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3. THE HOLY NAME OF JESUS

In the previous reflection, we saw that what determines the essence of the Holy Family and every family is Jesus, his presence, his name. Now we want to dwell, as the Church does at the end of the Christmas season - especially from the 14th century onwards with the institution of the liturgical feast desired by Clement VII and promoted with great apostolic vigour by St. Bernardine - on the 'Most Holy Name of Jesus'.


Jesus of Nazareth

The name of Jesus, the Son of God, resounded for the first time in Nazareth. It resounded on the pure lips of Mary and Joseph. And it was pronounced by divine mandate. First, Mary is told by the Angel: "you shall give birth to him and call him Jesus" (Lk 1:30). And it is then to Joseph, in a dream, that another angel makes the announcement: “your wife will give birth to a son and you shall call his name Jesus” (Mt 1:21). Everything happens by divine inspiration, "by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Lk 1:35 and Mt 1:20), not by the will of man. Jesus is the human name that the Father wanted for the Son! Jesus is the divine name that every Christian heart recognises as Lord!


Nomen Omen

In ancient cultures, the name tells the reality. Let us consider the name of Jesus. Jesus! A very sweet and at the same time very uncomfortable name, because it indicates, prefigures, carries within itself a most painful mission. It is the name of the One who will be our Redeemer. He is called Jesus because - Simeon explains to his Mother - "he is here for the ruin and resurrection of many in Israel", as a "sign of contradiction" (Lk 2:34), and because - the Angel tells Joseph - "he will save his people from their sins" (Mt 1:21). For, ‘Jesus’ means 'God saves', and to say ‘Jesus’ is to say 'Saviour'!



Truly, the name of ‘Jesus’ speaks of his identity of God with us and indicates his mission among us. Hence, the symbolic importance and extraordinary power of the sign ‘IHS' (Greek abbreviation of Iesous) that the Christian tradition imprints on hosts, church walls, liturgical objects, and Christian tombs. Obviously, it is not a question of a magical power, but of the power of faith: because ‘God’ is not an anonymous power, but a personal power, and it bears a precise name, the Name of Jesus, "the name that is above every other name" (Phil 2:9), the name in which "every knee bends in the heavens and on earth (Phil 2:10). Already, the prophecies and the psalms said it: "the peoples shall fear the name of the Lord, and all the kings of the earth your glory" (Ps 101:16). St. Peter said it, with moving solemnity, in the first Christian homily, on the day of Pentecost: "In no other is there salvation; for there is no other name under heaven given to men in which it is appointed that we should be saved" (Acts 4:12).


Praise the name of the Lord!

Praising the name of the Lord is the most succinct way to speak of Christian prayer. This is how praise is said in Holy Scripture: "Praise, ye servants of the Lord, praise the name of the Lord. Blessed be the name of the Lord, now and forever" (Ps 112:1). Prayer can take many forms. It is above all praise and blessing, adoration and thanksgiving addressed to Jesus, in whose Name, God has enclosed and distributed all his treasures of grace.


As prayer expresses, so is faith: the Christian believes precisely in the Name of Jesus (1 Jn 3:23), and by virtue of his Name, he finds remission of sins (1 Jn 2:12); in his Name, he finds life (Jn 20:31) and bears his Name on his forehead (Rev 22:4); only in his Name does he offer sacrifices pleasing to God (Heb 13:15), and all his works he does in the Name of the Lord (Rom 1:5 and Col 3:37). It is the same for the Apostle: he dedicates his life to the Name of Jesus (Acts 15:26), he proclaims the Name of Jesus, and in His Name, he teaches with authority and courage, even to the point of saying he is glad to be outraged for the Name of the Lord (Acts 5:41); in His Name, he performs wonders (Acts 8:12), and in His Name, he knows he can ask and obtain anything (Jn 16:23, 24).


From the life of Nazareth, we can learn at least the following three things:

1. To be familiar with the Name of Jesus: to pronounce it with affection and gentleness, to say it frequently in order to remain in his presence, to keep alive the relationship with him, to act in his name and for his sake, to invoke it with confidence in times of trial;


2. Acknowledging the redemptive power of the Name of Jesus: just to pronounce his holy name is to fight against evil, to quash the power of temptation, to side with God, to bring victory over the enemy. It is well known that the very names of Jesus and Mary have an exorcistic power: the devil cannot stand them!


3. Praising the Name that is above every other name: to call the Lord by His name is to recognise and at the same time bring His majesty closer, it is to enter more quickly into prayer, into trust in Him, into opening one's heart to the action of grace.

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