26th Sunday in Ordinary Time           

            The name of Jesus is one of the things that today’s gospel passage focuses on. John complains to the Lord about someone outside their circle who exorcises demons invoking Jesus’ name. Instead of backing up his efforts to stop this man, Jesus seems to approve of such people performing mighty deeds or miracles in his name. Jesus rebukes John saying, “Do not prevent him.” “There is no one who performs a mighty deed in my name who can at the same time speak ill of me.” “For whoever is not against us is for us.”

            In other words, Jesus approves the use of his name in the right manner, even if it is by someone outside the circle of his disciples. Why? Because Jesus wants that his name be used or be invoked in doing good things.

            A little historical background would help us understand this passage better. In the time of Jesus many people believed that demons caused certain mental and physical illnesses. One way to combat these illnesses was to expel the demon causing it by invoking the name of a more powerful spirit. And this is precisely what the man referred to by John did: he used the power of the name of Jesus to expel evil spirits.

            We have seen movies which have a theme and scenes in which there is exorcism being performed in Jesus’ name. Even in real life, such belief and practice exist. For example, members of various charismatic groups repeatedly invoke Jesus’ name in their prayer-worship. Those who claim to have the gift of healing use Jesus’ name to cure illnesses. Even those who just pray over the sick implore the power of Jesus’ name. Yet, in spite of these contemporary Christian expressions of an ancient religious belief, most of us suffer from a failure in confidence in the power of Jesus’ name. We have not fully realized or appreciated the power of Jesus’ name.

            Someone said, “While unbelievers are not ashamed to misuse the name of Jesus in expressions of slang, vulgarity or cursing, believers hesitate to call on the name of Jesus in times of temptation, trial or necessity.” We seem to have lost our nerve – or perhaps even our faith. What we need is a revival of the ancient Christian custom or practice of invoking Jesus’ name in prayer.

            We know that names of famous, influential, and powerful persons are used in business, marketing, entertainment, and advertising, and it is proven to be an effective way, not just of getting attention, but even of enticing and convincing people. If that is so, why are we not using Jesus’ name in the various aspects of our life? If the names Michael Jordan, Kobe Bryant, LeBron James move so many to buy products of their brands, then why should Jesus’ name not move us to fight dehumanizing poverty and social injustices, or to defend human rights and condemn EJKs, or to work for genuine peace and reconciliation? If the names of the bands BTS, Blackpink, EXO have such power over young people, then why should Jesus’ name not make a stronger and positive impact on our lives – in what we think, in what we say, in what we do? If the brand names Louis Vuitton, Hermes, Prada, Gucci can make prices of non-essential things go up, then why should Jesus’ name not make us look up to the dignity of the human person – so up high that we will not allow the human person to be used and abused, to be maltreated and violated or to be treated as mere part of the machinery of production. If the names Sy, Tan, Ang, Ayala, Zobel, Razon, Villar can make billions in economy and business then why should Jesus’ name not make us do something greater, not for ourselves, but for others – like offering our time, talents, and resources in ministry or in reaching out to the poor, the deprived and the oppressed. Of course, it is not just a matter of mentioning Jesus’ name. Rather, it is a matter of allowing his name to be a real power in our lives. It is letting Jesus himself influence our judgment, decision and action.

            Invoking the name of Jesus is not a magical trick; and yet miracles have happened in that name. Using the name of Jesus is not a superstitious practice, but rather a sacramental which brings us God’s grace. Ang pangalan ni Hesus ay hindi isang anting-anting o agimat, bagkus ito ay isang tanda ng biyaya ng Diyos. Perhaps our Lord’s message for us today is: “Do not stop using my name to do good.” “Use it more so that its power can become more operative in your life.”

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