Saturday, May 25, 2013

Trinity Sunday: Do we share the gift of Life in God or hoard it to ourselves?

Jesus said to the disciples, "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own, but will speak whatever he hears, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, because he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine. For this reason I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you." (John 16:12-15)

+ In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

The beauty and glory of Trinity Sunday is, for me, overwhelming. God, who is beyond all human comprehension, has chosen to disclose to us—fragile creatures—something of the very Divine Nature in sharing with us the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. This Sunday is, above all, a celebration of this gift, and of our call to participate in and share that life, that glory (Romans 5:2).

The Gospel today recalls Jesus’ words to his disciples as he was preparing to go to the Cross, there to glorify the Father through his self-offering “for the life of the world.” In these precious, waning moments, he leaves them—for the third time on this night—with the promise that the Spirit of Truth would come to dwell with them. By this Spirit, the Church would be free to live the Gospel and to share the Risen Life of Christ through all the ages, down to this very moment in this very church, for this very community.

The Holy Spirit has called us together this day. We cooperated, of course—but the Spirit initiated. The Holy Spirit opens our mouths and minds in prayer, adoration, and learning. The Holy Spirit, whom we invoke at the beginning of the Liturgy with the prayer “Cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of your Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love you, and worthily magnify your holy Name,” constantly brings us to Christ, never pulling us away from Him.

That Holy Spirit, which might be said to share with us the gaze between Christ and the Father, transforms this morning from mere “moments of time” to direct participation in the Kingdom of God itself, the first-fruits of what Christ promised to us when he said: “The Kingdom has come near you.”

When we were baptized, the Holy Spirit came very near; indeed,  he made a home in us, allowing us to acquire “the mind of Christ,” to think in accordance with him, and so to live in communion with the Father. It is a continuous experience of giving and receiving, loving and serving. The Trinity is shown in this way to be dynamic, full of the action of love and service, not static and reserved.

This and every Eucharist is a participation in the fullness of life by receiving nourishment in the very Body and Blood of Christ. Through the Holy Spirit, we reclaim the loving gaze of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit—so powerfully evoked in Rublev’s famous Old Testament Trinity icon. Here, too, there is a dynamic giving and receiving—and not only of ideas or words, but of flesh, food, faith. It is a meal of participation in the Life of God so that we can radiate that Life to others.

And this brings me to my point about the dynamism of the Trinity. Our God has chosen to disclose something of himself, his own inner life, to us: are we going to disclose that life to others? Are we going to open the doors of our hearts to this knowledge so deeply that we allow it to pass through us to others? It is so tempting to heap up treasures for ourselves (James 5:3) rather than as gifts to share with those who need them. Doing this is a hypocritical betrayal. If God is generous with us, how can we afford not to be generous with others?

How often do we use the eyes of faith when we encounter people in times of trouble, anxiety, loss—or when the gods they have worshipped are revealed to be powerless? Do we then offer them only worldly cures, when what they need is a spiritual renewal, access to life in God? Do we open up the treasure-store of our own experience of God, gently applying the medicine of compassion and service while speaking in the power of the Spirit? Or, do we think of mystical life of the Trinity as another consumer product, “one among many,” which may not be a flavor appealing to others?

Why do we, who receive water from the river of life so freely from God, build a dam behind which we can sail our boat placidly? If we do this, we confess we never really understood the gift, the love we have received from the hand of Christ himself.

We in the Church must cease this club mentality. We must be eager to find ways to serve the physical and spiritual needs of others in unison—not pitting them against each other. We must desire above all else to communicate the life of the Trinity, wherein all people may be “guided into all the truth,” both eternally in heaven, and in the many trials of this present life.

The Trinity we celebrate, we honor, we glorify today in this Eucharist and in the Solemn Te Deum we sing at its conclusion, is not a beautiful artifact we take down each year and dust before putting it back on the liturgical shelf. It is the central fact of our existance, a call, a gift. Like a live coal, the Trinity burns the hearts of all who share in it, urging us ceaselessly to communicate the love of God for us and through us—to the ends of our lives, our world, and the ages.


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