On He Who Must Not Be Named
(2Sam.5:1-3; Col.1:12-20; Lk.23:35-43)
In JK Rowling’s popular Harry Potter books, Harry’s arch-enemy is so feared that it’s considered dangerous to even speak his name. Most of the characters refer to him as ‘You-Know-Who’ or ‘He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’.
It suits the storyline for these novels to include an adversary who is so fearful that he cannot be named. It reinforces the chasm between good and evil.
In our society there’s someone else that many people are reluctant to name. It’s not a businessman or sportsman. It’s not even a politician. It’s Jesus Christ.
Certainly, many will use Jesus’ name as a curse or expletive. And many will use the name of God in all sorts of reckless ways (Ex.20:7). [i] But few, it seems, are prepared to talk about Jesus Christ as a topic of normal conversation.
The strange thing is that many of those who dare not speak Jesus’ name actually call themselves Christian.
A survey conducted last year in the United States revealed that although most Americans (70%) identify as Christian, more than three quarters do not have spiritual or religious conversations. Even among regular churchgoers, only a small fraction (13%) regularly talk about their faith.[ii] The situation seems to be even worse in Australia, the UK and other Western countries.
As Christians, we have a responsibility to share our faith with others – using both words and actions (Mt.28:19-20; Mk.16:15). Sherry Weddell tells us why in her book Forming Intentional Disciples. She says it’s difficult to think about things you’ve never heard anyone else talk about. [iii]
She tells the story of Sara, a young woman who experienced God’s presence so powerfully one day that she decided to become a Christian. She joined a faith formation program and was received into the Church at Easter 2010.
About six weeks into that program, she thought she was missing something because they weren’t talking much about getting to know God or Jesus. She didn’t understand who Jesus was, and assumed it was because of her non-Christian background.
So she asked some Catholic friends to talk with her about him, one-on-one. All but one of them got visibly upset and wanted to know why she was asking.
Most did talk with her, but they didn’t like being asked. [iv]
Weddell says that Sara had discovered the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ culture that pervades so many parishes. In this culture, you don’t ask anyone about their faith or interior life, or their experience of Christ, and you certainly don’t share your own faith experience with anyone else.
Why are we so reluctant to talk about Jesus? There may be many reasons. Perhaps it’s driven by the fear of being judged or answering inadequately. Maybe it’s a response to the growing secularisation of our society and the decline in religious fluency. Or maybe it’s because of the clergy abuse crisis.
Whatever the reason, Fr Gregory Jensen, an Orthodox priest, says that the more he follows discussions, debates and disagreements about the Church, or concerns about the failings of the bishops and clergy, the more he’s become convinced that it’s all simply a distraction. It’s an excuse, he says, for not helping each other and those outside the Church to fall in love with Jesus Christ. For how easy it is to talk about everything else except Jesus. [v]
St John Henry Newman said that to holy people, the very name of Jesus is a name to feed upon, a name to transport. His name can raise the dead and transfigure and beautify the living.
For there’s power in Jesus’ name. It brings peace and forgiveness, love and hope – everything our hearts could wish for. As Christians we should be proud that we carry the name of Christ. There’s no greater honour than this, for it’s the name above all other names (Phil.2:9-11).
And when do we use Jesus’ name, we should remember that we actually invoke his presence. So we must use it responsibly.
Today is the Feast of Christ the King. This is the day when we celebrate Jesus Christ as King of the Universe and Saviour of the World. Today’s message about Jesus is the culmination of everything the Church has said and done over the past liturgical year.
As Christians, we’re not meant to just go through the motions or simply learn about our faith. We’re supposed to absorb the Word of God so deeply into our lives that everything we say and do reflects our love for Jesus.
Christianity is a missionary faith. We are meant to share it, bringing the joy of Jesus to others (Mt.4:19; Acts 8:4; Rom.1:16). But if Christians won’t talk about Jesus, who will (Mt.9:37)?
So, do you talk about Jesus? Do you share your love for him with family and friends?
If yes, well done! Keep going!
If no, then it’s time to start.
[i] Hugh Mackay, Beyond Belief. McMillan, Sydney. 2016:177-179.
[iii] Sherry A Weddell, Forming Intentional Disciples. Our Sunday Visitor, Huntington IN. 2012:141.
[v] Op cit. p.142.