“Flog your enemies with the Name of Jesus, for there is no weapon more powerful in heaven or on earth.” – St. John Climacus“Blessed be the Name of Jesus.” – The Divine Praises
Among the spiritual weapons in our arsenal, there are none as powerful as the Holy Name of Jesus. The saints have healed the sick, conquered temptation, demolished heresies, driven away demons, and converted sinners by invoking this powerful name. It is the name that signifies our hope and our salvation. In fact, Jesus is the most powerful name in heaven and earth, and Scripture tells us that “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, 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.”1
But what does Jesus mean? How can we grow in holiness by calling on the name of Jesus? Let’s find out.
The name Jesus means, “God saves” in Hebrew. To the Jews, this name was deeply significant. It recalled their freedom from enslavement in Egypt, the conquering of their enemies, and their entrance into the promised land, led by the military hero, Joshua. Not coincidentally, Jesus in Hebrew is the same name as Joshua.
Yet, Jesus was no military leader. Rather than driving out temporal enemies, he conquered the spiritual enemies of sin, Satan, and death, and he leads us to the true promised land of heaven. As the Angel announced to Mary, the Savior would be called Jesus because, “he will save his people from their sins.”
The Catechism summarizes these truths in a beautiful paragraph:
But the one name that contains everything is the one that the Son of God received in his incarnation: JESUS. The divine name may not be spoken by human lips, but by assuming our humanity The Word of God hands it over to us and we can invoke it: “Jesus,” “YHWH saves.” The name “Jesus” contains all: God and man and the whole economy of creation and salvation. To pray “Jesus” is to invoke him and to call him within us. His name is the only one that contains the presence it signifies. Jesus is the Risen One, and whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him.2
The more we meditate on the name of Jesus, the more we grow to love it.
Prayer and Invocation
Since the earliest centuries of the Church, the name of Jesus has been invoked to drive out demons and heal the sick. But above all, it has been called upon to conquer sin, overcome temptation, and grow in holiness. In fact, many of the saints became saints by doing nothing else but calling on the name of Jesus, either by ceaselessly repeating his name or by praying a prayer such as, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me a sinner.”
The name of Jesus is incredibly powerful for combatting temptations and in conquering sinful passions. No matter what you’re struggling with— anger, alcoholism, lust, pride, laziness, fear— the name of Jesus can conquer it.
“Naught but the name of Jesus,” says St. Bernard of Clairvaux, “can restrain the impulse of anger, repress the swelling of pride, cure the wound of envy, bridle the onslaught of luxury, extinguish the flame of carnal desire – can temper avarice, and put to flight impure and ignoble thoughts.”
Now, to clarify, repeating the name of Jesus should never be mindless. We should not treat this name as a magical incantation, but should rather realize that we are calling on a living Person—one who loves us and gave himself for us. By invoking this name, we are acknowledging our sin, helplessness, and our need for constant mercy. By calling on Jesus, we are crying like St. Peter as he drowned in the waves, “Lord, save me!”
If you want to overcome sin and grow in virtue, look first at your own neediness and helplessness. Acknowledge it— it’s healthy to do this. Then, call sincerely and constantly on the great and holy name of Jesus. I promise you, he will come to your aid.
I will conclude with the words of St. Bernardine of Sienna, who had a great devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus and who summarizes it far better than I ever could.
Jesus, Name full of glory, grace, love and strength! You are the refuge of those who repent, our banner of warfare in this life, the medicine of souls, the comfort of those who morn, the delight of those who believe, the light of those who preach the true faith, the wages of those who toil, the healing of the sick. To You our devotion aspires; by You our prayers are received; we delight in contemplating You. O Name of Jesus, You are the glory of all the saints for eternity. Amen.