Saturday 18 June 2011

TRINITY SUNDAY - Unity even in diversity Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9; 2 Cor 13:11-13; Jn 3:16-18

Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?”
And his disciples answered, “John the Baptist, and others say, Elijah, and others one of the prophets”.
And Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?”  
Peter answered him, "You are the Logos, existing in the Father as His rationality and then, by an act of His will, being generated, in consideration of the various functions by which God is related to his creation, but only on the fact that Scripture speaks of a Father, and a Son, and a Holy Spirit, each member of the Trinity being coequal with every other member, and each acting inseparably with and interpenetrating every other member, with only an economic subordination within God, but causing no division which would make the substance no longer simple."
And Jesus said, "What?"
It is never easy speaking about the Trinity. A friend of mine who is Parish priest said to me that Trinity Sunday is a good Sunday to invite the Bishop to preach.
The story is told of St Augustine of Hippo, a great philosopher and theologian who wanted so much to understand the doctrine of the Trinity and to be able to explain it logically. One day as he was walking along the sea shore and reflecting on this, he suddenly saw a little child all alone on the shore. The child made a whole in the sand, ran to the sea with a little cup, filled her cup, came and poured it into the hole she had made in the sand. Back and forth she went to the sea, filled her cup and came and poured it into the hole. Augustine went up to her and said, "Little child, what are doing?" and she replied, "I am trying to empty the sea into this hole." "How do you think," Augustine asked her, "that you can empty this immense sea into this tiny hole and with this tiny cup?" To which she replied, “In the same manner in which you think that with your small mind you can comprehend the immensity of God?" With that the child disappeared.

Trinity Sunday is a special Sunday in the church year; it has been celebrated since 1334 when Pope John XXII fixed it as the Sunday after Pentecost. It is a Sunday which is not tied to any special event. We do not have to remember any special events or rituals. Instead it is about a day when we remember just God; it is a day to focus our hearts and minds on the mystery and also the reality that is God. It is a bit like a birthday when all we do is celebrate a particular person and their presence with us.

The Trinity is not an explanation of God; though many over the years have tried to explain what it means. It is a description of what we know about God, albeit contradictory and contrary to logic as we know it.

A good way to understand the Trinity, even if inadequately would be to understand the Father, Son and Spirit as Lover, Beloved and the Flow of Love between them that has constantly flowed before time began. Through the Incarnation, the Beloved came to dwell among us. When we stand in the place of the Beloved, when we accept the offer to become the adopted sons and daughters of God, we also become the Beloved of God, and share in this same Flow of Love. However, even this way of understanding falls short. The Church teaches us that God is three persons in one nature; that Father, Son and Holy Spirit together are God. Beyond that is nothing more than the speculation of our tiny minds.

Though not explicitly Trinitarian, (except for the second reading which mentions explicitly the three persons Father, Son and Spirit), the first and third readings convey the fundamental mystery that the Triune God reaches out to people in love, seeking the deepest communion. The reading from Exodus follows the apostasy of the people in worshiping the golden calf. Moses again ascends the mountain to intercede, offering his own life for the people. This evokes yet another revelation of God, as a merciful and gracious God, “slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity,” truly a God who knows the suffering and weakness of humanity and is constantly summoning them back to his love and mercy.

This very theme is taken up by the text from the Gospel of John which contains one of the most quoted New Testament texts: “God so loved the world that he sent his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” The God who heard the cries of his people in Egypt, witnessed their affliction and came down to save them through Moses, now sends his Son, the Word made flesh so that “the world,” that is, everyone who believes in him, may be saved. For John judgment is not something that happens at the end of history; it takes place within history, as people consciously choose evil over good and turn away from the covenant God of love, mercy, grace and truth. The ultimate mystery is that the Trinitarian God who reaches out in love is the same God who gives freedom to reject that love.

Thus the feast of the Trinity celebrates freedom, love community, diversity and inclusiveness. God does not exist in isolated individualism but in a community of relationships. In other words, God is not a loner or a recluse. This means that a Christian in search of Godliness must shun every tendency to isolationism and individualism. The ideal Christian spirituality is not that of flight from the world away from contact with other people and society but an immersion into the world with a view to transforming sorrow to joy, injustice to justice, negatives to positives, darkness to light and death to life. There is no one who is outside the kingdom of God. There is no “us” and “them”. There is only “we.” And we are all connected. The Trinity embraces diversity. We are not asked to be clones of Jesus. We are asked to offer our unique gifts for the good of the community. We are not asked to all be the same. There is unity even in diversity.

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