Tag Archives: Trinity

31ST SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, 2017

It’s too bad that the traditional formula that expresses the Trinity does not include femininity. I guess it was a male, patriarchal society that thought it was enough to imagine God as Father, Son, and Spirit. Who knows what future generations will do to modify that basic statement of faith and make it really inclusive?

In the meantime, we can be grateful for such beautiful images as the one from St. Paul we just heard and others similar to it from Jesus — like the one on which he describes himself as a mother hen eagerly enfolding her young under her wings. “Enfolding” is itself a characteristically feminine concept, expressed most fundamentally by the womb itself. I hope that there are fewer people today who can picture God only as an old man with a long-white beard, because breasts and arms are also useful and truthful elements in the ultimately impossible task of imaging the invisible God.

A Franciscan priest friend of mine, a retreat giver, shared with me an old story that continues to amuse and to teach. He said that a pastor was visiting a second grade religion class and was looking over the children’s shoulders to see and to praise their drawings. He asked one little girl, “Who is that you’ve drawn, dear?. The little one answered, “That’s a picture of God.” The priest said softly and kindly, “It’s a lovely picture, but of course you realize that no one really knows what God looks like.” The child answered, “Well, they will now.”

Maybe she was right — but for the wrong reasons. The truth is that we all reveal God to one another. Everything good and true and beautiful seen in any person has to be a reflection of God. Where else, or whom else, could it have ultimately come from?

That’s the kind of religion that we need more of — sensing and responding to the signs of God’s presence we are daily encountering, so often not noticing, not realizing. No one has the right to limit the infinite God to a single definition, when all the religions and cultures of the world cannot begin to contain God, to put God in a box, as we are fond of saying. The very question, “Is God male or female?” should tell us how off the mark our thinking can be, how narrow our perspective.

We are the scripture that many persons are reading! Pope St. John Paul said that people pay more attention to personal witness than they do to formal teaching. I think that’s true. In their own perverse way, some TV idols are are far more influential in the lives of many people than they are to the teachings of the church. Male or female, young or old, we are creatures of God. Like a speck of diamond dust, we show in our visible being the marks of our invisible creator.

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TRINITY SUNDAY 2017

Had you lived in Jesus’ day and asked him if he was the second person of the Blessed Trinity, I think he would not have understood the question, much less been able to make answer. The concept of the Trinity – three persons in one God – took shape some 400 years after his death and resurrection.

But what are we to say then about the rather clear reference to Trinity that Jesus himself seems to be making in these words that are attributed to him, “…baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit?” Father Joseph Nolan, liturgical scholar from Boston College in Massachusetts (and an old friend and colleague of mine, by the way), writes:

“…this is not a transcript of Jesus’ words …, but a reflection of the early church, baptizing and teaching in his name. The words reflect the belief that God… is never far from us or from our history.”

What appears to have happened is that the early Christians were gradually coming to terms with the elements that would eventually develop into our familiar doctrine of the Trinity. What does it mean?

One way to look at it is this: God is not simply one in the sense of being alone and without relationship or conversation or sharing or love. Virtually all cultures have imagined the Creator to be powerful, distant, jealous, unpredictable, competitive, etc. Jesus, on the contrary, speaks of God as compassionate, loving, forgiving, gentle, and as best characterized by the term “Abba,” which is translated as “Daddy.” The conclusion his followers came to was that the very nature and essence of God are loving relationship.

Another dear friend of mine, Australian theologian and author Michael Morwood says that when we die, we die into the love that is God.

In those first four centuries of Christian theological development, the church began to teach that the love between the Father and the Son is so intense that it overflows into yet another person, a third person, the Holy Spirit, and continues to overflow into the creation of the vast universe of which we are a part. The reasoning was that this is the nature of all love, human and divine: it yearns to share, to give & receive, to create beyond itself. And thus came about the notion of the Trinity.

Consider this pregnant statement from a man who is both a priest and a scientist. His name is Father Denis Edwards; he is the author of The God of Evolution: A Trinitarian Theology –

“The God of trinitarian theology is a God of mutual and equal relations. When such a God creates a universe, it is not surprising that it turns out to be a radically relational and interdependent one. When life unfolds through the process of evolution, it emerges in patterns of interconnectedness and interdependence that ‘fit’ with the way God is.”

Scientists are increasingly heard these days celebrating the fact that the entire universe is relational in nature at its core, each tiniest part and particle connected interdependently with all other parts, down to and beyond even microscopic bacteria.

To be responsible creatures of our Trinitarian God, we must put the relationships in our lives above all else. “Trinity” is a fundamental statement about the Creator and about us. We are the expression of God’s overflowing, eternal, intense love.

We mustn’t allow Trinity to be a ho-hum theological proposition or to be trivialized with demonstrations involving three-leaf clovers or three candle flames blended into one. It must be allowed, instead, to challenge and direct us to be what we are created to be: persons who relate in a life-giving, mutually supportive way to the planet, to the entire universe, to all other persons without discrimination of any kind, and to our very own selves, because we are among the fantastic results of God’s labor of love.

TRINITY SUNDAY, 2016

An Australian priest by the name of Father Denis Edwards authored a book several years ago entitled The God of Evolution: A Trinitarian Theology.  I especially appreciated one paragraph in it because for me it shed new light on the notion, the doctrine, of the Holy Trinity.  He wrote:

The God of Trinitarian theology is a God of mutual and equal relations.  When such a God creates a universe, it is not surprising that it turns out to be a radically relational and interdependent one.   When life unfolds through the process of evolution, it emerges in patterns of interconnectedness and interdependence that “fit” with the way God is.   

Scientists today are increasingly heard emphasizing the fact that the entire universe, as Father Edwards has just pointed out, is relational in nature at its core, each tiniest part and particle connected interdependently with all other parts, down to and beyond even microscopic bacteria.

How many times have you, for example, stared up at a flock of birds, hundreds of them, all flying in formation, making turn after turn in split-second precision?  That’s connection, relationship, intercommunication for which they had no training: they were conceived and born that way ultimately because – again a quote from Father Edwards – that’s the way God is!

You can see immediately why the Christian church is putting an unprecedented emphasis on ecology and environmental custody these days: the universe is God’s gift to us all and it is our duty, our solemn obligation, to care for it as intelligently and tenderly as we can.  There are those who ask what this has to do with religion.  The answer should be obvious, but apparently for some it is not.  Just as we are the primary caretakers of our own bodies and must not abuse or endanger their welfare irresponsibly or selfishly, so are we morally and spiritually obliged to take loving, respectful care of this planet that we call Mother Earth and the universe that surrounds it.

I understand Trinity to mean that Creator, Savior, and Sanctifier – Father, Son and Spirit — represent the relationship out of which the entire universe with its galaxies and black holes, its dinosaurs and bacteria, its humans and possible space aliens have come!  And, best of all, we know from Trinity that the root and the ultimate goal of our lives are love and that we are our fullest, best and truest selves, and are most like the Creative Spirit we call God, when we love in any way.

While we can never comprehend the infinite God, we have inherited enough knowledge of God to be aware that we are loved into life, not only in our conception and birth, but at every moment of our existence — and in our death.  We know also that God is not like us, but that we are made to become like God.

Trinity is the most basic truth about the ultimately incomprehensible God.  And Trinity is about us: that relating to each other in goodness & caring & peace & love is what being human is meant to be – because that is fundamentally what the eternal life of God is.  The success appointed for us humans is simply that we learn to root everything we say and do in love – the Trinitarian love from which we come and have our being.

HOMILY FOR TRINITY SUNDAY 2015

Had you lived in Jesus’ day and asked him if he was the second person of the Trinity, he would not have had the foggiest idea of what you were talking about.  The concept of the Trinity – three persons in one God – took shape some 400 years after Jesus’ time.

But, you may be wondering, what are we to say then about the rather clear reference to Trinity that Jesus himself seems to be making in these words that are attributed to him, “…baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.”

What appears to have happened is that the early Christians were gradually coming to terms with the elements that would eventually develop into our familiar doctrine of the Trinity.  What does it mean?

One way to look at it is this: virtually all cultures have imagined the Creator God to be powerful, distant, jealous, unpredictable, competitive, etc.  Jesus, on the contrary, speaks of God as compassionate, loving, forgiving, gentle, and as best characterized by the term “Abba,” which is translated as “Daddy.”  The conclusion his followers came to was that the very nature and essence of the mystery we call God are loving relationship.

In those first four centuries of Christian theological development, the church began to teach that the love between the Father and the Son is so intense that it overflows into yet another person, a third person, the Holy Spirit, and continues to overflow into the creation of the vast universe of which we are a part.  The reasoning was that this is the nature of all love, human and divine: it yearns to share, to give & receive, to create beyond itself.  And thus came about the notion of the Trinity.

Consider this pregnant statement from a priest who is also a scientist.  His name is Father Denis Edwards; he is an Australian, and he wrote in his book, The God of Evolution: A Trinitarian Theology –

“The God of trinitarian theology is a God of mutual and equal relations.  When such a God creates a universe, it is not surprising that it turns out to be a radically relational and interdependent one.  When life unfolds through the process of evolution, it emerges in patterns of interconnectedness and interdependence that ‘fit’ with the way God is.” 

Scientists are increasingly celebrating the fact that the entire universe is relational in nature at its core, each tiniest part and particle connected interdependently with all other parts, down to and beyond even microscopic bacteria.

To be responsible creatures of our Trinitarian God, we must put the relationships in our lives above all else.  “Trinity” is a fundamental statement about the Creator God and about us.  We are the expression of God’s overflowing, eternal, intense love.

We mustn’t allow Trinity to be a ho-hum theological proposition or to be trivialized with demonstrations involving three-leaf clovers or three candle flames blended into one.  It must be allowed, instead, to challenge and direct us to be what we are created to be: persons who relate in a life-giving, mutually supportive way to the planet, to the entire universe, to all other persons without discrimination of any kind, and to our very own selves, because we are among the fantastic results of God’s labor of love.