Saturday, January 1, 2011

The Holy Name of Jesus

Today’s feast, Mary,the Mother of God, was traditionally celebrated as the Circumcision of Jesus. The readings of the day are a vestige of the old observance. It seems that, when the liturgical calendar was reformed, the powers that be (or that were) decided that it was too difficult for modern believers to relate to Jesus’ circumcision. So instead we are left with a feast to Mary, with readings for the Circumcision of Jesus when the people are celebrating New Year’s Day. Talk about a mess!

Why was Jesus’ circumcision celebrated in the first place and what meaning could it have for us as we begin the second decade of the twenty-first century?

On the day of his circumcision, Jesus became an heir to the covenant God made with Abraham. He was marked as a member of the chosen people. In doing so, he took another step toward fulfilling those promises and establishing a new covenant.

But, most importantly, on the day of his circumcision, he received the name announced to Mary by the angel Gabriel. He was called, “Jesus”, a name which means “salvation” and “victory”. Through this child, and in his name, God will conquer sin and death and bring salvation to those who believe.

We all know people who are name droppers. They talk about all the important people they know to make themselves look important. Or they use the names of powerful men to get access to employment or positions of influence. As baptized believers, we have the power to drop the greatest name of all, the name of Jesus. In his name we brag about our importance as children of God and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven. In his name we have access to the throne of grace where we can find forgiveness of sin, strength in temptation and the love to lay down our lives for others. There is no other name given to us by which we are to be saved than the name of Jesus!

So, along with celebrating the motherhood of Mary, New Year’s Day could also be observed as the feast of the Holy Name, if that doesn’t complicate things further. In Jesus’ name we have victory over sin and death. He came born of a woman (taking on our sinful nature) and born under the law (subject to rituals and observances that could never sanctify or justify us) to purify human nature and elevate religion to a person, filial relationship with the Father. Through the name of Jesus we become sons and daughters of God and heirs to his Kingdom. Also, we are no longer children of Eve, subject to condemnation and death, but children of Mary, the Mother of God.

Maybe that - our sonship in Christ through Mary - is what ties this all together.

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