The Sunday Gospels Explained – Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus

detail of the painting Adoration of the Name of Jesus, c.1604, University Chapel, Seville, SpainHe was given the name Jesus. – Luke 2:21

Parents know what a problem it is to find a satisfactory name for a child. Our Lady was spared this anxiety. At the Annunciation Gabriel told her that her Son must be called Jesus (Luke 1:31). When Saint Joseph agreed to accept the legal paternity of the Child conceived by the action of the Holy Spirit, he was given the same order (Matthew 1:18-21).

The Holy Name means “God is salvation.” This Name was to be given to Mary?s Child, the angel told Saint Joseph, “because He shall save His people from their sins.” That is, this Child was the Divine Saviour coming to redeem mankind—to make it possible, even after the Fall, for men to become children of God again and to see Him face to face for evermore. He alone, in God’s plans, could bring this about, so “there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). There is, then, no greater name than that of the Our Saviour. It is “the Name that is above every name,” the Name at which “every knee should bend in heaven, on earth, and under the earth” (Philippians 2:9-10). Hence, this all-holy Name should be always held in the greatest reverence and should be used only with pious love and devotion.

In the Holy Name is summed up all Our Lord?s work in the world. He came into this world “to seek out and to save what was lost” (Luke 19:10). His Name, therefore, is the most comforting and consoling of all names; for it is the Name of a supremely great Person who came to save us from the worst of all evils. Far from filling the sinner with fear and dread, the Name of Jesus inspires him with hope and confidence, because it expresses love and mercy. And to all – saint and sinner alike – it is a Name of strength and power, a pledge of God’s help and protection. That is why we use the Holy Name so often in prayer and in times of temptation.

May this great Name, then, be our support and strength throughout the journey of life, and on our dying lips may it be our comfort and the assurance of our salvation.

– from The Sunday Gospels Explained, by Father John A Phillips, SJ; it has the Imprimatur of Archbishop Daniel Mannix, Archdiocese of Melbourne, Australia, 31 October 1955