Brief synopsis of the readings: Exodus tells us about the time Moses carried the two tablets up Mt. Sinai where God descended on him in a cloud. God then proclaimed to be a God of “tenderness and compassion.” Moses then bowed down and begged God not to abandon his followers and asked for forgiveness on their behalf. In John’s Gospel Jesus told Nicodemus that “God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son” so that all may have eternal life. Anyone who believes in Jesus will be saved.
The end of the Easter season and the beginning of Ordinary time gives us the feasts of Pentacost, Trinity, and Body and Blood of Christ (Corpus Christi). When I was a child I completely enjoyed watching my teachers vainly attempting to explain these teachings, particularly the Trinity. Is it three Gods with one in charge? Well, no. It is one God with three jobs? No, not that either. Well then, what is it? I guess it’s a mystery. A less than satisfying answer for such an important teaching.
So here’s the problem with talking about the Trinity: there’s nearly nothing mentioned in Scripture about the relationship between God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Ironically we have volumes written about the Trinity in the several centuries after Scripture but we don’t read them at mass. And without going down the Trinity rabbit hole, our current teaching took about 400 years to formalize.
The idea of “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” sounds patriarchal to many of us and many mothers and daughters felt excluded. And despite our best efforts we have not found updated language. Some have proposed that we change it to “Creator, Redeemer, and Sanctifyer” but that reduces the Trinity to their jobs.
Our teaching on the Trinity cannot be found in job descriptions or gender roles, but instead in relationships. The relationships between the Father, Son, and Spirit give us the perfect understanding of love and in all our relationships we work toward that perfect love.
This last week has shown us that when it comes to relationships we still have a long way to go. Last week we saw Jesus’ followers locked in the upper room for fear. The Holy Spirit came to them and gave them the ability to break out of their safe place and go out to all the world and understand people of different languages.
Today the Trinity tells us that our relationships matter, not just with our God, Son, and Spirit, but with us all.
The last few years call us to see our understanding of the Trinity much more expansively. The relationship between the Father, Son, and Spirit call us to see all of our relationships in the same love. The members of the Trinity love each other without exception and their love determines not only their relationships but also their very existence. Apart from their love for each other none of them would exist.
As I write this several cities are on fire because of the death of an African American man in Minneapolis, Minnesota. His senseless death happened because one person didn’t see another person as a person: he saw the young man as a threat or as an other. One person had the ability to suffocate another person not out of self defense but because the that person angered him.
And if that weren’t bad enough we’ve seen disturbing images coming out of that incident. We’ve seen assaults, vandalism, anger, and hate. And we’ve been called to take sides. Do you believe that Black Lives Matter or law enforcement? Do you see vandalism as the natural extension of protest or as allowable protest gone out of control? I think many of us have been afraid to weigh in on social media for fear that we will be personally attacked or even threatened.
If we believe that the Holy Trinity ultimately calls us to double down on our relationships we also can’t ignore the toll COVID-19 has taken on us. Some of us will take precautions to avoid exposure to COVID-19 while others will decide that they can take their chances and not worry about the grandparents the may unwittingly expose.
But ultimately choosing sides and defending us vs. attacking them flies in the face of what the Trinity teaches us. Today’s feast calls us not only to listen to those we disagree with, but to listen deeply.
If you read my blog (http://tom.kcubes.com) you know my politics and how frustrated I am with President Trump and his followers. In my worst moments I just dismiss them as being not only wrong, but willfully ignorant. I see them as people who want prosperity enough to believe whatever they are told, no matter how unbelievable.
But in my better moments (and I’m trying to spend more time there) I try to look beyond their words to their pain. And what I hear is this: “You and yours have it easy. You’ve had the opportunity for education and wealth and I didn’t. And now you and the rest of you intellectuals revel in treating us like we’re stupid. I’m not stupid. I built the car you drive. I grew the wheat that became the designer bread you share with your friends. And I dug up the coal that keeps you warm.”
Please understand I’m not suggesting we engage in political debates mostly because it just calls each of us to dig in and find more and more clever arguments. I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels that when I’m talking the other person isn’t listening but is instead rehearsing his next line.
But we are called to listen and to embrace their pain. I hope this is the path where they can embrace my pain. Who has it worse, the school janitor who lost his job and income when COVID closed his school, or the hospital janitor who still has his job but is terrified that he will develop COVID and infect his family?
In the final word I believe the relationship between Father, Son, and Spirit calls us to a love that is perfect and limitless. Granted they didn’t need to heal their differences to achieve perfect love but our call to perfect love has no time limit. As Christians we believe we are with each other for all eternity and our God is patient. But let’s start now.