In the novel The Shack, Mack, the main character of the story, receives an invitation from ‘Papa’ to visit the shack – a hut in the forest. From his scanty religious background, Mack knows that Papa is God himself. Four years prior to this invitation, Mack had lost his daughter Missy from a camping site. Since then he had been overcome by, what he calls, “The Great Sadness.” He decides to respond to the invitation and spend the weekend at the shack. What he encounters at the shack are the manifestations of the three persons of the Trinity. God the Father takes the form of an African American woman, who calls herself Elousia, or just ‘Papa’; The Son is a Middle-Eastern carpenter; and the Holy Spirit physically manifests itself as an Asian woman named Sarayu. In that encounter with the Trinity, Mack is helped to deal with “The Great Sadness” of the loss of his daughter, and to forgive the killer of his daughter. And in the process, Mack learns a few hard lessons about God, suffering, and life itself. His daughter is not brought back to life, but the Trinity restores life and wisdom to Mack.
The philosopher Descartes spoke of the difference between (a) The God of Philosophy, a God who is studied and thought about intellectually or (b) The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, a God who is experienced in the ups and downs of living.
No human words or thoughts can ever make a beginning in our quest to completely understand the ineffable God. However, I do believe that analogies can offer something if we desire to have a personal experience of God in our lives. Therefore, even though The Shack has its problem areas, what it does offer is to invite our reflection on our God who is with us at all times no matter whatever comes our way in life.
The readings for this Sunday capture the three ways God has been experienced in history, or the three ways God has revealed himself. They tell us that God wants to be involved in our lives. The joy of today’s Feast lies in fully accepting this.