Sunday Scriptures

There Is Power in His Name

by Father John P. Cush

What’s in a name? Well, an awful lot, especially if it’s the name of the Lord God of All Creation. To name something, to know the name of something, is a tremendously important thing in the understanding of the Hebrew people. Simply put, to know the name of something is, in some way, to have power over it. To know the name of someone or something is to enter into a new and different relationship.

Think back to the story of creation in the Book of Genesis. God gives Adam the power to name all the creatures. In doing so, God gives him dominion over all creatures. By this term, dominion, we mean something other than “being in charge of.” Dominion means having a loving relationship, basically being a caretaker of creation.

Think back to Jacob, also in the Book of Genesis (32:27), wrestling with the angel. The angel has only one request upon losing the wrestling match – he wants to know Jacob’s name. Obviously, the angel, as an agent of the Divine, already knows who Jacob is. Perhaps this is merely allowing Jacob to realize who he is and what his mission really is: to be Israel, to continue the role as a patriarch, to carry on the family legacy dating back to Abraham, to be the father of a great nation.

In today’s first reading, we see another example of the importance of the giving of a name. In the Book of Exodus, Moses, who was tending the flocks of his father-in-law, Jethro, in Midian, hears the call of the Lord on Mount Horeb. On Horeb, Moses encounters the burning bush. The bush, which burns and is not consumed, is none other than the Lord.

The Lord reveals His name to Moses. God reveals to Moses who He is, to the extent that Moses can understand it. When Moses asks the name of the Lord, the Lord says: “I am who am.” In another way of understanding the name “I am who am,” we might say, “I am who am who caused all things to be.” In other words, when God gives His name to Moses, He says that He is the source of everything; He is the Creator, the beginning of all things in reality; He is the end, the culmination of all things. In other words, God is saying that He is all in all.

What is the significance of the revelation by God of His name to Moses? Why is it essential that God is the one who gives His name to Moses? What can this mean for us in our relationship with Almighty God?

First, there is a tremendous importance in the fact that it is God who takes the initiative in this situation. God is always the one who begins the relationship. In fact, a definition of religion might be “Man’s response to God as God reveals himself to man.” It is God who does the revealing. It is God who is the primary contractor in the covenant with man.

A covenant is an agreement of love between two partners. Usually, it is a pact between two equal partners. However, in the case of a divine covenant, it is an agreement with a superior partner (God) and an inferior partner (the human being). It is a partnership with a party who is perpetually faithful (God) and a party who is shown to be unfaithful again and again (the human being).

God is omnipotent; God is omniscient; He knows all and knows the heart of humankind. God knows that we, as fallen humanity, as those who suffer the consequences of original sin, can miss the mark. God knows that we can sin, that we can be fickle, that we can turn away from the open arms of the Savior. God knows that we can be unfaithful.

And yet, even with this knowledge, God, all-powerful, all-knowing, shows Himself to be all-loving and all-trusting. In a powerful way, God deigns to enter into a relationship of love with humanity. But God still chooses to be one with us.

In this Lenten season, let us realize that one thing: God loves us. He is madly, deeply, truly in love with us and wants to enter into loving communion with us. He knows us, faults and all, and still desires to share His life, His love and the knowledge of who He is with us.

The Lord who enters into a relationship with Moses, who enters into a relationship with us, is indeed, as our responsorial psalm reminds us, “kind and merciful.” He is the Lord of first chances, second chances, thousand chances, as we learn from the Gospel we proclaimed today from Luke. God looks at us and thinks that we may bear fruit in the future.

Lent gives us the opportunity to learn the name of the Lord again. His name is “I am,” and His name is the revelation of divine love. May we embrace this love and may we live our lives proclaiming His name to all generations.[hr]

Readings for the Third Sunday of Lent

Exodus 3: 1-8a, 13-15

Psalm 103: 1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8, 11

1 Corinthians 10: 1-6, 10-12

Luke 13: 1-9[hr]

Father John P. Cush, a priest of the Diocese of Brooklyn, is a doctoral student in dogmatic theology at the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome.

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