Fourth Sunday of Advent

Lectionary: 10

Through him we have received the grace of apostleship, to bring about the obedience of faith, for the sake of his name, among all the Gentiles, among whom are you also, who are called to belong to Jesus Christ;


In his books about the Church and the Holy Trinity, Metropolitan John Zizioulas connects the mystery of the Triune God to our own identity in the Lord. 

Perhaps you remember the catechism teaching that an "indelible character" was imprinted on your soul at Baptism. 

This character is your name, your identity. That's why you were given a Baptismal name; this is how God knows you, and how you are known to the Church. 

Saint Paul speaks of "the grace of apostleship" which he received through Jesus, every baptized person has received a place and an identity in the Church. 

I like to ask people about their names. Most of us have several. We have our formal names, our titles, and our nicknames. Some of the most valuable are Daddy, Momma, Nana, Papaw, Bubba, Father and so forth.

Sometimes, there is only one person allowed to use a pet name, only the wife or husband, or only the father or mother, or a sibling. On anyone else's lips it would not sound right. The name is the relationship; it belongs only to those two people. 

Sometimes a name sounds like an insult. Perhaps it started out as that way but with time and affection became an honorable name. Through his prophet Isaiah, the Lord teases his fearful people, " Do not fear, you worm Jacob, you maggot Israel; I will help you… the Holy One of Israel is your redeemer." In such a case, especially, only the elect may use it. No one else would know its history.

In today's gospel, we are told the Angel specified the name of Mary's child, 
"...you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”
Like Abraham, Sarah and Israel, the Lord chose a name to signify their particular, privileged relationship to God. Jesus, of course, was the same as Joshua, recalling that hero's role in Salvation History. He succeeded Moses and led the people into the Promised Land, as Jesus succeeds -- and surpasses -- all the patriarchs, prophets and sages when he leads us to salvation. 

The name is a sign of God's election and one's mission in life. Always, when the biblical persons are named they are given their responsibility. Paul will announce the Gospel, Peter will be the rock of faith; the apostles will form the foundation of the Holy City. 

Everyone who belongs to Christ finds her and his calling. It is wonderful to see lay folks stepping forward as Catechists, Choir, Eucharistic Ministers and hundreds of other volunteer positions, assuming their rightful places in the missionary Church. The Church is not a cruise ship and there are no idle passengers. 

Just as there can be no God the Father without God the Son, there can be no church without everyone stepping forward to fulfill their calling; each is prompted by the Spirit to cry out with Isaiah, "Here I am! Send me!"

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I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.