Loving, Loved,Love- Our Triune God: Rev. Judy’s Homily for Trinity Sunday 2014
As I think about the nature of God for Trinity Sunday I am reminded of listening to two of my young adult parishioners try to describe their parents. Each one harbored many complex feelings toward their parents and neither had the slightest notion that the parents had histories separate from themselves. They had no idea that that their parents had thoughts, feelings, problems, hopes,fears, dreams, strengths and weaknesses. Neither knew the parent at all- only how the parent had fallen short of their expectations. I remembered how woefully long it took me to really know my own mother and to love and value her as the priceless treasure she was. I then thought is that what we do with God-simply make God a product of our projections without trying to find out who God really is?
There are two things that enable me to speak but only with the greatest humility on this Sunday when the church offers an understanding of what God is like. The first is the experience of God- in- relation in my own life and in the lives of those I serve; and the second is simply appreciation of the vastness of the nature of God, a vastness that I can nowhere near comprehend. I dare not speak at all except for seeing and knowing what God has done as revealed through human imperfections in the Scriptures and as revealed daily in our lives. I know this God-in-relation to me and to all of creation. I see and hear God in the lives of those who truly cast their cares upon God and trust God for everything, especially those who are poor in the goods of this world.
Last Tuesday, In our worship group with homeless and formerly homeless men and women Nathaniel said “I know God is with me and that God loves me because there was a time that I was locked up inside myself and not able to find a way out to do something about being homeless and hungry and so I stayed that way for over five years. I stayed that way until I listened to and felt the message of love that the people of the Good Shepherd brought to the park. I felt loved and let God in. Soon after that I did what I had to do and got everything I needed.” Several of those gathered echoed his story. Lauretta said dramatically, “listen, listen to our stories, how can anyone who listens not believe in God and in God’s Christ?”
Our Tuesday Worship Circle
For those who depend on God for life, “believe in” is not an abstract exercise like believing in a dogma or doctrine, it is believing in a person who loves them and who will do anything for them- it is more like when a parent says to a child or one friend or lover says to another: “I believe in you”. It is of the heart not the head. It inspires and motivates to emulate. When I grew up poor I witnessed daily miracles of unmet needs being met by God and through people and I see it again now with our people. When I had to face cancer and major surgery in early 2013 an abstraction of God would not do, the love I experienced through those surrounding me with prayers and caring, and experiencing God being there with me especially at night got me through it. What I needed to see most after eight days in a hospital room with no view outside was evidences of God’s creation. My gloom lifted as soon as I saw green grass and trees, birds and sky and my pets-for that is how I experience God-through others and through creation. As I continue to face other scary health threats, it is God’s love and presence that gets me through it. I have a pretty good head, but it is my heart that knows.
And so is the meaning of the Gospel of the day John 3:16- to believe in(love and follow) Jesus brings life now and forever-it is a release from death in all its myriad forms, as Nathaniel said. When I first moved to Florida 16 years ago my neighbor was a woman who lived alone and had an inoperable brain cancer. She told me that she loved the Buffalo Bills football games and saw a John 3:16 sign held up in the bleachers. She asked me what it meant. I shared God’s love with her because of that sign. We talked about her cancer and her fears, and that God is with her always. This brought her comfort and she realized that she was not alone anymore. Over time we also spoke of reaching out to her estranged children and relatives and she did.
The words we use to explain God are inadequate. Our first reading from Exodus 34 says that God is a God of compassion and mercy-and we see what that looks like in the life of Jesus the Christ while we examine our own lives to see how far the acorn fell from the tree! In 2 Corinthians 13:11-13 we are blessed with the grace of Christ Jesus, the love of God and the friendship of the Holy Spirit- and how blessed we truly are to experience this relational God. Yet we also learn that God is “immanent and transcendent”. What does that really mean? Here is the explanation of one author J.I. Packer in Knowing God.
(Please note that I have changed the word “Him” in relation to God throughout this writing where I quote others for now it is accepted that women and men both reflect the image of God and God is our loving Mother as well as our loving Father. Also in the Scriptures the Spirit of God in original languages is clearly a feminine face of God. As this language was translated and God was referred to only as “Him” we lost the balanced view of God with feminine and masculine qualities thus diminishing our understanding of God. See for example Elizabeth A. Johnson, Truly our Sister: A Theology of Mary in the Communion of Saints, Continuum, 2009. So below I substitute God for Him and Father/Mother for Father.)
“God’s transcendent nature strives to keep God distant and remote from God’s creation both in space and time, yet on the other hand, God’s immanent nature works to draw God near to God’s creation and to sustain the universe. God’s love for God’s creation is so great that we see God’s immanence overshadowing God’s transcendence. This becomes clear in God’s incarnate Son, Jesus Christ, as Christ… draws all humanity back into a close, personal relationship. We see God not only choosing to draw near to God’s creation but to personally come into the hearts and minds of God’s people through the indwelling power God’s Holy Spirit. This is the miracle of God’s transcendence.”
God is transcendent -“more” and “beyond”- beyond our greatest understanding yet not “above us” in the sense of removed from us. ALL we can understand of the cosmos does not begin to touch who God is, and yet God is right next to and within us at the same time as close as breath. This is part of the Mystery of God that we seek to name and know for ourselves. We cannot put God in a big God-box for we can not know the fullness of God’s being. I thank God for that Mystery that we know only in part.
|Fr. John Foley, scholar at St.Louis University, sees knowing the triune God as a “Story of Love”.“What is the Holy Trinity and why do we dedicate a big Sunday to it?I know a story that might help.Once upon a time, in fact once upon many thousand times, God the (Father/Mother) invited the people of the earth to a lasting and loving relationship. Look at the Old Testament: “I want to be your God and I want you to be my people. My love for you is tender and precious. Won’t you love me in return?”
In many ways people understood and entered into the agreement. Abraham, Isaac, Moses, Elisha, Elijah, just to begin the list.
But we humans keep choosing things closer to hand, like money and honors and such—barns full of them. Our refusal of God’s love became widespread.
How did God react to such rejections? With hurt and disappointment for sure.
My people, what have I done to you? How have I offended you? Answer me. For your sake I scourged your captors and their first-born sons, but you brought your scourges down on me! My people, answer me (from “The Reproaches” on Good Friday)!
No answer. So eventually the Father/Mother tried a new and quite brilliant way. “I will show them what true love looks like. Since I am all love and nothing but love, I will go out to them utterly, as love does. I will become one of them. I will live humanity to its depths, and they will see love in its full truth.”
So a human called Jesus was born. He grew up. He told the people to love God above all things and their neighbors as themselves. He was the very heart of God, the heart made flesh. One with the Father but different as well. Two persons in one God.
Human beings had been hurt and betrayed, of course, forced to live with their own mixed-up motives, selfishness and greed. Love gets lost in such a world. So Jesus-God plunged far into our ocean of cruelty and loss, dove all the way to down to death.
His job was to carry all this back to the source of everything, the Father/Mother. The disciples knew about only two parts of God, Jesus and his Abba/Amma. So before he left, he said the following to them (I am paraphrasing):
Philip and the rest of you, if you know me, you know the Father/Mother. And after I go back to the Father/Mother, I will remain within you. I will make a home in you by sending the Holy Spirit. This Comforter will be the very love that I and the Father/Mother have for each other!
He was talking of course about the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit—a real being that snuggles close within our souls if we let it. This Spirit of love is graceful and deep and comforting, like a blanket in winter cold.
And that is the story. Alright, maybe it is less clear than we would like. Really it is just the story of our lives with God and each other.
It is the Trinity! Let us celebrate!”
John Foley S. J.
YES, let us celebrate that through love and relationship and creation we have some understanding of God, but more, that we are loved by the God who created the Universe,the cosmos, tends it like a Mother/Father and Creator, tends the created; and that we have a living example of what God is like in ways we can understand through knowing the love and self-emptying of Jesus the Christ who stood with the poorest and most outcast, the stranger and the sick, as for inclusion and justice; and that the Holy Spirit of our living God is with us, among us and in us now and forevermore.
It is not original with me, but another preacher suggested that we can understand the Trinity-the three-in-one God as: Loving, Loved and Love.
God’s active creating is loving; Christ’s example of love lets us know that we are loved; and the Holy Spirit is Love within us and motivating us.
Loving, Loved, Love,
And a Blessed Father’s Day to all of our fathers, brothers, uncles, cousins and friends!
Rev. Dr. Judy Lee, ARCWP
Pastor The Good Shepherd Inclusive Catholic Community of Fort Myers, Florida