I am sharing a homily by Pastor Dick Dahl in my recent absence–he has given us a great message here–I will use it as a Lenten reflection for this week–enjoy!
When I last spoke with you in November, I shared many thoughts from the Franciscan priest, Richard Rohr, who is Director of the Center for Contemplation and Action in Albuquerque, New Mexico. I am continuing to share much of his thinking in this homily.
The dictionary describes the word “God” as a noun, but it should be as a verb. Father Richard Rohr writes, “We’ve been worshipping an image of God that is not the God of Jesus. Today’s Gospel reveals the God of Jesus when from a cloud the Father says of the man Jesus, “This is my Son, my beloved.”
A few hours before his imprisonment and death, Jesus promised that he and the Father would send the Spirit to us—to guide when we are confused, to console when we are in darkness, to strengthen when we are overwhelmed, to make us one with the Father and Him. The essence of God is a triune relationship.
The Spirit draws us into the dynamic, ever-creating love of the Father and the Son. This intimate and immanent indwelling envelops us and, moreover, it pervades the entire universe. The Spirit reveals that all of creation reflects the relational nature of God. It makes perfect sense that the universe contain the relation-al imprint of the relational love of the Trinity that created it.
Scientists and contemplatives alike are confirming that the fundamental nature of reality is relational, from inner quantum reality to the furthest galaxies of the cosmos. The Trinitarian revelation starts with the nature of loving as the very nature of being!
People are hungry for connection. Two thirds of Millenials who say they identify with no religion nevertheless say they believe in God or some ultimate Source. They are forming new centers of social community in their attempt to meet that need. We need relationship with God and one another.
Like Abraham and his wife Sarah in the first reading from Genesis today, we also are called to take part in the journey which is our life. We have left the familiarity of our childhood into the present. We face an unknown future.
But what we know, by the indwelling Spirit, is that whatever our present circumstances, we are part of the Trinity’s forcefield, the divine dance, the relationship with Father, Son and Spirit that embraces us in relationship with each other and with the entire universe.
Father Rohr says that God’s mystery rests in mutuality. A Trinitarian person lives in the mutual relationship that God is—the relationship that God has gratuitously drawn us into. The Trinity is a participative mystery.
Relationships are what Jesus spoke of by word and act. “Whenever you fed, gave water, clothing and comfort to the least of my brethren,” he said, “you gave it to me.” He called those who were despised by others—the tax collector, the prostitute, the leper, the Samaritan—to have a meal with him, to touch him, to experience his love, his respect, his understanding and acceptance.
The relational essence of our God draws us to look at our relationships, or lack of them, with the people caught in the web of our lives. As most of you know, I have a close relationship with people in the Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship. Many of them present themselves as former Catholics and former Christians. I struggled in my relationship with one man in the group who despite, or perhaps because of, his Catholic education from elementary school through four years at a Jesuit university, repeatedly expresses his distain for organized religion. However, another member of the group who sees himself as agnostic, has been an instrument of the Holy Spirit for me by his pointing out to me the principle that has guided his life through fifty years as a social worker: Relationships are more important than what people say they believe. By valuing the friendship with the person I had had problems with, regardless of his beliefs, our relationship has persevered and grown.
I found the same to be true with a cousin of mine whose political beliefs offended me deeply and alienated me. Fortunately my agnostic friend’s words and the message of his life has helped me to value and nurture the relationship with my cousin over the beliefs that he expressed. Words are important, but love is more important.
The Triune God is why we must not revert to clannish tribalism or nationalism. We have a divinely given relationship with every person in the world—no matter how they may seem to differ from us. We must not let differences frighten us nor allow us to see them as “other.” We are called to discover and celebrate the more important ways we are alike.
The Spirit draws us by the overwhelming love of the Father and the Son. Each time we inhale life-giving air, we can think of inhaling the loving embrace of our Trinitarian God. Each time we exhale, we can respond to that gift with our own grateful love.
Let this prayer by Father Rohr resonate in you:
God for us, we call you Father.
God alongside us, we call you Jesus.
God within us, we call you Holy Spirit.
You are the eternal mystery that enables, enfolds, and enlivens all things, Even us and even me.
Every name falls short of your goodness and greatness.
We can only see you in what is.
We ask for such perfect seeing—
As it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.
Amen. So be it.