Yesterday was the feast of the Holy Name of Jesus, a feast solemnly celebrated by the Franciscans and the Jesuits.
The name, Jesus, “Yahweh saves,” was given by the angel Gabriel, as a sign that God had come among us, born of the Virgin Mary.
The devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus was spread by the Franciscan reformer, Saint Bernardine of Siena (1380-1444). Reading one of his sermons this morning at Vigils, I was stopped by these words:
“Put aside, I beg you, any name implying political power, let there be no mention of vengeance, no mention of justice. Give us the name of mercy. Let the name of Jesus resound in my ears…”
The name of Jesus is not a word of power, of vengeance, even of political justice. It is the name of mercy. Our God, made flesh in a poor weak babe in an occupied land, brings mercy.
Each morning I begin my prayers with a form of the Jesus prayer, a prayer that is a mantra, repeated over and over.
The long form of the prayer, profoundly biblical, from the Orthodox monastic tradition, is “Lord Jesus Christ, Son of the Living God, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
The shortest form is just repeating the name “Jesus.”
I have my own modified form, “Jesus, Lord, be merciful,” which I occasionally pray in Spanish, “Jesucristo, ten piedad.”
I don’t know when I began using this prayer, but it has accompanied me for decades. At times, I wake up praying the Jesus prayer. Many times, whether in church or just working, I find myself praying the prayer. I am not grateful enough for this gift.
But now what is important for me is the mercy of God. In the face of the violence and unrest here, in the fears of nuclear war and the abandonment of the poor in the US, the mercy of God should pervade us – and move us to be instruments of mercy.