Transcription of Homily
Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke.
At that time, after eight days were accomplished, that the child should be circumcised. His name was called Jesus, which was called by the angel before he was conceived in the womb.
The saving words of the Gospel.
In the name of the Father and the Son, the Holy Ghost, Amen.
His name shall be called Jesus. For those of you who were at Mass yesterday, this gospel may sound familiar. I was given the opportunity to preach on both days on the shortest gospel in the liturgical year, two days in a row. So thank you. We have this beautiful feast of the Holy Name of Jesus and it’s not the only name He has. I would recommend for your homework this week, several things: Part I of the Summa Theologica on the Names of God, there’s great material there for your meditation. We also have the Divine Praises you know that which pray after Benediction. The Divine Praises were written as an act of reparation for any misuse of the Holy Name also, there’s the beautiful Litany of the Holy Name of Jesus, which has wonderful theology in it and there were there will be some titles there, perhaps, that you don’t recognize that are certainly worthy of your meditation.
Why do we have so many names for our Lord? We see all these different titles in the Old Testament. We see multiple titles in the New Testament. And at the same time, when you read precisely the treatises of St. Thomas Aquinas on the Names of God, he speaks about God’s simplicity. So doesn’t this multiplicity of names actually denote the complexity? Well, no. These are abstractions. His names are abstractions, in which we in our littleness are trying, have attempted to understand His greatness. And what are those names that Thomas speaks of? He doesn’t use the titles, like Lord. He doesn’t speak about Lord, or God of Hosts, or the Ancient of Days. He’s not speaking about those names of God, when He speaks about the Names of God. These abstractions are goodness, truth, beauty, life, will intellect, person. In fact, the whole concept of person.
What is a person for us? Perhaps if we don’t ask what, kind of like St. Augustine says about time, right? If you don’t ask me what it means, I know what it is, but if you ask me to define it, I have a hard time doing that. Well, the same thing with person. Think about that. We’ve never, even the history of literature, philosophy, theology, there was never a discussion about what a person is until the Church received this truth that God is Triune and, therefore, had to come up with a definition of person. Before that, it was never even a discussion. So that’s one of the names, Person, because these are abstractions.
What does that mean an abstraction? We’re trying to use a distilled term to address the greatest aspect of our Lord and at the same time, that term, no matter how full of content will always fall short. Does it mean that it’s deficient? No, it just means that no term, in fact, not every human word together, will ever be enough to say who our Lord is; it will always fall short. So we go from this common experience of things, goodness, truth and beauty, etc., and go to its highest expression, and we call that God. And nonetheless, our perception, our ability to understand that term and its highest expression is going to fall short. And that’s just the way it is. So for those who say, You know heaven is boring, they haven’t considered the names of God. Because that is where we start to understand, if only in a small, way His greatness. But there’s a name that is not an abstraction that’s Jesus.
God saves, which is what it means. Christ is brought to the temple for the circumcision, on the eighth day after his birth. This was the practice of the Jews. On the eighth day, the male child is brought for circumcision, and it’s in this drawing of blood that he is made a member of the Hebrews. He’s made a member of their community. And on that date, the child would also receive his name. Notice too when the Angel speaks to Mary. When the Angel speaks to Joseph in his dream, they’re instructed what the child’s name is to be. This is God’s plan. And it’s not something that He improvised. It’s not something that He just came up with. God doesn’t have any new ideas. Okay, that’s why we can’t tell Him any jokes because He knows all the punch lines, okay? He doesn’t, He’s not, kind of coming up with new things. Okay. Everything in His simplicity, and in His omniscience. Everything’s eternally present. This look St. Augustine calls the nunc stans, the eternal present, in our Lord’s mind. There are no surprises for Him. So this is the name that God has chosen for Himself. God saves. What a beautiful name.
It’s not an abstraction because only God can save His people. Only God can forgive us of our sins, but notice that unlike the circumcision, which makes the male child a part of the people, it’s the blood of the One whose name is revealed through His passion, starting with the circumcision, through His passion, that Precious Blood, then applied to us and when we respond in Faith, that’s what makes us a part of His people. And notice too it says, His name shall be called Jesus not “I named him”. Joseph doesn’t come up with the name. Mary doesn’t come up with the name. He shall be called, it says. The Gospel is very particular in how it expresses these things.
When we name something. When parents name their children, they’ve got authority over their children. This is also why we were not allowed to name our Guardian Angels, right. They’re not our pets. Okay, we don’t name them because that’s just that’s an act of disrespect. We don’t have authority over our angels. We’re more like their pets. Okay. They’re kind of watching us, you know, fumble around and trying to help us, and half the time, or less than half the time, we’re docile to their inspirations, but we don’t have authority over them. We can’t give them names. Our parents have authority over us they give us our names.
Noticed too, that the Jewish notion of being saved was very material. It was a material understanding of protection of the People. So there was a collective there was a protection in being a member of the People. Okay, so this was there was a collective understanding and now with the new covenant in the blood of Christ this salvation is very personal, so we’re not saved as a collective. We’re not saved because we’re Catholic. We’re not saved because we go to the Latin Mass. We’re not saved because of anything else, than the blood of Christ was supplied to us, and our cooperation with it.
And so the means of salvation then have a very, very personal non-repeatable, in other words, non-transferable element, sacramental grace, that’s to me not to the group, not to the Church, not of the People, sacramental grace through the Church, from Christ through the Church and to my soul. My own prayer, and my own virtue, those are the three means of salvation. It doesn’t get much more personal than that, because that encompasses our entire existence. We are passive recipients of grace in the sacraments. We cooperate with grace in our subjective relationship with our Lord in prayer. And we manifest our objective relationship with our Lord, and with others, in our virtue. So this encompasses our entire existence. Nothing escapes from those three elements. That’s why those three elements are essential for salvation. Not two of them, not one of them, all three those like the three legs of the stool. If you’re missing one doesn’t go well.
And so this, this then demands from us the fulfillment of the First Commandment that our Lord defines as loving Him with all our heart, our mind, and our strength. It’s hard to love an abstraction right? Think of you know, one of Thomas’s titles for God, not in the Treatise on the Names of God, but earlier in the First Part of the Summa, he calls God the unmoved mover. Well, that’s probably not a name or a title that really inspires us to virtue or to, to adoration as I’m going to adore the unmoved mover. Well, you know, all the best and hope it works, but He has revealed Himself not only with a Name but with a Face that goes along with that Name. There’s nothing more personal than a name and a face, it’s irrepeatable in my case, that’s a fortunate thing.
When God reveals His face, He’s someone for us even though we knew Him. We knew of Him perhaps with our intellect now we can love Him with all our heart because He has a face. He’s revealed Himself and that Face with a Name will submit Himself to the most horrible sufferings for us without rejecting us who did it to Him. This is the meaning of God’s saves, of Jesus. Because He came to save precisely those who made Him suffer. He came to save all of us. But our response then to this most Holy of Names is a very personal, non-transferable response.
In the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Ghost. Amen