Throughout history and especially within the sacred Scriptures, names have always been important.
For instance, in Genesis God named the first created man Adam, which means “Man of the Earth.” God changes Abram’s name to Abraham, which means “Father of Many Nations.” The name Moses means “Drawn from the Water.” The head of the Apostles’ name was Simon meaning “Reed,” and Jesus changed his name to “Peter” meaning “Rock”.
Even the name your parents gave you has a meaning, and your parents gave you your name for a reason. And so it is with the name Jesus. This name was given to both the earthly parents of the Christ Child, Mary and Joseph, by the Angel Gabriel (Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-33). The name Jesus means “God Saves.”
On Jan. 1 we celebrated the Solemnity of the Circumcision of Jesus Christ because the Gospel of Luke tells us that Jesus was circumcised and given the name Jesus eight days after his birth. So 10 days after Christmas we celebrate the name Jesus to emphasize its meaning. Today is the day we celebrate the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.
Here are some thoughts of St. Bernard of Clairvaux on the most holy name of Jesus:
The sweet Name of Jesus produces in us holy thoughts, fills the soul with noble sentiments, strengthens virtue, begets good works and nourishes pure affections. All spiritual food leaves the soul dry, if it contain not that penetrating oil, the Name Jesus.
When you take your pen, write the Name Jesus: if you write books, let the Name of Jesus be contained in them, else they will possess no charm or attraction for me; you may speak, or you may reply, but if the Name of Jesus sounds not from your lips, you are without unction and without charm. Jesus is honey in our mouth, light in our eyes, a flame in our heart. 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.
Never yet was human being in urgent need, and on the point of perishing, who invoked this help-giving Name, and was not powerfully sustained. It was given us for the cure of all our ills; to soften the impetuosity of anger, to quench the fire of concupiscence, to conquer pride, to mitigate the pain of our wounds, to overcome the thirst of avarice, to quiet sensual passions and the desires of low pleasures.
If we call to our minds the Name of Jesus, it brings before us his most meek and humble heart, and gives us a new knowledge of his most loving and tender compassion. The Name of Jesus is the purest, and holiest, the noblest and most indulgent of names, the Name of all blessings and of all virtues; it is the Name of the God-Man, of sanctity itself.
To think of Jesus is to think of the great, infinite God who, having given us his life as an example, has also bestowed the necessary understanding, energy and assistance to enable us to follow and imitate him, in our thoughts, inclinations, words and actions. If the Name of Jesus reaches the depths of our heart, it leaves heavenly virtue there.
The Rev. James Williams is pastor of St. Joseph Catholic Church in Salida.