This morning Pope Francis celebrated Mass at the church of the Gesù, the major Jesuit church in Rome, on the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus.
Today both the Franciscans and the Jesuits celebrate the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, a devotion that goes back to the early church.
In the early 15th century St. Bernardine of Siena promoted devotion to the Name of Jesus. In one of his sermons he emphasizeS how the name of Jesus is a name that reveals to us the mercy of God:
When the moment of grace arrived, [the most holy Name] was given with mercy. Put aside, then, any name implying political power; let there be no mention of vengeance, no mention of justice. Give us the name of mercy.
In 1530 the pope gave the Franciscans permission to celebrate a special Mass and office to honor the Holy Name.
Years later when Ignatius and his companions came to Rome, they were known as the Company of Jesus.
The devotion to the name of Jesus reminds us that God comes to us with a special name – Jesus, Yahweh saves.
As we all bear a name, God-made-flesh has a name, a name that tells us who He is, what He does – the one who saves.
In the Eastern Christian tradition, one of the most important prayers is the Jesus prayer.
At times, a long form is prayer: “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.” I use a shorter form: “Jesus Lord, be merciful.”
But today perhaps a prayerful invocation of just the name “Jesus” may serve us to call to mine this mystery of a savior-God who comes among us as a human.