Elisa Tremblay

Marriage & Family Life

Tremblay is the marriage and life ministries director for the Diocese of Green Bay.


God calls us by name

By Elisa Tremblay | Special to The Compass | December 14, 2021

A few weeks ago, I was sharing lunch with some friends and colleagues at work. As many lunch table conversations go, we spent most of our time contributing to the wide variety of topics being discussed. One such topic brought up that day was about the process of naming a child.

Amongst our group was a religious sister, who recounted her fascinating story about how one of her relatives gave her the privilege of naming their child. It was clear in her story that she cherished this opportunity, and it got the rest of us discussing how important a name is and how significant a task this is for parents. Our Holy Father, Pope Francis, says in his apostolic exhortation, Amoris Laetitia, the following: “For God allows parents to choose the name by which he himself will call their child for all eternity” (166).

A name is not simply a bunch of letters put together — it is a word by which we are known. Names identify us to each other and allow us to know something personal about one another. As Proverbs 22:1 states: “A good name is more desirable than great riches and high esteem, than gold and silver.”

A person can be a stranger, but once names are exchanged, identity, familiarity and, most importantly, relationship follow. A name makes a person unique, stand out and memorable. I remember the first time I went to a new parish, I sat in the back pew and looked at a sea of strangers in front of me. Now that I know the names of many people in that same parish, I look out and see a community of friends.

This time of year, we pay special importance to the greatest of all names given to a child, and that is Jesus. Although Jesus’ name was foretold to Mary by the Angel Gabriel, we can see right from that announcement that this child would be special and his name would hold more power than just identity. Jesus’ name would save us! “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end” (Lk 1:31-33).

On Monday, Jan. 3, our church has the option of celebrating the feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus. Why would we dedicate an entire day to a name? A short but great article written by Fr. William Saunders on the “Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus” (catholicculture.org) goes into the origin of this feast and the history and importance of the Holy Name. Even back in apostolic times, reverence was given to the name of Jesus, as we see St. Peter healing in Jesus’ name (Acts 3:1-10).

Fr. Saunders references an old spiritual manual which cites four benefits to invoking the name of Jesus in reverence and faith: the name of Jesus brings help in bodily needs, gives help in spiritual trials such as the forgiveness of sins, this holy name can cast out demons, and allows us to receive every spiritual grace and blessing (Jn 16:23-24).

This most holy of names not only identifies Jesus, but, to those who hear this name, it is a reminder of what he has done for us. With such power to this name, it is important to remember how much it should be reverenced and not abused in our language and speech.

Quite simply, even saying the name of Jesus in faith can be a prayer that can save us! By knowing this name and saying this name in reverence, it helps us to build a relationship with the one who bears that name — Jesus. 

I can only imagine that St. Paul must have contemplated the moment when the angels and shepherds and Magi all venerated the Christ Child when he wrote the words in his letter to the Philippians: “Because of this, 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” (2:9-11).

Aware that God calls each of us by our given name, let us invoke the holiest of names, Jesus, to bless us this Christmas season and throughout the new year.

Tremblay is the marriage and life ministries director for the Diocese of Green Bay.

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