A name with a mission
Thursday, January 4, 2018
First Reading: 1 Jn 3:7-10 Gospel Reading: Jn 1:35-42
John was standing in Bethabara beyond the Jordan with two of his disciples. As Jesus walked by John looked at him and said, “There is the Lamb of God.” On hearing this, the two disciples followed Jesus. He turned and saw them following, and he said to them, “What are you looking for?” They answered, “Rabbi (which means Master), where are you staying?” Jesus said, “Come and see.” So they went and saw where he stayed and spent the rest of that day with him. It was about four o’clock in the afternoon.
Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who heard what John had said and followed Jesus. Early the next morning he found his brother Simon and said to him, “We have found the Messiah” (which means the Christ), and he brought Simon to Jesus. Jesus looked at him and said, “You are Simon, son of John, but you shall be called Cephas” (which means Rock).
(Daily Gospel in the Assimilated Life Experience)
The late Chiara Lubich, founder of the Focolare movement had this practice of renaming members of the focolare family. It was during my yearlong stay at the Priests’ School for Asia in Tagaytay run by the Focolare that she visited the Philippines. She converted my nickname “DAN” into a portmanteau instead of giving me a new one. DAN stands for “Dio nell’anima”, D for “Dio” (God) and AN for “Anima” (soul). The Italian phrase means God in the soul.
Jesus too had the habit of changing the names of his followers. In today’s Gospel he changed the name of Simon to Cephas (Peter). According to a commentary by St. John Chrysostom, Jesus’ practice of changing names takes us back to the time when God would name a person in accordance with a given mission. Thus he renamed Abram “Abraham”, Sarai “Sarah,” and Jacob “Israel,” (Gn 17,5ff.; 32,29). Others he named from birth such as Isaac, Samson, and Hosea’s children (Is 8,3; Hosea 1:4,6,9). Their new names reflected the nature of their particular mission in life.
While we will never get the chance of having our names changed by Jesus, at least the names we already got are holy, having acquired them at baptism. Since baptism is supposed to define the child’s direction in life, names are supposed to be definitions of a noble mission in life. Unfortunately this is far from reality. Even the names we get hardly define any noble mission. A mother even wanted his baby named “armalite” just because the father who was a soldier died fighting in Mindanao.
Take it from Chiara Lubich: there is more to names than meets the eye. Find meaning in yours by ascribing to it a noble mission. -(Atty.) Rev. Fr. Dan Domingo P. delos Angeles, Jr., D.M.
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