6 April 2017
Abram bowed to the ground and God said this to him, ‘Here now is my covenant with you: you shall become the father of a multitude of nations. You shall no longer be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I make you father of a multitude of nations. I will make you most fruitful. I will make you into nations, and your issue shall be kings. I will establish my Covenant between myself and you, and your descendants after you, generation after generation, a Covenant in perpetuity, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. I will give to you and to your descendants after you the land you are living in, the whole land of Canaan, to own in perpetuity, and I will be your God.’
Jesus said to the Jews:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
whoever keeps my word
will never see death.’
The Jews said, ‘Now we know for certain that you are possessed. Abraham is dead, and the prophets are dead, and yet you say, “Whoever keeps my word will never know the taste of death.” Are you greater than our father Abraham, who is dead? The prophets are dead too. Who are you claiming to be?’ Jesus answered:
‘If I were to seek my own glory
that would be no glory at all;
my glory is conferred by the Father,
by the one of whom you say, “He is our God”
although you do not know him.
But I know him,
and if I were to say: I do not know him,
I should be a liar, as you are liars yourselves.
But I do know him, and I faithfully keep his word.
Your father Abraham rejoiced
to think that he would see my Day;
he saw it and was glad.’
The Jews then said, ‘You are not fifty yet, and you have seen Abraham!’ Jesus replied:
‘I tell you most solemnly,
before Abraham ever was,
At this they picked up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself and left the Temple.
“No longer shall you be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham”
Every year during Easter, our parish confirms about a dozen adults into the Catholic faith. In the run up to this, they spend 9 months learning about being a Catholic and take on a Saint’s name as part of the confirmation process. I was one of those adults 3 years ago. My confirmation name was Martha, after the patron saint of cooks, chefs and all who labor in service of others. I chose her because her cause resonated with my new vocation in life – being a housewife and taking care of my family.
In Scripture, there is much emphasis on how a person’s identity is tied to their name. For instance, God changed Abram’s name to Abraham, a subtle pen-stroke which redefined him from simply ‘venerated father’ to ‘father of multitudes’. God always had this path in mind for him, but by formalizing it in a sacramental name, He gave Abraham the confidence and grace to rise to the calling of his new life. In the New testament, the Jews confront Jesus and pointedly demand of him, “Are you greater than our father Abraham, who died? … Who do you make yourself out to be?” The person that Jesus claims to be is a constant source of debate amongst the Jews. They saw him as simply Jesus, son of Joseph the carpenter and Mary. When Jesus tells them that he has existed before Abraham, that he is “I AM”, they grow indignant and proceed to stone him. The tension over his identity defined Christ’s ministry.
When we are baptized or confirmed, God finds us a name. That name identifies His purpose for us – whether it is to advocate for the causes of children (St Nicholas), to work in service of animals (St Francis), to fight for the homeless (St Benedict) or some other cause that resonates with us. Having a saint’s name as part of our identity can galvanize us to be better versions of ourselves, even if we don’t feel that way at the outset. We grow into it slowly, our hard edges sanded away by experience and prayer. As we move closer to the Easter Vigil, let us all take a minute to consider our baptism and Catholic names. What do they mean, and more importantly, have we lived in adherence to His purpose for us?
(Today’s Oxygen by Sharon Soo)
Prayer: We pray for all those who are being confirmed into the Catholic faith this year. May God give them the ability to discern His path for them through the noise of daily life.
Thanksgiving: We give thanks to all those who give their time, talent and treasure to help those who are new to come to the faith.