Major Sunday Solemnities

Dec. 28, 2019

LOVE IS THE STRENGTH AND BEAUTY OF FAMILY LIFE

Readings: 1st- Sir. 3:2-6, 12-14; 2nd- Col. 3:12-21; Gospel- Matt. 2:13-15, 19-23

The beauty of the Holy Family is that everyone is present, available to make the sacrifice for the good of the family. Joseph is available as husband and father. He is present for Mary. He listens to the angel’s warning about Herod’s devilish intention. He acts like a responsible father and husband, “rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt.” Joseph stayed in Egypt until the death of Herod. Again, when Joseph was informed about the death of Herod, he took his family and began the journey back to Israel only to hear that Herod had been succeeded by his son Archelaus. Joseph diverted to Galilee in accordance with the voice of the Lord and settled in the town of Nazareth. This was to protect the infant Jesus from being massacred.

Mary was under the protection of the husband. Mary followed Joseph obediently. She made sacrifices for the unborn Jesus letting herself be moved from their homeland to Egypt, and back to Nazareth. Mary faced the inconveniences of motherhood brought about by her pregnancy. Mary was present for her son and they all lived like refugees in Egypt. What a sacrifice!

Jesus is the protagonist in the entire drama of the Holy Family’s escape and struggle for survival. He is the one being hunted after by the treacherous Herod. Jesus is the infant-king perceived to be a threat to the kingship of the time. For that reason, he was targeted to be killed. Jesus brought the presence of God in the family. Darkness tried to eliminate him but as John wrote, “the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it” (1:5).

Ben Sirach extols the authority of parents in the first reading. Approaching from what seemed like a patriarchal society, he set the authority of the father to be unquestionable. For Sirach, to honor the father is to show reverence to God. The same extends to the mother. God confirms a mother’s authority over her sons. Therefore, the honor due to parents is not negotiable because God commands respect and obedience. Children must show respect to their parents especially when they are old and unable to care for themselves. Such is a divine obligation.

Paul gives us the keys to family life- “Put on as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another… And over all these, put on love, that is, the bond of perfection” (Col. 3:12-13). With compassion, family members stay connected with each other. Heartfelt compassion looks for ways to help. It seeks to support and to offer less judgment. Heartfelt compassion generates feelings for persons in need. Kindness moves compassion to action. Humility embraces services for one another. Humility and gentleness inspire commitment to the course of the other in family life. A humble brother or sister is available in a selfless manner. Patience is like the marble upon which other virtues rest while love is the umbrella that shelters them. With patience, one can accommodate one’s brother or sister. With patience, one can bear with the weakness or shortcomings of one’s family members. Patience prompts forgiveness. And Saint Paul says, “put on love” as “the bond of perfection.” Remember that he had already stated that the greatest of all virtues is love. A family that embraces love practice other virtues like the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph.

If we look at the life of Joseph, we see a father who was present for his family. We see a man whose sacrificial love provided paternal protection that the family needed. When Paul asks wives to be subordinate to their husbands, what does that imply? Be slaves to their husbands? No. I know that some feminists would be uncomfortable with this passage. But Paul is not asking wives to lose their feminine identity. He is not asking women to be mere tools in the hands of their men. This is explained in the verse that follows where the apostle writes, “Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them.” Mary was obedient to Joseph. She moved to Egypt at his command. Joseph was the one who saw the dream about Herod’s threat against Jesus. Mary didn’t. But Mary didn’t hesitate to move because the man requested. Rather, she knew that it was for their good. They had an agreement and all of them moved. Joseph loved his family. Joseph cared for them. Joseph showed heartfelt compassion to Mary and her child. Joseph was kind-hearted. Joseph was humble, gentle and patient with Mary. He treated her with affection. Joseph’s love elicited Mary’s obedience.

What do we learn from the Holy Family? I had a conversation with a friend recently who described himself as a tough man. He told me that it is hard being a tough husband and that his wife had got used to his toughness. When I asked him how it feels being a tough husband, he said to me, “My neck hurts. My wife has been twisting it to the point that I feel the pain.” Joseph’s neck didn’t hurt because Joseph didn’t make it stiff. Mary didn’t twist Joseph’s neck because it was easy for her. Mary was interested in moving with Joseph, not just moving him. Together, they traveled to Egypt for the safety of the family. Together, they fought against the external forces of Herod. Joseph’s neck didn’t hurt because he didn't hurt Mary.

There was research some time ago that tried to study the causal relationship or correlation between being married and living long. It stated that married men lived longer than men who didn’t marry. Someone who was analyzing that research said that it’s not just that married men live longer but that marriage rather makes life seem longer especially if you marry a woman who keeps twisting your neck. So, a relationship where the woman struggles to twist the neck of the tough husband and the husband struggles to resist the twisting of the neck by his wife would seem like a really long life. We don’t need that.

Let us learn from the Holy Family to care for one another in our family. Let us learn to support, accommodate, empathize, and forgive. Let us learn to show kindness and compassion. Children, please care for your parents even or especially when they begin to age. Don’t dump them in any old people’s home and just call them once in a month. Last time when I shared my excitement about going home, an old lady said to me, “It is hard to get old. When you get old, you have no home. You simply become home to yourself.” We must be there for our parents, respect them and accommodate their shortcomings. Let us show love because love makes us present. Love is patient. Love is kind. Love never judges. Love isn’t boastful. Love is the beauty and strength of family life because it brings God to the center of our relationships.

May the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph bless our own families.

  

Jan. 6, 2019

THE NEED TO SEARCH FOR JESUS WITH OUR GIFTS

Readings: 1st- Is. 60: 1-6; 2nd- Eph. 3:2-3a, 5-6; Gospel- Matt. 2:1-12

Strange elements in the epiphany help to communicate the reality of God’s existence to us. We see the Magi from the gentile territory, the star that leads them, and their special gifts for the infant Jesus. The Magi’s statement on arriving Jerusalem is, “We saw his star at its rising and have come to do him homage” (Matt. 2:2-3). From that point onwards, a lot began to unfold. Herod is troubled, feels threatened, and goes into panic attack. He summons his cabinet and conducts series of interview to know about this new king. Herod’s intention is to do away with the infant-king. He pretends to be in favor of this child and tells the Magi, “Go and search for the child. When you have found him, bring me word, that I too may go and do him homage.” That is the height of sarcasm, humanity tries to mock divinity. However, the Magi receive a warning in their dream to return from a different route after visiting the infant Jesus. 

Few questions might be asked in the gospel of today regarding the epiphany of Christ: Why do these wise men abandon everything to search for Jesus? How are these wise men able to see and notice something unnoticed by so many others? Why would they give gifts to the infant Jesus? 

It is clear that the Magi take great risk. They set out on a long journey with the goal to discover the newborn king. They abandon their safety, home, and comforts to visit Jerusalem. The prophet Isaiah declares about Jerusalem in the first reading, “Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” The visit of the Magi fulfills the prophecy of the Lord. They do him homage.                                                                             

The Magi teach us to search for Jesus with everything we possess. From their experience, we learn that the search for Jesus is not always easy. Sometimes, those who search for Jesus encounter the likes of Herod who are uncomfortable with religion, those who see the worship of God as meaningless. Most Herods might occupy powerful positions in the society or in the family. Sometimes, the Herods are capable of deciding our fate. The Herods make the search for Jesus tough. In Saint Paul’s case, he encountered a certain Alexander the Coppersmith who opposed every bit of the truth of the gospel (cf. 2 Tim. 4:14). However, God shows his supremacy by guiding us in safe directions. God does not abandon his own. He guides us in the right path because he is true to his name. That is why he appeared to the Magi in the dream and led them safely through a different route unknown to Herod. 

The second question is how the Magi are able to see the star which is not visible to so many others. We can connect that to Christ’s prayer in the gospel which goes this way, “I bless you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the leaned and the clever and revealing them to mere children” (Matt. 11:25). What “things” would God not reveal to the learned and the clever? They are the mysteries of God’s kingdom. The learned and the clever refer to the proud and arrogant. Mary’s Magnificat says, “He has scattered those who are proud in their inmost thoughts. He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble” (Lk. 1:51-52). Herod represents the proud and arrogant who cannot see the star. The Magi represent mere children, the simple of heart who are guided by the star of God’s wisdom. They see what the “mighty” and arrogant Herod cannot see. 

However, God’s signs are visible in the dark. The famous Christmas song says, “Silent Night, Holy Night, all is calm, all is bright.” The Magi’s star radiates in the silence of the night leading them to the divine encounter with the infant King. The night is when the noise of words and the frenzy of the daytime diminishes. It is a time when God’s voice becomes loud and clear. God’s light shines brightly in the silence of the night. Cardinal Sarah writes in his book, The Power of Silence Against the Dictatorship of Noise, “There is a language of the stars that we can neither know nor comprehend but that God understands perfectly” (p.88). The star represents God’s presence in both the cosmic darkness and the darkness of our souls. Only the light of God’s love can illumine those dark spots.

The Magi followed their star diligently. We must follow our own star. We must identify with to follow our star. I believe that each person’s star is different. This star can also disappear if we succumb to the Herod, if we submit to the darkness of societal pressures. As soon as the Magi stop over at Herod’s place, they seize seeing their star. Pride and arrogance can quench the star in us. The star in us is sustained by simplicity of heart and by constant recognition of the need to look unto God as its source.    

Finally, the Magi offer the infant king great gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Gold expresses Christ’s kingship, frankincense expresses his priesthood, while myrrh shows the sacrificial nature of Christ’s death. The Magi are gentiles, yet they recognize Christ’s kingship and make donations to him. That is what the Epiphany represents, the revelation of the universal kingship of Christ. The prophet Isaiah says, “Caravans of camels shall fill you, dromedaries from Midian and Ephah; all from Sheba shall come bearing gold and frankincense, and proclaiming the praises of the Lord” (Is. 60:6). Saint Paul reminds us that “the gentiles are coheirs, members of the same body, and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). What gifts do we offer to Jesus? If gentiles could recognize him and offer him generous gifts, how much more believers like us? Do we merely grumble and refuse to give to the church? Do we pay him enough homage with the things God has given to us? Do we sufficiently support the course of the gospel with our donation? Do we appreciate everyone as members of Christ’s body despite their racial or ethnic background? 

                                                                                                           

Dec. 30, 2018

EXPERIENCING THE CHALLENGES OF FAMILY LIFE

READINGS: 1st- 1 Sam. 1:20-22, 24-28; 2nd- Col. 3:12-21; Gospel- Lk. 2:41-52

Every family experiences its challenges. 

Looking at the Holy Family, one would think it should be completely free from worries in the human sense. But that’s not correct. In fact, the challenges of the Holy Family start right after the birth of Jesus as Simeon foretells at his presentation. King Herod tries to eliminate him forcing Joseph to flee to Egypt. They’re forced to become strangers in Egypt. In today’s gospel, Luke narrates how the Holy Family travels to Jerusalem for the Passover feast. The boy Jesus gets lost. Being in his puberty, Jesus begins to explore not just his physical environment but his spiritual connection with his heavenly Father. He stays back in the temple without parental consent. The parents begin their journey back home only to discover that their son isn’t in the departing team. They are anxious, search for him everywhere, then return to Jerusalem. On finding him after three days, Mary expresses her feelings to Jesus, “Son, why have you done this to us? Your father and I have been looking for you with great anxiety.” Jesus responds with what appears to be a goofy answer, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” This sets the stage for unveiling his mission as the Son of God.

The first reading presents different challenges regarding family life in the Old Testament. Elkanah has two wives, Hannah and Peninah with both wives entangled in constant conflict. Peninah has children while Hannah has none. Peninah would mock Hannah and would take advantage of her barrenness before the husband. Hannah worries mostly about having her own child. Hannah resorts to praying and seeking help from God. In today’s reading, Hannah’s prayers are answered. She begets a boy child. Since she promised to dedicate this child to God in return, she takes the boy Samuel to the temple in thanksgiving to God.  Hannah demonstrates to us the power of patience, prayer, fidelity, and gratitude in family life. 

The lesson from the readings is to recognize that family life has its ordeals: challenges from the marriage relationship itself; challenges arising from infertility and barrenness; challenges from parenting responsibilities and upbringing of children; challenges from gender roles and responsibilities as husband and wife. Some challenges also arise from personality and character styles of individuals in the family. We need to realize that the presence of challenges doesn’t make the family bad, rather it depends on how they are handled and addressed. 

Even the Holy Family has its challenges and conflicting moments. Mary doesn’t feel good about the boy Jesus not following them back to Nazareth. She feels anxious that he is missing. She expresses her feelings this way, “Son, why have you done this to us?” (Lk. 2:48) Mary makes Jesus to understand their feelings and the anxiety caused them by his disappearance. She verbalizes her feelings in a compassionate way.

Saint Paul gives us appropriate ingredients for healthy functioning in family life by the invitation to embrace “heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another as the Lord has forgiven you.” The Pauline challenge is this, “so must you also do” (Col. 3:13). We must also forgive. That’s the only way to achieve a happy family life. We must be compassionate and be willing to show kindness. We must be humble, gentle, and patient in our relationship with each other. We must be ready to bear with our family members in all that we do. We must be willing to forgive each other because such is a Christian obligation. That way, we sustain the bond of unity and of peace in Christ Jesus. Saint Paul includes everyone in the family code: spouses, parents, children. Everyone must shun bitterness in relating with another. No individual is perfect, hence, we all err. What matters is how we appreciate him/her as a gift to the family. 

Let us therefore emulate the Holy Family in making sacrifice for the other. Mary and Joseph sacrifice for Jesus; they go back to look for him. They show him compassion and love and not bitterness or resentment. Parents, should avoid bitterness in dealing with their children. Treat them with compassion. Understand the various neurological, hormonal, and developmental changes that take place in children as they grow. The more your children feel comfortable with you, the more they trust you, they open up to you and confide in you. Jesus opens up to Mary and Joseph, “Why are you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” (Lk. 2:49-50). 

Again, let’s be patient with one another. Let’s be kind and gentle. Let’s make humility a way of relationship in the coming year. The word of God teaches us to be thankful to God in all its richness. Let’s make our families places of thanksgiving to God. May the joys of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph fill our homes and inspire us to a fulfilled family life. Amen.

  

Aug. 15, 2018

OVERCOMING THROUGH GRACE

Readings: 1st- Rev. 11:19a; 12:1-6a, 10ab; 2nd- 1st Cor. 15:20-27; Gospel- Lk. 1:39-56

The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one great Feast that celebrates victory over sin and death. Mary, at the end of her earthly life, was taken up body and soul into heaven. In Mary, we see the incorruptibility of the flesh because she dedicated herself fully to the will of God. Mary embraced the mission of salvation by consenting to be the mother of Christ.

The gospel narrates the visitation of Mary to Elizabeth following the annunciation. That encounter unfolds several theological contents for believers. The greetings exchanged by Mary and Elizabeth reveal the mystery of the greatness of God, the mystery of the plan of salvation in Christ. Elizabeth declared, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.” She continued, “For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” Her final words to Mary were, “Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled” (Lk. 1:45). Elizabeth was inspired by a supernatural joy. She knew that Mary was the mother of the Lord. The child in her womb reacted in an extraordinary fashion too.

What followed Elizabeth’s proclamation was the Magnificat, the great canticle of the Blessed Mother; “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior. Mary acknowledged the favors and graces bestowed on her. She recognized her Blessedness in all generations as conferred upon her by God. God has shown mercy to those who fear him. In the Magnificat, we see the great attributes of God listed by Mary- faithfulness, justice, love, power, joy, and compassion for the lowly. God looked upon the humility of the Blessed Virgin Mary and lifted her above all creatures to be the Mother of his Son. Today, the church celebrates her glorious assumption; she is the Queen of angels in heaven.

The first reading gives us the image of “the woman adorned with the Sun, with the moon under her feet, and whose head is crowned with twelve stars.” That image symbolizes the Blessed Virgin Mary. The battle signifies that God planned to defeat the devil through the birth of Christ. Scripture says, “Then the dragon stood before the woman about to give birth, to devour her child when she gave birth. She gave birth to a son, a male child, destined to rule all the nations with an iron rod.” (Rev. 12:4-5) It is hard to say exactly what this image is, but it is a prophecy that pointed closely to the image of Christ. The battle with the devil was real in the life of Christ. He conquered sin and death on the Cross. Christ battled for forty days and forty nights with the devil (Matthew chapter 4). Mary’s conception was prophesied by Isaiah this way, “Behold a Virgin shall conceive and give birth to a son and shall call him Emmanuel” (Is. 7:14). This male child is the one whose reign is forever and whose kingdom shall have no end.  

Saint Paul chronicles the power of Christ in the second reading. Contrasting Christ with Adam, Paul calls him the “first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.” According to this passage, when Christ has destroyed every sovereignty and power, the “last enemy to be destroyed is death” (1Cor. 15:26). Obviously, there are a lot of enemies to be destroyed in this world, death being the last. Death seems to be man’s ultimate enemy. It is the enemy destroyed by the resurrection of Christ. Christ destroyed death and gave us power through his resurrection. This defeat of the last enemy means, as Paul said, “so too in Christ shall all be brought to life” (1Cor. 15:22).

I think that the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary communicates to us our final destination in life, the power we have over death. It tells us of the importance of God’s grace in our life. It reminds us how much battle we do and how much strength from God we need to enable us to overcome. There are so many enemies confronting our efforts to make heaven. Monsters that we have to defeat; enemies daily wrestling to devour us, or at worst to take us away from God’s presence. Peter warns us this way, “Be sober and vigilant. Your opponent the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). This is real. On individual basis, we know that we face temptations on daily basis. The eyes want to look at images that result to concupiscence of the flesh. The various salacious speeches we utter. The various poor uses of God’s name. The avarice in consumption of food and drinks. The urge to refuse to help or assist when needed.

On the part of the church, there is a constant effort to pull God’s community down. The negative attitude from some members of the church -gossips, calumnies, and aspersions which come from within. Members pitch themselves against others. Sometimes, leaders are attacked and discouraged. From outside, the church is seen as an institution that opposes the way of the world and needs to be pulled down. Different forces attack institutions like marriage, priesthood, the Eucharist, etc. These are the images of the dragon attempting to devour the children of God.

Still within, there is the dragon of the flesh pulling down those placed to lead the church. Recently, the sex abuse of children and mostly boys have kept inflicting a great wound on the church. Just yesterday, we received a letter from Archbishop Lori yesterday which started this way,

Dear Friend in Christ,

I regret that I write you today regarding a painful matter that continues to shake the faith of God’s people and undermine the Church’s mission to spread the Gospel. Earlier today, a report by a Pennsylvania Grand Jury was released, revealing a pattern of institutional failure on the part of six dioceses related to the sexual abuse of children by clergy and other representatives of the Church. The report includes the names of some 300 priests accused of abuse, as well as the bishops who led the six dioceses at the time the abuse occurred.” (This is on the internet).

It is an unfortunate situation which needs all of us to continue to offer prayers. With Saint Paul, I invite the people of God; “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord’s people. Pray also for me” (Eph. 6:18-19). Our Mother Mary overcame through God’s grace. We can only overcome through the grace of God. May the Blessed Virgin Mary pray for us. Amen.

  

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               

Jun. 23, 2018

 “THE LORD CALLED ME FROM BIRTH…”: WHAT IS IN A NAME?

Readings: 1st- Is. 49:1-6; 2nd- Acts 13:22-26; Gospel- Lk: 1:57-66, 80

We celebrate today, the great feast of Saint John the Baptist. John is the most popular prophet of the New Testament. Of him Christ proclaimed, “Verily I say unto you, among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist” (Matt. 11:11; Lk. 7:28).

As I read about John the Baptist’s story, I learnt that his relationship with Christ has affected the structuring of nature in the calendar of events today. When John was informed that Jesus was baptizing while he was baptizing, John said about himself, “You yourselves can testify that I said that I am not the Messiah, but that I was sent before him… He must increase; I must decrease” (John 3:28,30). The 2018 Workbook for Lectors, Gospel Readers, and Proclaimers of the Word, says, “Today’s solemnity, which (in the northern hemisphere) occurs near the longest day of the year, just as the daylight is beginning to diminish, is linked to our celebration on December 24-25. Then, just as daylight is at its shortest span, we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the Light of the world. What we celebrate on the cosmic clock, we apply to our own lives.”

What do we learn from John the Baptist? We learn that hsi relationship with Jesus was designed by God for the fulfilment of the messianic kingdom. John’s mission was in anticipation of the inauguration of Jesus’ mission. The mystery began right from the father, Zechariah’s encounter with the angel while ministering at the temple. Zechariah lost his speech for the nine months preceding John’s birth because he doubted the reality of Elizabeth’s conception. His voice was restored as a sign of the voice which John would be to the Christ. Elizabeth, conceived by special divine intervention at an age that was biologically impossible for child-bearing. The Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth three months before the birth of John. During Mary’s visit, there was a special encounter; an exchange between the “Voice” and the “Word”. John the Baptist was said to have “leapt for joy” because Christ imparted the Holy Spirit upon him right from the womb.

When Jesus appeared on the scene, the Scriptures didn’t narrate any special incident where Jesus was introduced to John before he could identify him. That introduction took place in the womb-to-womb exchange between Mary and Elizabeth by the Holy Spirit. This made it possible for John to point to Jesus and refer his disciples to him saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29,36).

The miracle and mystery surrounding John the Baptist became obvious at his naming ceremony. In today’s gospel, we notice the confusion surrounding what name the newborn would be given. The relatives had already decided to call him Zechariah 11, after his father. The mom, inspired by the Spirit had concluded he’d be called John. The people’s reaction is, “There is no one among your relatives who has this name.” They didn’t know that John was a relative of Jesus. He was fortunate from birth. He was fortunate to embrace the Lord from the womb. He was fortunate because the Lord gave him his name from his mother’s womb. He was fortunate because the Holy Spirit already descended on him at conception. He was fortunate because he was going to be a voice that speaks for the Lord. John was fortunate to receive a name special, a name not chosen by the people but by God himself. John pointed to Jesus, a name which means, “the Lord has shown favor” while Jesus means, “savior” or “the Lord saves”.

The manifestation of John’s mission was great; “So, they made signs, asking his father what he wished him to be called. He asked for a tablet and wrote, “John is his name”. All became amazed. Zechariah’s speech returned. Just as he spoke in the Benedictus, “The Lord has visited his people and redeemed them. He has raised up for us a mighty savior, in the house of David his servant”. All were amazed at the name which the Lord gave to John.

The prophet Isaiah tells us, “The Lord called me from birth, from my mother’s womb he gave me my name” (Is. 49:2). Today, I want us to reflect on our names. I want each of to believe that God consecrated you and chose you from the womb for a purpose. God knows what you’re to bear and guides your parents to a decision on your name.

My name, for instance, is Vincent. Vincent is what God knows me as. Vincent means “Invincible or Victor”. My parents knew the power in a name and were guided by the Holy Spirit to choose my name. So also, every parent, I believe. Think about the consultations you make before naming your child. Some couples conduct researches for days and months before agreeing on a child’s name. Some argue and debate before they come up with their child’s name. Sometimes they disagree, then father calls him/her something, while mother calls him/her another. Grandparents give their own name while in-laws call something even different. There is always a reason behind such going back and forth. There is something in a name. Either you name the child following a saint that you admire, your parents/grandparents that you love; a celebrity, or from a personal experience of yours. My dad named me after his one and only brother that died as a young adult. He loved him and loved his name. I believe he wanted me to help keep the memories of his beloved brother. So, I give you some challenges/assignments today:

  • Find out the meaning of your name if you didn’t know it before now.
  • Find out the circumstances surrounding the naming of your name at childbirth. What informed your parent(s) to call you the name that you bear?
  • For couples still bearing children, do not give your children names with no reasons. Find out what the Lord wants of you for your child.

Finally, realize today, that the Lord cares for you in a special way. If he identifies you by name, then he knows you. If he knows you that much, he cares for you. Israel thought the Lord had forgotten her, almost got discouraged. But the prophet Isaiah woke them up with such a reminder, “Though I thought I had toiled in vain. And for nothing, uselessly, spent my strength, yet my reward is with the Lord, my recompense is with my God” (Is. 49:4).

God knows you by name. He knows the challenges you’re going through. He knows you in your lowest moment as well as in your most excited times. Before him you’re special, you’re made glorious. Like David, he wants you to be special. Like John the Baptist, he wants you to be his voice. He has special interest in you because you bear his image. You represent him by your name. Let us ask God to make our names special; to make us a light to the nations. That way, like John the Baptist, the name of the Lord will be glorified through our names. Amen.