Reflection for Tuesday, January 1, 2008: The Octave Day of Christmas, Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God.

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Heaney, Robert
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In the reading from Numbers today, Yahweh tells Moses to have Aaron "Call down my name on the Israelites and then I shall bless them." This is a truly remarkable command, but if we are to appreciate just how remarkable, we need to understand the special meaning attached to two key words "name" and "bless". "Name" in Hebrew thought represented all a person is or does -- his or her character, personality, and power. Names were important, not just for what they meant, but for what they stood for. And when a person gives another his "blessing", he gives all the good things in his power to give -- possessions, reputation, honor, position in society. (That is why the blessing Jacob fraudulently got from Isaac was so important to him.) So God says to Moses: "Have Aaron call my name (that is who I am) down upon the Israelites, and I shall bless them (that is, give them all the good things in my power to give)." Can that be literally true? Dare we believe that? God wanting to "bless us" to be gracious to us, to give us peace?||Talk is cheap. Or so said the scribes (in words to that effect) when Jesus told a paralytic his sins were forgiven. Jesus responded to their skepticism, not by arguing, but by healing the man's paralysis. Thereby Jesus proved He had the power that His words conveyed. God does the same thing in response to our skepticism. His "proof" is the incarnation, the celebration of which is still the focus of today's feast.|In that connection, among the miscellany of good things we remember today, perhaps the most significant is the naming of Jesus. We may overlook it entirely, because we do not understand the significance of names in Biblical thought. We are quite comfortable in our day with assumed names, pen names, stage names. And in naming babies, we often go out of our way to find a name with originality or even idiosyncrasy. A name is whatever we want it to be. That makes it hard for us to appreciate what is so special about Jesus' name day. It is not the day of course, but the name that is critical. "Jesus" means literally "Yahweh saves". It is not that the word is a kind of code, known only to initiates; the Hebrew syllables actually convey "Yahweh saves". Jesus could not have been called Joseph or John or Simon. Jesus' name is His reality _ the ultimate fulfillment of the blessing promised in today's first reading. God gives us all the good things He represents; that is He gives us Himself. Wow!
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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