The Trinity and Solidarity

The Most Holy Trinity (A); June 11, 2017
Ex 34:4b-6,8-9 (Ps) Dn 3 2 Cor 13:11-13 Jn 3:16-18
Deacon Jim McFadden; SJB

In the aftermath of our current president’s foreign trip, two of his top advisors wrote an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal in which they said: “The president embarked on his first foreign trip with a clear-eyed outlook that the world is not a ‘global community’ but an arena where nations, nongovernmental actors and businesses engage and compete for advantage.”

That passage struck me like a thunderbolt as it seemed to assert that selfishness, looking out for Number One, whether it be I as an individual or by extension the tribe with which I identify, is the sole driver and purpose of human affairs. In this worldview, morality, the Common Good, trust, cooperation—in short, being in solidarity with other human beings is foolishness in the struggle of all against all. It’s all about competing self-interests.

Is that what it means to be a human being fully alive—that life is nothing more than a fierce and competitive struggle for the goods of the world?; that the end game is dominance in which there are “winners and losers and you best not be on the wrong side?” to paraphrase Bruce Springsteen (cf. The River).
But as Christians, we only have to look to the model of the Trinity, which are celebrating today, for answers to those questions. We believe in a Communitarian God, The Most Holy Trinity, which teaches us who God is. Since we are made in the image of God, it teaches us what it means to be fully human. It means to live together in solidarity with one another.
What does it mean that God is a Communitarian God? What does it mean to proclaim that God is three-in-One? We’re not referring to three individual gods. We don’t believe in the Father-god, the Son-god, and the Holy Spirit-god. If God were three separate, independent, self-contained individuals, there would be no creation and no you. Why not? Because if God were independent and isolated, he would not want to create, to share Life. Why should he? God has himself and doesn’t need you or anyone else.

But, when we say that God is three-in-One, we are saying that God is a community, a family of three persons sharing one divine nature which is Love. Unlike an individual who is isolated and independent, a person necessarily is in relationship to other persons. When we say that we believe in God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, we are proclaiming a belief in a community of Persons who surrounds us, embraces us everywhere and loves us unconditionally exactly the same way they love themselves.
So, God the Father would not be Father unless He as Lover pours himself completely and totally into His Son, the Beloved. The Son receives everything from His Father and gives it all back! And we call that unending Loving between the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit. Lover-Beloved-Loving: complete giving/complete receiving.

Giving and receiving is not only the basis of God, but is the underlying reality of all creation; it is the foundation of all meaningful relationships. We don’t live to “compete for advantage” over one another; we don’t live to dominate and control others. NO! We never simply live, but we always live together as we participate in Trinitarian life. Whatever favors a shared life of giving and receiving is worthwhile. Hence we live in this community style of living God’s existence by cooperating with one another, by forgiving and reconciling, by promoting the Common Good even at the expense of our personal self-interest.

Rather than fighting tooth and claw in the jungle, this communitarian style of living makes us attentive to the most vulnerable because as Jesus reveals to us in Matthew 25 that whatever we do to the least of his brethren, we do to Him. Therefore, as we proclaim our belief in the triune God, we take the side of the poor, those on the margins, who are a constant reminder that human relationships should not be based on a dynamic of oppressors and oppressed, winners and losers.
Through the perfect Revelation of our Lord Jesus, we joyfully accept that the Trinity is the very heart of Reality as it reveals Who God is, who we are, and the significance of the universe. We can know in our hearts the triune God when we do what God does: when we pour ourselves—our life—into others. In so doing, we don’t seek advantage or dominance, but help build community and solidarity grounded in the God, who is Love.

 

 

 

Life Begins with the Trinity

The Most Holy Trinity (C); May 22, 2016

Prv 8:22-31   Ps8:4-9   Rom 5:1-5   Jn 16:12-15

Deacon Jim McFadden; St. John the Baptist C.C.

 

            It’s difficult enough to believe in a single God, but have you ever tried to explain the Trinity to a non-believer? It’s not easy. Believing in three persons who is one God is quite a leap!

Where did this teaching come from? It is unique to us; it’s what makes us Christians and not Jews or Muslims. No other religion in history has anything like it. No philosopher reasoned his way to it. It is original to Christianity, though we do hear hints of it in the Old Testament. In the Book of Genesis, for example, we hear God saying: “Let us make man in our image…” (Gn 1:26a) or from Proverbs in which God begot his Son before the earth was created” (Prv 8:22).

Put simply, this teaching comes from Jesus. When Jesus rose from the dead, Christians immediately began to attribute divinity to him. At the same time, they didn’t identify him with the Father. Jesus was understood to be God but somehow he was distinct from the One who sent him to bring salvation to the world. Moreover, inside their experience of the Risen Christ and the heavenly Father, they sensed still a third divine energy which they couldn’t fully identify with either Jesus or God the Father: namely, the Holy Spirit.

Early Christians struggled with the revelation of the Trinitarian God for 300 years until they came up with a formula at the Council of Nicaea in 325, which said there is one God in three persons. They wrote this formula in Greek and the words came out literally that God is one substance in three subsistent relations.

What does that mean? What is God’s nature? According to John the Evangelist, GOD IS LOVE (1 Jn 4:8). That is not an attribute of God but is God’s very substance: Love is who God is. Love involves the giving and receiving of Life. God the Father, who is Lover, sent Jesus, the Beloved Son, into the world for our salvation. And, when Jesus returned to his Father at the Ascension, he gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is the shared loving energy between the Father and the Son. It is within that communal relationship that the divine revelation resonates. In other words, God is a family.

What does it mean for you and me in our everyday living. Well, it means that we, who are made in the image of God, are hard-wired to the relational. We find ourselves, we are most human, when we are in genuine relationship with others. We discover what Life is really about when we love others and when we give ourselves to a significant other for life. Life just gets easier when we see it from the perspective of living in communion with God and fellowship with others. When we live out of the Holy Trinity, we will live authentic and genuine lives.

Another aspect of Jesus’ teaching about the Holy Trinity is that it allows us to begin to participate in the very Life of God. This is what Holy Mother the Church teaches us in its concept of sanctifying grace, which is a gift from God and makes us holy. Through grace, through our participation in Trinitarian Love, we become more God-like in the way we live with others. As we embrace a Life of self-giving Love, then God’s presence, power, and love are made real for us and those around us. The more we live in a caring communion of love with others, the more we become filled with God’s holiness—not only for our own sake but for the sake of others who know us and love us.

At this juncture we are truly living Life fully. We are becoming a human being fully alive, which St. Irenaeus affirms gives God glory.

Loving others through sacrificial giving is not simply being nice; it’s not just being courteous. Loving others is essential to being human! It is the essence of being one with Christ. It is only being in love with other human beings that we can understand what St. John means that GOD IS LOVE. The one who loves has found God, and God lives in him.

So, rather than being puzzled at the teaching of the Holy Trinity, let’s you and I throw ourselves into life, into love, and experience the life of the Trinity in our own relationships with others.   Let us share with each other a life that can be so much more of our true selves. It is there we know God. It is in loving others deeply, closely, and with constancy that we begin to feel the wonder of Life and the joy of knowing who God is and what His life is like.

Brothers and sisters, St Catherine of Siena once said that “The Road to Heaven is Heaven.” Jesus told us that heaven begins here on earth.   The Kingdom of Heaven is here, among us, He told us. We are not far from it; it’s right here. Heaven is not a carrot dangled in front of us. It’s not a reward at the end of a road of pain, trial, and suffering. Heaven begins when we discover each other as a child of God, when we begin to live a Trinitarian life with others, when we begin to live in the communion with others that is grounded in God’s very being. Isn’t that what Life is really about? Amen.