The Holy Name of Jesus is central to our faith. Unfortunately, I think we gloss over it a bit too readily. In today’s first reading from the book of Acts, St. Peter proclaims that there is no other name under heaven by which we are saved. There is power in the name of Jesus. You may have noticed in last week’s readings what the chief priests demanded of the apostles: that they stop preaching “in that name.” They didn’t even dare to mention the name of Jesus. It has been passed down to us also through the scriptures that some magicians were so impressed with the power of the apostles that they began casting out devils in the name of Jesus – even though they were able to do so without faith. Many people were brought to faith simply because they witnessed the power of the name of Jesus. The powers of darkness were literally scattered at the mere mention of his name.
How do you feel about the name Jesus? Do you use it when you pray? Do you use it when you curse? Are you afraid to speak about Him by name? Does it feel strange when you do? Jesus is a very special name, and it can help us appreciate why if we know what His name means. The Hebrew name, Ye-shu-ah literally means “God (Yahweh) Saves.” When it comes to Jesus of Nazareth however, this is no longer just a pious sentiment of hope based on all the past things God has done – delivering the Israelites from Pharaoh and the Egyptians. Jesus, “God Saves” is now literally this man who was born of the Virgin Mary. Jesus is the salvation of God incarnate, “God Saves” in the flesh.
So the name of Jesus itself is a powerful prayer, because we proclaim our faith in the savior, the man, who is our God. The desert fathers frequently used this prayer and recommended it highly. It is a prayer we can pray throughout the day, one that helps us return to the focus of our lives and the source of our hope. It is also a contemplative prayer that allows us to grow deeper in communion with Him. Simply praying, “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus…” is incredibly powerful because it is the name in which we have been created and the name by which we are saved: the Alpha and the Omega. If you’ve never tried directly using the name of Jesus in your prayers, ask yourself the question why – but also give it a try. We are the people of the name, it is who we are and it is a special power that has been entrusted to us.
In today’s Gospel, Jesus, the Good Shepherd talks about how He knows His sheep. Just as the name of Jesus is powerful on our lips, when Jesus speaks our name it is powerful on His lips. This is how we come to know that we belong to Him: when we call out to Him, He echoes back to our own hearts that call in His own voice. We know that He continues to guide us along the right path, for His name’s sake. When we call out to Him, He lays down His life mystically to dwell within us. That, as Saint John recalls, is why the Father loves Him. In the Trinity itself, the Son eternally gives Himself entirely to the Father – He lays down His life, His whole substance. The Son literally loves the Father with His whole being and holds nothing back. The Father sent the Son into the world so that we could see this great love hidden within the mystery of God. Jesus lays down everything, to the point of death, His entire substance, showing us what takes place eternally in the Trinity – nothing is held back from the Father. In so doing, He shows us the way, and enables us to live out that same intensity of love for the Father. Let us call upon the name of Jesus often, that our hearts too may be burned by the ultimate gift of love.