“Walk before me and be blameless,” God says to Abram in today’s first reading. And then he promises him his heart’s desire and renames him Abraham. The extra letter added to Abram’s name must have something to do with amazing fruitfulness, because God promises that Abraham will be the father of a multitude of nations. And Sarah gets the same extra letter, for she is to be the mother of kings.
Personally, I have no interest in becoming the matriarch of nations. But I’m hard pressed to know what my deepest yearning would truly be. If God were to make a covenant with me and were to change my name — what do I want most in all the world?
You might say, “How arrogant to think such things, to compare yourself to Abraham and Sarah. These are very special, exalted people and you are just an ordinary woman.” And you would be right.
But we each, in all our ordinary-ness, do have a profound relationship with the Most High, a birthright given us by Jesus, who told us to call God “Abba” when we pray. God holds for each of us the special regard a parent gives their children.
These days, as the worldwide Pandemic continues to keep us isolated, I am finding myself for more prolonged periods of time looking into the mirror that is being held up to our nation. In this mirror I see our profound systemic racism and our deep divisions. I see as well how thoroughly we and the other developed nations of the world are changing the world’s climate, bringing the extinction of countless species along with catastrophes like fires, hurricanes, and floods. I yearn for all these problems to be solved with the birth of a new human understanding, a change of consciousness. And I see that change already beginning as more and more people become mystics — in other words, as they begin to look for and talk about their own personal experiences with God.
I suppose that my greatest desire today is that we make it. I hope we turn the corner on the “me first” attitude that has brought us into the deep sickness that the civilized world is experiencing in so many arenas. I hope we begin to really appreciate what Jesus talked about all those centuries ago — how it isn’t about clutching tightly to our lives. Taking care only of our own little chunk of existence, our bank accounts and homes, jobs and connections, will lead us to loss, to spiritual death, and to an ending. On the other hand, pouring out ourselves in all sorts of ways for the good of others and of the world will lead us to deeper and more fruitful life.
May God hear my prayer. And may I dedicate myself with renewed purpose to this end. And may the name-change, when it comes, apply not to me individually but to all peoples, to the human species as a whole. May we all get an extra letter that signifies relationship with the Source, the Creator, in an attitude of self-giving love.