“WHAT THEN SHALL WE CALL YOU?” (Mt 7:21, 24-27): 06 December 2007 (Thursday)

“WHAT THEN SHALL WE CALL YOU?”  (Mt 7:21, 24-27):  06 December 2007 (Thursday)

Reading:  www.nccbuscc.org/nab/120607.shtml

Some years ago, American singer Joan Osborne had a controverial hit song called “One of Us”–a song most recently used as the theme for the TV series “Joan of Arcadia.”  The first lines go:  “If God had a name, what would it be, and would you call it to his face?”

The gospel today warns us against simply calling Jesus “Lord” to his face.  Calling him Lord just isn’t going to be enough to get us to heaven.  So my question is:  If calling him “Lord” isn’t enough, what name does he prefer?  What then shall we call him?

I remember when I was a first-year novice twenty years ago, our novice master repeatedly told us that prayer shouldn’t just be about talking to God, but should involve listening to him.  So I tried doing just that:  I sat in the chapel to pray, listening for God’s voice.  I waited and waited.  Each day I went to a different chapel, prayed in a different position, closed my eyes and knitted my brows in deep concentration, but all I heard was the sound of my breathing and my own distracted wandering thoughts.  I couldn’t sense God’s presence.  I even tried using a mantra–repeating Christ’s name like some magical incantation–but all to no avail.

Not until after several weeks of hard work at it did I finally–by God’s grace– receive some satisfactory prayer experience.  Those first few weeks, however, taught me a valuable lesson not only about prayer, but also about the Lord:  He is truly transcendent.  We can never capture him and conveniently contain him in a box.  As the mystics say, God is “like the wind that blows where it pleases.”  Although he is present everywhere, our sense of his presence, our experience of him, is a gift he gives only when he wills it and only to those he wishes, whether deserving or not.  The most we can do is to wait humbly and patiently.

Today’s reading warns us against being content with simply calling him Lord.  Uttering his name will not automatically summon his presence and will not guarantee our salvation.  But our Lord also shares a secret with us:  If we really want to be close to him, more important than what we say and what we pray is what we do:  to “do the will of the Father”–i.e., to love and serve our neighbor.  In a word, to follow Jesus.

The music video of Joan Osborne’s “One of Us” features a carnival where every sort of odd-looking people stand behind a standee of Michaelangelo’s Creator and stick their faces into the hole where God’s face has been cut out.  I think it tells us that because God has truly become one of us, if we want to find him, we need to seek him in our neighbor.  His name is really not just “Lord.”  His name is also “brother.”

(image:  www.hotmixradio.fr)

Note:  I’ve uploaded the song if you wish to listen to it.  The lyrics are as follows:

ONE OF US (Joan Osborne)
(lyricsondemand.com)

If God had a name, what would it be
And would you call it to his face
If you were faced with him in all his glory
What would you ask if you had just one question

And yeah yeah God is great yeah yeah God is good
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home

If God had a face what would it look like
And would you want to see
If seeing meant that you would have to believe
In things like heaven and in jesus and the saints and all the prophets

And yeah yeah god is great yeah yeah god is good
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home
He’s trying to make his way home
Back up to heaven all alone
Nobody calling on the phone
Except for the pope maybe in rome

And yeah yeah God is great yeah yeah God is good
yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah

What if God was one of us
Just a slob like one of us
Just a stranger on the bus
Trying to make his way home
Just trying to make his way home
Like a holy rolling stone
Back up to heaven all alone
Just trying to make his way home
Nobody calling on the phone
Except for the Pope maybe in Rome

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