Dear friends, during these months of lockdown, we’ve become much more aware of the importance of our relationships with other people. Even before the pandemic, our interpersonal contact existed on difference levels and in different ways. But, since lockdown, we’ve discovered new ways to keep in touch. WhatsApp, FaceTime, Skype, Zoom, to name just a few, have become routine, even for people who wouldn’t describe themselves as technological whizz kids.
Our relationships with each other matter. And, please God, if there’s one positive thing to come out of the tragedy that Covid-19 has brought, it will be that we treat each other with greater kindness, with greater respect, with greater patience, and with greater love.
Most of us have a particular kind of relationship with those in our family – even though families are far from perfect, and there can be plenty of ups and downs. Some relatives are amazing; others are full-blown crazy. But, like it or not, we’re connected to our family in a unique way. And, hopefully, this experience of belonging is making us more human and more holy.
We also have a special kind of relationship with our friends. Some we’ll have known since childhood; others we’ll have met along life’s journey. As the saying goes ‘a friend is someone who, knowing everything about you, loves you just the same.’
Then there are the relationships we have with people we work with, or study with, with our neighbours and passing acquaintances. And perhaps, finally, there are the relationship we have with strangers. By this I mean the people unknown to us we meet on our streets; the people we hear about in conversation; the names and stories that come to light about people in our town, in our country, or around the world.
Think for a moment how the name and story of George Floyd has become so significant in these past days. Even without knowing him personally, we’ve been touched by his story. We’ve been outraged by his treatment and shocked by his death. Whoever we are, whatever our relationships, racism is an evil that has no place – no place whatsoever – anywhere in the human family or in the human heart.
Relationships are important because people are important. Every human life, without exception, deserves dignity and respect.
Dear friends, why all this talk of relationships on Trinity Sunday? Well its probable obvious. Quite simply, because the one God has revealed Himself to us as a God of three persons in relationship. What we know to be true about God is revealed because God sent His Son into the world. What we know to be true about God is revealed by the Son showing us His Father. What we know to be true about God is revealed by the Father and the Son sending us the Holy Spirit.
Back in the year 675, the bishops who gathered together at the 11th Council of Toledo, put it like this: the Father is related to the Son, the Son is related to the Father, and the Holy Spirit is related to both. (cf. CCC 255) To put it another way: God is love – the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father, and the Holy Spirit is the overflow into the world of the love between them.
Understanding God as a God of relationship matters not just for knowing who God is. It matters for knowing who we are, as those called into personal relationship with God.
It’s an incredible, mind blowing truth that, poor though we are, we are invited to share God’s life. With all our challenges and inadequacies, we can participate, we do participate, in the relationship of love between the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Catechism puts this beautifully when it says: ‘…even now we are called to be a dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity: ‘If [anyone] loves me,’ says the Lord, ‘he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him.’ (CCC 260) We are the dwelling place of the Most High God. God’s life is within us. We are caught up into the eternal circle of love that is the relationship between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit.
The wonderful Sr. Wendy Becket, once wrote: ‘The essential act of prayer is to stand unprotected before God. What will God do? He will take possession of us. That he should do so is the whole purpose of life.’ Defenceless, vulnerable prayer before God opens our hearts to Him, to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, dwelling within us.
When I was a boy I had a nasty bought of chicken pox. Away from school, to take my mind away from scratching the spots, all daubed with calamine, my parents moved the portable black and white television from their bedroom to mine. It was old technology – if you’re old enough, you’ll remember it – with a moveable circle of wire for an aerial, and a dial to tune the channels. This was long before the full range of daytime television we have today – no Bargain Hunt or Homes under the Hammer.
The only thing I could find to watch one afternoon was a golf championship. Stuck in bed, covered with itchy spots, black and white golf was not the most scintillating viewing. But what I’ve always remembered is this: whenever the camera focused on a player taking a shot, a man from the crowd behind him would hold up a sign that said ‘John 3:16.’ This chap must have been very fit, because he kept appearing, running around the golf course, getting behind each player, and holding up his sign: ‘John 3:16.’
At the time, I didn’t know what it meant. It is, of course, one of the most important texts of the Gospel. We heard it today: ‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost, but may have eternal life.’ God our Father sent His Son out of love for the world, out of love for every person, without no exceptions. God the Son loved His Father, and accepted death on a cross for love of us. And God the Son promised that He and His Father would send the Spirit of Truth, the Spirit of love, to be with us forever.
The God who loved the world so much, the God who loves the world so much, the God who loves you so much, is a God of loving relationship.
This Trinity Sunday, I pray that God may take possession of you and dwell in your heart anew. I pray that your sense of God’s loving relationship within you, will strengthen and encourage your discipleship and your service.
The Carmelite sister St Elizabeth of the Trinity wrote a prayer expressing something of what all this means:
O my God,
Trinity whom I adore,
help me forget myself entirely so to establish myself in you,
unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity.
May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you,
O my unchanging God,
but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery!
Grant my soul peace.
Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling and the place of your rest.
May I never abandon you there,
but may I be there, whole and entire,
completely vigilant in my faith,
and wholly given over to your creative action. (see CCC 260)
May ‘the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit’ dwell and grow within you. Amen