Thursday, January 25, 2018

The Holy Name of Jesus

What's in a name? On January 3rd, the Church has given her children the optional memorial to celebrate the the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. This is a wonderful feast to celebrate, for the Lord Jesus' name is a powerful weapon against the devil and a great cry of praise to God. We know from Scripture that Jesus was given his name by the angel Gabriel, when he came to Joseph and Mary to announce the birth of Jesus.
By his very name Jesus would be “God is with us” and the “God who saves.” Scripture also tells us how powerful Jesus' name is too, for example; in John 16:23, Jesus says, “Amen, amen, I say to you, whatever you ask the Father in my name he will give you.” We also see in Mark 16:17-18 the power of Jesus' name to those who have faith in it “These signs will accompany those who believe: in my name they will drive out demons, they will speak new languages. They will pick up serpents with their hands, and if they drink any deadly thing, it will not harm them. They will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.” But wait there's more!

Holy Mother Church tells us: The invocation of the holy name of Jesus is the simplest way of praying always. When the holy name is repeated often in a humbly attentive heart, the prayer is not lost by heaping empty phrases, but holds fast to the word and brings “forth fruit with patience.” This prayer is possible “at all times” because it is not one occupation among others but the only occupation: that of loving God, which animates and transfigures every action in Christ Jesus (CCC 2668). One good prayer to offer Jesus is to just say his name. “To pray to Jesus is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One, and whoever invokes, the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him” (CCC 2666). As Christians we should always pray Jesus' name with love and affection, offering it to Jesus and God the Father in reparation for all the disrespect and degrading ways his name is used in our culture today. So it is right, for us to celebrate the most holy name of Jesus, for it is also the only name by which man is saved. And thanks to the efforts of St. Bernard, St. Bernadine of Siena and St. John Capistran several popes have granted indulgences to the faithful who are devoted to the holy name.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Epiphany: The Great Appearance

I love meditating on the Epiphany. Although the Liturgical feast commemorates three different manifestations of the Lord (the coming of the Magi from the East, the Baptism of the Lord, and Jesus’ miracle at Cana changing water into wine), we tend to focus on the Magi. These mysterious
visitors, who seem a little out of character with the stable at Bethlehem add a sparkle of color, an aroma of the East, a touch of “bling” to the manger scene. Their presence at the manger remind us that our God is full of surprises who delights in paradox and fulfills all prophecies to the fullest.

For the Church which believes and prays, the Wise Men from the East who, guided by the star, made their way to the manger of Bethlehem, are only the beginning of a great procession which winds throughout history. Thus the liturgy relates the journey of the Wise Men, together with the magnificent prophetic visions of Isaiah, which depict the pilgrimage of the peoples to Jerusalem. Like the shepherds, who as the first visitors to the newborn Child in the manger, embodied poor and humble souls who live in deep interior closeness to Jesus, so the men from the east embody the world of the peoples, the Church of the Gentiles - The men and women who in every age set out on the way which leads to the Child of Bethlehem, to offer him homage as the Son of God and to bow down before him.

The Church calls this feast “Epiphany”-the appearance of the Godhead. If we consider the fact that from the very beginning men and women of every place and culture, have been on the way to Christ, then we can truly say that this pilgrimage and this encounter with God in the form of a Child is an epiphany of God’s goodness and loving kindness for humanity.

The Wise Men from the East were above all, men of courage, the courage and humility born of faith. Courage was needed to grasp the meaning of the star as a sign to set out, to go forth—towards the unknown on paths filled with hidden dangers. We can imagine that their decision was met with derision. Anyone who took off on the basis of such uncertain promises, risking everything, could only
appear ridiculous. But for these men, inwardly seized by God, the way which he pointed out was more important than what other people thought. For them, seeking the truth meant more than the taunts of the world. The Wise Men followed the star, and thus came to Jesus, the great Light which enlightens everyone coming into this world. As pilgrims of faith, the Wise Men themselves became stars shining in the firmament of history and they show us the way. (Benedict XVI)

So on this feast of the Epiphany, let us pray for the courage to so live that we, too, become
stars which shine, reflecting the Son of God to the world.