THERE IS A NEW DC superhero movie coming out called Shazam! I remember watching the Saturday morning TV show with the same name back in the 1970s. Billy Batson, a 14-year-old, is given super powers and all he has to do to call on those powers is to say the name “Shazam!” I would run around as a little boy saying that as well, hoping to get some super powers.
For whatever reason, that word stuck with me throughout the years. I was fascinated how one word could have such power. In this Sunday’s reading, we learn of a name and a word with even greater power: God’s Holy Name.
Moses, the great prophet who leads Israel out of Egypt, is living a ho-hum existence as a shepherd when he sees the burning bush. He is fascinated that the bush is not consumed by the fire. As he approaches, God speaks to him and tells him to come no closer and to remove his sandals. He is on holy ground and Moses is in the presence of God. God announces that He has heard the cry of the Israelites and is sending Moses to lead them out of slavery. Moses asks God to reveal God’s name.
Powerful and Sacred Name
The gods of Egypt were many and had names that conjure up different images. God responds with a simple phrase, a form of the verb “to be.” Simple and profound, God’s name is I AM, in Hebrew YHWH (Yahweh). This powerful and sacred name cannot be used lightly.
In our English translations of the Bible it is not used, but substituted with LORD, in capital letters and the Hebrew word for God, Adonai, (in our Bibles translated Lord with lower case) is used for when discussing God.
In 2008, Pope Benedict XVI pronounced that the name Yahweh could not be used in songs or prayers to respect the Holy Name of God, out of deference to ancestors in the faith.
In this theophany on Mount Sinai, God reveals that He is not like the other gods. He is the only God who is. He has no beginning and no end. He always has been and always will be. There is no more powerful name and, by believing in this name, Moses is able to obtain the freedom of the Israelites.
Our second reading reminds of how God, in His great power, led the people into the desert, but they failed to appreciate that power. St. Paul wants the Corinthians, and now us, to learn from the mistakes of those who did not appreciate the power of God. We should not grumble against God but see the good that the Lord has bestowed on us.
Our Lord Jesus in the Gospel points out that just because some people suffer a gruesome death, it does not mean they were bigger sinners than anyone else. God is not so arbitrary to single out individuals for punishment.
The Lord calls on people to repent and change their lives because you will perish and suffer not just an earthly death, but an eternal one. The parable of the fig tree illustrates how we must bear fruit, show how our faith is not insular but helps produce. The Lord is not pleased when we do not live our faith and when it is not fruitful, it withers and dies.
One of the ways we can produce good fruit is by calling on the name of the Lord. In my own prayer, my most common way of referring to God is by saying “Lord.” “Lord, I adore you, Lord, I praise you, Lord, I worship you, Lord, I love you.”
Often during the course of the day, I will pray words like these and others. Sometimes I will just say “Lord” and that is enough. I do not receive fantasy superpowers but I do receive something even greater: the power of God.
Readings for the Third Sunday in Lent – Cycle C
Psalm 95: 63:1-8
1 Corinthians 10:1-13
Father O’Connor is the pastor of Blessed Virgin Mary Help of Christians parish in Woodside.