Sunday, June 11, 2017

Oh Lord!

   The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity   C 

A teacher asked her catechism class, “What is God’s name?”  An eager girl waved her hand and said, “I know!  I know!  God’s name is Howard!”  The startled teacher asked, “Judy, how do you know this?”  To which the girl responded, “Because every time we pray, we say, ‘Our Father, who art in heaven, Howard be thy name…”

What is God’s name?  That’s certainly an appropriate point to ponder on this Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.  We call God our Father, the Almighty, the Creator and Ruler of all things.  We call his Only Begotten Son Jesus and Christ, the Savior, the Lamb of God, the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  We speak of the Holy Spirit as Life and Love, as Advocate and Counselor.

It should come as no surprise that it’s one of God’s most common names that gets precious little thought from us—and that’s Lord.  I counted it up last night, and we we’ll address God as Lord at least 62 times in the course of today’s Mass—and that’s without the homily or the hymns!  We call on God as the Lord constantly (sometimes, sadly, in not the most prayerful tones), but what does that mean?  What does it mean to say that God is the Lord, our Lord, my Lord?

In Hebrew, the language of Moses and the Old Testament, the word is adonai, indicating one who holds authority.  In Greek, the language of St. Paul and the New Testament, the word is kyrios, meaning master or ruler, one who decides for others.  In Latin, the traditional language of Roman Catholics, the word is dominus, pointing to an owner, one who doesn’t just use something but possesses it.  Our English word, lord, comes from an old expression: the loaf-ward, the keeper of the bread, the one in control of doling out the provisions.

This little vocabulary lesson makes it pretty clear: to be lord means to be in charge, to be the boss, to call all the shots.

I think we can all easily agree that Lord, then, is a very appropriate name for God, who holds supreme authority, who rules as King of creation, who provides us with all we need.  But to speak of God as Lord of the universe holds him off at a safe distance, doesn’t it?  On this feast of the Holy Trinity, we often focus on how far God is beyond us—an immense mystery well beyond the ability for our mere mortal minds to conceive.  Today, I want us to consider just how personal it needs to be when we call God our Lord.

I’m sure you remember last November’s election, and how some protests quickly sprang up against President Trump with the slogan, “not my president.”  You don’t have to like Mr. Trump, or agree with what he says, or even abide by his directives, but that doesn’t change a simple fact: he’s the duly elected president of this country, and your personal preferences cannot change that.  It is quite similar when we say that God is the Lord.  God cannot be the Lord of all things if he is not also the Lord of your things—your every little thing.  Choosing to live as if things were otherwise doesn’t alter the reality one bit.

To call God your Lord is not theoretical, but a very personal affair.  It means giving God permission.  It means bending your will to his.  It means letting him set the agenda for your entire life—in matters both great and small.  God wants to be Lord of more than just this one hour a week.  As God tells us of himself repeatedly in the scriptures: he is a jealous God.  He won’t settle for second best.  God has no interest in being your “senior advisor.”  He will be Lord, or nothing.  God doesn’t give us suggestions, but commandments.  God isn’t waiting around to provide you with affirmation; he longs to give you direction.  As an old bumper sticker puts it, “If God is your copilot, you need to swap seats!”

God wants to take complete charge of your life, not because he’s bossy, not because he has control issues, not because he’s bent on pushing you around.  God wants to be your Lord because he loves you.  God made you—as you may recall from your own catechism days—to know, love, and serve him in this life, and to be happy with him forever in the next.  To follow his will is the shortest, surest route to holiness and happiness. 

But it’s so very, very hard to do!  You know that.  I know that.  And God knows that, too.  Which is why God sent us his beloved Son—not to condemn the world, but to save it.  In Jesus, we’re given the perfect example of total obedience to God’s will—all the way to the Cross; living and dying in our human flesh, he shows us the way, and assures us that following it is possible.  And God didn’t stop there!  As we celebrated last Sunday, God also sent us his Holy Spirit, to dwell within us, to guide us always, to fill us with grace—giving us God’s own strength in place of our own weakness.

If you’re wondering if God is really the Lord of your life, here’s a little test…  Take a look at your bank statement.  Where does most of your money go?  Take a look at your schedule.  How do you spend the majority of your time?  What’s the first thing you think about when your roll out of bed in the morning?  What’s the last thing on your mind when you’re falling asleep at night?  Whose opinion concerns you most when you’re making a big decision?  The answer to these basic questions provides pretty good insight into who (or what) is truly the lord of your life.

I don’t know of anyone who actually calls God Howard, but we all call him Lord again and again.  Let’s make sure it’s more than just a name.  Give God permission.  Let him take full control of your life.

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