Saturday, June 1, 2013


Yesterday was the last day of school, and tomorrow is graduation. Wednesday night a few hundred people and I watched a sneak preview of the 90-minute documentary about our monastery and school entitled “The Rule” (which I’m sure you’ll hear more about in future posts.) On Thursday night we had the Senior Banquet, where I got to meet the families of our graduates.


A theme that kept coming up over and over was “family.” I saw all kinds of families this week: intact ones and broken ones, nurturing ones and toxic ones, happy families and gloomy ones.

One thing that really struck me was the fact that we don’t use the metaphor of “family” a lot in describing our school or our monastic community. The reason is, I think, because it’s understood, we don’t need to say it out loud. Students will use the word now and then about school, but for the most part they use synonyms, various individual aspects of the concept such as caring, support, being brothers, or a sense of common identity.

Did you ever try to define “family?” It’s not easy. Not just because of the current cultural upheaval that’s re
-shaping the concept of family for good or for ill, but simply because the notion of “family” is not easy to define. Everyone knows what we mean by the word, but it’s hard to capture the concept or reduce it to a definition. That’s because you have to understand “family” with your heart, not your head.

A kid who is being gypped by not having a supportive family around him cannot give you a precise definition of a supportive family environment, but he feels the experience deep in his gut. In a lot of ways, then, it’s legitimate to say that the notion of family is a “mystery,” something you understand, but will never understand fully because it’s too big to grasp.

Coincidentally, last Sunday, May 26, Trinity Sunday I preached about his very concept. I’d like to share my sermon notes with you here because I think they may be of some help to someone.


Of all our beliefs as Christians, the one that means least to many of us is the Mystery of the Holy Trinity, three persons in one God. By calling it a “mystery” we’re saying that we’ll never come to a complete understanding of it. We are NOT saying that we can’t understand anything about the Trinity -- we can and do understand plenty about it. To prove my point I’d like to present one way of unpacking a little bit more about the Triune Godhead: To say that “God is Trinity” is to say that “God is FAMILY.”

That’s why it’s easier to understand the Trinity with your heart than with your head. We all know what a family is. We’ve all experienced family, we’ve been born and grown up in one, and perhaps have started families of our own. Yet there is no perfect definition of a family.

There are so many things that make up a family. It’s the house or apartment to which we retreat every day to relax and be ourselves. It’s a place exclusively ours, where we can talk, laugh and cry. Family is above all our father and mother and the love that unites them. Family is the children, the table at which we eat, and the dusty photo album filled with memories of members long gone.

So, what if we say that God is FAMILY? Then we’re saying that God is love, warmth, closeness and relationship.

God the FATHER is God and his omnipotent power and vigor to create, to bring life to the universe. God the SON is the reflection of God, God’s self-revelation to us, the Word become flesh. God the SPIRIT is the love that unites the Father and the Son and extends to us humans – which brings us to the really good news.


Our human families are often rather closed, like a possession we guard jealously, something special intended only for people related by blood. We’ve all heard people say “Well, that’s different because she’s family and he’s not.” But now think of the family of God, the Trinity. This mysterious, intimate relationship of God’s family has been opened through Christ to include us humans. We too are God’s family!

God has often revealed himself through human experiences. The entire Hebrew Scriptures are based on the notion that God acts in history. Today, perhaps more than ever, we need to see this Triune God through the experience of the family. The family continues to be the first place we experience love, it is the best (or the worst) school of religion. I think we could say that your knowledge of God depends very much on your experience of family.

The Holy Trinity, like the family, is above all a mystery of love. In a family we meet all kinds and degrees of
love: The love of friendship, of husband and wife, mother-love and father-love, love of brothers and sisters, and simple charity. And the fusion of all these loves we call the love of family.

In the same way the Holy Trinity is the complete expression of God’s Love. When a family is faithful, their love transforms itself into the image of the Holy Trinity on earth. The Holy Trinity, like the family, is above all a mystery of unity. Love is union. Two spouses who love one another are united, and two distinct persons who become one: “And the two shall become one flesh.” This unity and diversity of two-in-one helps us to understand the Trinity: Three in One, three distinct persons in a unity of love.

The Holy Trinity, like the family, is a mystery of fruitful love and unity. The man and woman who love each other participate in the creative power of God, in the Love that gives life. The child is the living image of the parents’ love, just as in the Trinity, where the Son is the perfect Image of God.


If God is a Trinity of distinct persons, then God is relationship. To make it sound more real you can say that God is family. If that’s so, then you need to approach the mystery of the Holy Trinity with more than just your mind -- you need an open heart. To grasp more about the Trinity you have to be ready to receive God into your life, this God who is boundless, unconditional love.

God is family. We are all family. Think of that the next time you’re thinking ill of someone, especially someone who hates you. No matter who that person is, you have to say to yourself, “I better be real careful bcause after all that person is family.”

If your God's love has boundaries around it and is limited to only certain people, then that is not the Triune God of the Christian faith, but a God with boundaries. A god with boundaries is obviously not much of a God, but rather an idol.

Our belief in the Trinity, in God as Family, challenges us to open our hearts in love to all of creation. Sure we may fall short of this, but the Trinity is like that -- something we never quite get completely.

Members of the Family

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