It’s In The Name
August 24, 2014
21st Sunday in Ordinary Time
MT 16:13-20

I have a lot of good friends in the Filipino community here in Saginaw. But, I admit, I had trouble getting to know them because many seem to go by two or more names. Obviously, everyone has a legal name…a given name. But most also go by “nicknames” they have acquired over the years. Some, in fact, have several nicknames. It is a custom that my friends have brought with them from the Philippines. What makes the whole thing especially confusing is that when I ask: “Why do they call you ‘Bing’? … or… How did you get the name ‘Cherry’?” the response is typically: “I don’t know, my family has always just called me that!” Moreover, there is no obvious connection between the “nickname” and the individual, so that the nickname seems appropriate or well suited to the person.

Not so with Simon. Jesus gave the Big Fisherman the nickname “Simon” or “Rock” because he was so solid in his commitment to The Lord. Whatever qualities Simon exhibited were clearly what Jesus regarded as a solid foundation for “The Church.” Just possibly, however, Jesus had something slightly less complimentary in mind as well. I wonder if just possibly, even as Jesus was acknowledging Simon’s strengths, in the back of His mind, He was thinking to Himself…Yes! You are the Rock alright…hard headed…stubborn…slow to change and difficult to move.

Consider this: This week’s Gospel centers on Peter recognizing Jesus as “The Christ.” The thing is, “Christ” is NOT A NICKNAME. “The Christ” is the title given to the One whom God promised to send into the world to lead us out of darkness. Somehow, Simon Peter was able to connect Jesus of Nazareth to the title “The Christ.” But, repeatedly throughout the Gospels, we see that Peter did not fully understand why the title was fitting to the Person. That might well explain why this week’s Gospel ends with Jesus issuing a strict warning to tell no one that He was the Christ! Simply put, they did not understand what the title meant, or why it was perfectly suited to only one individual … Jesus of Nazareth. It would only be after Jesus died, rose, ascended into heaven, and sent the Holy Spirit to enlighten the minds of Peter and the Apostles and disciples that they would be able to correctly answer the questions: Why do you call Jesus “The Christ”? How did He get that name?

It took His suffering, His death, His Resurrection, His Ascension…and yes…His Holy Spirit…to get through Peter’s thick skull…just exactly why Jesus is The Christ!

So, here’s something to think about: Why do they call you Christian? How did you get that name? Is there a connection between the name Christian…and you? The answers to these questions should be obvious…or maybe…that name does not fit the person just yet!