May 30, 2015

The Most Holy Trinity - A God of encounter

Remember the Rubik’s Cube?  It was all the rage back in the 1980’s and a constant source of mental challenge to line up all the individual red, green, blue and yellow colored squares in perfect order so that each side of the plastic cube would be a solid color.

I have to tell you that I become a brief fanatic of this complex puzzle.  I was determined to solve the mystery without looking at the solution.  So, I kept that silly cube near my bed and when I was ready would pick it up and turn and twist the cube in all sorts of combinations.  Once I was pretty close but I never was able to work this out completely.  After six days of frustration, I finally broke down and read the instructions which solved the mysterious cube.  I felt defeated but relieved to get this headache behind me.  Once I memorized the solution, I was tempted to go around and display my genius but assumed people would catch on pretty quickly. 

On this Sunday we mark the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity and it indeed may be like trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube on our own.  Often our faith and sometimes our lives take on a similar challenge to just get things right and in proper order.  God is that divine puzzle, that grand mystery that begs our attention yet we may feel he is too distant and silent to really think consciously about every day.  Until we find ourselves in crisis is when we go to the mystery and hope he will give us the solution.

We would much rather deal with the concrete, the measurable, that which we can see, feel, and understand.  Let’s leave the more lofty thoughts and definitions to theologians, philosophers, scientists and mystics. If only we could see God and hear him, then maybe we would reconsider how even a serious relationship with him might happen.

Yet, the truth is we are surrounded by his presence.  Every day we see the work of God in operation in the very existence of things.  Imagine any serious open minded astronomer or biologist who studies in depth the complexity, order and beauty of the universe or the fragile harmony in living things and in particular in the human body.  It is said that in observing such a wondrous mystery it would be far more a leap of faith to become an atheist than it would to be a believer. 

Our first reading this Sunday from Deuteronomy says it well:  Ask now of the days of old, before your time . . . ask from one end of the sky to the other; Did anything so great ever happen before? . . . fix in your heart, that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below . . .” Leaves one a bit speechless doesn’t it?  As Creator both mysterious and distant – he speaks to us through his creation and all we need to do is look around and pay attention! 

One great exercise is to stand outside on a moonless night with no clouds in the sky – look up and you will see what God has done. Astronomers will explain all the principles and laws of physics as to how things work but we know instinctively the “cube” isn’t solved just by that.

There is more because there had to be.  While wondrous indeed, looking up at stars and planets isn’t enough to sustain us. Most of our life we spend looking down. So, God chose to show himself in flesh and blood.  When his Son Jesus came to us we saw the hidden God in a way we could clearly understand.  While Jesus was certainly mysterious by his own right, he was attractive to thousands in his day.  We call him the Word of God made flesh.  The silent voice of God spoke through Jesus and continues to speak in the Scriptures and in the lived experience of the faith community, the Church. 

What did God tell us about himself?  That he is love, compassion, forgiveness and mercy.  St. Paul reminds us in our second reading from Romans that we are not isolated bystanders sort of just left to solve the puzzle on our own but that we have been given a “spirit of adoption.” God is like a Father to us and we can call him “Abba.” Imagine that!  The creator of the Universe and of all living things who sustains his life around and in us is as intimate and personal as a parent is to their child.  If that isn’t mystery what is? 

All this uncovers for us the very desire of God to be in relationship with us because he is in that perfect balance and order:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit exist in an undivided family of love.  In fact so perfect is this order that God can only be love that reaches out time and time again.  It is not a selfish love but a love that creates new life and constantly invites us to be a part of his family.  Of all things God created human life is both spirit, like God, and material, like other created things.  So, we are made in his image.  As we treat one another with love, compassion, acceptance and mercy we glorify the God who made us. God’s invitation for us to remain in his family is a call for us to invite one another to that same intimacy.

Much of what our Holy Father Pope Francis has been saying has been coined the “God of encounter.”  I like that image because it gives me a place to stand and meet God.  Like walking along and feeling the invisible wind or reading a passage of scripture and feeling a sudden connection with a word or scene. Or finding a tangible peace of soul after a good confession. Or sensing his presence, even for just a moment, in the Holy Eucharist.

More concretely, the God of encounter is found in the human interactions we experience each day.  To show compassion for the suffering or to offer help to the needy.  To offer forgiveness rather than rejection. To raise up another rather than to tear them down.  These are all places that we encounter God in those who have been made in his image.

The Gospel from Matthew on this Feast clearly has Jesus empowering his Apostles to go and encounter humanity with the message of God’s invitation: “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

The God of encounter is one who meets us, who comes to us primarily in and through Christ his Son but every day.  All we need do is to pay attention and look around. 

So, have we solved the cube yet?  Get all the colors in proper order?  As we encounter the living and true God in the Holy Eucharist this weekend we find direction and life.  It may not solve the puzzle completely but this side of eternity, it comes close enough.   


God our Father, who by sending into the world
the Word of truth and the Spirit of sanctification
made known to the human race your wondrous mystery,
grant us, we pray, that in professing the true faith,
we may acknowledge the Trinity of eternal glory
and adore your Unity, powerful in majesty. 

(Collect of Solemnity)