“May the Force be with you!”

No doubt, many of us remember that greeting from the “Star Wars” movies. It is one of many theological themes that run through that series.

Belief in a supreme authority or some higher powers is almost universal, even if such forces are regarded as nothing more than an impersonal reality, which is still above our comprehension — or perhaps forever beyond it.

The English word “power” is somewhat ambiguous. It is, one might say, too inclusive. Power can come from legitimate authority, as when we speak of the legislative, executive and judicial powers, which the U.S. Constitution grants the government by the consent of the governed. But it can also mean an illegitimate and arbitrary force, such as the power of a terrorist agency or a tyranny armed, say, with nuclear weapons. The word “superpower” often has a negative connotation of arrogance and desire to dominate.

Power, then, can mean the ability to do some good or to accomplish something creative and life-giving. But it can stand for something that enslaves and generates fear by sucking out, as it were, all of the oxygen in the room, stifling the freedoms and creativity of all under its control.

The most recent English translation of the Mass contains many examples of more literal conformity to its largely Latin parentage and the biblical roots of the liturgy, often using more mysterious words and phrases that, at the same time, challenge us to accept the “otherness” of God and angelic beings.

We no longer, for example, say, “God of power and might,” in the “Holy, Holy, Holy” (or “Sanctus”) after the preface. Instead, the latest English translation brings us closer to the Latin “Dominus Deus Sabaoth.” The new translation renders this as, “Lord, God of Hosts.”

“Sabaoth” is from the Hebrew and refers to armies or legions of troops. The sense is that these “hosts” are the legions of angels in heaven. To say that God is the Lord of these legions implies not only that God has power and dominion, but also that the power of God is legitimate, authoritative and worthy of honor and praise.

The Spanish translation has also been changed from “Dios del universo” (“God of the universe”) to “Dios de los ejércitos,” which is roughly similar to the current English rendition. Interestingly, German and Slavic language texts were always more faithful to Latin and biblical roots, preserving the mystery of the Hebrew word “Sabaoth.”

An appreciation of God’s eternal, infinite and unfathomable nature is just as important for our spirituality as a deep awareness of the humanity of Jesus Christ, who becomes like us in all things but sin. We not only love Jesus as our brother and teacher, but worship Him as our Lord and master.

To this day, it is not customary in most Jewish congregations to use the name of God whenever it comes up in the Hebrew Scriptures as “YHWH.”

Although some English translations, such as the Jerusalem Bible, translate these four Hebrew letters as “Yahweh,” it would be highly unusual to hear anyone attempt to pronounce it in a Jewish prayer setting. Instead, one would hear “Adonai” or references to “Ha-Shem” (“The Name”).

God is much more than a force, a power or even a creator. The mystery of the Trinity — by which we address God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the Sign of the Cross — conveys the dynamic, relational and self-giving essence of God, although it can never completely explain or exhaust the divine mystery.

“God is love,” as St. John says in his Epistles, comes closest to describing the God of Judeo-Christian revelation. Something in God’s essence is continually seeking a relationship with the people and with each of us personally. This is something so unique and characteristic in our faith and it is reflected not only in how we pray, privately and liturgically, but also in how we live our lives. (More on this in future columns.)

Ultimately, the key to knowing God is to know and love Jesus Christ. He is the fullness of God’s self-revelation in every way. It is not just His words and gestures, His teachings and works. He is the Word Himself. The signs He performed during His earthly ministry and continues to work in the world through the sacramental life of the Church are manifestations of His merciful, healing, uplifting presence: in short, continual actions flowing from God’s nature as the first and ultimate lover.

God is so much more than “the Force.” God is the reality, the being who makes and shapes everything, who enables all that exists to become and remain real. Some theologians have attempted to convey this by saying that God is “the ground of all being.” My personal preference is to think of God as a beating heart at the center of all creation and every action and energy in the universe.

Jesus Himself told us that He does not address us as slaves or servants, but as friends. Being friends to one another and all of God’s creation is a way of living our friendship with the God who “friends” us.

Being “friended” by God does imply a tremendous, humbling attitude on the part of God towards us, something that many religions just cannot accept — that God would or even could so condescend as to come so close to our humanity and without losing an iota of divine sovereignty. This is a central mystery of our faith: the Incarnation.

But, if being our friend is what Jesus wants and asks from us in the name of God, who are you or I to refuse Him?