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Sunday 12 June 2022: Trinity Sunday

Contemplating The Trinity
Proverbs 8: 1-4, 22-31; Romans 5: 1-5; John 16: 12-15

By Roderick Strange
Priest of Shrewsbury Diocese and Rector of Mater Ecclesiae College, the pontifical institute, based at St Mary’s University, Twickenham.

Context: a largely middle-class and articulate congregation at a parish Eucharist
Aim: to draw people in to contemplating God as Father, Son, and Spirit by means of a gently paced and meditative reflection

Yesterday was the feast of Saint Barnabas, an early companion of Saint Paul when he began his missionary journeys. Tomorrow is the feast of Saint Anthony of Padua to whom people often appeal when they’re searching for something they’ve lost. And today is the feast of the Most Holy Trinity. But this feast is quite different from the others. To be light-hearted, it isn’t the feast of Saint God. We don’t look upon our God as, so to speak, the holiest of all the saints. Today is set aside as a special day for contemplating God, for gazing into the mystery of God. How might we do that?

Towards the end of last year, Brian Cox, the scientist, not the actor, was on television and speaking about time. He was explaining that time’s measurements shift and that time gradually becomes less. Eventually, although, he remarked reassuringly, it would take trillions and trillions of years, there would be nothing left at all, nothing whatsoever.

Try imagining that: nothing at all. Try imagining not absence, not emptiness, not vacuum, but absolute nothingness. And, if that is our end, must that not also have been our beginning? What must end at some time must also at some moment have begun. There can have been no little everlasting pockets of energy at the start. Everything that exists physically must also have come from nothing. Scientists like Brian Cox may be able to explain the processes by which what has been made has developed, has evolved, has brought us to the condition that we now recognize in our world, in our cosmos, but how did it begin? There may well be explanations in future that show us how everything that exists came to be. But how, first of all, was there anything at all? How, in other words, was it created?

We believe in God as the creator of all that exists. Creation, however, is utterly distinct from the processes that scientists explore and explain so brilliantly. However complete their research, they will never discover God’s finger on the button, causing everything to begin. Creation is of a different order, not part of that physical process. So, what can we know about God?

God who creates cannot be just a ‘force’, something impersonal, because whatever is impersonal will be something that ultimately we can control, once we’ve learnt the trick. That is why we speak of God as personal. We don’t mean God is like a human person, but that we will never control God. As personal, we mean that God who creates, is intelligent and loving. And here we are, ultimately creatures brought into being by God, and what defines us most profoundly is our own capacity for knowing and loving.

Once we recognize God as intelligent and loving and ourselves, men and women, as created by God and gifted with intelligence and a capacity for loving, there is an inescapable consequence. Knowledge and love invite relationship. Wise people want to share knowledge and those who love want to be loved. How could God, because intelligent and loving, when human beings finally evolved, not wish to enter into a relationship with them, becoming known to them and seeking to embrace them in love?

This relationship wasn’t going to be realized instantaneously. But the religious aspirations of many cultures and civilizations must not be dismissed arrogantly as superstition. Down the ages, God has been whispering in human hearts.

And then, according to our Christian understanding, there came the Christ. Jesus was born. He was human, one of us. But uniquely he was also divine, the Son of the Father. And he came among us to be faithful to his Father’s will and our deepest need. His Father’s will was for us to recognize his unlimited love for us; our deepest need was to respond to that love. And he revealed that unlimited love by dying on the cross. The cross stands as the supreme symbol of unreserved divine loving. And when Jesus was raised from the dead, he did not desert us. He sent us the Holy Spirit. The Spirit who descended is his Spirit.

People pray differently. But a wise woman once remarked that for her praying was ‘silence and listening’. Writing to the Romans, Saint Paul declared, ‘The love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given to us.’ As we contemplate the Father who created us out of love, the Son who revealed that love to us, and the Spirit present in our midst, may we too be silent and listen.

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