A Great Flowering Tree in the Center of a Hoop

Today’s reflection is by Bondings 2.0 contributor Maka Black Elk.

Today’s liturgical readings for the 6th Sunday of Easter can be found here.

Jesus said to his disciples:

“…I will not leave you orphans; I will come to you. In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.” (Jn 14:18-21)

In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells his disciples that when he leaves this world, they will not be orphans because the Holy Spirit will come and be among them. He entreats them to love him and follow his commandments for they too shall be loved and held by God the Father.

In many ways I see this in how I relate to the memory of my father. My father passed away when I was still young, and memories of him sadly dim a little more each year. I turn to him for guidance and call to him for help. He was a deeply Catholic man, strong in his love for Christ. It is largely due to his influence that I feel so drawn to my faith and love for Christ, because my father showed me that love in the way he passed on and modeled that faith to me. He lived a life that let me know his deep love for me as his son.

One of my greatest regrets with my father’s passing was that I was never able to truly come out to him as gay. I believe I know how he would have responded. I feel in the depths of my heart he would have said to me that he still loved me. That he was with me no matter what. Though I no longer have him today, I take comfort in this truth of who he was and how he loved me.

It was my father who also taught me a lot about my ancestor, Nicholas Black Elk, a man so beyond his time. He’s now a Servant of God in the Catholic Church, potentially en route to become a new American Saint. He was a medicine man, a spiritual leader among our community who guided us through our ceremonies, who had great visions, and who lived deeply in his spirituality. I remember my father talking about Nicholas Black Elk and his legacy, and in particular, his vision of what God looked like.

Black Elk imagined a great flowering tree in the center of a hoop. This hoop contained all of the world’s creations. Every living thing is together in a great circle. He talked about the center of that hoop being everywhere, and the center of that hoop being also within us. And the center of that hoop is also God.

The love from our families, no matter their shape, can be a powerful demonstration of God’s love. For LGBTQ+ people, sometimes experiences of coming out can be moments when this love is particularly evident, as I imagine that moment with my father would have been. And there are many other times we feel that love and manifest it in our lives, much like how Black Elk imagined the hoop with its flowering tree throughout. In these moments, we can more deeply appreciate Jesus’ words to the disciples—and to us today: “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you.”

Maka Black Elk, May 14, 2023

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