The Holy Name

When I was a child, long before my conversion to faith, I rarely, if ever, uttered the name of Jesus. It was not simply the fact of my Hindu background which restrained me, but a certain sense of the power and mystery enfolded in that name. I regarded the name of Jesus as something forbidden to my lips, almost explosive; and as a non-Christian, I certainly was not ready to hold that piece of dynamite in my mouth. Far better to use generic words, rather than that piercingly specific word, the name of Jesus.

Nonetheless, the name of Jesus attracted me intensely even during those years. I remember the thrill I felt in watching Jesus of Nazareth late at night at home, hoping no one would catch me. Perhaps it was precisely because of my sense of restriction that I felt all the more drawn to Him.  Who was that strange, haunting Person reflected in that Name?

Does the Name Matter?

Many people today propose that the name of God doesn’t really matter.  After all, don’t all names of the divine lead us simply to God?  Yet here, if we take time to consider the question, we realize that if names didn’t matter, they would not exist at all.  Though God Himself is eternal, beyond the scope of time and space, He deigned to enter fully into the terrain of history, and in that descent, He took on a real human Name.  Put simply, if the Incarnation is real, then His Name matters. When we speak His name in faith, we are not merely repeating a combination of sounds but, by the stroke of grace, we entrust ourselves to the reality of who He is.


Recently while watching The Passion film during Holy Week, as I do every year, I was struck with Mary Magdalene’s declaration of His Name. In a scene just after Jesus has been arrested, one of the Roman soldiers approaches her to inquire about the commotion. She proclaims His name boldly and fervently, heedless of what it might mean for her own safety:  Yeshua! Yeshua di Nazaret, in the Aramaic. The love so evident in her words left an imprint on me. Do we experience the same passionate longing when we utter Our Lord’s Name?

The Cathedral

For many years before my conversion, I regarded the Name of Jesus as something I could not utter, much as I believed the doors of every church were barred to me.  Fittingly, then, in 2018 I was baptized and confirmed at Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral. I spent many an afternoon sitting alone in the plaza outside the church and gazing upon the doors, rejoicing in the treasure to which I now had access, indeed, which had always been open to me all these years.

Reflecting upon that season now, I realize that the cathedral was, in a very real sense, the embodiment of His Name.  Many people today may say the name of Jesus without thinking much of it, much as many might step into a cathedral as a tourist, seeing without understanding. Yet we who enter our church for worship know the difference:  we experience a coming together of heaven and earth as we participate in the Liturgy. So, too, I wonder, that in speaking the Name of Jesus with a sincere heart, we allow ourselves to enter into who He is.  Consider how different the interior of the cathedral feels once we step inside; a world of beauty and light unfolds to the eye. Do we speak the Name of Jesus as one looking on the outside, or as one who enters and beholds the beauty of life lived in Him?

Today, friends, I invite you to take the Name of Jesus afresh to prayer. Give thanks for the great gift of being able to speak His Name with faith. Whenever you find your thoughts wandering, return again to the Name of Jesus, and dwell in the goodness and beauty of who He is.  Remember, too, that before we even make the slightest movement towards His Name, He is speaking our own name with great love.

[Readings: Acts 28:16-20, 30-31; Jn 21:20-25]

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Radhika Sharda, MD

Radhika Sharda is a practicing physician and a convert to the Catholic faith from a Hindu background. She has written a book of essays on literature, Savour, which may be found on Amazon. She lives in Raleigh, NC, with her three young boys.

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