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Claiming Our True Name

November 22, 2015 Click on the left end of the black bar to play/pause

November 22, 2015
John 18:33b-37
Fr. George Smiga

Today we celebrate Jesus as our king. But in the gospel, Jesus seems rather uncomfortable with this title. When Pilate says to him, “So then, you are a king,” Jesus responds, “You say that I am a king.” Why is it that Jesus brushes aside the title that Pilate wants to give him? Partially, of course, it is because Pilate’s notion of kingship and Jesus’ notion are two very different things. But, I think it goes deeper than that.

Jesus refuses to let Pilate give him a name, because Jesus already knows his name. He is the beloved Son of God. His identity is grounded in his relationship with his father. His strength and his mission flow from the deep love that Jesus knows God has for him. Jesus is so rooted in that love, that he will not allow Pilate or anyone else to define who he is.

We are called to imitate Jesus in all things. So certainly here we should also follow his example. At our baptism, we became beloved daughters and sons of God. It is right for us, then, to claim that dignity and live it. We should not accept lesser titles which others may try to give us.

When we allow other people to define us, those definitions often lead to sadness and discouragement. Perhaps it is a parent who we have never been able to please or a brother or a sister with whom we are always in competition. Perhaps it is a friend who we love but of whom we are also somewhat jealous. When any of these people criticize us or tease us or ignore us, they are giving us a name, and that name may call us weak, wounded, or worthless. To the extent that we accept that name, we lessen our life. We end up being angry, doubting ourselves and resenting others. We lose the energy that we need to be good spouses, parents, and friends. We find that we are never truly happy.

On this feast of Christ the King, Jesus calls us to accept our true name, a name that flows from our relationship with God who made us, and saved us and promises us eternal life. Contrary to other voices that would name us as marginal or useless, Jesus calls us to accept our status that flows from the love of God.

When the Pilates of our lives say to us, “So then, you are this or you are that,” we should respond with Jesus: “That is what you say. But I know who I am. I am a beloved daughter or son of God.”

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