3rd Sun [A] 2005

Fr. Charles Irvin

Isaiah 8:23-29; 1 Corinthians 1:10-13; Matthew 4:12-23

When he was born, his mother and father gave him the name Simon. His father was named John, so around the Sea of Galilee, the boy was known as Simon bar Jona. Translated from the Hebrew it identified him as Simon, son of John. In Old Europe his name would have been Simon Johnson.

When Jesus called him, Simon received a name change. Jesus named him Cephas, Petros in Latin, which literally means “rock”. We call him Peter. I can’t imagine anyone using a nickname for him; I can’t imagine anyone referring to him as “Pete.”

My father was named Charles. I was given his exact name, first, middle and last – so my formal name Charles Edgar Irvin, Jr. My mom and dad and their friends, however, called me “little Charlie” because dad was “big Charlie”. When I was no longer a child no one called me “little Charlie”! That just didn’t fit. A few have tried to call me “Chuck” but no one who has ever really known me has ever calls me “Chuck.” I’ve never been a “Chuck”; I’ve always been a “Charlie”.

When you hear a person’s name, more often than not the name fits and reflects who the person really is. Think of persons you know and then think of their names. Observe how quickly certain thoughts come to your mind when you think of their names. Think of others you know, and think of what thoughts come to mind when you hear their names. The name brings you the person. That’s why using the name of God or the name of Jesus irreverently is simply using them, abusing who they are as persons.

Some names of people immediately bring up thoughts of arrogance, pride, or self-centeredness. Some names immediately bring up thoughts and feelings of comfort, warmth, friendship and helpfulness. Some names fill us with admiration – we would like to be just like those persons. Just the opposite occurs when we recall the names of other persons. Their names bring to us who they really are and what they are like – and they don’t bring happiness with them.

While some people are patient, kind, gentle and tolerant of us, others are impatient, unpredictable, angry, manipulative, or fill us with fear. Some are friends — some are even family. If a child’s dad or mom is a raging alcoholic, that child will never know what to expect and will suffer from insecurity. Thoughts of dad or mom, indeed their very names, will fill such children with panic, fear, or revulsion. Being humiliated by them, abused by them, hurt by them, rejected by them, will cause these kids to be filled with feelings of self-loathing.

When you think of your father’s name, or your mother’s name, are you filled with good feelings or not so good feelings? Do you feel cherished, respected, and trusted? Or do you feel like you are always under suspicion, that you are not really loved or even wanted, that you’ll never live up to their expectations, and you are not worth much to them? Are they caring toward you, or cool and indifferent toward you?

Sometimes people come here to church when it is dark and quiet. They come here to light a candle and pray. When they leave, their presence remains in that little, burning candle. The light of their countenance, the warmth of their love, flickers on in God’s presence in that little flame.

Light is absolutely necessary for life. If there was no sun, no light, nothing at all would grow – there would be no life because it would not be possible for anything at all to grow. Our primary source of life and light is the sun. Nevertheless, a small little candle also bears light, and a small little candle can sometimes go where the sun’s light cannot reach, and it can do what the sun’s light cannot do. So can a person’s name when it is whispered in love.

Do you give off light to those around you – or darkness? Does your name brighten their day? Does your soul subsist in the light of truth, or does it live in the shadows of deception and the darkness of a lie? Are you honest and forthcoming, or are you crafty, manipulative and covering over something? Do you live in a lightness of being, with a cleanness of soul, and in a quietness of conscience – or do you live in dark shame? You cannot help but represent who you really are — the state of your soul will shine through to others.

When others around you hear your name, they immediately feel a certain set of feelings and think a certain set of thoughts. Their feelings and thoughts are shaped by what kind of a person you are, not by what you contrive to do or by what you conjure up to say. People know you at a deeper level than you think no matter how cleverly you attempt to wear the mask that you want others to see. You cannot cover your soul or your name with cosmetics. Names are powerful things. They stand for qualities in persons. They remind us of the persons those names represent. Those names represent what is really within them.

Thus it is that Jesus Christ called the twelve by name. He called them to be His apostles, His representatives, to stand for His values and to live in His life, to care for and love others as He did. And Jesus Christ has called you by name, the name He gave you at your Baptism, the name He uses when He talks to you in your soul. Who you are and the name you bear were known in the heart of God before the mountains were raised, the seas were filled, and the stars were thrown into their orbits.

You are called by God – He has called you by name. You are sent by God, with the name Christian, with a Christian name, to represent Him in our world, here in this city, here in this year, right in the midst of your work, as well as in your family and among your friends. You are called, you are chosen, and God values you. You have a name in His family.

You are on a mission to represent Him and to represent what He stands for, flying his colors high amidst all those around you. You can diffuse God’s goodness and love to all those around you and bring His presence into the world around you. In the name of Jesus you can bring love’s miracles of change to the lonely, the rejected, the mocked, the scorned and all those whom the proud and sleek have rejected.

Resolve, then, to be an extra-ordinary Christian. We have enough of ordinary ones! You are specially named and called by God.


About Charles Irvin

Fr. Charlie was ordained a priest June 3, 1967 and has served as pastor of St. Mary Student Chapel in Ann Arbor, founded Holy Spirit parish in Hamburg, MI, served as pastor of St. Francis of Assisi parish in Ann Arbor and was pastor of St. Mary parish in Manchester, MI when he entered Senior Priest status in 2001. In 1999 he was appointed Founding Editor of FAITH Magazine which has grown into Faith Catholic Publishing located in Lansing, MI. He is now very active in his “retirement.”