My parents are irrepressible travellers. They have visited all seven continents –yes, including Antarctica – within the past decade. They are the only people I know who have visited Fr. McCabe in his new assignment in Hong Kong. I can almost guarantee they have driven to more states in the past eighteen months than you have.
I have not been to most of the places they have. But I have enjoyed their travelogues, and learned more than a few things about the world and how to get there.
The world we live in is more connected than ever before, and more reachable than I could have imagined even fifteen years ago. My first trip abroad, to Europe, was at the end of my junior year of college, whereas my parents first made it about the time they turned forty. My niece and one nephew had both gone before their junior year in high school – and the younger nephew may yet beat that mark.
When we need help with our computer or our credit card, it is likely that we will speak to someone in India. People in Slovakia, Brazil, and China read my blog post most weeks. Everybody everywhere has seen “Star Wars” and drinks Coke. I can have dinner at an Afghan, Ethiopian, or even Uighur restaurant within a short drive of Four Corners.
There are so many ways in which it is clear that all people, “all God’s children,” are the same. How much we have in common, in our families, in our basic needs, hopes, and desires, and in our generosities. The universality of human nature despite geographic and cultural differences is a marvel. But there is one criterion by which I encourage you to discern a fundamental split among cultures, among lands, and even among people.
Today we celebrate the Most Holy Trinity, Who has revealed Himself to us as the abiding mystery of divine reality. Priests around the world labor to present this foundational doctrine of our faith. Minds boggle; people yawn.
So rather take an approach that requires theological citation or patristic explanation, why not just take a trip? Visit a land or a culture that is untouched by, has thoroughly resisted, or has forcefully driven out, the self-revelation of the Triune God. How do the families conduct themselves? How are the women and children treated? How are the weak and poor regarded? How are the strangers received? Whom do the laws bind? How are promises kept, and disputes settled? What counts for learning, or for wisdom, or for virtue?
Compare Christian cultures and lands to those that are never been Christian. See how the lands are faring in which Christ was once preached and lived, but He has since been supplanted by a modern ideology. In which of these would you choose to live, not as a visitor, but as the locals do?
There is much to learn from a visit to a foreign culture, but in this manner it is possible to learn something about our own culture that we might otherwise miss, or take for granted. All the good gifts we enjoy, of society and freedom and opportunity, are rooted not in human accomplishment, but in something done for us by God: the self-revelation of the interpersonal reality Who is the source of human nature. Suddenly the Holy Trinity is not an unreachable and irrelevant abstraction after all.
Human willingness to travel in order to visit, see, learn, understand, and enjoy is itself evidence of our reflection of the Triune God, as man created in God’s image. The Son Himself took flesh and dwelt among us. What a journey! He came not as tourist, but as bridge-builder, to make possible our eventual journey to the Father.
Meanwhile, my mom and dad are currently on a trip. Again.