The Shack- Trinity

The Shack-Trinity


A movie came out recently called “The Shack.”  The book came out about 10 years ago.  The book was such a big success that they made it into a movie.  I would like to talk about the movie today with a little preface.  My preface is that I am not recommending everyone go out and see it.  I am presuming that many of you might have seen it.  The other preface is that it is not really the best theologically.  It is not the best in terms of “getting it right” movie theologically.  What it does get right is displaying the love of God which is what we hear in The First Reading today.  What it does get right, I think, is a beautiful, intimate portrayal of a personal relationship with The Trinity:  God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.  As I reflect on this, what I want you to do is think for yourself, how do you relate to the Trinity?  Who do you relate closest to and maybe who in the Trinity is a little distant or hard to get to know?  The Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit?  How do you relate to each one and which one do you maybe have a little difficulty with?  

In the movie “The Shack,” the main character, Mac, is invited back to the shack in the woods.  The shack in the woods was actually a place of great of tragedy for him.  I do not want to give away the movie but it was a place of great tragedy for his family.  I think maybe the most painful thing a parent can go through.  That is what he experienced there in that shack.  One winter his mailbox is open and there is a letter in the mailbox.  It is an invitation from God to come to the shack.  He gets this invitation from God in his mailbox and he can’t get it out of his mind.   He decides he is going to go one day.  He finally decides to make the trip back there and spend the weekend at the shack and maybe meet God.  Well, the amazing thing is when he gets there, it is of course a painful place for him but something wonderful happens.  First he discovers Jesus.  Jesus walks into this little cottage built up beautifully and inside the cottage is welcome to have dinner.  As he sits down to dinner, he sees across from him all three persons of the Trinity are there.  He gets a little confused and he looks at them and says to them, “I just have to ask you a question.”  He looks around at the table and he says, “Which one of you is God?”  All three together respond “I am.”  It is a profound moment in the movie.   What I loved about it, again, was the personal, close relationship that Papa had.  Papa is what we call the Father, the Holy Spirit, and that Jesus had with Mac.  Each one of them in their own way are able to touch his pain, to feel his pain, and to restore a broken relationship with God.  It is a beautiful image of The Trinity all working to love us.

We hear in The First Reading, Moses went up to Mount Sinai early in the morning.  He went up as the Lord commanded him.  He took the two stone tablets with him.  He went up with these questions.  He wanted Him to answer the questions, “Who are You God?  The people want to know.  What are You really like?”  This is the most beautiful part.  Coming down from a cloud, the Lord stood with Moses and there proclaimed His name “Lord.”  Then He said, “The Lord, the Lord, a merciful, and gracious God.”  Sometimes people say, “I do not like the Old Testament God.  I like the New Testament God.”  I have to tell you, they are the same God.  Listen to this, we are in the Old Testament here, Moses, Mount Sinai, and God speaking.  He says, “Lord what are You like?”  Then the Lord says “A merciful and gracious God, slow to anger, rich in kindness and fidelity.”  Moses is so moved by this, he says, “Lord, if I find favor with You, will You come join us along in our company?”  Of course, we know the Lord is with them the whole time.  That is what Mac discovers in this Trinitarian experience.  He discovers that we have this most gracious God.  I love the character in the movie, Papa.  Papa is actually played by a big black woman.  She is a very gracious and loving woman.  She says over and over again throughout the movie to Mac, “Mac, I’m especially fond of you.”  Any time anybody’s name is mentioned, she says, “I’m especially fond of that person.”  Mac finally says, “Is there anyone you’re not especially fond of?”  Then God the Father says, “Haven’t found him yet.”

We have this God that is especially fond of you.  He is so gracious to you.  God the Father is so gracious.  Jesus is so gracious.  The Holy Spirit is so gracious.  They are all just spilling out with grace for you.  I want to welcome all of us.  God wants to welcome all of us to the table of the Lord.  Ultimately, this is the table where you get to experience the graciousness of God.  The kindness of God.  God who is slow to anger and rich in mercy.  Right here, we get to experience the love of the Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

As Mac grapples with trying to get to know each one, there is a scene in the movie where he sits next to Jesus.  He said “Listen, I feel comfortable with you.  I am not sure about those two yet.”  I think it is true with all of us.  We tend to have a more comfortable connection with a person of the Trinity, the Father, the Son, or the Holy Spirit.  My invitation to you is to ask whomever you are more comfortable with.  If you feel the closest to Jesus, just say, “Jesus, tell me Father or reveal to me the Holy Spirit.”  Because God sent, as we hear in The Gospel, His only Son into the world to reveal the Father to us so we can truly know, once and for all, what God is like.  How gracious God is.  How loving God is.  How merciful God is.  I invite you to do that now and just speak to the Trinity.  Reflect on the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  What your relationship is like with each one of them.  If you notice that one is weaker, to ask God to help you grow in that.

One of the things I hear many people say after they see “The Shack” is “It’s so amazing.  It made me feel closer to God.  I wish I could have that relationship with Him.  That personal relationship with Him.”  I often think, you can!  That is the whole essence of liturgy and of prayer.  That is what we did in “Pray40Days.”  All those exercises were to help you experience a personal relationship with God.  On the Feast of the Trinity, I invite you to reconnect and to have that deeper relationship with God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit.

About the Author Fr. Michael Denk

Fr. Michael was ordained into priesthood in the Diocese of Cleveland on May 12, 2007. He is dedicated to helping others encounter Christ through the celebration of the Eucharist, preaching, the Sacrament of Reconciliation, spiritual direction, and prayer.

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I'm Father Michael J. Denk, a priest of the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland. I am a contributor of content to The Prodigal Father Productions, Inc., a non-profit corporation functioning in accord with the traditions and the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. The corporation and I are separate, it doesn't speak for me, the parish, or on behalf of the Diocese of Cleveland, and I do not speak for it.