When the eighth day came to circumcise the child they were going to call him Zechariah after his father, but his mother said in reply, “No. He will be called John.” ~ Lk 1:59-60
One of the joys of early pregnancy (and for some queasy mothers-to-be, they are few!) is ruminating on the baby’s name. Do we name the child after a beloved grandparent or distinguished ancestor? Do we go with one of the more popular contemporary choices? Or do we simply pick a name we like? I have known cases where the decision changes once the baby is born (“He just doesn’t look like a Nathaniel; let’s call him Will.”), or where parental indecisiveness has left the waiting newborn without a name for a few days!
In today’s Gospel, Elizabeth and Zechariah resist the social pressure to call their child after his father, and instead adopt the God-given name for the baby who will become the prophet of the most high. For us, as for John the Baptist, our name is central to our identity and to our relationships with others. As motivational speaker and author Dale Carnegie advised, “Remember that a person's name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
What often helps me in prayer, particularly if I am distracted, is to just sit as Jesus would have done with Thomas or Mary Magdalene or Zaccheus. For the God who numbers the stars is also the God who knows each of us by name and sits with us in prayer. The relationship with Christ that we cultivate through prayer is grounded in his complete understanding of who we are, down to speaking our very name. What a gift it is to be so known by our God.
O God of all the earth and every living creature, May I feel your all-knowing, all-loving embrace every day. Amen.