That God should come to earth, be born in the same flesh we wear is a clear will to brotherhood and intimacy with the human race. That he should be given a name, a human name by which he could be distinguished from other humans is another sign that he took on our humanity completely. We remember with awe that this was the name by which his mother and father knew him, and it was also the name his heavenly Father gave him. The angel said to Joseph: "She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins" (Mt.1: 21). The name of Jesus tells who he is and what he will do, what will be his mission. That mission will be totally dedicated to the glory of his Father by the salvation of people.
The whole focus of prayer is centered on this Name. It is, in fact, the Name we give to our faith. It is the leverage of all our prayer. The Name is the one we turn to in sorrow and distress, when we skirt the outer edges of hope. Repeatedly in the Gospels, God the Father is shown offering rescue and wholeness "in the name of Jesus." "And whatever you ask in my name, I will do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it" (John 14: 13-14).
Discipleship coupled with the call of Christ to follow him is closely associated with his name. In the time of Christ, Jewish students chose the Rabbi who would teach them the Law. They stayed with him until they had learned enough to begin teaching the Law they had learned from the master.
It was not that way with Christ. The disciples did not choose him. He, Christ, chose them, to be his disciples. They did not learn the Law but learned Christ himself. "It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit that will remain, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name he may give you. This I command you: love one another" (John 15: 16-17).
Peter was one of those disciples who followed Christ to the end. He preached Christ, healed the sick and the crippled: "...In his name this man (the cripple) stands before you healed." But Peter ascribed more than healing to the Name. He assured his hearers that all of salvation is accomplished through it. "There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved" (Acts 4:10,12). Luke wrote this in the time of the Roman empire, where salvation was said to be exclusively reserved to the emperor. The writer makes the point that salvation comes only in the name of Jesus Christ.
The name of Jesus is always used in the Gospels in relation to reconciliation in its various forms. It could be healing, as above, or approaching God anew in sorrow and repentance.
"Because of this (the cross), God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" (Philippians 2:9-11).
The name that is referred to here by St. Paul is that of "Lord". This is the name above all other names.
"It needs to be remembered that in ancient thought a peculiar value was attached to a name. The person himself was supposed to be somehow present in his name, so that in uttering it one brought oneself under the other's influence. A soldier took his oath in the name of Caesar, and thereby became Caesar's man. A Christian convert was baptized in the name of Jesus, and thus yielded himself to Jesus' will and secured his protection. So Paul assumes that the new name bestowed on Christ carried with it an active power, in virtue of which he had a divine authority" (The Interpreter's Bible, Vol.11, p.50).
All prophets and preachers have gone forth to preach that Name. Whole civilizations have adopted it and made it their creed and way of life. Generations of emperors and armies have introduced it, supported it and protected it. But no one other than Jesus Christ himself can insure its strength and perseverance. No secular power can long secure its power. No one can give faith, love, justice and peace, except the One who bears the Name of Lord, Jesus himself.
Reconciliation is forever and intimately connected with the Name of Jesus. "Thus it is written that the Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead on the third day and that repentance, for the forgiveness of sins, would be preached in his name to all nations" (Luke 24:46-47).
We need not wonder why the Virgin weeps over her Son's offended Name. Even were we to concede that this abuse of the Lord's Name might be innocent and more casual than culpable, it still evidences a careless approach to religion and especially to the Person of Christ. Where intimacy is invited, carelessness is in extremely bad, even offensive taste.
By allowing ourselves the liberty of taking "the name of the Lord in vain", we are depriving ourselves of an extremely valuable treasure. We humans need respect and we need someone to respect. We don't know if God himself fits the description of "hero" but we do need heroes. Heroes are enfleshed ideals and ideals make us look beyond ourselves.
In the case of Christ, we have a hero, an ideal, a friend, a lover, a Lord, a God whose total agenda while he was on this earth was to gain our freedom and our salvation. His Father sent him to us for this. All that was thus gained, was gained by his kindness, his power and in his Name.
Abusing the name of Jesus means insulting a man, a God who has loved us more than any other person in the world. Far from dishonoring our own name, he has used it to summon us to the service of discipleship. He has lovingly called us by our own name.