Names are sacred words by which we are individualized. Jesus, in baptism, received a new name. So do his followers. Baptism also sets each of us apart as a particular kind of person—one owned by God. Those who have been baptized are called to live out the meaning of this remarkable reality.
People in Jesus’ time thought that illness arose from people’s sins in a fairly immediate cause-and-effect relationship. Today we are more apt to think that illness afflicts us in a more random way.
Isaiah faced a challenge. How was he to awaken an exiled community from the lethargy of despair? The people’s confidence had been shattered; their entire worldview was drained of its mimetic properties. Former glories lay in ruins. Now the people lived in the land of the dreaded enemy, a people who goaded them with “Sing us some of those songs of Zion, miserable losers!"
Many human encounters with the divine word are fraught with irony: Balaam's talking ass; the promise of a patriarchal heir so long overdue that the child is named for the ensuing hilarity; the messianic Savior born in a hovel and killed like a common criminal. The mutant ministry of the prophet Jonah is another case in point.
From the first instant of creation, water has played midwife to God’s creation story. After the flood, God set a rainbow in the clouds. God saw your people as slaves in Egypt, and led them to freedom through the sea. God brought their children through the Jordan to a promised land. And in the fullness of time, God sent Jesus, nurtured in the water of a womb.
In the United States, it is rare to hear someone define herself as belonging to someone else. Here, we belong to ourselves.