NOT MERE IDEAS, BUT LIFE!
Catholic Homily / Sunday Reflection Trinity Sunday June 7, 2009
Today’s solemnity can easily pass off to many as some form of mental exercise – a part of the never-ending effort at “putting a handle” of sorts to a mystery that is basically something that cannot be fully fathomed, let alone understood. Being such, there is the very real danger of approaching what ought to be a truth to be celebrated as a dead specimen to be dissected in cold blood on the laboratory table.
But the human person – heart and mind and spirit all rolled into one – was never created to dissect dogmas, at least primarily. Humans were created for love and what fulfills them is not a doctrine for the mind alone to digest, but a relationship that is savored, nurtured and enriched by their totality as human beings understood primarily as relational creatures. We do not fall in love with dogmas, but we do experience emotional affinity with relational persons. Doctrinal truths, per se, do not excite us, but the idea of a God-become-man-one-with-us-in-every-way, the thought of a God-revealing-giving-of-Himself-to-us in Jesus, the conviction about a God-dwelling-in-us-in-the-Spirit till the end of times, do make our hearts beat with action and passion!
People do not just get excited by being in relationship. People are perfected in their being in and through relationships. People need people and, when we know we belong to a family-of-persons-in-community, we know we are on the way toward fullness of our personhood. “No man is an island, no man stands alone,” as that old, old Broadway song goes! “Each man’s joy is joy, joy to me; each man’s grief is my own.”
Today is not a day for us to dwell on static truths. Today is a day to dwell on the most dynamic of all truths that have to do, not only with the nature of God “ad intra,” but with the nature of God “ad extra.” Today is a day to go biblical and see, really see for ourselves who this Trinitarian God is for us … what God does in us and for us … what He expects us to do for Him.
First things, first. There is need to establish a most fundamental truth about Him. “Prithee, tell me,” the passage from Deuteronomy appears to tell us, “have you ever seen and heard a God like your God?” “Tell me, is there a God at all like our own God?” The answer of the holy book is incontestable, an answer born both of personal and communal – and real – experience! “This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.” Take note, it must be known by us. And not only known, but fixed, not in the mind, but in the heart. The heart is the storehouse, not of conceptual truths, but of relational, dynamic truths … truths that move, truths that care, truths that captivate! And the only response to such a truth is a declaration of the heart convinced it has been singled out, chosen, loved with a love of predilection … “Blessed the people the Lord has chosen to be his own,” as our response puts it. And why not? Just listen at the concatenated truths that flow out of the abundance of the heart of the heartstruck psalmist: “Upright is His word, he loves justice and right, all his works are trustworthy … etc.” This God is a God in action, involved, taken up by the needs of humans like us.
This God, moreover, is one who has given us His Spirit, not “a spirit of slavery” but “a spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’” He is busy and “broods over a bent world, with warm breast and with … ahh… bright wings!” (Hopkins) “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.” (2nd Reading)
But now is not the time to wax poetic over a conceptual truth. The biblical evidence shows and tells us more about this God of action, this God of presence, this God of ongoing love for humankind. Today, we are told the disciples went to the “mountain to which Jesus had ordered them.” The mountain, in the Bible, has always been presented as a venue for divine action, a setting for his manifestation, a locus for wonders and extraordinary grace. Mountains were the launching pad of divine action and movement. It is not a place to be “building tents,” even if they were meant for Moses, Elijah, and Jesus. It was a place of theophany, of contemplation-soon-blooming-into-action. It was a place from which to go forth, to “make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that [Jesus] has commanded [us].”
No word like “Trinity” was ever used. But no other concept could be clearer in biblical tradition. God is revealed here in action. God is shown to be what He is “ad extra” that is, in relation to the external world He has created. God is revealed to relational women and men, as Father, Son and Spirit, ever on the move to love, save and nurture humankind.
Abstractions about God have their rightful place in the lives of intelligent and free human beings. They serve the purpose of clarifying for our basically cluttered and disorganized brains, the finer nuances of this great and glorious and loving God-with-us. Like us, His creatures, created in His image and likeness, God, the Trinitarian God is personal and relational. Like us, He is community, family, unity. Three persons but one God, active, present, loving. “See, the eyes of the Lord are upon those who fear him; upon those who hope for his kindness.” (Responsorial Psalm)
You who listen now to me, or are reading this … Make no mistake about it. Today’s solemnity is not all about curling oneself up comfortably in a quiet do-nothing-by nook – in church or at home. The Trinity rouses us to action. He tells us to go and do something. He calls us to Passion! He calls us to love like He did, do as Father, Son and Spirit did, and still do for those He loves. It is not about the God-idea alone. Let’s get this straight from Miguel de Unamuno … “He who says he loves God, but yet feels no passion in his veins really loves only the God-idea, not God Himself!”