THE POWER OF NAMES
Fr Frank Moynihan was the parish priest of Ekibin, the first parish I was appointed to after ordination. As well as being parish priest he was also the chaplain to Boggo Road Prison, the maximum security prison in Brisbane at the time. He would return home from visiting the prison with many stories. One I enjoyed immensely was about a nickname some of the inmates had given one of their colleagues. The nickname was “Harpic”. When asked why they gave it to him, the answer was that he was clean round the bend.
Whenever I recall the story I not only smile but start reflecting on the names we carry, ordinary and nicknames alike. Jesus himself, nicknamed James and his brother John (the sons of Zebedee) “sons of thunder” given their propensity for asking the Lord to call down fire and brimstone on those who did not receive Jesus in the way they thought was fitting. Jesus made great use of the name “Kephas” which is Aramaic for Peter. “Kephas” is also the Aramaic word for “rock” so when Jesus congratulated Peter on his recognising Jesus as the Messiah promised by God Jesus went on to declare Peter the rock on which he, Jesus, would build his church. Jesus promised that the powers of evil would never destroy the church. And he gave Peter the keys to teach authoritatively, to govern caringly.
Peter having the keys does not make him the door-keeper as portrayed in so many stories and jokes about people dying and arriving at the pearly gates with Peter being the one who decides whether the new arrival can enter or be dismissed. The keys open and close the treasury of teaching so that those who hunger for truth can come and be nourished on what is supremely wholesome. Peter and all those, ordained for service and those serving from the richness of their baptism, are entrusted with stewardship of the gifts God has given them so that others can be enriched.
The rock Jesus was going to build the church on was not the constancy of Peter’s character but his openness to be guided by the Father as to who Jesus truly was. Peter’s declaration of Jesus as Messiah was the result not of some logical deductive process but the fruit of a prompting by the Spirit. He received the insight from the Father. This openness and faith is the only rock on which the Church can be built with Jesus as the cornerstone ensuring right alignment of the building for all to enter and find rest, shelter, safety and love.
The Father knew you and your name from the time you were conceived. The Father loves you and wants you to do the same for all you come in contact with. Cherish the names and the people identified by that name.
Fr Adrian Farrelly
|Oct 20, 2014||21st Sunday in Ordinary Time 24.08.2014||Listen||Download|