January 3, 2020
(Most Holy Name of Jesus)
John the Baptist saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. . . . John testified further, saying, “I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from the sky and remain upon him. I did not know him, but the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘On whomever you see the Spirit come down and remain, he is the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ Now I have seen and testified that he is the Son of God. Jn_1:29-34
If there’s one thing that we Catholics are abundantly rich in, it’s symbols. From the crucifix, to the sign of the cross, from the rosary to our relics, from our holy water to the dove, they’re all great reminders of our faith. But unless we know what they really represent, what they really mean, they can also be quite confusing.
Back in the days of the apostles and the early Church, there was reason for all the secret signs, because if it was known that they were Christian, they would have been killed or worse. And we are well familiar with the persecution and martyrdom that those early Christians had to suffer – and many still do today.
Unfortunately, all those signs still permeate our Church, 2000 years later. And we can spend a lifetime trying to figure them all out. And yet, on the good side of it all, today we can quickly and easily find the answer to pretty much any question we have about our faith and all of those signs and secret symbols with a quick search on the internet.
For example, did you know that the letters IHS that we often see in Church actually come from the first three letters of the Name of Jesus, written in Greek. That Christogram symbol originated from a Franciscan priest in the late 1300’s, named, Bernadine of Siena. Bernadine designed a picture of the letters surrounded by the rays of the sun, in order to displace certain pagan and political symbols that were prevalent in central Italy at the time.
And aside from being an artistic defender of the faith, Bernadine was also a highly respected preacher and evangelist, who fought against sin in all of its different forms. He worked tirelessly to bring peace and unity to warring communities in his native Italy. And he was the perfect model of loving evangelism, in the style of John the Baptist.
Today we commemorate that most Holy and blessed Name of Jesus. As St. Paul professed in his letter to the Philippians, “God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name. That at the name of Jesus, every knee should bend, of those in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” Phil 2:9-11
As we begin this new year of “Vision” (20-20), we open our eyes to the power of His Name. Because it’s only in that Name, that: the darkness of sin will be dispelled, that the light of hope will be found, and that the clarity of life, through the eyes of the Holy Spirit, will guide us in all righteousness to that glory of God our Father, in the most Holy Name of Jesus. Amen
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