What is in a name?

The Lord Is My Chef Simbang Gabi Recipe, 17 December 2019

Genesis 49:2.8-10 ><)))*> ><)))*> ><)))*> Matthew 1:1-17

Parokya ng Banal na Mag-Anak, Violeta Village, Guiguinto, Bulacan. Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago.

Today we shift our focus in our Advent preparations to the first coming of Jesus Christ when he was born in Bethlehem more than 2000 years ago. Strictly speaking, the Christmas countdown officially starts only today especially with our very long but beautiful gospel from Matthew.

Maybe you are wondering what’s good with our gospel today when it is all about names that mostly sound very funny.

Importance of names: origin and mission

In ancient time, giving name to children was a very serious matter among peoples, especially the Jews.

For them, a name indicates two very important things about a person: one’s origin and mission in life, something parents of today have entirely forgotten, even ignorant because they are more concerned with fad and being unique in naming their children that always end up as a joke as it is always bizarre and weird.

And their poor kid suffers for the rest of his/her life like that man named “Fantastic”. All his life he felt so sad being called Fantastic that he told his wife when he dies, never put his name on his tombstone.

Eventually Mr. Fantastic died and the wife kept her promise not to put his name on his marker. But she felt the need to honor her beloved husband who was so good and honest that in lieu of his name, she asked a tribute written to honor him.

It said, “Here lies a very gentle and loving husband and father who never looked at other women except his wife.”

Every time passersby see and read that tribute, they would always exclaim “Fantastic!”

From Google.

Going back to the importance of giving names….

Corporations are more serious than parents in choosing names and trademarks to their products and services. Every trademark and brand always evokes deeper meanings than just being a product or entity that some of them have entered the vocabulary of many languages like Google, Xerox, and Frigidaire.

And the sad thing about this is how many babies are now being named to follow things and products than the other way around, giving more value to things than human beings!

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. Abraham became the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers.

Matthew 1:1-2
Detail of the ceiling of Parokya ng Banal na Mag-anak after the front or main door: the genealogy of Jesus Christ that starts with Abraham. Great concept by the Parish Priest, Fr. Ed Rodriguez. Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago.

Genealogy of Jesus as direction of Matthew’s Gospel

St. Matthew opens his gospel account with the genealogy of Jesus to settle right at the very start the question about the origin and mission of Jesus Christ.

Here we find the artistry and genius of St. Matthew, some 2000 years ahead of the late Stephen Covey’s third habit of highly effective people: “begin with an end in mind.”

By starting his genealogy with Abraham and David, St. Matthew gives us the whole gospel message in a glance because they are the two key figures in the beginning and realization of God’s promise to send Jesus Christ who would save us all.

Let us just focus on Abraham which means “he who is the father of many.”

It was to him that the story of God’s promise began after the dispersal of mankind following the collapse of the Tower of Babel.

From then on, Abraham points to what is ahead in God’s divine plan, not only for himself but also for the whole mankind for it is through him that blessings come to all. His journey from his birthplace of Ur into Canaan is symbolic of his journey from the present into the future, walking in faith following the Lord’s path and divine plan.

In Abraham we find God starting anew the history of mankind after the Fall that leads up to Jesus Christ who came to lead us all back into the Father.

With Abraham as the main header of Christ’s genealogy, we find not only the beginning but also the end of St. Matthew’s gospel which is the universality of God’s plan of salvation with Jesus telling his disciples to make disciples of all nations (Mt.28:19).

Detail of the ceiling near the sanctuary of Parokya ng Banal na Mag-Anak, the culmination of the genealogy of Jesus. Photo by Arch. Philip Santiago.

Imitating Abraham into our time

Last December 10 was a very important date for me and my parish: it was the ordination date of our first priest.

While waiting for the start of the Mass at the front door (which is actually the back of the Cathedral or any church), I just prayed in silence thinking about my role in the ordination of Fr. RA Valmadrid.

While I marveled at the beautiful renovations of our Cathedral, my sight was slowly moved towards the altar.

It was like an “Abraham experience” in Matthew’s genealogy for me: a wayfarer on a journey into the future, towards God, walking in faith.

In a quick glance, I kind of saw the future glory of every faithful coming to the altar to receive Jesus Christ in the sacraments especially the Holy Eucharist.

I just felt the beauty of entering the Cathedral, or any church which is more than stepping into a building but more of entering God himself, our point of origin and final destination.

Do we realize this tremendous blessing and grace of being baptized, of being a child of God, not only given with a name but most of all, of being counted into the family of God our Father?

In the first reading we have heard Jacob calling his 12 sons. What is so striking here is the blessing Jacob had bestowed upon Judah, instead of Joseph who was the best of all his sons, the holiest and most intelligent.

Like Abraham and Judah, or anyone in the genealogy of Jesus Christ, we can find our own selves too not as the vida or contravida but simply being called to be God’s instrument in fulfilling his plan in sending his Son Jesus Christ.

Truth is, God always comes in the most unexpected situations and peoples most of the time.

In Christ Jesus through our Baptism and faith, we find our genealogy – our origin and mission – as children of God.

If you want to get a feel of this reality, try reading aloud, very slowly, the genealogy of Jesus Christ. At the end, include your self, mention your name, your mother and father. Then close your eyes and let your life flash back in silence.

In the silence of your heart, do you find God coming more to you than you to God?

So amazing, is it not? We are all part of Christ’s genealogy. Let’s bring him forth into the world in our life of faithful witnessing like Abraham. Amen.

Malolos Cathedral. Photo by author.

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