Sunday,  Year A

Trinity Sunday – 4 June 2023

The Feast of the Trinity that we celebrate this Sunday brings us to the very question about the image of God that we have. As Christians, we imagine God as Trinity.  The Trinity is the central mystery of our Christian faith: the uniquely Christian understanding of God that we have.  No other symbol captures our Christian experience of God which is at one and the same time of wild urgency and delicate intimacy.  How else can this experience of God as wild urgency and delicate intimacy, this experience of God as so deeply and overwhelmingly relational, be expressed than through this image of a Tri-unity.  Through Jesus we have dared to imagine God as Trinity, as this Mystery of Persons in Relationship.  The Christian God is Community where there is eternally, mutual dialogue, where each person is defined by their relationship to the other, and cannot be thought of apart from the others, where each person is fundamentally for the others, with the others and in the others. 

All of this speaks of the experience of the hospitality which is the life of our God. How might we think through the nature of this hospitality?

When I think about my own relationship with God, for a long time I envisaged it very much in a way similar as to what happens when a block of wood is placed in a bucket of water.[1]  God was, as it were, like a great block of wood, and my imagination envisaged that the more God became part of my life, less would be the space for myself.  God’s desire and my own desire would be in conflict. I would have to surrender my own desire in favour of God’s desire which threatened as an enormous imposition.  “The more of God, the less of me,” was the premise that ran with this framework of understanding.

I recognise that this is a common perception that we entertain about God.  Therefore, we dare not open our hearts too much to God.  we are profoundly unsure about the implications, and the cost.  Will God ask of me something that I am not prepared to sacrifice?  Will demands be made of me that are in opposition to what I most deeply want?  Will an increased openness of my heart simply leaving me feeling more burdened?

There is, or course, another fear that we can entertain silently within us:  the fear that I will stand accused before God.  It is the fear that God is always ready to judge me, and that I will be found wanting.  It is the fear that when the mistakes of my past, and my current failings, are truly owned before God the outcome will be a type of punishment.  How many times have I heard this from people in their sickness!  Their sickness is interpreted as a punishment from God for an infidelity or a mistake in the past.  Therefore the present accuses them of the past.  And God himself is projected as the one who accuses. Yet, from the perspective of Jesus’ teaching, in God there is no accusation.  God never accuses.  This was the profound insight of one of the great doctors of the Church, Francis de Sales.  We accuse ourselves; at times we need to accuse others.  Yet, God never accuses.  And this deeply confuses us.  

If God does not accuse, what does God do?  God remains silent.  And, curiously, the silence itself can be too much for us to bear. There is a part of us, in fact, that would prefer to be accused.  But God does not accuse.  God remains silent.  If we can stand in that silence we begin to recognise that the silence is a space of fundamental invitation.  It is the space in which we can see ourselves just as we are; it is the space in which we can identify again our possibility; it is the space in which we can discover again our capacity to move forward.

All this gives us the permission to re-consider how we might imagine our relationship with God. The change for myself was to move away from thinking of God as like a block of wood displacing my own identity to recognise a more helpful imagery through the relationship between a tree and the sky.  Gaze upon a tree against the horizon of the sky.  The tree draws from the sky, as it were, for its life and nourishment.  The sky draws the tree upwards and outwards to be fully itself.  Both the tree and the sky exist fully themselves without diminishment of either.  

And so it is with our relationship with God.  God, is as it were this extraordinary space of sky in which we have our existence.  This space gives us the freedom to become fully ourselves, uniquely and personally.  It waits for us to exercise our identity just as we have been made.   A previous sense of God as imposition is transformed to one of invitation and possibility.

And it is this infinite experience of hospitality that holds the key not only to our understanding of the mystery of the Trinity which we profess this day, but to our very experience of the Trinity.

[1] The imagery is identified by Edward Schillebeekx in Christ, The Sacrament of the Encounter with God.

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