Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ Jesus,
The month of January is dedicated to the Most Holy Name of Jesus: let us reverently pray His Holy Name and make reparation to our good Lord for the many times that His name is spoken with irrever-ence! This weekend I share with you a reflection on the Holy Names of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. I encourage you to reflect over this message a few times this week:
“Invoking Our Savior - Approaching Our Lord in friendship and trust: In ordinary life, calling a person by his Christian name indicates familiarity. How decisively it marks a stage, even in casual friendship, when two people begin, without effort and with-out embarrassment, to call one another by their Christian names! And when we fall in love, and all our experience takes on a sharper edge and little things means so much to us, there is one Christian name in the world which casts a spell over eye or ear when we see it written on the page of a book, or overhear it mentioned in a conver-sation; we are thrilled by the mere encounter with it. And it was with this sense of personal romance that people like St. Bernard invested the Holy Name of Jesus. (R. A. Knox, Sermon on The Di-vine Name, 1956) We too call Our Lord by His first Name and for this reason we approach Him in complete confidence.
Monsignor Escriva advises us: Don’t be afraid to call Our Lord by His Name - Jesus - and to tell Him that you love Him. (J. Escriva, The Way, 303)
We call a friend by his first name. Why then don’t we call our greatest Friend by His first Name too? His Name is JESUS; thus He had been called by the Angel before He was conceived in His moth-er’s womb. (cf. Luke 1:31) God Himself gave Him His Name through the message of the angel, a Name that signified His mis-sion, for Jesus means Savior, He Who brings us salvation, security and true peace: …the Name which is above every name, so that at the Name of Jesus every knee should bend, in Heaven and on earth and under the earth. (Phil. 2:9-10)
How trustfully and with how much veneration we should repeat it! Especially now as we talk to Him in prayer: Jesus, I need…, Jesus, I would like…
Names were of great importance for the Jews, and when a name was given to someone it represented what that person should be in the future. If a person’s name is unknown, that person cannot be com-pletely known. Not to acknowledge a name meant to destroy a per-sonality, and to change a person’s destiny. His name expressed the reality of his being at its deepest level.
Among all names, the Name of God was supremely perfect. (Zech. 14:9) It must be blessed from this time forth and for ever more, from the rising of the sun to its setting (Ps. 113:2-3), for I will sing praise to Thy Name, O Most High. (Ps. 9:2) And in the Our Father we say: Hallowed [be] Thy Name.
The Jewish people gave a child its name when it was circumcised. This was the rite instituted by God to single out, by means of an outward sign, those who belonged to the Chosen People. It was the sign of the Covenant that God made with Abraham and his posterity (cf. Gen. 17:10-14), and it was laid down that it should be carried out on the eighth day after birth. All the uncircumcised were auto-matically excluded from the pact and, therefore, from the People of God.
In fulfillment of this precept, Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2:21), according to the Law. Mary and Joseph fulfilled what had been laid down. Christ submitted to circumcision at a time when it was still the law, says St. Thomas, and in doing so gave us an example to imitate, so that we may observe the things laid down by law in our own times (St. Thomas, Summa Theologica, 3, q37, a1; cf. Acts 15:1) and not to look for exemptions or privileges when there is no reason for doing so.
The name of Jesus - Invocations: After the circumcision of Je-sus, His parents, Mary and Joseph, would say the Name of Jesus for the first time, full of great devotion and love. And this is what we too must often do. To invoke His Name is to be saved. (cf. Rom. 10:9) To believe in this Name is to be counted among the Children of God. (cf. John 1:12) To pray in the Name of Jesus is to be sure of being heard. Truly, truly, I say to you, if you ask anything of the Father, He will give it to you in My Name. (John 16:23) In the Name of Jesus we obtain pardon for our sins (1 John 2:12) and our souls are purified and made whole. (cf. 1 Cor. 6:11) The preaching of this Name constitutes the whole essence of apostolate (Acts 8:12), for He is the goal of human history, the focal point of the desires of history and civilization, the center of mankind, the joy of all hearts, and the fulfillment of all aspirations. (Second Vatican Council, Gaudium et Spes, 45) Man-kind finds in Jesus what it most needs and thirsts for: salvation, peace, happiness, the forgiveness of sins, freedom, understanding and friendship.
Let us listen to St. Bernard: O Jesus…, how consoling You are to those who invoke You! How good You are to those who seek You! What will You not be to those who find You! Only he who has felt it can know what it is to languish in love for Thee, O Jesus! (St. Ber-nard, Sermons on the Canticles, 15)
When we invoke the Name of Jesus we see ourselves at times like those lepers who cried from far off: Jesus, Master, have mercy on us. And Our Lord bids them come near and cures them, sending them to the priests. (cf. Luke 17:13) Or we will perhaps use the words of the blind man of Jericho: Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me, for we too are blind to so many things. Don’t you too feel the urge to cry out? You who are also waiting at the wayside of this highway of life that is so very short? You who need more light, you who need more Grace to make up your mind to seek holiness? Don’t you feel an urgent need to cry out, ‘Jesus, Son of David, have pity on me!’ What a beautiful aspiration for you to repeat again and again! (J. Escriva, Friends of God, 195)
When we invoke the Holy Name of Jesus many obstacles will dis-appear and we will be cured of many ailments of the soul which so often afflict us. May Thy Name, O Jesus, be always deep within my heart and in reach of my hands, so that all my affections and all my actions may be directed to Thee… In Thy Name, O Jesus, I have the remedy to rid me of my wickedness and to turn my defects into perfections; also, a medicine with which to preserve my affections from corruption or to heal them if they have already been corrupt-ed. (St. Bernard, op. cit.)
Aspirations will fan the fire of our love for Our Lord, and increase our presence of God throughout the day. At other times, as we gaze at Our Lord, God made Child for love of us, we will trustingly say to Him: Dominus judex noster, Dominus legifer noster, Dominus rex noster; ipse salvabit nos. (Divine Office, Antiphon ‘ad tertiam’ for the Solemnity of Jesus Christ, Universal King) Lord Jesus, in Thee we trust, in Thee I trust.
Our relationship with the Blessed Virgin and Saint Joseph: Along with the Name of Jesus the names of Mary and Joseph should also be on our lips. These were the names that our Lord must have used most frequently. With regard to Mary, the first Christians gave her name many different meanings: Most lovable, Star of the Sea, Queen, Princess, Light, Beautiful and so on.
In fact, it was St. Jerome who gave her the title Stella Maris, Star of the Sea, since it is she who guides us to a safe haven in the midst of all the storms of life. We must frequently have the saving name of Mary on our lips, especially when we are in need or in difficulty. On our way towards God it is meritable that we will have to endure storms which God permits so as to purify our intentions and to help us grow in the virtues. And it is possible that by paying too much attention to the obstacles on our way, we may yield to discourage-ment or weariness in our struggle. Then it is time to turn to Mary, invoking her name to help us. If the winds of temptations rise against you, if you strike against the reefs of temptation, look at the star, call on Mary. If you are tossed by the waves of pride, of ambi-tion, or of envy, look at the star, call on Mary. If anger, greed or impurity throw themselves violently against the barque of your soul, look at Mary. If you are troubled by the memory of your sins, confounded at the ugliness of your conscience, fearful at the thought of judgement, and you start sinking in the bottomless pit of sadness or in the abyss of despair, think of Mary. In danger, in affliction, in doubts, think of Mary, call on Mary.
Don’t let Mary be apart from your tongue, don’t withdraw her from your heart; and to obtain her intercession, do not depart from the example of her virtue. You will not go wrong if you follow her, and not lose heart if you pray to her; you will not be lost if you think of her. If she takes you by the hand you will not fall; if she protects you, you will never have cause to fear; you will not grow weary if she guides you; you will reach port safely if she aids you. (St. Bernard, Homily on the Virgin Mother, 2)
Let us invoke her name especially in the Hail Mary, and also in all the other prayers and aspirations that Christian devotion inspired over the centuries, and which perhaps our mothers taught us. And, together with Jesus and Mary, there is St. Joseph. If the whole Church is in debt to the Virgin Mary, since it was through her that she received Christ, in the same way she owes to St. Joseph a special gratitude and reverence. (St. Bernardine of Siena, Sermon 2) Jesus, Mary and Joseph, I give you my heart and my soul. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, assist me in my last agony. Countless millions of Christians have learned at their mothers’ knees these and other similar aspirations, which they have later repeated to their dying days.
Let us not forget then to have daily recourse, many times, to this trinity on earth.” (From In Conversation with God, by Francis Fernandez)
Through the intercession of Mary, the Mother of God, St. Joseph, St. Michael, and St. Paul, may our good Lord grant us the grace of a loving devotion to the Holy Names of Jesus, Mary and Joseph!
In Christ through Mary,