Jan 3, 2016

The Holy Name of Jesus

The Gospel is very short. Practically, it is one sentence, it is the most powerful revelation in the whole of the Scriptures. Simply put, it tells us that the child of Mary was given a name, a name

The name of God was so sacred to God’s Chosen People that it was blasphemy to pronounce it. Once a year, on the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) the high priest entered the Holy of Holies of the Temple, and sprinkled the covering of the Ark of the Covenant with the blood of sacrifice. He then pronounced the name of God. This signaled the forgiveness of all sins committed during the entire past year. This was the only time when it was legitimate (and holy) to pronounce the name of God. Even today, Jews will not pronounce the name of God. When they write God or Lord or the name of God, they omit the vowels in order to show the sacredness of God.

When God became incarnate, enfleshed in the child of Bethlehem, God was given a human name. A name is not simply for identification. A name was chosen to reveal something about the child, how this child would live their vocation. The name of the baby of Bethlehem was not picked out of a book or given to him by his parent. The Gospel reminds us that this name was, instead, revealed to Mary and Joseph by heaven itself. The Angel told Mary that the child to be born of her would be called “Jesus”, a name which means “God saves” and that is what God does through Jesus, “God saves”.

In the Introit entrance song we are reminded “that at the name of Jesus every knee should genuflect”, not just by us, but also in heaven – so sacred the name of the Lord is. It is a name that has the power to save. This we acknowledge in the opening prayer, the collect. But because this name revels what God does, he saves, we pray that this saving name of Jesus will be effective in our lives.

An example of this is given to us in the first lesson from Acts of the Apostles. St. Peter recounts a miracle whereby he healed a cripple. He did so, not in his own name, but in the saving name of our Lord. When someone gives us permission to act in their name we become their representatives, we do as they would do. We extend their presence. We bring them close. In the Gradual and Alleluia verse, we hear the song of the people of Israel who, calling upon God by name, know that he is with them, even in the face of danger.

In the sacrifice that we now give to heaven, the mystery of our salvation and the power of the saving name of Jesus Christ continues to bring healing power to all who will accept and give reverence to the “name which is above every other name”. And so the celebration today of the Holy Name of Jesus, teaches us not only to respect and give reverence to his sacred name, but also the confidence with which we should be inspired by it.

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