Dear Sisters and Brothers,
“I have called you by your name; you are mine”
If you have a slightly literal and mischievous mind, it is possible to get quite a lot of innocent amusement from the things that other people write that don’t always say exactly what they are meant to say. For example, the doors in my local supermarket (Tesco, but others are available!) are decorated with the words, “This door is alarmed”. My reaction is always to say, “Poor thing. Perhaps it saw a ghost flitting around the checkout, still trying to decide which is the shortest queue”. Or there’s a road sign nearby that tells you to “Beware of on-coming traffic in the middle of the road”. Well, you would, wouldn’t you! So it was with a little wry smile that I saw the announcement, about this time last year, of “A Year for Priests”. Was it our prison sentence, I wondered, or our life expectancy?
And yet, what a wonderful thing it has been. In my own diocese of Birmingham we have had a list of the names of all the priests working or living in the diocese and each one has been assigned a day during the year when everyone is asked to pray for him. My own day was last August, and it was unexpectedly uplifting to know that I was the object of so much prayer. People that I don’t know, and probably never will know, were praying for me by name.
That idea of being prayed for, not as an anonymous member of a group, but by name is a reminder that to God none of us is ever an anonymous member of a group, but that we are all precious and individual to Him. He knows each one of us by name and loves each one of us specially. I heard once that it was a custom in ancient Israel that if a woman lost a child she would carve the name of that child on the palm of her hand – so that she would always remember her child with pain (perhaps that explains why in those days Jewish names tended to be short like Saul, rather than as long as Nebuchadnezzar!). God says to us, “I will never forget you, my people; I have carved you on the palm of my hand”. Never forget how precious you are to God.
Let us always pray for one another, whenever possible by name. May God bless you all.