To you Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise!
(Responsorial: Psalm 116)
The Old Testament readings for the first weeks of Ordinary Time will take us through the stories of Samuel, Saul, David and Solomon: all great “names” in sacred history, men chosen explicitly by God for the role they were to play.
As we see their lives develop and the meaning of their names unfold, we are conscious that we are all “writing our names” by the choices we make in life. What we choose determines who we are more than what we accomplish. Our real identity as persons is determined by what we are in our hearts more than by what we do in action. Sometimes our actions express the reality of our hearts; sometimes not.
The bottom line is, our names have no real or lasting significance except in terms of how they reveal the Name, the truth of God. For all eternity the human race will be exclaiming, “Hallowed be thy Name!” Our names will find their meaning in what they contribute to that.
1 Samuel 1:1-8 begins with a woman’s desire for a name that would outlast her years on earth. Hannah (like Abraham before her) could not be happy unless she had a child. She wanted a posterity. She saw no fulfillment without one. 1
Hannah had a husband who loved her more than his other wife who gave him children. But when he asked her, “Am I not more to you than ten sons?” her answer, unspoken, was “It is still not enough.” She “wept bitterly.”
We may not identify fulfillment with having children, but we all want our lives to count for something. We find fulfillment in enhancing others’ lives. It may be short-term: a smile, a service that brightens someone’s day. Or long-term: planting a tree, building a house, establishing a business. But ultimately, what counts is enhancing human life.
Obviously, it is better to give life than simply to enhance it. And all of us are empowered to do that: to give, not just human life, but divine life. God wants to use every one of us as an instrument to give his divine life to other people. That is our real posterity. “I chose you… to go and bear fruit, fruit that will last.” This is reason to sing, “To you Lord, I will offer a sacrifice of praise.” 2
Mark 1:14-20 begins with Jesus announcing fulfillment: “The kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the Good News!”
To “repent” means to “change our mind” about everything; to reform, revise and renew all our attitudes, values and priorities for the sake of a fulfillment beyond our power to “ask or imagine.” If the “Gospel,” which means ”Good News,” has not motivated us to do that, the simple truth is that we have not heard the Gospel. We have never been truly “evangelized”. 3
Initiative: Write your name on a paper. Be aware you are writing it on your heart.
1 See Genesis 15:1-6.
2 John 15:16.
3 Ephesians 3:16-21.