God and Community

Life is more than just us. Individualism, while not bad in and of itself, misses the essence of what love was created to be lived in – community. God is a flow of living relationships, a trinity, a family of life that 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 them.” Too often, we miss what that means because we tend to romanticize love and can easily miss the sense of what this text means. It might best be rendered this way: “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 a pure, secular experiences but the stuff of church, the place where the life of God flows through us.

God can be known, experienced, tasted, related to in love and friendship. God is Someone and Something that we live within and which can flow through our veins. God is a flow of relationships to be experienced in community, family, parish, friendship, and hospitality. When we live inside of these relationships, God lives inside of us and we live inside of God. Scripture assures us that we abide in God whenever we stay inside of family, community, parish, friendship, hospitality – and, yes, even when we fall in love.

This has huge consequences for how we should understand the religious experience. 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. Finally, importantly, it tells us that, God is community – and only in opening our lives in gracious hospitality will we ever understand that.

(Adapted from excerpts of Fr. Ron Rolheiser, Finding God in Community, 2001)

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