18 December 2008 Thursday of the 3rd Week of Advent
Jeremiah 23, 5-8; Psalm 72, 1-19; Matthew 1, 18-25
There are three names of Jesus that are important in this angle of the story of His birth.
First, Jesus is “Son of David.” As an extension of the genealogy of Jesus, the story is about Jesus becoming a Davidic child through Joseph’s assuming the legal obligations of paternity. When Joseph learned of Mary’s pregnancy, he was embarrassed to take her as his wife. He must have thought that Mary was seduced or raped. And as a devout follower of the law of the Old Testament, he could not take Mary as his wife (Deut 22, 23-27). Not wishing to subject Mary to the trial of the woman suspected of adultery, he decided to divorce Mary quietly. Divorce proceeding were carried out on the initiative of the male (Deut 24,1). But the fear of Joseph was put to rest when the angel appeared in a dream. The angel tells him that Mary will conceived a Son by the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, He deserves the names, Son of David, Jesus and Emmanuel.
Names matter. Our names identify us and distinguish us specifically from one another. Like the name, “Son of David”, our surnames point to our genealogy and trace our blood relations with an identifiable line of ancestors we term our family tree. It connects us with them. In fact, through a genogram, we can visualize hereditary patterns and psychological factors that enlightens the dynamics in a family and in other relationships. If we want to understand our medical and psychological make-up we can refer to our family tree.
The second is “Jesus” from the Hebrew word, Yeshua, meaning “God saves.” In Jewish tradition, names are given with some significance to the course of their lives. Solomon, for example, means peace and he was the king whose reign was without warfare. So, the belief of Matthew and the whole of Christianity is in fact that Jesus saved us from our sins.
Like Jesus’ name, our names are sacred. It is not just a word, but it refers to a person made in the image and likeness of God. Our names should be said with reverence. On the 29th of June 2008, the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship published a directive about the use of the divine name of God, Yahweh. It says that YHWH should not be pronounced nor used in the liturgy. In the Old Testament, the proper name of God was held to be unpronounceable because the name expressed the infinite goodness and majesty of God.
Finally, Emmanuel from Isaiah 7, 14, “And they shall name Him, Emmanuel.” In Hebrew, Emmanuel means, “God with us” which expresses the significance of Jesus for Matthew and the early Church. At the end of Matthew’s gospel, Jesus would further affirm his name, “I am with you always, till the end of the age” (28,20).
Our names suggest a relationship. If we trace the names people call us since childhood, each particular endearing name associates us with a person who has been with us. In different parts of the country, Nonoy, Nene, Inday, Dodong, Palanga are used by people close to us. In elementary and high school, we are sometimes called by our full or given names. And in work, our names will now have a title and uttered with respectability. If we identify the names our companions in our lives call us, which particular name is significant to you?
With these three names, Jesus is placed in the whole history of salvation. With the name, Son of David, Jesus becomes a descendant of Abraham and David. Thus He was the fulfillment of all their hopes and the promises of God to them. In addition, with the names, Jesus and Emmanuel, it gives attention to the extraordinariness of His nature and life. His unusual mode of birth tells us that He surpasses all those of his ancestors and all other generations after Him.