Newsletter of the District of Asia

 January 1997

The Holy Name of Jesus

Let us speak a word on the name given to Our Divine Lord on the Feast of the Circumcision.  The gospel from the Feast of the Circumcision would have us understand that the shedding of Jesus’ blood is related to His name.  It is appropriate that He be given this name on the day of His circumcision, for He could not be Saviour without pouring out blood, nor give blood without being Saviour.  He could, of course, have saved the world without shedding His blood, but that would not have been enough to satisfy the love He bears us.  He could certainly have satisfied divine justice for all of our sins by a single sigh from His Sacred Heart, but this would not have satisfied His love , which desired that by taking the name of Saviour He should give His blood as a deposit of that which He willed to pour out for our redemption.  The name of Saviour was rightly given Him on this day, for there is no redemption without shedding of blood [Heb. 9:22] and no salvation without redemption, since no one can enter Heaven except by this gate.  Also, by making Himself Saviour and Redeemer of mankind, Our Lord begins, in taking this name, to pay our debts with no other money than that of His Precious Blood.  He was, then, called Jesus, which means Saviour [Matt. 1:21].

All the ancient Fathers agree that, notwithstanding His many names and titles, Our Lord has only three which belong to Him essentially.  The first is that of Supreme Being, reserved only to Him and applicable to no other [Ex. 3:14-15; Is. 42:8] In this name He knows Himself through Himself.  The second is that of Creator, which also can be given only to Him, since no one else but Him is Creator.  In this name He knows Himself through Himself, but He also knows Himself through His creatures.  The third name is Jesus, which likewise belongs only to Him alone, since no one else can be Saviour [Cf. Acts 4:12].  Beyond this there is the title of Christ [Matt. 1:16], which means High Priest, Anointed One of God.  We Christians participate in these last two names [1Ptr. 2:9; Acts 4:12].  In this life we bear the name of Christ, namely Christians, and we are anointed by the Sacraments which we receive.  When we are in Heaven, we will bear the name of the Saviour inasmuch as there we will all enjoy complete salvation and be among those saved.  Thus in heaven we will be called by Our Lord’s other name.  Jesus or Saviour, since we will be saved.

Now, how are we to pronounce the sacred name of Jesus so that it may be beneficial and profitable to us?  This I am going to tell you by a story, with which I will conclude.  This name certainly ought not be pronounced carelessly or thoughtlessly.  It is not enough to be aware that it is a two syllable word, nor even less to speak it merely with the mouth.  Parrots can do that!  Infidels and Mohammedans name Him perfectly well, as far as that goes, but they are not saved thereby.  Our Lord showed us how we are to say it.  He shed His blood in receiving His name.  In fact, He indicated His willingness to do what this holy name signifies: to save.

It is not enough to say it with your lips; it must be engraved upon your heart.  Oh, how happy we would be to have alive in us all that our title signifies!  For instance, it is not enough to simply call ourselves Christian.  Our actual lives must be congruent with these title.  We must take care of the charge we exercise and of the vocation in which we live.  In short, we must assess how well our passions and affections are controlled and how submissive our judgement is, and whether our actions are congruent with our state in life?

It is recounted in the Book of Judges [Jgs. 11,12] that the great captain Jephte was victorious against the Ammonites by a vow which he made to the Lord.  After his daughter’s tragic death and all his other troubles, Jepthe hoped that he would finally have peace and rest.  But this was not to be, for sedition was stirred up.  The sons of Ephraim reproached him for not having invited them to war, although they were brave soldiers.  They believed he had acted thus to slight them.  Astonished to hear of this new trouble, good Jephte said to them: “Oh my dear friends, you know very well that I invited you, but you excused yourselves; this is why when the moment came for me to attack, I did.” Unwilling to listen to his arguments, they declared war on him.  God, however, took Jephte’s part because it was just, and so favored him that he slaughtered forty-two thousand and routed astonished Ephraim completely.  Then Jephte placed a guard and sentinels on the banks of the Jordan with watchword: “Ask anyone who wants passage who they are.  If they answer that they are from Ephraim, kill them; and if they deny it, make them give the password, `Scibboleth’ if they say “Sibboleth” put them to death, but if they say “Scibboleth” give them free passage.” “Scibboleth” and Sibboleth” are almost the same word (“Scibboleth” means “ear of corn” and Sibboleth” means “charge”), but “Scibboleth” is uttered gutterally and “Sibboleth” is said more lightly.

How happy we will be if, at the hour of our death, as well as during the whole of our lives, we pronounce the sacred name of the Saviour with due respect.  It will be like a password by which we will freely enter Heaven, for it is the name of our redemption.  In our last hour, if God gives us the grace not to die suddenly, we will have a priest near us who will hold a blessed candle in his hands and will call out to us: “Remember our Redeemer; say ‘Jesus,’ say ‘Jesus.”  Blessed will they be who pronounce it reverently and with profound appreciation of our Saviour having ransomed us with His blood and by His passion.  Those who call upon the name well at the time of death will be saved.  The opposite will be the fate of those who do not speak it well and who pronounce it tepidly and without fervor.  We ought most certainly to repeat it often during our lifetime, for it was given to His Son by the Eternal Father,  It is a name which is above every other name, wholly divine, gentle and full of goodness.  It is an oil poured out [Cant. 1:2(3)] to heal all the wounds of our souls.  At this sacred name every knee bends. [Phil. 2:9-10].  It is the name which gives joy to the angels, saves men, and causes demons to tremble.  This is why it should be deeply engraved upon our hearts and our spirits so that, blessing it and honoring it in this life, we may be worthy of singing with the blessed: Live Jesus!  Live Jesus!

From a Sermon of St. Francis de Sales

on the Feast of the Circumcision, Jan. 1, 1622

St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary

R.R.I., BOX 97A-1




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