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Fr. Bob Writes – March 24, 2019

“Moses said to God, “if the people of Israel ask me ‘What is his name?’, what am I to say to them?” God replied “I AM WHO I AM “

What’s in a name? In the Bible, a great deal.  The name of a person stood for that person, stood for the power and authority of that person.  When God changed the name of a person in the Bible, as he does with Abram and Jacob, and as Jesus does with Simon in the gospel of John, he is changing the destiny of that person.  Abram becomes “Abraham”= the father of many nations; Jacob becomes Israel = the one who prevails against God; Simon becomes “Peter”=”the Rock” on which I will build my church.

When Moses asks for God’s name in our first reading this Sunday, this is of great significance, for to know a person’s name was an indication of a personal relationship, to be able to call someone by name represented a certain level of equality or power in the relationship.  It could also represent an attempt to exert control over that person, which is why Jesus always silenced the demons he cast out of people in the gospels, who were trying to speak out his name.

Just what was the name given by God in his encounter in today’s first reading?  Ancient Hebrew was given in consonant letters without vowels.  Only after many centuries did scribes add vowel notations.  It is commonly conjectured that the YHVH was “Yahweh” and in time that name was not to be spoken out loud by Jewish people.  The high priest was to whisper it once a year in the inner sanctum of the Holy of Holies.  What should one say, however, when coming to the YHVH while reading the scriptural text?  “Jehovah” was a word used by some, retaining the consonant sounds but with different vowel pronunciations.  Other traditions simply replace it with the word “Lord.”  Out of respect for the Jewish tradition of not pronouncing the name out loud, the Catholic Church in recent years has discouraged the actual saying of the word “Yahweh” and requested a change in the lyrics of songs in which the word appears. 

Fr. Bob Writes – March 17, 2019

Be imitators of me as your model” (Phillippians 3:17).  Most of us would feel uncomfortable voicing such words, much less putting them into print.  Yet St Paul will echo these sentiments again and again, in 2 Thessalonians 3:7, 1 Corinthians 4:16, and in 1 Corinthians 11:1, where he says “Imitate me as I imitate Christ”, in other words, “only imitate me, insofar as you see me imitating Christ.”  Paul wasn’t being proud.  On the contrary, he considered himself among the greatest of sinners (cf 1 Timothy 1:15). 

I am reminded of an interviewer who put the following question to St Mother Theresa: “People are saying you are a living saint.  What do you think of that?” Her response: “Isn’t that what we’re all supposed to be?”  No false humility kept either St Paul or St Mother Theresa from accepting their God-given call.  In fact, Paul’s response to us, if we were to say to him “I can’t be a model of holiness to others” would have been :”Why not?”  We are all to be living saints.  We are all to be examples for others to imitate, always mindful that we are first called to imitate Christ.  How else could Paul expect others to get their priorities in order and stand firm? 

Later on in our second reading this Sunday, Paul will say: “Our citizenship is in heaven.”  Conquered by the Romans in 167 B.C., the Macedonian city of Philippi was designated a Roman colony giving her residents rights as citizens of the Roman Empire.  Paul himself was a Roman citizen, being from the city of Tarsus, a city in Asia Minor which, like Philippi, was designated as a Roman colony.  Consult Acts 22 to see how Paul took advantage of his rights as a Roman citizen, a mere shadow of the blessings offered to those who live as citizens of God’s kingdom.  How are you and I showing by our behavior in Lent that we are citizens of different kingdom?