Today my friends; we try to get our heads around the concept of the Trinity, which we believe to be our God. “Mystery” is a good word to describe what we truly can’t understand, at least intellectually. We are like the apostles of whom Jesus says in today’s Gospel from John, “I have more to tell you, but right now, you can’t understand.”
Perhaps the way to attempt understanding is not with our minds, but with our hearts. In fact, I am led to believe, with each passing year, that there is so much of life that would be better served through our hearts than through our heads. Looking through the lens of our hearts truly brings these Scriptures we just shared to life and helps us to shed light on the idea of a Trinity—three persons in one God. Now, logically of course, this is beyond us—three equal persons, making up one God—fantastic! Or as writer Ann Lamott says, “Wow!”—which is one of her three significant prayers, by the way. On the heart level, so much more can be seen and believed than through our human minds that, as we know, can be at times, very small boxes.
This year I have been reading a soon-to-be trilogy of books about a great stateswoman of our country, Eleanor Roosevelt. She was one who very much advocated from her heart for policies that would serve our country’s people in the aftermath of the Great Depression and going forward.
A great place to begin then, on our “heart” journey, looking for the essence of God, is with the beautiful Psalm 8 given for our reflection today. “When I behold your heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and stars which you set in place—who are we that you should be mindful of us!” We say that verse with awe and finish it with an exclamation point! Really, who are we? Our response must be—“We are creatures loved by God!” The psalm continues, “You have made us little less than the gods…you have given us rule over the works of your hands, putting all things under our feet.” Another way to say this is that we live and exist on a continuum that includes humanity at one end and divinity at the other—when we strive to be our best selves, we are closest to being divine; “a little less than the gods…”
This is probably my most favorite psalm because it expounds on the down-right goodness of our God—to not only create—give birth to all the beauty in our world, but to share that beauty through giving us life and the awesome task of looking after that life. We have been blessed the last three years with a pontiff who consistently calls us to this very reflection—the beauty of the earth—its fragility and the need that we care for it. We are conscious of both the fragility and the strength of our earth as we witness more and more changing weather patterns, the extensive melting of the glaciers and more violent storms and we have to ask how well have we cared for our beautiful earth—the gift of the planet that we live on.
I often think of the beauty of our earth as I take walks through woods on our family farm. I am enthralled with the many different species of wildflowers and plants, all the creatures scurrying about, seemingly to delight me! We are presently awaiting the annual emergence of some yellow lady slipper plants that grace one of the paths in the woods—they are always a delight to see! One can hardly look upon the beauty around us and not cry out today with the psalmist—“How wonderful is your name, O God, through all the earth!”
And beyond the plants and animals, the heavens and the earth, there are the people—we and all we associate with each and every day, plus all those that we will never meet, that make up our world and existence. I like to imagine all that is probably out there in our galaxy and galaxies beyond that I will never see. How wonderful is all that you have made, O God!
The Wisdom Literature in our first reading today says that the Spirit delights in the children of humankind. This Spirit is also one who plays like a child. Does that tell us something of what our stance in this great and wonderful world should be?
We have all delighted in watching a young child discover all that is new and interesting in their world. There is so much to wonder about. How would it be if we could be more in awe of life all around us instead of trying to subdue it by our lack of care for it at times?
This calls into question some of the rhetoric that we have had to deal with during the current presidential campaign. Without being partisan; I mention this only to comment on the tone that has become acceptable not only on the political front but in life in general. In politics, the tone has gone past the issues and attacks persons merely to gain ground and unfortunately, that tone plays to a great many people. What our country stands for is somehow lost when we lower the standards of what is acceptable, when we allow rhetoric to fuel mob psychology that runs over what is best in us. It is always good from time to time to stand back and ask if we are becoming the evil we say we are fighting against.
The Buddhists call the ability to wonder, to appreciate all that is around us—“mindfulness”—being “mindful” is being attentive to what is present now, in our lives—respecting each other and our world, treating both with care—not worrying about the past or fretting about what the future will bring—just living now—being aware.
I believe that is a piece of the truth about life that John in today’s Gospel says the Spirit wants for each of us to have during our earthly journey—an awareness of the beautiful creation that our Loving Parent, Creator God have given to each of us, wherein we can delight as does the Spirit in playfulness. Does God ask that we become children again? No, I don’t think so; but maybe that we would rediscover our child-like tendencies again, for wonder, for amazement of all that is about us each and every day—for seeing what is best in each other, lifting that up and debating from that stance, as in the political example. It is not bad to disagree, but then defend it as intelligent, thinking people with hearts, not debasing oneself to be liked—to get elected.
Perhaps we might acquire a new appreciation for the people who make up our own personal lives—sometimes we are so ready to notice what isn’t just right—how often do we take notice of what almost always goes right, for most of us—the food always present whenever we are hungry, clothes and shelter, friends and family—all so wonderful, yet so fragile, like our earth. We all know this fragility when we are ill, when loved ones die. Let us not, my friends, take one bit of the beauty of life for granted—in all of creation, because it can all be taken away so quickly through illness and death. We should therefore never abuse or disregard any of life.
Human existence isn’t always easy—we all have struggles along the way—we at times get in the way of each other’s dreams—there is sickness of body, mind and spirit that shields us from realizing that we are mightily loved by God, and we simply forget to be present to each and every day.
So what do these ramblings tell us of God on this feast of the Trinity? Maybe, very simply, that our God is so grand that the goodness can’t be contained in just one person, but must spill over into three! Paul tells us that the Spirit pours the love of God into our hearts—a love so great that it produced Jesus—one to show us the way through the ups and downs of our lives. We as co-creators in our beautiful world know that our love can spill over into new life; physically, emotionally and spiritually. Such a waste when we allow what is worst in us to spill over versus what is best in us.
The NCR—National Catholic Reporter is presently doing a four-part series on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE). They are focusing on clergy sex abuse of children, as that is our Church’s greatest need to address, but they also include all kinds of abusive experiences that children either witness or physically experience: such things as seeing your mother beaten, coming home to a drunk parent, or being physically, sexually or emotionally abused through neglect, themselves.
And of course, it is no wonder that these adverse childhood experiences affect them for a lifetime—in all their relationships and experiences going forward. The compelling thing to me was to learn of the frequency, the amount of such events in the population. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention stated in its study that only a little over one-third of the population has had no ACE’s up to age 18. Just to give us some sense of that, the U.S. Census Bureau in 2014 recorded 245.2 million people over 18, so that is more than 156 million adults with histories of adverse childhood experiences. Narrowing it down even more—that is every other person in our Church pews who have experienced an adverse childhood experience and some, more than one!
So that helps us to understand when we meet individuals who are withdrawn, angry, unable to stay physically well, addicted to food, drugs—whatever—that there may be more going on behind the presenting traits than we know. On the other hand, sometimes someone who seems very normal will explode emotionally at a certain point and no one can understand where the outburst came from. Abuse experienced can be triggered by little things; sounds, certain places, articles of clothing—roman collars for those abused by priests, candles and other religious articles.
So friends, there is much work to be done in our beautiful world, much understanding, mercy and compassion to be given to God’s beautiful people. We are apt to not always recognize the God present in each of us and horrors like all the abuse mentioned here confuse us as how to respond.
Simply put, we must keep our eyes on Jesus to show us the way—remember the love between our Creator God and the First Born Jesus and know that the strength of their Spirit is always with us to call the wrong when we see it, but more so to recognize the good in each person infused with the very love of God.
On this feast of the Trinity then, let us praise our good God in all her/his manifestations and ask for all that we need to live and to love—to be our very best selves; more aware, more compassionate, more truly followers of our brother Jesus, in the love and generosity of the Creator and through the guidance of the Spirit.