Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Trinity Sunday - Year B

Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40; Romans 8:14-17; Matthew 28:16-20

A Moslem patient in the hospital told me that we Christians worship three gods. Wary of starting debates in the ward I had no real answer apart from saying 'No, we don't', but that sounded rather lame. It made me think though, as it caught me totally unawares, and I didn't like that helpless feeling which suddenly swept over me.

Undoubtedly the faith he belonged to worshipped only one God. We Christians say we worship only one God but then, do we contradict ourselves when we call him Father, Son, and Holy Spirit?

Taking into account that I actually know very little about Islam I nevertheless began reflecting and trying to imagine what it would be like to be the God, the one God, of that hospital patient.

To begin with I imagined I would be all alone. Undoubtedly I could create what I liked and have a relationship with my creatures, but what if I didn't create anything? What if I were up there in heaven - all-powerful, all-knowing, all-loving and - all alone? What would I do with myself all day? What would I do with my love? For all eternity I would be alone. And even if I did create creatures to love, I would be, in a very real sense, dependent on them in order to be able to love. I would be a dependent God.

Now I don’t know how far this reasoning is off the mark for the Moslem conception of God, and I will certainly be asking lots of questions of the Moslem chaplain when I meet him, but at least that patient’s accusation led me to question more deeply the Christian conception of God.

It struck me that there is an essential difference in the way Christians see God. Perhaps, in hindsight, I could have replied to that man, "You worship a God who can only love himself, we have a God who loves within himself; a God who is Love."

The Trinitarian God, the God of the Christians, is a God who contains within himself, in fact, who is within himself a relationship of love, a communion of love. The Father, the Source of Life, loves his only and eternally begotten Son; the Son loves the Father in return and this love between the two divine Persons is the Holy Spirit, eternally generated. The Father is the one God. The Son is the one God. The Holy Spirit is the one God.

Today the Entrance Antiphon joyfully declares: Blessed be God the Father and his only-begotten Son and the Holy Spirit: for he has shown that he loves us.

…for he has shown that he loves us. How wonderful! The God who is Love loves us; we are loved by Love. Who can fathom this truth? Who can give adequate praise and thanks to the God of Love? He has created us in love, he has redeemed us in love, he has destined us for love. The Preface of Marriage III puts it succinctly:

Love is man’s origin,
love is his constant calling,
love is his fulfilment in heaven.

The God who is a communion of love reveals to us most clearly in Jesus that he made us for this communion which constantly tugs at our hearts, inviting us, drawing us with its ceaseless invitation to surrender - and become love. Listen again to the second Opening Prayer of today’s Mass:

God, we praise you:Father all-powerful, Christ Lord and Saviour, Spirit of love.
You reveal yourself in the depths of our being,
drawing us to share in your life and your love.
The love of the Father has sent us, his children, his only-begotten Son who won for us the ultimate gift, the Spirit of love, which he sent into our hearts to make us cry out: Abba, Father.

This interior call to communion with our Creator is at the same time gift. It is the daily guarantee of his love for us and gives direction and meaning to our every moment. The return he asks is not only that we love him but that we love one another. This, indeed, is the decisive yes we must arrive at.

Trinitarian love excludes no part of what it has created; the divine mercy continues to reach out to our freedom and we must do likewise to all in our lives and communities. In a practical way this means unrelenting forgiveness towards those who offend us, as well as unrelenting hope that those who at present seem to reject the love of God may one day happily yield to it.

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