The Most Holy Trinity
Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9
2 Corinthians 13:11-13
Where I live, Detroit, there is major construction work being done on Interstate 96, just west of St. Paul’s. It was decided that the interstate would be completely closed on the stretch that they were working on so that the job would be completed more quickly. There is work not only on the road itself, but on the bridges that cross over the highway. To look at the work is pretty amazing. This came to me as I was reflecting on our second reading for today, Trinity Sunday. That reading is from 2 Corinthians, and St. Paul writes, "Mend your ways, encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you."
Usually, "mend your ways" is an exhortation to reform our lives and turn away from the bad things that we do. But thinking about the road work, and the rest of the Scripture passage led me to understand those words in a different way. After St. Paul exhorts the community to mend their ways, he also writes, "encourage one another, agree with one another, live in peace…" When we look at the state of politics in our country, or the seemingly endless conflicts around the world, encouraging and agreeing with each other seems totally out of reach. It seems to me, then, that we are called to "mend" the ways of communication with each other. Through social media, we have ways to keep in contact with people all over the world, and yet, we have trouble listening to each other when it comes to some of the important issues of our day. It seems rather easy to judge and condemn and dismiss those who disagree. There doesn’t even seem to be a desire to agree, much less come to some consensus.
Is it possible to mend the ways we communicate with each other? As St. Paul writes, "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you. We can mend our ways if we follow the ways of the Trinity. Our doctrine of the Trinity states that we believe that God is Three Persons in One God. God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We can somehow distinguish the Three Persons, but they are inseparable from each other. I always like to think of God as a Supreme Being of Relationship and Love. God has always communicated to us in love. Even when we read the Old Testament and it seems to us that God is punitive and harsh, there is always love behind everything that God does. He may let us suffer the consequences of our actions, but He always provides a way for us to come back to Him.
God chose to love outside of Himself. God chose to love us into being. And when we strayed from that love (God has never stopped loving us!), prophets and judges were sent to us to put us back on the right track, until the time when the Father sent the Son into the world by the Holy Spirit. In our Gospel reading from John, we have that oh-so-familiar verse: "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life." And the next verse says, "For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him." God has also revealed His love in the Holy Spirit, who is our Comforter and guide. The Holy Spirit may urge us and even push us, but the Spirit does not force us.
The ways of the Trinity are not condemnation and domination. How has God revealed God’s self to us except by a total gift of self? How has God communicated to us except by love and sacrifice? When we refuse to listen, or seek to condemn, whether we are at home or work or school, or on the bigger stages of politics and world affairs, there is no giving, there is no love, but only a desire to subjugate others to our will.
As our country celebrates the gift of our fathers on Father’s Day, may we follow the ways of the Trinity. May we share love and make peace. And may "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit" be with all of us today.
Fr. Phil Paxton, C.P. is on staff at St. Paul of the Cross Retreat and Conference Center, Detroit, Michigan.