Sunday 16 June 2019: Trinity Sunday
United in a Dance of Life
Proverbs 8:1-4, 22-31; Romans 5:1-5; John 16:12-15
By Michael Kirwan
A Jesuit priest and theologian, living and working at the Loyola Institute of Theology in Dublin
Context: a socially and culturally mixed parish congregation
Aim: to encourage and affirm the congregation in their belief in God, understood as a God who works for us, who shares everything with us, and who dwells within us
Christians have a very odd way of speaking about God. It is odd, and at the same time totally familiar to us. Every time we make the ‘sign of the Cross’, we name God as ‘Father, Son and Holy Spirit.’ Perhaps we do not realise how important it is, that we think of God in three ways. Quite simply, if we were to think of only two, or one, or these, our understanding of God would be distorted and made poorer. Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian theology puts it very simply: that when we think of God our minds are drawn upwards, to the ‘highest’ possible existence. This is God who is ’above’ us, holy, worthy of praise; the one Jesus taught us to call Father. But God is also to be found ’alongside’ us: as well as praising his heavenly Father, Jesus taught us to look for the divine face in our neighbour, in the hungry and naked stranger, the prisoner and the invalid. The face of the poor person is as much the face of God as images of holiness and transcendence, such as stars or mountains.
And there is a third dimension: God makes his home in those who welcome him into their lives. The New Testament speaks of the Holy Spirit, dwelling deep ’within’ each of us - as if we were a sacred temple. The Spirit encourages us in our prayer, even when we feel too weak, or anxious, or tired, to pray. It is the Spirit who prays in us, through the Son, to the Father. As Paul declares in the second reading: ‘The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.’
Above us, alongside us, within us … holiness, solidarity, indwelling. Each of these three ways of recognising God’s presence is important, and is given a name: Father, Son, and Spirit. And if God is to be truly a part of our lives, then we need to pay attention to each of them.
We find something similar from St Ignatius the founder of the Jesuits, who had a number of powerful mystical visions. One of the most important was a vision he had of the Trinity, as a musical chord, with three notes. Elsewhere, he writes of the Trinity as God who is so helplessly in love with humanity that he is like a lover, who constantly labours for us, he shares everything he has with us, he makes his home in us. God works, God shares, God dwells.
Ignatius draws a picture of God who is alive and active, who joyfully soaks his creation with his presence, like the rays of the sun, or the waters of an overflowing fountain. In the beautiful term from the first reading the person of Wisdom (whom we can think of as a symbol of the Holy Spirit) is a ‘master craftsman,’ helping to fashion the universe, ‘delighted to be with the children of humanity.’ It is common to think of the persons of the Trinity as intimately united with one another, in the form of a beautiful dance.
You will see how different this appears from the way most people speak about God. Many see no need for God in their lives because ‘God’ is pictured as something utterly remote and irrelevant: sitting on a freezing cloud, all alone. But this is an incomplete picture of God, and we are right to reject it. It sees God as ‘above us’ - God as holy - but it does not mention God alongside us or God within us. It is not, at all, the Christian picture of God.
There is something lovely about the timing of this feast of the Most Holy Trinity. It comes after our long Easter celebration, when we have been getting used to the Good News, that God is the God of life not death; a God who loves us helplessly, and who does not allow even the execution of his Son to get in the way of this love. It is as if during these weeks we are on a ‘crash course’ about God, led by the Holy Spirit who reveals to us new depths of God’s love. And in two other feasts in the next few weeks, Corpus Christ and the Sacred Heart, we are given even more insights into where God’s loving presence is to be found: in the form of bread and wine, his body and blood, broken and poured; and in the heart which was pierced for us, out of that same love.
The teaching of God as Trinity is an important way in which we are reminded of where and how we find God. We are reminded that God is immensely holy, and worthy of our praise and respect, and at the same time is to be found very close to us: he identifies with our brothers and sisters in need, and he makes his home in the deepest part of my being. If we do not pay attention to the three dimensions of God, and to the love which expresses itself in laboring, sharing, indwelling, God can seem very distant, and our love for God will quickly grow cold.
God’s love for us will never grow cold, because God takes delight in his people and being with them. Father, Son, and Spirit are united in a dance of life and love, in which each of us is invited to take part.
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