The Nazareth Page - A gospel meditation for your home
January 14, 2024 – Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, John 1:35-42
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People seem to be paying more attention to naming their children these days. It seems to me that they are trying to use names to identify something special about each child. In today’s gospel Jesus changes the name of one of his disciples from Simon to Peter. Jesus wanted him to play a special role in his life as a follower of Jesus. In that sense, the name change was an indicator of a new role, a new life for Peter.
I like the fact that parents today are expressing more creativity in naming their children. That wasn’t always so. When I was in grammar school, my two best friends were both named Dave. We were called by some “the three Daves.” The founder of Wendy’s and I share the same first and last name. (I have tried to get a discount on a Frosty, but this has not worked so far.)
Back to Peter. His role involved him playing a very important leadership role in the life of the church.
And subsequent popes all had different personalities and unique ways of leading the Catholic Church. Which leads me to believe also that each of us has a unique and important role to play in God’s intent for us. While we often share common qualities with others, God sees each of us in our uniqueness and individuality. And desires that we act in unique ways to spread God’s reign on Earth.
Right now, I am a grandfather. I also believe this is part of my calling, my role and my contribution to the life here on Earth. But I best think of this not as simply fulfilling a pre-determined role orchestrated by today’s culture, but rather an invitation by Jesus to play a very distinct role in life. I am not to be a generic grandfather, but a kind of grandfather, husband, dad, worker, neighbor and whatever role I play each day that flows from the unique reason God created me (and not someone else).
And that’s true for all of us. God does not type-cast us, although our culture (and even our families) might try to do so. While Jesus had many followers or disciples, he did not treat them as simply his “group,” but saw each one as an individual, and each one with a role that came from each one’s particular nature and personality.
This should not be taken as a licence to be unique in a crazy or selfish way, but rather to be true to God and to God’s purpose for creating each of us unique. I once had a student say to me that I was unlike any teacher he had. Good, I replied. You are unlike any student I’ve taught.
David M. Thomas, PhD