Trinity Sunday – Another Repost

(Another repost from last year…)

Yesterday I put up a long post about Trinity Sunday. It is a study in relationship and it is a bit wordy!

Today I am reflecting on a more simple image that has been influenced by my friend Lindy, by some work from Richard Rohr and from Fr. Pat’s homily that I heard at the 4pm liturgy.

Lindy suggested that we call this Imagination Sunday… and I think that imagination is at the heart of our faith, the heart of the Trinity, so I like the idea of focusing on imagination.

Richard Rohr and Father Pat both spoke about images and dynamics, although each a bit differently.

I am pondering God as Father – but God also as Creator, which implies power. Not power in the negative way that we often perceive it, but the power to imagine and to create, with great love.

I am pondering Jesus as Son – Jesus as human, vulnerable, weak. Not weak in a negative way that is easy to jump to but rather weak as in human. Vulnerable is really a better way to put it. Our culture rejects vulnerability, our faith demands it.

I am pondering the Holy Spirit as… Well, not as a Dove, not as a Flame. I am pondering the ruah, which means spirit and is feminine. Now to say that feminine is not always held up or considered as part of the prevailing male image of God is a whole other blog post or more!

God and Jesus are a horizon and that horizon is linear, the addition of the Spirit makes for a dyamic that mediates the Divine and Human natures and create the Trinity.

No, I’m not even sure of what I just wrote, but in my heart, in my imagination, I find comfort it in its truth.

Here is a lovely song for Trinity Sunday, courtesy of Paul Snatchko, who had it on his blog. Paul started out as a blog friend, as did Lindy. Having met them both I am grateful! I bring this up because our faith is incarnational and relational… the heart of the Trinity.

Grace – Not A "Begrudged Mop Up Exercise"

January 2010 will go down as a time in my life when writing did not come easily to me. Part of it is time – or a lack of it. Part of it is… I don’t know. I wish I could explain it; I wish I could lean into it and keep writing. Not much comes.

Today however, I read this link from the Center for Action and Contemplation, home of my favorite Franciscan, Richard Rohr, OFM. It got me thinking about a lot of things and I will make some attempt to write about them here.

Rohr starts out with this (emphasis mine):

God fills in the gaps of human deficiency by a great act of mercy and compassion, and the word for that great act for St. Paul is “Christ.”  For him Christ is the name for God’s great compassion, God’s great plan, God’s readiness to fill in the gaps of human sin, brokenness, poverty, and failure.  It is not a begrudged mop-up exercise after the fact, but as John Duns Scotus taught us Franciscans, “Christ was the very first idea in the mind of God.”  “All was created through him and for him …and he holds all things in unity and reconciles all within himself” (Colossians 1:16-17, 20).  Christ is God’s master plan and blueprint for history!  Salvation was the plan from the beginning, and not a mere response to our mistakes.

God fills in… I love this beginning because it points to a God that loves us and so generously cares for us. This is the opposite of a meaner view of God, put forth by so many and accepted by so many. In fact, accepted by people who are not even sure that God exists!

I think this also addresses a school of religious thought that puts the focus on us as humans. If we do all this heavy lifting, from prayer to whatever actions and devotions, it is as if we were cleaning up with the Cosmic Swiffer.

Make no mistake, I think that our actions matter – but not because we are changing God! No God is always changing us, when we allow such change.

Rohr continues:

So why do we make the Gospel into a cheap worthiness contest? After all, we have all fallen short of the glory (Romans 3:23, 5:12) and all are saved by mercy (Romans 11:32-36). Even Mary proclaims it of herself (four times!) in her “Magnificat” (Luke 1:47-55). Popes and priests, presidents and politicians are all saved “en Cristo” and by mercy and in our undeserved state. No exceptions.


God does not love us if we change. God loves us so that we can change. These are two very different scenarios, but most of Christian history has sadly chosen the first.

Not if we can change, but rather so we can change. This isn’t a cleanup operation, it is an invitation to become the very people that God has loved into being. This is an invitation to respond to the grace that is all around us.

How this propels me on a January morning and makes the embers of my writing fire begin to glow again.

Advent Evening Prayer – A Homiletic Reflection December 22, 2009

Luke 1:46-56 The Magnificat

We had our last night of Advent Evening Prayer tonight.  It has been so lovely- very prayerful and contemplative, very intimate. We had more people in the chapel than I thought given that Christmas is 3 days away and it is so cold outside.

I was happy to see so many of my friends as I felt very nervous. A lot of my St. Edward’s friends were there and one of my friends from where I work attended too. So did my boss – that really touched me beyond words. He had a crazy and busy day – a priest 3 days away from Christmas does not really have time to go to another church, 20 minutes away, to hear his secretary peach. But there he was, God bless him.

My friend Chris gratefully agreed to proclaim the reading I had chosen, which was the Gospel from today (see link below photo), Luke 1:46-56, the Magnificat.  So without further adieu, here is my sermon. These are my notes, I really did not read them word for word.  Also – the bolding helped me to not read but to simply glance and pull out what I needed to pull out!

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“How good of you, God” the journal entry began, “to make truth a relationship instead of an idea. Now there is room between you and me for growth, for conversation, for exception, for the infinite understandings created by intimacy, for the possibility to give back and to give something to You—as if I could give anything back to You.” (From a journal of priest and author Richard Rohr.)

As many of you know, I spend a lot of time at Catholic blogs and other online faith forums. One of the arguments that you frequently encounter in these places, launched in the comment sections of the blogs, is about who is following the rules or not, who is in or out, who is a good Catholic or a bad Catholic. It is a little crazy and actually upsetting. Hey – I’m not saying that rules are bad – we need rules. I am saying that without relationship, rules alone are just rules.

That is why the words I opened with, taken from Rohr’s journal, which remind us of something we often need reminding of… that the truth is relational and not simply an abstract idea or a set of rules alone. This – along with the Incarnation itself, are the ultimate game changers of Christianity. It is groundbreaking, nontraditional and filled with risk.

This notion of truth as a relationship is found in the words of The Magnificat from Luke’s Gospel that we just heard. The Magnificat is all about relationship – about what God has done for Mary, and subsequently has done for all of us and how Mary responds, how we are all invited to respond. Along with that, remember that Mary doesn’t just go spouting these words off into nowhere or writing them in a journal… They are relational – spoken directly to her cousin, and based on Elizabeth reaction to Mary’s pregnant presence. Pay attention because these words are essential – they are groundbreaking, nontraditional and filled with risk.

Of course the very notion of the Incarnation, the reality of the birth of Christ is – groundbreaking, nontraditional and filled with risk. And how very sad that in many ways we do everything humanly possible to make it anything but.

When God is a rule and not a relationship, when God is out there or up there or over there – and not in here, it is pretty easy to end up with a less-than-perfect situation. Then it becomes a relationship made of fear and exchange, a relationship that is transactional but not transforming, a relationship of paranoia, not metanoia. It creates a kind of distance between God and us – and that distance does not nurture or feed the intimacy required of our dealings with God and with how we are all asked to bring forth and give birth to the Word.

Of course, the intimate relationships we constantly seek and yet assiduously avoid, are often groundbreaking, nontraditional and filled with risk. So why should our dealings with God be any different?

I used to know a priest who frequently referred to “vending machine God.” We as humans tend to like that kind of God because the rules are pretty straightforward.

Seemingly all you have to do is have plenty of quarters and the desire to stand in front of the machine inserting them on a regular basis. The risk is low, the reward seems clear and in the end, it seems we can control our fate. After all, we can always get another roll of quarters.

But there we are – back at the Magnificat. It unfolds as a key element of the incarnation – relationship. This renders vending machine God as useless. God doesn’t want our quarters. God wants us – God actually wants relationship with us. Mary truly got that and this is how she continued the yes that began with the Annunciation:

“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.

Mary of the Magnificat does not cower and shake. She is not like some obsequious little lady dressed in blue, saying, “aw shucks you shouldn’t have and I’m not worthy.” No Mary stands in relationship with God in a way that one of the nuns of my childhood might have termed bold.

Real relationship and intimacy require boldness – boldness is just what is needed for things that are groundbreaking, nontraditional and filled with risk. Great risk offers great reward, but it is scary. No wonder that there is a well-worn path leading away from risk and straight to the vending machine.

God however, calls each one of us to this very sort of boldness, a boldness that is not arrogant, but is rather cooperation with grace. God initiates and we are invited to respond by participating and responding as the people that God has loved into being.

God has fallen in love with us and invites us to fall in love with God, over and over again. It makes me want to swoon… and to run. Talk about groundbreaking, nontraditional and filled with risk… Can’t we just have the vending machine God please?

I don’t know about you, but that might be more simple. I could bow out and walk away, claiming that I didn’t have quarters or that I didn’t want what was in the machine. Or – if I changed my mind, I could prepare for vending machine duty and start pumping the quarters into the slot.

To love and be loved, to stand in the greatness of what God has created in me, to accept the seed of the Word within and bring it to life, as Mary did, as we are invited to do… It is groundbreaking, nontraditional and filled with risk; it just might be too much.

If we do respond, we find ourselves on much more challenging terrain than we possibly imagined. That is when we have to remember Mary’s words and know that we are called to proclaim the same greatness of God… every day.

“How good of you, God” the journal entry began, “to make truth a relationship instead of an idea,” said Richard Rohr.

Can we remember that 3 days from now, when we celebrate the birth of that Truth as Jesus Christ?

Why I Like Both/And Better Than Either/Or

H/T to Jan at Yearning for God, for this one. She was writing about someone I quote and write about often, Richard Rohr, OFM.

Sometimes people write to me and say that they love Richard Rohr. Sometimes people say that he is a self-serving bag of wind. I say both/and!

Today my friend Paul sent me something that I had an either/or reaction to. And he showed me, in a spirit of friendship and fidelity, the both/and of what he sent me.

Life is good that way, isn’t it?

Very both/and. And it would take a dog to help us figure that out!

The Third Eye – More Musings Helped Along by Richard Rohr and The Naked Now Book Tour

One of my ministries is a blog that I write for my parish. This piece is cross posted there. If you want to have a look, see The Parish Blog of St. Edward the Confessor.

If you are at all like me, you may have thought that the idea of a “third eye” is a concept of new age thinking and practice. Not exactly!

When I was listening to Richard Rohr, OFM last week, it was interesting to learn that there is also a Catholic foundation for this way of “seeing.” I should not be surprised, given the rich, full corpus of Catholic thought and learning through the centuries. (I am always greatly saddened when others, Catholics often among them, think of Catholicism as some tightly bound ideology that is narrow and harsh. I do understand why some might think that however.)


Richard Rohr, during his talk for the Naked Now book tour gave some insight into the “third eye” way of seeing. Hugo of St. Victor and Richard of St. Victor, both 12th century Franciscan mystics, expressed this way of prayer and being.

Richard of St. Victor wrote of the oculus carnis (eye of the senses), oculus rationis (eye of reason) and the oculus fidei (eye of faith). It is the eye of faith that is the “third eye.” This eye takes us beyond what we can physically see and experience, what we know through reason, to what is both beyond and within. This eye helps us to see and know God.

Beyond and within – note those words. If you read my Rohr inspired post from the other day you recall the need to leave duality at the door and enter into the ambiguity of both/and to experience God and the world at a deeper level. This reminds of a labrynth – a journey that might seem to go nowhere, yet goes everywhere.

Consider the Cross of Jesus Christ… Great suffering and great love in one nexus that changed (and continues to change) the world in ways that we could never imagine. Follow that with death followed by resurrection, which is where the Cross leads to and from. Perhaps you can see the numerous non-dualistic paths of the both/and way of seeing and how deeply Christian it is.

This is why we so desperately need the oculus fidei. The oculus carnis or the eye of the sense sees the resurrection. The oculus rationis or eye of reason denies this. It is only through the oculus fidei or eye of faith that we can begin to follow the Risen Christ.

If you give this any thought at all, it is the ultimate cognitive dissonance. And yet for many of us, it is the Truth and the Way. No wonder people think we are nuts! The only way for things to make sense at all to have them make no real sense at all. Which is of course ultimately the only thing that makes sense. Are you still with me here?

Richard Rohr, in his newest book further plumbs these depths of mystery and contemplation. During his talk, he elucidated the need to seek the place in between. It is no coincidence that Rohr runs the Center for Action and Contemplation, another place for the oculus fidei. In order to have action, we must feed it with contemplation… and vice-versa.

It must be noted that Rohr diverted from his talk to relay a story of giving an 8 day retreat at the Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani, where Thomas Merton was a monk. Rohr kept mentioning Merton and clearly the monks seemed disinterested. Finally he asked the abbot why and he was informed that Merton had told his brother Benedictines that they were not contemplatives but rather introverts! And perhaps that is the bitter fruit of dualistic thought… One is an introvert or an activist, but where is one’s heart in the end? It seems it might be found in this place of both/and, lest we be lost in the either/or, which seems to go nowhere.

One of the points that Rohr made was that Jesus does not so much give us the answers, rather that Jesus is The Answer. He told us that in the Gospels, Jesus was asked 183 different questions…

And Jesus only answered 3 of them directly. (Three of them? How trinitarian, now that is interesting.)

Jesus is not an answer giver, as I said. He is The Answer.

Consider this, Jesus is both fully human and fully divine. Hmmm – do you see how we can’t simply see with the eye of the senses or of reason? It doesn’t make sense? A God that does not rumble from on high alone, but rather becomes one of us? It is truly mind-boggling if you just sit with that that thought.

I guess that God had really been working on this, rather cooperatively at that point – we were made in God’s image after all. That clearly did not do it; we could not accept that as humans it seems. So God made the conscious, active and loving choice to not simply make us in God’s image, but rather to fully be one of us. Rohr reminded us of the “scandal of the incarnation”, to use Irenaeus’ term for it.

I can only glimpse all of this, like a flash of light at the edge of my vision or perhaps a dream that I know I had, but yet can’t fully recall. I glimpse this with my oculus fidei. This is my journey and may be yours as well, as we know without understanding and how we understand without knowing.

It is a mystery indeed and yet all very clear. Isn’t it?

(Interested in the work of Richard Rohr? Click here to read and learn more about him and The Center for Action and Contemplation, to see where he might be giving a talk or workshop or to buy his books.)