Sunday, January 18, 2009

The Name that matters

The Name that matters

January 18, 2009
Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
John 1:35-42

Filipinos have a penchant for giving amusing names to their children. We have probably heard about names like Mary Christmas Aguinaldo, Washington Dy Sy, Edgar Allan Pe, and Magic Chiongson. I once had a classmate by the name of Johann Bach Sebastian, although curiously, he cannot even carry a tune. We hope these people like their names, for it is very difficult to change names legally. For most of us, our names would last for a lifetime.

In the biblical times though, we see instances when God changed the names of significant personages. Abram to Abraham. Jacob to Israel. Hosea to Joshua. Saul to Paul. Why did God choose new names for some people? Perhaps it was to let these people know that they were destined for a new mission in life. The new name was a way to let them in on the divine plan and also to assure them that God's plan would be fulfilled in them.

In the Gospel, Jesus said to Simon:

"You are Simon the son of John; you will be called Cephas".

Why would Jesus say Simon will be called Cephas (translated Peter)? There's seems nothing wrong with his old name Simon. If Simon - Peter was puzzled by this development, he didn't show it. God's divine plan for Peter would be evident later in Jesus' ministry when we learn that Peter would be the "rock" upon which Christ would build his Church. Like the other great biblical personages, there was a transformation in Peter that was not just about a change of name. It was a change of heart. In the end what really matters is that, in our hearts, it is the name of Jesus Christ that is inscribed.

Sto. Niño feast

In the Philippines where the Sto. Niño feast (Holy Child Jesus) is celebrated today, the Gospel reminds us that the Kingdom of God belongs to children. "Let the children come to me" (Mk 10:13-16) Being childlike (as opposed to being childish) offers us the best approach to relate with God -- to lose our pretensions and only to trust in the God who loves. The Kingdom of God is offered freely, we have to approach it like little children with no pretensions, no aggrandizing of our merits, no demands, and yes it also does not matter what our common names are. He just calls for the child in all of us.


John-D Borra said...

Lovely reflection, Willy!

aeisiel said...

I just wanted to make a couple of comments regarding the name-change. First, it is a common misconception that Saul’s name was changed to Paul; however Paul was Saul’s Roman name as he is a Roman citizen and Saul was his Jewish name which he opted not to use after his conversion. Second, Simon’s name was not changed into Peter but Peter was more of an add-on and became Simon’s surname as stated in Mark 3:16 (KJV and RSV) "Simon whom He surnamed Peter." So Peter is more of a title or an office - "Simon the Rock (Peter)" same with Jesus the Anointed One (Christ).

WillyJ said...

You are right. So that explains why sometimes he was called Peter, sometimes Simon in the NT. The office part is something that Catholics would emphasize, with good reason.