The Most Holy Name of Jesus A Sermon by Servant of God, Isaac Hecker (Part Two of Three: 19 January 2015).
Jesus ‘humanity is exalted above all creatures and he has been appointed the Supreme Judge of all men, both the living and the dead. As is His humanity is elevated above all, so also is his sacred name honored above all other names and so it is worthy of the homage of every creature. In the words of Saint Paul, “he humbled himself, becoming obedient unto death, even the death of the cross, wherefore God has exalted him and has given him a name which is above all names, so that in the name of Jesus, every knee should bend.”
He shall be called Jesus because he shall save his people from their sins. In this name then is comprised the entire mystery of our redemption. In this name we have unfolded God’s love and mercy. In this name we recognize our greatest happiness, freedom from the slavery of sin. The name had not been known to the Jews. The name had not been unknown to the Jews, the name had existed in the person of Joshua of Jeptha and of Jesus the son of Sirach. But these are mere shadows or at best a deliverer from temporal calamities. With our Blessed Lord His name was the Truth.
In that name we have a development of all the details in the history of the God-Man. He was born in poverty and nurtured in want and affliction, because He is our Savior. He was arrested, falsely accused, cruelly tormented and ignominiously put to death. His holy name explains the mystery, accounts for all the atrocities that he endured. If He rises glorious and triumphant from the dead, if He has resuced us from the slavery of evil. If He has purchased for us a share in the glories of his heavenly home, it is all the fultillment of the meaning of his blessed and adorable name. It is in this great name in which the apostle assures us we are only to be saved. That holy name is a part of every blessing. In that name we are born again unto God. It is the past name on the lips of his devout servants, when the shadow of death is falling thick and fast about him. So too the history of God’s saints enables us to see how great a weapon was in all their temptations, how signal were the victories its pious use enabled them to gain, how deep and pure was the reverence it engendered. And this should be our attitude, our feelings in this regard. Let us cherish and cultivate warmth and affection for the name which bring goodness to us. Let it be our ambition to increase and strengthen our veneration for that blessed name which is exalted above all other names.
Our Holy Church calls upon all her faithful children who know and love the sacred name to make a time of reparation for the blasphemous and irreverent use of the name. We must admit with grief and sorrow that this irreverence is far from US. I suppose that there are a few of us who have not experienced the frequent profanation of the name by those who should know better; those who bow their heads with reverence in the house of God and who then go to their homes and their daily occupations to offer insult to their God and scandal to their neighbor by their profane use of the blessed name. Every outburst is coupled with the name of the Redeemer. No words of mine are needed to portray this heinous vice. The command of the Almighty is clear, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord in vain.´
Commentary by Rev. Paul Robichaud CSP
In the Book of Exodus, when Moses went up to Mount Sinai he did something very daring, he asked God what God’s name was. This would allow Moses to call on God, to get God’s attention and perhaps to get God to assist him with divine power. God answers Moses by saying, “I am who I am.” It would in time be translated as “Yahweh.” Here in Father Hecker’s sermon, he tells us that can call upon God through the name of Jesus. Not only is God’s name holy but it is powerful. Father Hecker reminds us that we need to respect the sacred name of God.
The Holy Name Society was founded by the Dominicans in 1564. Its purpose was to deepen devotion to the name of Jesus Christ and to make reparation for the misuse of the holy name. Member pledged not to swear or misuse the name of Jesus. The society was introduced in the United States in the Archdiocese of New York in 1898 and any parish in America was free to establish a society. By the time that Vatican Council II was called, some 60 years later, American membership had reached five million members who were primarily men. Most parishes in the United States formed a men’s group called the Holy Name Society that encouraged members to receive the sacraments regularly. While Holy Name Societies are not as popular in parishes today as they were before Vatican II, they continue to encourage Catholics not to swear, lie or blaspheme the name of God. In the parish of Saint Paul the Apostle in Manhattan the Paulist staff added an additional pledge not to drink alcohol as well as not to swear. Servant of God Father Hecker established a men’s society in the 1870s that would in time become the Holy Name society, as he believed that this helped reduce domestic violence among Catholic families in the tenements that were located in the parish on the west side of Manhattan. By the time that Father Hecker died in 1888, the parish was one of the most active parishes in the United States.
Paulist Father Paul Robichaud CSP is Historian of the Paulist Fathers and Postulator of the Cause of Father Hecker. His office is located at the Hecker Center in Washington D.C.