There were more than a few things that I found somewhat unnerving as I began to immerse myself in Catholic practice and culture. One of them was hearing Catholics refer to Jesus as “Our Lord”. It is perhaps a terrible thing to say but the first thing it drew to mind was the way Voldemort’s (or for those of you who have gone a little overboard in your Potter-mania, He-who-must-not-be-named) followers referred to him as “The Dark
Lord”. Then it struck me that like Voldemort’s title, this particular title was not something just anyone used. Rather, it seemed to denote a certain kinship among those who used it and I certainly did not feel like part of that group at that point. A puzzling state of affairs, to be sure.
This perplexing title caused me to consider the way we, as Protestants, referred to Jesus. More often than not, it was just that, Jesus. If a person was making a particularly spiritual
point, I suppose they would say “my Savior”. Sometimes if there was disagreement among believers over a hotly disputed issue, a person would put forth his opinion by saying, “Well, that’s not my Jesus.” Or “That’s not the Jesus I worship.” That sort of pronouncement always greatly annoyed and caused me slight discomfort; it just sounded…dissonant. It didn’t seem right that a person could assert that they alone spoke for Jesus, when what it really seemed to come down to was whose interpretation of the Bible was better.
Even though we all would agree, as Protestants, that when it comes down to the bare essentials, we all worship the same Lord, it still didn’t make sense to me that we could continue then to divide him up: My Jesus would be in favor of same-sex marriage. My Jesus would be a vigilante on the Mexican border. My Jesus would vote Libertarian.
Over time, I began to soften to the designation of “Our Lord.” It no longer made me tense up or feel unnerved, and now that I am an “official” Catholic, I can say that I finally understand why Catholics use that term. It’s the Eucharist. Jesus comes to us in the form of Bread and Wine and by doing so, he makes himself real to all of us. “Our Lord”
is the rallying cry by which we recognize his gift to us, his Church. He is Our Lord because we, his Church, are united by the Blessed Sacrament.
I am not saying there are not disagreements among Catholics regarding various issues, but I am saying that there is a special kind of unity because we share in Communion. “The fruit of all the sacraments belongs to all the faithful. All the sacraments are sacred links
uniting the faithful with one another and binding them to Jesus Christ, and above all Baptism, the gate by which we enter into the Church. The communion of saints must be understood as the communion of the sacraments. . . . The name ‘communion’ can be applied to all of them, for they unite us to God. . . . But this name is better suited to the Eucharist than to any other, because it is primarily the Eucharist that brings this communion about.” (CCC 950).
I think one unique consequence of this rationale is that the Mass is a place for everyone. That includes children. Now, I know there is a fine line between a squeaking baby and a virtual barnyard, but I do find it very encouraging that babies and children are always present in Mass. I think it is because it is recognized that children are included in the “our” of Christ’s Lordship. It doesn’t appear to me that the general attitude is that children are potential annoyances to someone who is attempting to commune with “their” Lord. (I’m not saying that people never encounter cranky, kid-hating people at Mass, but it doesn’t seem to be a general cultural attitude) This is one concrete area where I see that theology does really play out in every area of behavior and practice.
You may be thinking at this point that I have completely eliminated the personal aspect of a relationship with Jesus. This is pretty much the bedrock idea of Protestantism- especially for those offshoots of the Radical Reformation. Prior to finding out the truth about Catholicism, some of the words I associated with Catholics and their relationship to Jesus were: “exclusively corporate”,” impersonal”, and “mediated by a third party”. Imagine my surprise when, in my inquiring phase, I attended a Catholic Bible study with a friend
and the priest who led it constantly referred to his friendship with Jesus. I mean, this guy was continually imploring people to have a friendship (can you imagine???) with Jesus. At the time, I found it somewhat strange that his suggested path to being close to Jesus was, beside reading the Bible and praying, through attending Mass frequently and Eucharistic Adoration, but again, now it all makes sense.
Participating in the Mass has really made it come together for me. The visual picture, when the priest holds up the host and says, “This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper,” reminds me that he is being offered for all of us. I am not sitting in my own little pew in my own little world eating my own little cracker. I am standing and walking forward, with the rest of the people around me, to receive the Body of Christ from the hands of another and to offer my “Amen.” It is, at once, a personal and a corporate experience.
To cloister myself in my head and selfishly grab at Jesus and stuff him in my own box for my own use is, in effect, to smother him. What good is Jesus if he is only “yours” or “mine” and not “ours” as well? It may seem counter-intuitive, but in finding Christ in the Eucharist, I have never felt closer to Our Lord. He has never seemed more real, more present, more human, or more divine.