This past Monday, the Church celebrated the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, a feast that was restored to the universal Roman liturgical calendar in 2002. In previous times, the feast was celebrated on January 1 under the title of the Circumcision of the Lord, in accordance with the Scripture passage: “When eight days were completed for his circumcision, he was named Jesus, the name given Him by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.” (Lk 2:21) Traditionally, the month of January is dedicated to the Holy Name of Jesus, so it is well worth our attnetion. On this feast day, and throughout this month, Catholics are invited to consider the power of this name and the great reverence we should have every time we use it. In his Letter to the Philippians, St. Paul writes:
Because of this, God greatly exalted Him
and bestowed on Him the name
that is above every name,
that at the name of Jesus
every knee should bend,
of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
and every tongue confess that
Jesus Christ is Lord,
to the glory of God the Father. (Phil 2:9-11)
I find it fitting that this devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus falls during this month when our Family of Faith formation topic is the first four Commandments, with the Second Commandment stating: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” (Ex. 20:7) Because of this Commandment, there can be a tendency to avoid using the name of Jesus at all out of fear of using it irreverently, but the Lord desires for us to have confidence in calling out to Him by name and always keeping His Holy Name in our hearts. St. Bernard of Clairvaux wrote the following beautiful words about the Holy Name:
This name is the cure for all diseases of the soul. Are you troubled? Think but of Jesus, speak but the Name of Jesus, the clouds disperse, and peace descends anew from heaven. Have you fallen into sin, so that you fear death? Invoke the Name of Jesus, and you will soon feel life returning. No obduracy of the soul, no weakness, no coldness of heart can resist this holy Name; there is no heart which will not soften and open in tears at this holy name. Are you surrounded by sorrow and danger? Invoke the Name of Jesus, and your fears will vanish.
During this month of the Holy Name of Jesus, may I invite you to pay particular attention to how you use the name of Jesus? Of course, avoid ever using it in a disrespectful way, but do not let that prevent you from using it regularly in prayer with great devotion, knowing how powerful of a prayer that one single name is for us. Perhaps you can call this to mind when you say the name of Jesus in the three Hail Mary’s we as a parish have resolved to say each day (one for the clergy of the Cathedral, one for yourself, and one for all members of the parish).
Jesus, Son of the Virgin Mary, have mercy on us!