She ensured that the afternoon and morning teas were brought in on time and the dirty dishes removed quietly.
I would notice her going around filling the water jugs that were placed on each table after each break making sure that everything was in order.
I believe she found us an interesting group.
In the first few days some of the Sisters were stacking the dirty dishes neatly on the trolley for her to wheel out.
She told them that they did not have to do that.
They replied that it was okay as they were good at doing that.
I wondered how many times others had assisted her with her job before.
We were definitely a different group.
At the end of our chapter when the vote of thanks was being given, Mary was called up and thanked publically for how she had so attentively looked after us.
She took the microphone – I’m sure it was her first time. There was one sentence that she said that has remained with me.
She said “you called me by my name.”
Such a simple thing but she was on the verge of tears as she said it. I wondered if staff who served at tables are dressed in black so that they can remain invisible – see nothing, hear nothing, say nothing. Hence, they are nameless.
The Sisters had treated her as an equal, with respect.
They knew her name and some of her story as well.
They were grateful for the job that she did in making their stay there as comfortable as could be.
I wondered if she realised that she was quoting from the prophet Isaiah. “But now thus says the Lord, he who created you … he who formed you… Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.” (Isaiah 43:1)
Names have always been important for me.
To name someone or something means that we have a certain power over that person or thing. Parents name their children.
It signifies a certain relationship of love, trust and intimacy. We name our pet animals. Even our projects have a name.
What does it mean when we say that God calls us by name?
Just as each and every one of us belongs to a particular family, so we belong to God’s family.
“You are mine” (Isaiah 43:1).
I used to worry that there are so many billions of people who have lived or are still living on this earth that how could God possibly know who I am.
I would be lost in the multitude. I guess this belongs to the mystery that is God.
There are billions of people but there is also an intimacy where each person is known personally and by name with no need for any masks.
John the Evangelist referring to Jesus as the gatekeeper of the sheepfold says “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out.” (John 10:3).
In this passage where Jesus says “I am” he is proclaiming his divinity. Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, knows each one of us.
Moses seems to be having a difficult time keeping the people of Israel on the straight and narrow path during their difficult wanderings through the desert but God says to him “you have found favour in my sight, and I know you by name.” (Exodus 33:17) God is with us always if only we have eyes to see.
Let us not forget the importance of calling a person by name, of listening attentively to their story, of realising that God dwells within them.
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