In the Name of Jesus

The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for the home I_baptize_you.jpg
May 27, 2018 – The Most Holy Trinity
Matthew 28:16-20

A common phrase that often occurs in the Bible is that activities of one sort or another are to be done “in the name of ….” In today’s gospel the disciples of Jesus are told to baptize new followers of Jesus “in the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” We all recognize this statement as the “sign of the cross.” Let’s explore what it means to do something “in the name of.”

In the Bible there are countless references to doing something “in the name of God.” When something was done in that way, God’s own presence and power was said to operate. Clearly, using God’s name in that way was not to be taken lightly. One of the Ten Commandments forbids “using God’s name in vain.” At times, faithful Jews would not even mention the name of God because of the great reverence they had for it.

When I was first taught the basics of Catholic faith, we were told that the name, Jesus, was not to be used in inappropriate ways. For example, when accidently hitting one’s thumb with an erratic hammer blow, we were not supposed to say that name.

So, let’s get back to the command of Jesus to baptize “in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This, of course, recalls the names often given to the three persons in the trinitarian God. These names are drawn from the New Testament and refer to Jesus calling God “Father” or Abba and his referring to himself as God’s son. After his resurrection and ascension, to describe God’s continued presence with us, reference is made to the sending of God’s Holy Spirit to us.

To baptize using God’s name brings God’s infinite love and power into the person baptized. The words said while water flows over the newly baptized person are not just words. They are akin to the words said by God as recorded in the Book of Genesis, “Let there be light.” Baptismal words are even more creative because the baptized person is made a child of God – literally!!!! They become members of God’s own family. That’s how we can think of them and how we can think of ourselves.

So, when we ask ourselves whose family we belong to, be sure to think about your being a very important part of God’s family. Now and forever.

©David M. Thomas, PhD

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