What Is Your Name?

What Is Your Name?

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”Who are you?  and What is your name?”  The name of every individual is very important to the identity of who someone is.  A name, in past times, often told us something about a person – whose son or daughter they were, what family they came from, what profession they held, and what their cultural or religious tradition is. Names are very important. How many parents tell their children, “Be careful of what you do or how you behave, because we don’t want you to embarrass the family name.”  Names are a sacred part of who we are.

 

So it is not surprising in the Gospel lesson today that the first question Jesus asks a man who is possessed by demons, “What is your name?”  By asking this question, Christ not only wants to develop a personal interaction, and eventual relationship with the individual, but more importantly, He wants to understand how the demon-possessed man views himself. “What is your name?”

The man doesn’t hesitate in his response, “My name is Legion.” The man was a broken, pathetic figure, controlled by many demons and dark forces within his life. The evil one had deceived and controlled him for so long, that he forgot his true identity. He forgot his Creator, and in whose image he was created. The poor man saw himself only in relation to the legion of demons that controlled and terrorized his life.

Like so many people, the man forgot the most basic principle of human life – that he is a child of God, someone created in the image of the Holy Trinity, and thus, someone uniquely special in the eyes of God.  Regardless of any terrible sins or evil habits the man had given into, he forgot the words of our loving God in the Old Testament, “Even though a mother may forget her child, I can never forget you, for I have created you in the palm of my hands.”

If God, the Almighty Creator of the universe, created each and every individual in the palm of His hand, then we have a sacred connection with Him, which no horrible sin or evil habit or destructive addiction can take away!

Let each one of us think about this for a moment. At times, we may forget who we truly are.  Underneath the nicknames and titles that others give us – at work, within our family, from our peers, and even the labels that society may place upon us – do each of us understand who we truly are, deep down within our souls? The Gospel lesson of today is calling each one of us to pause and carefully look at who we are, to ask ourselves where we are today, and then to never lose sight of our potential within – the divine potential God gave us at our creation!

Reflecting on this, we may come to four different ways of viewing ourselves:

First, there is the image that we try to present to other people.  So often, we don’t want others to see who we truly are, so we attempt to put forth only the good side of our personality. We want others to see our positive characteristics and good virtues. And we may initially deceive people, and if they don’t spend much time with us, they may actually believe in only the good image that we hope to portray. With today’s social media, how many people create avatars of themselves on the net, creating a custom-fit image to offer to the world?

A second view of ourselves is not the image we try to portray to others, but the image that people actually see. Even though we try to hide the negative aspects of our character, still people can see through our masquerade, and will eventually see both our good and bad.

A third perspective of who we are is the way we understand ourselves deep down. Of course, we know better than anyone else our own weaknesses, our own sins, our own bad habits, and even our evil thoughts. We see a side of ourselves that others cannot see. Unfortunately, even with ourselves, we’re not always honest. Many times we think better or worse of ourselves than what we actually are. We even deceive ourselves into believing this false image. Such people never travel into their soul’s depths to discover what is actually there.

The fourth and most accurate perspective of ourselves is the view that God alone possesses.  He knows us better than we ourselves.  He sees all the goodness we possess, and the limitless potential we have. He sees His own image in us! Yet at the same time, God also knows all our weaknesses – our pride, our anger, our greed, our hatred, our self-centeredness. He knows all our deep and hidden thoughts and desires. God knows well the demons that exist deep within our souls. And we all have such demons.

The great Russian writer, Alexander Solzenitsyn, noted, “The line between good and evil runs right through the heart of everyone.” The saints of the church concur when they say, “within every heart exists both heaven and hell.” Therefore, God knows who we truly are; only He is the one who fully sees BOTH our GOOD and our BAD, our shortcomings and our potential.

When Jesus asks the possessed man in today’s Gospel, “What is your name?  Who are you?  How do you see yourself?” The man could only acknowledge the evil within, the LEGION of DEMONS that possessed his soul, that left him broken and destroyed.

Christ, however, revealed to the man something more. Yes, you have demons, like we all do, but let me show you who you truly are, deep within your own soul. In other words, “Let me free you from your demons, and from your own delusion of self, and let me remind you how you are a beloved child of God, a child created in my image, created with the potential to love and be loved, created with the potential to become a saint!”

So Jesus freely releases the man from the bondage of the legion of demons and sends the man throughout the country telling others about the good things that God has done for him.

In the meantime, however, the people of the surrounding area hear about the miracle that occurred, and come to see for themselves. What happened to this demon-possessed man? Unfortunately, they cannot see the goodness within the man, the new man brought out by Christ. Their eyes were blinded by their loss of possessions, their herd of swine, which have been destroyed. They’re afraid because they don’t understand what just happened, but maybe they’re more afraid that maybe Christ will ask each one of them what their name is, and get them to confront the demons in their own lives – the demons of greed, of self-centeredness, of contentment with the world. Thus, instead of accepting Christ’s offer to help, they reject Jesus and ask Him to leave their land. They are too afraid to change.

A strange reaction by the villagers. And yet, maybe not so strange! How would each of us react if Christ came in the same manner, and asked us today, “What is your name? Who are you? What demons do you have in your life that you are hiding? Do certain sins and bad habits and evil thoughts determine who you are? Will we confront the demons in our lives, and turn to Christ for healing and restoration? Will we enter into the deep dark abysses of our hearts and see what truly lies there? And ultimately, will we allow the great surgeon of the soul, Jesus Christ, to cut away all that is evil and restore us to our original beauty?

To take such a step demands great courage and faith. To acknowledge our demons, and then to cast them out is often a painful and difficult struggle. Yet we know that if the Great Surgeon performs the operation, success and true restoration is inevitable!

“What is your name and who are you?” Let us all admit that our names may also be “legion,” but with God’s help, we all can discover the special name He gave each of us at our creation.  And this holy name is written in the Book of Life, waiting for us to claim it!

  

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Fr Luke Veronis

Fr. Luke A. Veronis serves as the Director for the Missions Institute of Orthodox Christianity at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, pastors Sts Constantine and Helen Greek Orthodox Church in Webster, MA, and teaches as an Adjunct Instructor at both Holy Cross and Hellenic College. He also taught at St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary (2005-2008). Fr. Luke has been involved in the Orthodox Church’s missionary movement since 1987. Together with his family, he served as a long-term cross-cultural missionary in Albania more than 10 years (1994-2004), and as a short-term missionary in Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana for 18 months (1987-91). Since 2010, he teaches a summer missions class which he takes to Albania for two weeks every year. He has led four mission teams from his church to build homes for the desperately poor through Project Mexico. His published books include Go Forth: A Journal of Missions and Resurrection in Albania (2010); Lynette’s Hope: The Witness of Lynette Katherine Hoppe’s Life and Death (2008); and Missionaries, Monks, and Martyrs: Making Disciples of All Nations (1994). Fr. Luke teaches the Preaching course at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology, as well as numerous classes in Missiology and World Religions. His weekly sermons since January 2013 can be found at http://www.schwebster.org/sermons/ Fr. Luke is married to Presbytera Faith Veronis, and they have four children.