Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Annunciation -- What's your name of grace?

The Gospel of the Annunciation is full of names--7 in the first sentence alone. The angel Gabriel gives Mary a new name: "full of grace." The word translated as "hail" (kaire) literally means "rejoice." The new name God gives Mary is a reason for her to rejoice, because God has gifted her with so much grace.
Later in that Gospel, Gabriel says of Elizabeth that "she who was called barren is now in her sixth month." In those days, for a woman to be called "barren" was a sign of disgrace. But because "nothing is impossible with God," God changed that disgrace into a gift. The barren woman was now a mother.

All of us have been called names in our lives, some of them bad ones. But those names that others call us don't have the power to define us. Still, they can sting. God offers us a remedy, however, so that we can find our true identity in the name God bestows on us with love.

The Book of Revelation says, "To the victor . . . I shall also give a white stone upon which is inscribed a new name, which no one knows except the one who receives it" (2:17). Just as God gave Mary and Elizabeth new names, he gives us our own special names of grace. White stones were used in the ancient world in elections, to vote for someone, to show confidence in a person. We can ask in prayer for God to show us what our special name of grace is. And the name carries a power; we can do what we are named. If anyone calls you a bad name, don't accept it but instead recall that name of grace, the name from God, who loves you and calls you to greatness.