Bubeleh is a Yiddish word, used as a term of endearment in the Jewish community to address someone precious. It means "little grandma," but translates more generally as "sweetheart" or "darling." Adults use it with children and with each other, with elders, and close friends. My mother called me that, or it's diminutive, buhbie, throughout my childhood. In fact, even at the age of 42, I'm still her baby, and she still calls me buhbie. But even if you're not Jewish, I bet you've experienced something similar. Our proper names are undoubtedly precious, but we often manifest an increasing degree of intimacy when we move beyond the names people use at work and on government documents, and adopt a pet name, a nickname or other term of endearment for those we love. After all, doesn't it seem a bit stilted when you see couples address each other formally as "Joseph" or "Mary," instead of as "sweetheart" and "honey?"
Next week is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent, when we return to the basics of our Christian faith, life, and witness. Ashes are imposed on our foreheads as a reminder of our common humanity and mortality. Ashes also serve as a deeper theological reminder that Jesus Christ opened up for us the possibility of a world free from sin, hatred, and oppression. This simple act of humility encourages us to reflect on our relationships with other human beings, both those we love and those with whom we feel no kinship. For those looking to assume a penitential discipline for Lent, one useful practice might be to mentally precede statements we make to others with the word, "BELOVED," as the author of 1 John has done, and as God does when he speaks of Jesus. In next Sunday's Gospel reading, for example, God declares to the disciples observing Our Lord's Transfiguration, "This is my Son, the Beloved; with him I am well pleased; listen to him!" Listening to him means paying that belovedness received from God forward to all our brothers and sisters. Encountering people as BELOVED instead of strangers, enemies, or nonentities might make a huge difference in the way we shape the dynamics of our work, life, and community.
Accept my deepest prayers, beloved, that we may observe a holy, transfiguring Lent.