Homily for Monday of the 4th Week of Advent Year A
Theme: The Birth of John the Baptist
By: Fr. Benny Tuazon
Homily for Monday December 23 2019
December 23, 2018, Eighth Simbang Gabi, (Lk. 1:57-66)
In today’s Gospel we have the account of the birth of John the Baptist. It was made dramatic by the punishment of Zechariah, John’s father, because he doubted God through the angel. He was to remain mute until John’s birth. That day had come and in testimony to his conversion and obedience to God’s will, he named his son “John.” It was a break from a tradition where children were named after one of the child’s ancestors. “John” means “YAHWEH is gracious!” His name reminds his parents and everyone that his birth was the result of God’s graciousness given that his parents were advanced in age and his mother, Elizabeth , was barren.
What is in a name? To many cultures, names are very important. American Indians would name their children depending on the circumstances of birth. If one is born during a typhoon, the child maybe named “strong winds,” “dark clouds,” or “danger is coming.” Others base it on the popular figure at the time of birth. Catholics would adopt the name of the saint on whose feast day the child is born. What is in a name? For the Jews, they are usually named after elders but for the chosen of God, they are named according to their mission. Jesus was named “Emmanuel” because He is “God with us.” “Abraham” is Father of the multitude. “Peter” means rock. Names are important because they function as the identity of the person.
What is in a name? It might just be composed of letters forming a word but for the Jewish people and for God, it stands for the mission of the person. John’s name speaks of the gifts God has given to Zechariah and Elizabeth and to the Jewish people. It tells us who Jesus is and how God loves us. It is a beautiful tradition rich with meaning, purpose, and goals. It is for this reason that the Catholic Faith had adopted this tradition.
It started well in the Faith. It used to be that children were given names according to the saints whose feasts fall on their birthdays. Others name their children after their preferred saints hoping the children will emulate them when they grow up. The inclusion of “Maria,” “Jose,” “Peter,” “Paul,” and other significant names in names of children whenever the ones suggested by parents were too fancy, secular, or unique, became a practice by the Church in baptism. Unfortunately, nowadays, this has not been practiced anymore. Names of actors, sports heroes, celebrities, super heroes, cartoon characters, or a mere mixture of letters without a particular meaning, now dominates.
The challenge is to live up to the name. It is a good practice. It is encouraging, inspiring, and full of hope because of the existence of a model, an example, and hero. And who is the perfect hero? Jesus Christ and all His faithful followers, no doubt.