A Sacred Name
Alleluia, Christ is Risen, He has Risen Indeed, Alleluia. This is the great song of the Christian community, the joy of Christ's Church and the whisper of each heart. We bear the name of the risen God, a God made human and who dwelt amongst us. Essentially it is a name that God gives to us through our Baptism and as we journey towards our own encounter with the Risen Christ at our death.
Within the Jewish tradition the name of God is sacred, so sacred that it is not even spoken or written. Thus, when we are named by God we are made sacred. Unfortunately, within the human tradition, we have usurped this sacred practice of naming. We name people “immoral”, “wanton”, “diseased”, “dirty”. In this naming we empower ourselves to discriminate and to exclude people. We even take steps to exclude people from Christian community because of the names we have assigned to them.
Over the 30 years that we have journeyed with HIV and AIDS in our midst we have named people infected and affected by HIV and AIDS. The names we use and continue to use can have a devastating effect on people. For example, recently an HIV positive friend of mine was at a party and one of the guests shouted: “Don't go near him, he is full of AIDS”. Even though he has lived with HIV for 5 years and has come to terms with his status, is living openly and positively and earnestly living out his priestly ministry; this comment hurt him deeply. It is words like these that have lead people to deny their status, to seek healing and wholeness in inappropriate ways and to die from a condition that is now, effectively, a manageable disease. In the wider public health sphere it has lead to HIV responses that classify people as innocent or guilty. The “innocent” deserve love and compassion, and the rest, well, they deserve what they get. In extreme circumstances access to treatment is denied to gay people, sex workers, migrant workers and all those human beings that live on the margins of our society. More importantly, compassion and love and community is also withheld.
However, the song of Easter is that Christ is Risen, and we need to be dancing to this song. I think we need to be too busy dancing with people to name and stigmatize them. I think we need to be to enchanted by hearing the names that God calls us through Christ's resurrection. I think we need to be so overwhelmed by bearing the name Christian that we can only see the Risen Christ in all whom we encounter. The first and last and only name we should be calling any human person is that which God has given. We are all the “Beloved in Christ” and my prayer for Easter is that we truly live out this name and not conform to names that we, as human beings, were never created to bear.
To think about: Which names do you still use that is counter to the sacred name God calls us?