Sunday 17 November 2013

4th Sunday of Advent Year A

What's in a name? As parents-to-be, it is important to think carefully and consider the consequences of giving your child a particular name. Sometimes, we may not be aware of the meaning of the name and what it would mean according to different languages. For example, a person named Ho Chin Chai may appear to have an innocent name, but in Hokkien language, "Ho" means "very" and "Chin Chai" sounds like "cincai" in Bahasa Malaysia, which means "simply"; "casually"; "do as one pleases"; "without thought" or "randomly". Another example is if a person has a surname "Chan" and has a given name like "Bella" or "Isabella." The person would then be known as "Bella Chan" or "Isabella Chan." Sounds like an ok name, but if you look at it in Bahasa Malaysia, the name would become "belacan" or "is a belacan"! "Belacan" is shrimp paste or shrimp sauce, a common ingredient used in Southeast Asian and Southern Chinese cuisine. It would be quite embarrassing if a teacher or some one would to call out, "Belacan, come see me now." So, it is important to choose a name wisely, otherwise one may face a lifetime of ridicule, teasing and embarrassment.

As Catholics, we are also advised to choose a baptism and/or confirmation name wisely. We are encouraged to choose a name of a saint, one whose example we could follow and imitate. In today’s Gospel, the angel of the Lord commands Joseph to name the child Jesus, "because he is the one who is to save his people from their sins." The name 'Jesus' means 'God saves.' Throughout the Gospels, we would see that Jesus truly lives up to his name as our saviour and redeemer. Jesus is also known, in today's First Reading and Gospel as "Emmanuel, a name which means 'God-is-with-us.'" God has taken the initiative to come close to us and has become one of us, instead of we trying to come close to Him.

Seeing how important it is for us to choose a name wisely, let us reflect on the name given to us. Is it a name of a saint? Are we living up to our name by following and imitating the saint's example? Our names are not a trivial or "cincai" matter. May God help us to be worthy of the name given to us.

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