In today’s first reading, an account of the covenant God made with Abraham (he will be the father of a great nation, and God will be his and his descendents’ God), there is a seemingly insignificant event that bears attention, especially in Lent with its focus on baptism and the paschal mystery. It has to do with “naming” and “renaming”. God says that Abram will now be called Abraham.
In the biblical context a name-changing occurs when God gives a special mission to someone. The bible is filled with examples of this; a prime instance of this is the re-naming of the disciple, Peter. Originally called Cephas, Jesus changes his name to Peter (a name that means rock). Peter is to be the rock on which Jesus will build his new community of faith based the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus (the paschal mystery).
March 17th is also a special day for many Christians: it is the feast of St. Patrick, who brought Christian faith to the Irish people. Patrick originally came to the Irish island as a young slave. Much of the identity and the history of St. Patrick is shrouded in myth and legend, but he is remembered most vividly because of his work involving the conversion of the people of Ireland. A no-named slave once, the Bishop Patrick accepted the mission of God of bringing the Christian faith to a pagan land.
And thus we come to us. We are the inheritors of that faith that is given to us through the newly-named Peter. We, too, have been given a new name when we were baptized into the person of Jesus Christ: into his life, death and resurrection. We enter the paschal mystery at baptism and are thus invited to live out our new life in Christ, the new name into which we are baptized.
We have been CHRIST-ed at baptism (whatever name our parents gave us). It means that we have been incorporated into the very person of Jesus whom we call the Christ. It means that we have been “missioned” to be another Christ. And if that sounds like an impossible task, it is -- for us on our own. But the truth is that we are not alone. By being “incorporated into Christ” we are surrounded by people of faith who continue to call us to the implications of our new name – as a Christ-ian.
That’s the similarity with the reading from Genesis today: just as Abraham was sent by God to bring the covenant that God made with the people of Israel; and just as the slave was changed into the apostle Patrick and sent with the message of Christ to the Irish, so are we called and invited to live into the new name into which we are baptized. WHAT’S IN A NAME?
Lord, as we continue our journey through Lent, help us to come to know you better, to love you more deeply, and to follow in your footsteps as your disciples did. Be with us as we live into our new name and identity in you.
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