“But now, thus says the Lord,
who created you, Jacob, and formed you, Israel:
Do not fear, for I have redeemed you;
I have called you by name: you are mine. ” Isaiah 43:1
Our names could be considered the very first step in the formation of our identity in life. It is from there our connections to one another web out spanning centuries of ancestors and events in history. For, we didn’t just appear one day without some degree of family history or relationship, though it may not always be readily available. At different times in our life we may be known primarily, in fact, as someone’s daughter, son, mother, father, aunt, uncle…rather than by anything innate within us.
Growing up, I was known as the daughter and granddaughter of schoolteachers, and of many active in the church and community. Instilled in my upbringing was a reminder that my behavior, good or bad, would always reflect back on my family. This understanding extended as well to my church family. So perhaps, because of this, for most of my life I have focused less on someone’s given name and more on their story.
“The greatest single cause of atheism in the world today is Christians: who acknowledge Jesus with their lips, walk out the door, and deny Him by their lifestyle. That is what an unbelieving world simply finds unbelievable.” Brennan Manning
Yet, when God moved me into lay ministry work, into the very life of the Church I realized once again, that you simply could not have one without the other. Each day since, I have prayed that God give me the gift of name recall for those He places in my path. And to this end, I would add a bit of repetition and practicing. Not just to avoid the awkwardness of amnesia or to impress others but to get back to why it intrinsically matters.
“We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God.”
For, it is true that we are a part of a family and a community, but our importance to God is not based on this alone. Imbued with unique characteristics and gifts, each of us has been created for a purpose, one that no one else can fulfill in exactly the same way. We also face circumstances, though not unique, challenge us in a singular way. And knowing this, our heavenly Father meets each creation not as He would another but based upon our needs.
I will lead the blind by ways they have not known,
along unfamiliar paths I will guide them;
I will turn the darkness into light before them
and make the rough places smooth.
These are the things I will do;
I will not forsake them. Is. 42:16
Yet, it is not a one way relationship,where God only comes to us when called, we too are called to Him when we have walked away. True love cannot be forced, and free will often intervenes but God’s love demands reciprocity.
“So be earnest and repent. Here I am! I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and eat with that person, and they with me.”
This is the beautiful tension between the personal and the universality of our faith journey. A much needed reminder that there are both profound mysteries that all creation yearns to delve into, but also unique individual realities that draw forth a response from us. Likewise we, as Catholics, participate in the Mass and life of the parish but in addition are members of the work and tradition of the larger Church. Thus while we cannot truly practice our faith apart from community, the community must help provide the space and the tools for the believer to “grow, mature and live”. (Pope Francis)
Lord, help me to remember that you know my every need before it is uttered. You have knit me in my mother’s womb, and now call me forth into the mysteries and work of the Church. Where I see difficulties and weakness, reveal also the strengths and gifts in myself and others to meet You in the day ahead.