Ottawa resident Roshene Lawson shared this very personal reflection at St. Joseph’s Parish in Sandy Hill on Father’s Day. In it she speaks about the recent death of her father, her complicated relationship with him and how all of this connects to her faith.
Happy Father’s Day (weekend)…and Happy Trinity Sunday (weekend)! My own father, a Baptist preacher, would have liked to know that I was sharing a reflection today.
On this Trinity Sunday, we focus on 3 persons in one God…Some describe the Trinity as arcane and inaccessible doctrine. Franciscan Priest Richard Rohr writes a lot about the Trinity and describes this concept of God as virtually “missing in action” throughout Christianity.
But Rohr doesn’t want any of us individually or as faith communities to give up on attempting to engage the trinity in new and meaningful ways today. He goes on to say it is understood that the Trinity is a mystery…but that “mystery isn’t something that you cannot understand; rather, it is something that you can endlessly understand. There is no point at which you can say, “I’ve got it.” Always and forever, mystery gets you! In the same way, we don’t hold God in our pocket; rather God holds us and knows our internal shape and deepest identity.”
My own father died earlier this year and I can honestly say that our relationship was a mystery.
You see, my father was absent and so my relationship with him was non-existent… and then complicated and sometimes painful later on. Fortunately, we were able to reconcile – on Father’s Day, two years before he died, but being taught in school about God the Father being so loving and ever-present, was a concept I really couldn’t connect to. So, the Trinity was a great blessing for me because it meant God had backups that I was better able to relate to. God’s son, Jesus who loved unconditionally and was welcoming of all who came to him – especially sinners! Now that’s a concept of God that I could embrace, even as a child. And the Spirit? My uncle Stephen, a Catholic priest, would describe the holy spirit as a friend to help you along life, a guide through life.
And even with my own challenge to always connect with God as Father, the scriptures today bring to life the Trinity in important ways…
In the first reading, we hear that Wisdom tells us about God our Creator – the incredible power and wisdom in God’s creation – the balance in the universe and of God’s deep love for humanity.
In the letter to the Romans, Paul speaks to us about the peace we find in God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit – that as humankind, we have hope because God’s love is constantly present in us and that we are able to bring that love to others.
In the Gospel, John shows us Jesus talking to the disciples of the Holy Spirit and how they will find support in the spirit and how they will be able to act because of the spirit – even when Christ is no longer among them.
I think the very best image of the Trinity I have ever seen, was in the movie The Shack. It’s a story of a father whose very young daughter has been murdered, and his journey to acceptance and peace. Right after the tragedy, the father begins to distance himself from his family and is very (understandably) angry at the world for what has happened to his daughter. He wanders in search of answers and suddenly finds himself in a cottage with three people; an African American woman, the Mama… or Poppa as she is called…looking after everyone and loving unconditionally.
Then there is a gentle, middle eastern man who accompanies the distraught father in his pain; and finally, an asian woman named Saraya which means “wind” who has a gentle and calming presence and helps lead the way as this broken-hearted father seeks answers.
The man suddenly realizes he’s in the presence of God and asks “which one of you is…” and they all answer together “I am.” The three of them are, as Richard Rohr describes it, a dance of God, one flowing into the other but each with distinct “personalities” or complimentary functions. Again, it’s why I love the idea of a Trinity. Something for everyone!
So, what does this mean to us? How do we understand the Trinity? Why does it even matter?
It matters because the Trinity is a call to action for us – within us. A call to love unconditionally – do I only love those who think like me? who look like me? who believe the same things I do? It’s a call to welcome all – do I really welcome everyone and how do I accompany those in need? Do I only accompany people I feel are worthy? Do I pay attention to what God is showing me or do I look away because what I’m being shown means I have to be a bit uncomfortable.
A few weeks ago, my daughter Keira was one of the lectors during mass and there was a disruption that would have made most of us uncomfortable, but she seemed so calm and collected. When I asked her on the way home how she managed to keep so calm in the face of that disruption, one of her answers to me was “Mom, we’re supposed to be a welcoming community – that means everyone, even if it makes us uncomfortable sometimes.” Talk about following the spirit and being a welcoming presence!
So, maybe the Trinity for us is what and who we can be…children of God, called to be a loving and welcoming presence.
Richard Rohr states that “the Jewish prophets say it the best – ‘To know the Lord and His ways’ has very little to do with intelligence and very much to do with confidence and surrender.”
So, as we affirm our faith in the creed shortly, let’s be confident in stating our belief in the mystery of the Trinity – surrendering ourselves to what that really means….a call to action to live the Trinity within each of us. A mystery constantly unfolding as the spirit declares it to us.