Updated: Jun 1, 2021
Sunday 30/05/2021 Mt 28,16-20
The following comes from a reflection by Ronald Rolheiser. Truncated, hopefully not mutilated.
The statement “God is a verb not a noun” although dangerously false it affirms something very important and Christian about our relationship with God; namely, that God is not, first of all, a formula, a dogma, a creedal statement, or a metaphysics that demands our assent. God is a flow of living relationships, a trinity, a family of life into which we can enter, taste, breathe within, and let flow through us.
Scripture says, “God is love and whoever abides in love abides in God and God abides in him or her.” Too often, we miss what that means by over romanticising love. A better rendering is: “God is community, family, parish, friendship, hospitality and whoever abides in these abides in God and God abides in him or her.” God is a trinity, a flow of relationships among persons. If this is true, and scripture assures us that it is, then the realities of dealing with each other in community, at the dinner-table, over a bottle of wine or an argument, not to mention the simple giving and receiving of hospitality are not pure, secular experiences but the stuff of church, the place where the life of God flows through us.
By definition, God is ineffable, beyond imagination and beyond language, the best language of theology and church dogma. God can never be understood or captured adequately in any formula. But God can be known, experienced, tasted, related to in love and friendship. God is Someone and Something that we live within and which flows through our veins. We need not read books on theology, valuable though these may be. No. God is a flow of relationships to be experienced in community, family, parish, friendship, and hospitality. When we live these relationships, God lives within us and we live in God. Scripture assures us that we abide in God whenever we stay within family, community, parish, friendship, hospitality—and, yes, when we fall in love.
This implies that God is more domestic than monastic (as monks will tell you). It means that in coming to know God, the dinner-table is more important than the theology classroom, the practice of grateful hospitality is more important than the practice of right dogma, and meeting with others to pray as a community can give us something that long hours in private meditation (or, indeed, long years spent absent from church-life) cannot.
This concept blurs all simple distinctions between “religious” and “purely secular” experience. It tells us that, since God is within community, we should be there too, if we wish to go to heaven. Simply, we can’t go to hell, if we stick close to family, community, and parish. God is community — and only in opening our lives in gracious hospitality will we ever understand that.