Now the time came for Elizabeth to give birth, and she bore a son. Her neighbors and relatives heard that the Lord had shown his great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. On the eighth day they came to circumcise the child, and they were going to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “No; he is to be called John.” They said to her, “None of your relatives has this name.”
Then they began motioning to his father to find out what name he wanted to give him. He asked for a writing tablet and wrote, “His name is John.” And all of them were amazed. Immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue freed, and he began to speak, praising God. Fear came over all their neighbors, and all these things were talked about throughout the entire hill country of Judea.
All who heard them pondered them and said, “What then will this child become?” For, indeed, the hand of the Lord was with him.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved. http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations
How and why were you named? Our name is unique to us. Each name has a history.
Having given birth to premature twins 56 years ago, my mother feared for the health and wellbeing of her newborn babies. She petitioned the Blessed Virgin to protect her infants and prayed that they would survive. In her honor, my parents named me, Mary, instead of Kimberly.
Parents can spend endless hours contemplating a name for their unborn child. Not Elizabeth and Zechariah—their child’s name was foretold by the angel Gabriel. Going against the usual custom of naming a child after a father or grandfather, the name John was bestowed on the baby. Why John? God had “shown great mercy” to Elizabeth and Zechariah in blessing their childless marriage. John in Hebrew means “God is gracious,” and indeed God’s benevolence was revealed to John’s parents and to all who learned of his birth.
Words of gratitude flowed from Zechariah’s previously mute tongue—again God’s power at work. Like John’s birth, our birth is a sign of God’s grace and goodness. And the wonder of it all: God knows each of us by our name!
—Mary Schufreider, RN, BSN, serves as health care coordinator for the Jesuits of the Chicago region.
Blessed are you, Lord God: Blessed are you forever. Holy is your name: Blessed are you forever: Great is your mercy for your people: Blessed are you forever. Amen.
O Emmanuel, ruler and lawgiver, desire of the nations, savior of all people: Come and set us free, O Lord our God!