Today’s first reading from the book of Genesis is about the call of Abraham. The Lord called Abraham to be the leader of nations, the father of the Jewish people. This covenant promise between God and man through Abraham, was and reamains so fundamental for the life of the Church. For us! However, what struck me most about the reading today was the following verse, ‘ …no longer shall you be called Abram; your name shall be Abraham, for I am making you the father of a host of nations’ (Genesis 17:5).
We often read stories in the bible where men and woman receive a new name through the Lord: Abram becomes Abraham, Saul becomes Paul, Simon becomes Peter (the Rock on which the Church was built).
For Abram, Saul and Simon, their new name is a permanent reminder that they have been changed and transformed through the call of God. These men truly ..’put on the new man, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness’ (Ephesians 4:24). The new Abraham, Paul and Peter could proclaim the inner transformation of their heart through something external like their name*
A few months ago, this topic of names and naming in the bible was on my heart a lot. After getting married, I took the family name of my husband. It just struck me one day. I also had my name changed in the Lord! This was done through the sacrament of matrimony. When I gave my life to my husband, I said YES to the vocation of marriage. This was and is answering the call of God in my life! When I now tell someone my name, I bear a new identity through my marriage! Its so beautiful. It was a HUGE joy for me to change my name. I couldn’t imagine it any other way. For me, taking my husbands family name was a concrete sign of my unity with him, and with this new life in Christ.
Sometimes in life we need a name change, a big step or something radical to symbolize our YES to God. It is through these moments or occasions that we allow the Lord to step into our lives! We give ourselves to him so that we can, like Abraham, Paul and Peter, become the ‘…new man, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness’
* There is also a much deeper discourse about the significance of name change in the bible. Names in the Old Testament were so highly regarded. There was a profound sense of identity when called by name ( see online resources for more info)