Expanding Our Images of God By Encountering the Other

Yunuen Trujillo

Today’s post is from guest contributor Yunuen Trujillo. Yunuen is a Catholic lay minister, a faith-based Community Organizer, and an Immigration Attorney. She now serves in inclusive LGBT ministry, and is a regular speaker on LGBT ministry at the yearly Los Angeles Religious Education Congress. Yunuen is also the founder of the Instagram @lgbtcatholics, an online platform of resources for Catholic LGBT Ministry, and she is the Religious Formation Coordinator (Sp) for the Catholic Ministry with Lesbian and Gay Persons of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. She is the author of the upcoming book LGBT Catholics: A Guide for Inclusive Ministry, which is being published in Spring 2022 by Paulist Press.

Today’s liturgical readings for the 31st Sunday in Ordinary Time can be found here.

You shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength [and] . . . You shall love your neighbor as yourself. There is no other commandment greater than these” Mk 12:30-31

Today’s readings center us in the commandments that matter most. In the First Reading, from the Book of Deuteronomy, Moses speaks to the people and highlights one commandment as the most important one: “you shall love the LORD, your God, with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

When Jesus came, he further explained this commandment. Asked which is the first of all the commandments, he repeats Moses’ commandment to love God with our entire being; then he adds “…the second [commandment] is this: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Notice that, while loving one’s neighbor is talked about as the second commandment, they are both equal in importance, as Jesus adds: “There is no other commandment greater than THESE” (plural). Why did Jesus feel the need to supplement the first commandment that, one would assume, should result in love of neighbor, even if not explicitly stated?

As LGBT persons and allies, many of us have felt excluded, misunderstood, and less than loved by people who claim an absolute love for and devotion to God. As a result, we understand the importance of this second part, about loving your neighbor, perhaps better than others. The truth is, human beings are imperfect. and our understanding of God is limited. Sometimes, something has to be explicitly said in order to expand our view of God.

One limitation can be how we image God, as well as the attributes we assign to God. For instance, we often think of God as Father, a male figure, and we assign human attributes to him; “he is loving, but he is a man and a Father; therefore, he must also be tough and strict.” We make God in our own human fatherly image, but God is much more than that. Relatedly, we also often think of God as white, and value the voice of those that “look like God” the most. I have often encountered, even in LGBT ministry, a certain devaluation of voices of people of color. We also often have trouble imagining God as a female figure. Even in LGBT ministry, we witness a certain devaluation of female voices. I believe, most of the time this devaluation is not done on purpose; rather, it is the result of a lack of awareness.

The truth is, none of us are perfect. We all have fears, vulnerabilities, prejudice, and wounds, including homophobia and transphobia whether it be about ourselves or others. Some us are able to process them, to do the healing work it takes. Other times we are so afraid to admit our wound or prejudice that we try to actively avoid it. But by avoiding the wound, we prevent ourselves from spiritual growth as we become bound to a set of rules. The result is that the law and tradition become ultra-important, and we become stagnant.

Yet, the commandments given by Jesus in today’s readings compel us to grow spiritually. We must confront our wounds and prejudice. We must connect more and more with our human nature, with ourselves, and with those different than us so that our idea of God becomes more expansive. Today, I’d like to challenge all of us to ask ourselves:

  • What is preventing me from imagining a more expansive God? What are the boundaries and limitations that I attribute to God?
  • How much of my own image of the “Father figure” do I assign to God’s personality and how does that reflect in how I treat others? How often do I think of God as a loving Father? Do I, perhaps unconsciously, listen to and value the voice of white males more than that of others?
  • How often do I think of God as a loving Mother? Why, if at all, do I have trouble imagining God as a female figure or a figure of color? Do I tend to value some groups more than others? Where am I stagnant in my own life?
  • Do I love others equally as myself?

Feel free to leave an answer to one or more of these questions in the ‘Comments’ section below or consider using them in a parish ministry or other faith group.

Yunuen Trujillo, New Ways Ministry, October 31, 2021

1 reply
  1. Peter Daly
    Peter Daly says:

    Excellent reflection.
    I have a lot of work to do to value and listen to other non white snd non male voices.
    I find my own image if God I’d increasingly dynamic, ever changing.

    Reply

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