TRINITY SUNDAY                                JUNE 11, 2017


Once upon a time, in fact for most of human history, practically all human beings agreed about the existence of God. There were times when religious divisions came from conflicting beliefs about God, rather than any conflict between belief and unbelief. Religion was often imbedded into the civil society. The Egyptians had their God. Greeks had Zeus and other gods, Romans had Jupiter. Down to our present time indigenous peoples, like our Native Americans, have had a profound awareness of the Great Spirit.


All of this is no longer true, at least for western cultures. Now some openly profess their lack of faith, but the quality of life we pursue tends to promote a kind of practical atheism in all of us. We are at a distance from the world of nature. We live with highly sophisticated scientific and technological wonders. Some may still believe in God but this God hardly seems necessary in day to day life. Some continue to believe just in case there is a God.


I believe this practical atheism has had harmful effects on all of us. Without a belief in something that transcends us, something that is bigger and beyond us, we have to make everything up for ourselves and discover our own values and meaning of life.

Without a big story that situates our world and our lives in it, and in which we all play a part, we have to find our own story. It has been said that the major sin of the west is superficiality, a living on the surface. People are content with things, gadgets, possessions that substitute for an interior and reflective life. Is there some truth in the view of some people from eastern countries who see us as godless and blasphemous?  Why is suicide growing among us, especially among youth?


However dire this may seem to be, I also see this time one of opportunity. Maybe the God that atheists protest and many, even Christians, do not really believe in, is not really God at all.
Perhaps this is the time that pushes us to look at our image of God and consider whether it is satisfying and sustaining anymore. Images are important. Our image of ultimate reality is the image of our own lives. We become what we worship.


Let me try to sketch out two possible images of God. To begin, picture the Sistine Chapel. An artistic masterpiece by Michelangelo. God is pictured on the ceiling as an old, patriarchal male. Jesus is pictured on the wall above the altar as a menacing judge. Do these images represent the God you believe in?


First, the God of Deism and Enlightenment. Picture a lone, majestic, omnipotent old male sitting on his regal throne.   This God is  distant - omnipotent – solitary and no one to love – no relationship – unknowable This God is also usually seen to be a judge, angry, out to get us. People must placate this God’s anger and justice. This God can bless you or curse you, so you better please him to get the blessing Civil society has often used this image of God to back their own authority and power over the people.

Some parents, unfortunately, have also used this image, to discipline their children. “God will punish you if you don’t behave.”


Now, picture a trio of persons holding hands in a circle, dancing and joyful. The God of the scriptures is a different God.  Intimate and close – loving – a flow in motion – encompassing us at all times – a perfect communion and giving of self to others – otherness from the start – mutuality and relational - loving, laughing, dancing - face to face to face – community – mystery – inclusive – abundant life that flows out and shares.

Now picture a person in the midst of these three, going in and out of their outstretched arms. This person represents all of creation as embraced by this God; we are all floating in a river which is God itself. This God takes delight in us.

We are never separate from this God though we can block the flow by our clutching to our own ego-centeredness.


The Eucharist which we celebrate here is a Trinitarian experience.
Some have limited the Mass to just being about Jesus. They come to adore Christ in the Blessed Sacrament. This is not what happens here; that kind of adoration is for exposition and benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.


The Eucharist is worship of the Great Mystery, the living God, that which Jesus called Abba or father. We come not to adore Christ but to be one with him before this great mystery. And we are able to do this because the Holy Spirit dwells within us. The priest, in the Mass, calls on the Spirit to descend on our gifts and transform them into the Christ. The gifts are not only bread and wine but also each one of us.

We are in this circular, mystical movement. It is beyond understanding and comprehension.


Our faith is helped by our prayer life, especially contemplative prayer where we let go of our own ego and allow the Spirit to pray within us. As Paul wrote, “We do not know how to pray, but the Spirit prays within us with inexpressible groanings”. In prayer we are able to come to a place of vulnerability, of presence, of surrender, of rest and compassion. Then we know we are in the divine flow, the divine dance.


In our union with Christ in the Trinity, we are one with the cosmos and we feel the needs of all.


Let me conclude with a prayer of S. Catherine of Siena, called “Eternal Trinity.”


Eternal Trinity,  Godhead,  mystery deep as the sea You could give me no greater gift than the gift of yourself.

For you are a fire ever burning and never consumed, Which itself consumes all the selfish love that fills my being.


Yes, you are a fire that takes away the coldness,  illuminates the mind with its light, and causes me to know your truth.

And I know that you are beauty and wisdom itself.

The food of angels you gave yourself  to the world in the fire of your love.





Fr. Timothy J. Joyce, OSB, STL