January 1, 2022 - Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God (Year C)

01 January 2022

Saint Sigmund Gorazdowski, priest

Nm 6:22-27
Ps 67
Gal 4:4-7
Lk 2:16-21


May God bless us in his mercy



We come to the end of the Christmas Octave, completing the great and joyous celebration of the birth of Christ, “the Sun who comes from on high” and we enter the first day of the new “solar” calendar year 2022, with the Church’s liturgy celebrating the Solemnity of the Great Mother of God, Mary most Holy. This solemnity actually commemorates a fundamental event in the life of the Divine Infant: his circumcision when he officially receives the name of Jesus. The Church invites us to meditate and reflect on this often-neglected event, despite its spiritual and missionary richness, with the help of the Word of God, beginning with an interesting remark by Saint Paul in the second reading.

1.Born of a woman, born under the Law.” With this double “born,” Saint Paul describes the Mystery of the Incarnation of Christ, the Son of God sent in the “fullness of time.” Far from being a mere rhetorical or redundant repetition, this formulation emphasizes the Mystery of Christ’s “double” birth in the world and is particularly pertinent today, when we recall the event of Christ’s circumcision. Indeed, “born of woman” corresponds to the physical birth of the Divine child, what we celebrated eight days ago. On the other hand, the expression “born under the Law” refers precisely to the moment when he was circumcised, thus fulfilling his very first act of observing the Law of God expressed in the Torah. We celebrate this event today. It is important to emphasise the importance of this event for a Jewish child born in Jesus’ day. It is only from the moment of his circumcision that a son is officially considered a member of the chosen people – Israel – and, thus, he begins to “exist” before God and the community! All this is implied by the fact that after circumcision the child is publicly given the name by which he will be called by everyone, including God!

St. Paul emphasises the dual birth of Jesus to explain his dual mission. He was “born under the Law,” that is, into the specific condition of the people of Israel, “to redeem those who were under the Law,” that is, his fellow Israelites. At the same time, He is “born of a woman,” as a reference to the universal human situation of birth, so that all of us, even the Gentiles, “might receive adoption as sons.” In a word, Jesus is sent by God to accomplish a universal mission of salvation, first for Israel and then for the Gentiles, to gather everyone in the world, Jews and Gentiles, into the one People of the children of God (cf. Eph 2:14-18). For this reason, he began the activities of evangelization among his people of Israel, and then extended them to non-Jews, a task that his missionary disciples continued afterwards. All of this has been noted and is certainly well known. Nevertheless, it should be repeated often and at every opportunity, especially today when a new year begins “inviting” all of us to a renewed apostolic-missionary zeal in carrying out the mission of Jesus. Jesus continues the mission entrusted to him by the Father until the end of time with and in his disciples of every generation. This mission encompasses two commitments of equal weight and importance (neither to ever be neglected): one to Israel, the people of the covenant and the other to the “nations,” to all peoples of the world (the Gentiles). This point must be made with clarity. God sent his Son into the world to bestow his peace and salvation on everyone. First on the members of his chosen people whom he has never ceased to love, for thus the Lord says to Israel through the prophet Jeremiah: “He has loved you with an everlasting love, and for this reason I continue to be faithful to you” (Jer 31:3). Then, on people of every nation. All of this this is wonderfully summarized in the name that God has reserved for his Son!

2.The name Jesus was given to him.” Although the mystery of the name was given to Him, it was actually given for us! First, the giving of the name is a Mystery of God, which Luke the evangelist clearly indicates. Although he does not say explicitly, who gave Jesus his name, it was most likely Joseph, since according to Jewish tradition in Jesus’ day, the father gave the name to his son. On the other hand, one can perceive that the implied agent was God (he was named Jesus [by God]). This is why the grammatical construction uses the “theological passive” form. This rest of the phrase makes this point explicit: “the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.” That is to say, the name Jesus had already been established for the child beforehand and then communicated to Mary by the angel at the moment of the annunciation: “And behold, you will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus” (cf. Lk 1:31). This name is also communicated to Joseph in a dream, according to Matthew’s Gospel, which further explains how and why the child is to be so named: “She [Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins” (Mt 1:21).

Why is the name of Jesus so important? Because in Jewish tradition the name contains the person’s identity, his nature, and his mission. Nomen omen, as we also say in Latin, “the name [is] omen” (Such name - what destiny). Curiously enough, this vision or belief existed (and still exists) in many other peoples, even among the Vietnamese (my compatriots), who had the strange custom of giving their children ugly names (some even indecent not to be repeated), so that evil forces would leave them alive and would not take them precisely because of their ugly nature [name]!

3. Name signifying salvation and blessing. As we know, the word “Jesus”, pronounced Jeshua in Aramaic (the spoken language in Galilee at the time of the Holy Family), means, “God saves.” This name was popular in Jewish tradition. The name in Hebrew may be rendered in English as either “Joshua” or “Jesus.” Joshua, was the one who led Israel to the Promised Land, completing the work of the exodus begun by Moses, his master. In the case of Jesus of Nazareth, the link between the name and his mission is even more direct. Saint Matthew makes it explicit in the passage quoted above: “For he will save his people from their sins.” From this perspective, after the Resurrection, the apostles proclaimed their faith with frankness: “For there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we can be saved” (Acts 4:12). He saves everyone from sin.

At this very point Matthew, the first evangelist, offers his own commentary for us to ponder during this holy Christmas season: the name fulfills all of Sacred Scripture. “All this took place so that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled: ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son; to him shall be given the name Emmanuel, which means God with us’” (Mt 1:21-22). An attentive reader would immediately ask, “is his name Jesus or Emmanuel” and how is prophecy fulfilled in this regard? To solve the problem, someone might answer that the Divine child will perhaps have two names - Jesus and Emmanuel! (His third name or surname would be Christ!). No, nothing like this! His only name is Jesus. However, the parallel between the two words - Jesus and Emmanuel - gives us an even deeper glimpse into the fulfillment of Scripture. His name is Jesus “God saves” but at the same time, his identity as Emmanuel “God-with-us” is understood.

This wonderfully explains the way God saves humanity in Jesus. He does not save us from above, commanding everything with his powerful words from the heavens. Naturally, God is omnipotent and could have done that, but he chose not to do so. Instead, he chose to save us by lowering himself to our level, placing himself in our midst, walking with us together with every man and woman on this earth, in the midst of our problems and adversities of human life. Thus, he also becomes the way of salvation! Now everything is written in the name of Jesus, the tangible name of God made man. He comes with his salvation and blessing for the whole human race, not as an imposition from above, like a violent hurricane, earthquake or fire, but always as “the murmur of a gentle breeze” (cf. 1Kgs 19:12), the Lord-among-us!

Therefore, as a psalm invites us, “praise the name of the Lord!” (Ps 112:1). Indeed, we also acclaim today, as always after being blessed by the Eucharistic presence of Christ in the rite of benediction, “blessed be the name of Jesus!” As the Son of God, he became the son of Adam, that is, a member of humanity, and at the same time the son of Abraham, a member of the chosen people. In him, God fulfills his promise to Abraham’s descendants: “By his name shall all the peoples of the earth be blessed” (Gen 18:18), as Pope Benedict XVI also emphasizes in a commentary. From now on and until the end of time, in his name all peoples shall be blessed! He himself came with the burning desire to bring this blessing “to those near and far,” blessing, “benefiting and healing all those who were under the power of the devil” (cf. Acts 10:38), and becoming himself the blessing of God for the people. Indeed, Jesus would advise his disciples to even bless their enemies and persecutors: “bless those who curse you” (Lk 6:28); something that would find an echo in their teaching, as expressed by Saint Paul the Apostle: “Bless those who persecute you, bless and do not curse them” (Rom 12:14).

Therefore, let us joyfully share this news, this good news, with everyone, especially those who have never really known the name, that is, the person, of Jesus. Let us invite them to participate in the divine blessing in the name of God made man! From the divine recommendation to the high priests of Israel through Moses, which we heard in the first reading, we hear in some way the very voice of Jesus who affirms God’s desire for all time and particularly for this year: “So shall they invoke my name upon the Israelites [and upon non-Israelites], and I will bless them.”

Happy beginning of 2022 and many blessings in the name of Jesus, the God who saves! May the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, intercede for us all!


Useful points to consider:


“The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life. There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed.” (Pope St. Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, Apostolic Exhortation, n. 22)


“‘On the Octave Day of Christmas, Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, the readings are about the Virgin Mother of God and the giving of the holy Name of Jesus’ (OLM[1] 95). The week-long celebration of the Christmas feast concludes with this solemnity, which also marks the beginning of the New Year in many parts of the world. The readings and prayers offer an opportunity to consider again the identity of the Child whose birth we are celebrating. He is true God and true Man; the ancient title of Theotokos (Mother of God) affirms both the human and divine natures of Christ. He is also our Savior (Jesus, the name he receives at his circumcision, but which was given him by the angel before his conception).” (Homiletic Directory, n. 123)


“Jesus means in Hebrew: ‘God saves.’ At the annunciation, the angel Gabriel gave him the name Jesus as his proper name, which expresses both his identity and his mission. Since God alone can forgive sins, it is God who, in Jesus his eternal Son made man, ‘will save his people from their sins.’ in Jesus, God recapitulates all of his history of salvation on behalf of men.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 430)


“The name ‘Jesus’ signifies that the very name of God is present in the person of his Son, made man for the universal and definitive redemption from sins. It is the divine name that alone brings salvation, and henceforth all can invoke his name, for Jesus united himself to all men through his Incarnation, so that ‘there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.’” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 432)


“The name of Jesus is at the heart of Christian prayer. All liturgical prayers conclude with the words ‘through our Lord Jesus Christ.’ the Hail Mary reaches its high point in the words ‘blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.’ the Eastern prayer of the heart, the Jesus Prayer, says: ‘Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ Many Christians, such as St. Joan of Arc, have died with the one word ‘Jesus’ on their lips.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, n. 435)



[1] OLM: Ordo Lectionum Missae, Praenotanda (Introduction of the Lectionary)