A Reflection on the First Reading for May 30th, 2021: The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
Deuteronomy 4.32-34, 39-40
Moses spoke to the people saying, “Ask now about former ages, long before your own, ever since the day that God created man on the earth; ask from one end of heaven to the other: ‘Has anything so great as this ever happened or has its like ever been heard of?’
“Has any people ever heard the voice of a god speaking out of a fire, as you have heard, and lived? Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs and wonders, by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by terrifying displays of power, as the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?
“So acknowledge today and take to heart that the Lord is God in heaven above and on the earth beneath; there is no other. Keep his statutes and his commandments, which I am commanding you today for your own well-being and that of your descendants after you, so that you may long remain in the land that the Lord your God is giving you for all time.”
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If someone asked you to share with them the story of your life, what story would you tell them?
For most of my life, I would have started my story at the moment of my birth. When and where I was born, who I was born to, where I grew up. I would talk about where and what I studied, the places I’ve visited, sprinkling in details about past and current hobbies and interests. Then, I’d end with the many ‘hats’ I’ve collected in adulthood. In other words, my story, and consequently my identity, would have revolved solely around the tangibles of my particular existence, with me smack dab in the middle of them.
In this week’s first reading, I hear Moses inviting me to re-imagine the story of my life. In his narrative, my story begins at the dawn of humanity with Adam and Eve, and progresses from there. If there was a general arc to the tale, it would be the darkness, and the stumbling efforts made in ignorance, but necessary to learn and grow, until finally, I was ready for the Light. At the center of my story would not be me, but the One who made me. The Author, and my Sculptor, fashioning me as He does all His cherished possessions, making me blessed.
At this prompting, I spent some time this week meditating on the idea of a personal life story that belongs to everyone. Instead of seeing the narratives in the Bible as allusions to present day experiences, or as critical events in the history of my faith, I considered them as an extension of my identity as a person. I am not among the Israelites who witnessed the parting of the Red Sea, nor am I biologically any of their descendants, yet, through this exercise I found myself able to rejoice in the Glory of God because I could understand that what He was doing wasn’t just for them, it was for me too. He is my God as much as He is theirs, and it is through Him that we are all fastened together.
A fine balance in understanding that I struggle to fully articulate but this changed the way I thought about my relationship with the Bible. No longer was it simply a resource, or an avenue to draw closer to God, I began to see it as the context of my existence. As if prior to this exercise, I had been drawing an image of myself on a blank sheet of paper with no background. I had been allowing myself to hover in white space, and I hadn’t even known it!
This exercise has opened up a new avenue of self-knowledge, and self-expression. We don’t have to stay within the lines when it comes to recounting our life stories — we are free to take up the entire space, knowing that the self-portraits we create only grow deeper as the rest of the sheet gets filled in.