of Jesus is anathema in a world that often thinks it does not need salvation, mercy, peace, grace, or eternal life. And yet this messed-up world has no other name to offer in place of that name because, you know what, there’s no one else who has brought joy out of sorrow, light out of darkness, life out of death but this Jesus. We can try our luck fishing for fulfillment in shallow waters, but without Jesus we’ll always come up empty (cf. Jn. 21:2-8).
The times they may be a’changin but the name of Jesus remains the only password to grace. Nothing but the truth, the good, and the lovely ever came out of that name. And restless hearts in a restive world will not find peace except in Him-who-must-be-named, in Him-who must-be-glorified, in Him-who-must-be-proclaimed by us and every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, by everything in the universe: Jesus Christ, our Risen Lord (cf. Confessions by St Augustine of Hippo Book 1, Ch. 1; Rev. 5:13)