Monday, March 11, 2019 at 6:38 PM
Stations of the Cross every Friday in Lent. We are alternating times. This Friday, March 15 at 7:00pm, next Friday, March 22 at 3:00pm. If you are of age, please remember to Fast and Abstain

12/18/16 Fourth Sunday in Advent - Fr. Reggie

Christmas is so close we can touch it. The joy of Christ's coming is already warming our hearts.

But our Lord wants our hearts to get even warmer.

Today he reveals to us three of his names.  We have heard them before, but we need to think about them again. Names have power - and Christ's names, when we really understand them, have enough power to bring our relationship with God to a whole new level.

Human parents are careful about naming their children. They want the name to mean something, to signify how important this new life is to them. God the Father was also careful about naming his Son. He didn't leave it up to chance or to Mary and Joseph's creativity. He chose it himself, and sent an angel to announce the choice to Mary and Joseph.

In the Old Testament, God often changed people's names, mostly when someone was given a special mission in salvation history - like Abram and Jacob.  When God changed their names to Abraham and Israel, the meaning of the name signified their role in God's plan. But when the Father instructs Joseph to call Mary's son "Jesus" even before he has been born, he shows that Jesus is not just another prophet. He shows that Jesus is his Son in an entirely unique way - so much so that God the Father has the right to choose his name from the very beginning of his human existence.

And what does that name mean? In Hebrew, Jesus means "God saves." This name reveals Christ's mission. Unlike the Old Testament prophets, Jesus didn't come to earth only to announce God's plan of saving mankind from sin and evil; he came to enact that plan, to win that salvation.

But another name is also revealed to us today: Emmanuel. This name was foretold by the prophet Isaiah, and St Matthew applies it explicitly to Jesus. "Emmanuel" in Hebrew means, "God is with/among us." The name "Jesus" referred to Christ's mission, what he came to do. "Emmanuel" refers to his identity, to who he is.

But the two are closely related. The only reason that Jesus is capable of winning salvation for humans is precisely because he is both true man and true God. Original sin had cut off humans from God's friendship. It had made humans into a slave of the devil. Adam and Eve had freely disobeyed God and obeyed the devil, and so they put themselves and all their descendants (that's us) under the devil's influence. This was the origin of evil in the world. We couldn't climb back up to God's level on our own - it was out of our reach. To reestablish friendship with God, we needed God himself to take the initiative. We needed a Savior who could bring God and the human family back together.

Jesus is that Savior. He brings God and humanity back together in his own person. He has God for his Father, so he is fully divine; and he has Mary for his mother, so he is fully human. And so, because he is "Emmanuel" (God among us) he can also be "Jesus" (God saves). God becoming man to save the fallen human race is the greatest story ever told, more fantastic than the wildest fairy tales - and yet, as true as the air we are breathing. This is the real meaning of Christmas.

And yet, there is still another name the Church presents us with today.

St Paul in the Second Reading summarizes Christ's amazing mission and refers to him as our "Lord."

"Jesus" and "Emmanuel" are names that only God could have given, but "Lord" is a name that only we can give. "Lord" comes from the Hebrew "Adonai" [add-own-EYE], used frequently in the Old Testament. It is a grammatical alteration of the word "adoni" [add-own-EE], which referred to kings, owners of slaves, and heads of households - anyone who had authority over other persons (not just over things or animals), was called an "adoni" [add-own-EE]. But only God was called "Adonai" [add-own-EYE]. Human authorities always receive their authority from somewhere - from their position in society, a higher authority, or a cultural tradition. But God doesn't receive his authority from anyone else. He is the ultimate source of all order, power, and greatness. He is, by his very nature, Adonai - Lord.

When we call Jesus "Lord", we are acknowledging that he is much more than just one of history's great religious leaders. We are expressing our conviction that he truly is Jesus, the Savior; that he truly is Emmanuel, God among us; and that he truly is worthy of our faith and our obedience. When we call Jesus "Lord", therefore, we are making a decision, we are expressing committing ourselves to follow and obey him. God cannot call himself Lord, because he cannot submit himself to himself. Only we can use this name to refer to Jesus, because only we can freely choose to submit to his authority, to be his followers, to be Christians.

Today, Jesus, Emmanuel, will come to us once again in Holy Communion. When he does, let us renew our faith and trust in him by calling him "Lord".

And in the few days remaining before Christmas, let's keep all three of these names on our lips and in our hearts, as true lovers always do.

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