Friday, December 3, 2010

For the Love of Saint Andrew: A Christmas Novena, Day 4

What's in a name? Upon Our Lord's first meeting with Andrews' brother Simon, in John chapter 1, He says Simon's name will be changed. This is how the scene unfolds,

The next day again John (the Baptist) stood, and two of his disciples. And beholding Jesus walking, he saith: Behold the Lamb of God. And the two disciples heard him speak, and they followed Jesus. And Jesus turning, and seeing them following him, saith to them: What seek you? Who said to him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master,) where dwellest thou? He saith to them: Come and see.

They came, and saw where he abode, and they stayed with him that day: now it was about the tenth hour. And Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two who had heard of John, and followed him. He findeth first his brother Simon, and saith to him: We have found the Messias, which is, being interpreted, the Christ. And he brought him to Jesus. And Jesus looking upon him, said: Thou art Simon the son of Jona: thou shalt be called Cephas, which is interpreted Peter.

Yes, Jesus knew who he was, sight unseen. To keep things straight for us readers, St. John calls St. Peter Simon Peter often throughout his version of the gospel. Even though the "Peter" part wasn't declared yet. And when he calls him Simon only, he clarifies it, like this from John 6:14 (all of these citations are from the Douay-Rheims version of the Bible):

Simon, whom He (Jesus) surnamed Peter, and Andrew his brother, James and John, Philip and Bartholomew,

Biblical name changes are no small matter. It doesn't happen often, but when it does, the significance is weighty. For example, Abram (which means high father) becomes Abraham, or father of multitudes. His wife's name, Sarai (which means my princess) is changed to Sarah, which means mother of nations. Very ironic for a women who was barren? Miraculous, is what it is.

Another major name change in the Old Testament occurs to Jacob. Jacob's name, which originally means heel or leg-puller is changed to Israel, which means persevere with God. And later on, in the Acts of the Apostles, A Pharisee named Saul will have his named change as well.

The foreshadowing of the name change for Simon in John's first chapter, feeds the drama of Our Lord's statement in the 16th chapter of Matthew when he asks the Twelve "Who do the people say I am?" and more importantly, "who do you say I am?" And that is the hugely significant prelude to the recognition of who Peter is, and who he is to become.

Ponder the plan God has for each of us in your heart as you pray the Christmas Novena today.