What’s in a name? We have all been given names that are uniquely ours. Some names have special meaning when given in honor of a family member like a grandparent, aunt, or uncle. Some people have a suffix like Sr. or Jr. or even a number such as III added to their name. From a very early age we recognize when we are called by our name, we respond accordingly. Our names connect us to our family, our friends, community and the world. There are generic titles like mom, dad or grandma that fulfills us in a different way but being called by our name gives us our identity.
This past Easter season has reminded me of that conversation with my mom. The week between Palm Sunday and Easter is known as Holy Week. There is much that happens during this time in the lives of Jesus and his disciples. The week culminates with Jesus being accused, convicted, crucified and buried in a tomb. Many of his followers, including the disciples deserted him in his greatest moments of need. I imagine, they might have felt abandoned by him as well. How would they live without him? What would happen to them now that he was dead? With Jesus, they had built a community focused on his teachings of love and mercy and now their teacher and mentor was gone. For these first-century followers of Jesus, this week ended in death and great sorrow.
That is until early Sunday morning! Their lives changed forever because of the risen Christ. One of my favorite texts for the season is John 20: 11-18, in which a very distraught and weeping Mary Magdalene goes to the tomb looking for her Lord. As she turns away from the tomb, she sees Jesus but does not recognize him until he says her name, “Mary.” There he stood, her friend, teacher and Savior. The one she thought was gone forever called her name. What joy and excitement must have rushed through her in that moment? The pain and disillusionment caused by his death was transformed to joy by his resurrection. The risen Christ once again gave her and his disciples a restored hope in their new community of faith. Through his words, “I am ascending to my Father, your Father, to my God and your God,” Mary, the disciples and all faithful believers became a part of God’s family. (Vs.17 b)
I believe this is why Easter is so special to me. Through baptism, I am called by name and identified as a child of God. I belong to God’s family, a church family and a faith community. And like Mary, when my name is spoken, I am filled with the joy of the risen Christ! Because of his grace, love and resurrection, I am brought into the family of God. So yes mom, I know who I am, Denise, a child of God.