7 April, Thursday – What’s in a name?

Thursday of the 5th Week of Lent

Gen 17:3-9
Jn 8:51-59

“You shall no longer 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 a few years ago. My confirmation name was Martha, after the patron saint of cooks, chefs and all who labour in service of others. I chose her because her cause resonated with my then 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 formalising 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 baptised 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 galvanise 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.

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