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Relationship before religion

Children holding hands

One of our parish priests asked his former parishioner why she left the Church. Her answer was: “relationship before religion”. She was quite right. And quite Trinitarian too, for the Holy Trinity speaks of a communion of relationships among the Father, Son and Spirit. Richard Rohr speaks of the famous 15th century icon by the Russian painter Andrei Rublev as an artistic marvel that beckons invitation. The painting is really a depiction of Abraham welcoming three angels at the Oak of Mamre but is often seen as an icon of the Trinity. In the icon there is an open space in the middle, as if beckoning someone to enter, that is, us. To claim our Christian identity means to live in communion with one another.

One aspect of this communion is hospitality. Abraham was hospitable to the three strangers. The average person who has left the Catholic Church, invariably for one of the evangelical churches, gives a lack of hospitality as their first reason for leaving. They feel more welcomed in Open Bible and Pentecostal Churches.

Interestingly, the title of Archbishop Emeritus Joseph Harris’ last pastoral letter was Return to Hospitality. This implies hospitality is not something new to us; it enshrines the very way of Jesus and we need to return to it more purposefully.

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