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namesToday’s gospel from Luke (6:12-16) tells a different story from the more familiar one of the call of the apostles in Matthew & Mark while Jesus was walking on the beach and saw those who were destined to be his close followers. In Luke’s account, Jesus has been up on a mountain all night praying, discerning the needs, one could say, and who could best fulfill the call to go on mission and preach the message of God’s love. When he came down and gathered all of his disciples (students or learners) together, he called the 12 by name out of that group to be those “apostles.”

Today is my sister’s birthday, the feast of saints Simon and Jude, two of those twelve leaders. Except for the circumstance that my uncle Paul was killed in World War II shortly before her birth, Paula might have been named Judith – although we already had a close cousin by that name. Urban legend has it that this 8 year-old cousin, Judy, who said she would not come to visit if my mother named me Valerie as she was proposing to do, suggested “Lois” as a substitute. Consequently I grew up with lots of teasing about Superman but also as the only Lois in all my classes at school. Unlike Paul(a) or Jud(ith), Lois wasn’t a noted saint of the Church (a must for Catholics baptized back then) so my middle name became Ann – a fine choice, the grandmother of Jesus! It wasn’t until much later that I found Lois in the Scriptures, mentioned in one of Paul’s letters of encouragement to his younger companion, Timothy. It seems she was, ironically, Timothy’s grandmother.

Whether or not we are content with the name given us at birth or baptism, it is a good thing to reflect on being “called by name”. Why were you given the name that you carry? What is the etymology? Is there a person of significance for whom you are named? (I’m wondering these days whether I should reflect on grandmotherly characteristics…) When someone we love says our name, doesn’t it have a slightly different sound? What would it sound like if you heard God call your name? Sometimes we just need to grow into what’s been given to us and as we become the person we know ourselves to be in God’s sight, we recognize the unique and beautiful sound each time our name is called.