by Sarah Christmyer
Our nephew’s wife went into labor in the early days of the pandemic, when toilet paper shortages were still funny and the virus seemed to be a passing thing. When Baby Girl was born without a name, the family group text went into overdrive with suggestions. “How about Covida Bryant?” “K’Rona.” “No: Ma Korona.” or my personal favorite: “Charmin Bidet!”
A rose by any other name …
In the end, Baby Girl was christened Chloe May — a name full of life and promise. I hope her mother didn’t mind our teasing too much. But then other people have always tried to butt in on naming a child.
Like the relatives and neighbors of Elizabeth in today’s gospel reading (Luke 1:57-66, 80). Poor woman, trying to follow the angel’s message and call the baby John, and they would have none of it. “They would have named him Zechariah after his father,” it says in verse 59, and they wouldn’t listen to the mother at all.
When speechless Zechariah backed her up, writing “His name is JOHN” on a tablet so everyone could see, they marveled. This would be a first in the family. Why break with tradition? And when that simple obedient act restored Zechariah’s ability to talk, they knew that God was involved. Someone very special had been born.
God has known you from the start
The lectionary pairs this with Isaiah 49 …
The LORD called me from birth,
from my mother’s womb he gave me my name (vs. 1)
… and with Psalm 139:
Truly you have formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb (vs. 13)
To which we respond, I praise you, for I am wonderfully made.
You are wonderfully made! And deeply, wonderfully known from the time you were formed in your mother’s womb; known by name.
You are unique
Your name is sacred; it’s who you are. And God knows you by name, just as he knew the son of Elizabeth and Zechariah by name. God intended John’s name to be unique, and to be caught up in the mystery of Zechariah’s sudden affliction, so everyone would know his hand was on that child.
Yes, John had a special role in salvation history. But so does everyone who responds when God calls their name and follows him. God’s hand is on you, too.
Read what Catechism 2159 says about your name:
The name one receives is a name for eternity. In the kingdom, the mysterious and unique character of each person marked with God’s name will shine forth in splendor. “To him who conquers . . . I will give a white stone, with a new name written on the stone which no one knows except him who receives it” (Rev 2:17). “Then I looked, and Lo, on Mount Zion stood the Lamb, and with him a hundred and forty-four thousand who had his name and his Father’s name written on their foreheads” (Rev 14:1).
His (and her) name and the Father’s name. I guess that’s like a new surname: “Sarah Godsdaughter” for me, perhaps.
- Know you are loved, that you’ve been loved from the moment of your conception.
- Know that whoever your earthly father is, you have the most wonderful, caring, fatherly love of the Father who formed you in your mother’s womb and named you with a unique and special name you’ll have for all eternity.
- Know that whatever anybody calls you now … that name awaits, written in stone.
So hang in there! Thank the Father that he knows and loves you. Spend some time in Psalm 139 today and soak in his loving care.
About the author:
Sarah Christmyer is co-developer and founding editor of The Great Adventure Catholic Bible study program. The author of numerous Bible studies and several guided journals for Bible reading, she speaks at conferences and retreats on topics related to Scripture and the Catholic faith. She teaches at St. Charles Borromeo Seminary, Philadelphia. Follow her blog at www.ComeIntotheWord.com.
© 2020 Sarah Christmyer