During my 67 years' worth of life lessons, I've been told more than once that three is not a good number for relationships. Don't date in threes, don't live in threes, and don't jointly own anything in threes. One person always gets left out; another tries to take over. Then there is the person in the middle. Threes are a disaster when it comes to relationships.
|Solemnity of the
Most Holy Trinity
|Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40
Odd, then, to learn a few years ago that the quark, the smallest subatomic particle, the fundamental building block of everything, only comes in threes. In other words, it only comes in relationship. From this quantum discovery, it is not a difficult leap to believing that our God, the creative force behind everything, also and only exists as a threesome. Whether one is Creator or created, being in relationship is primary, and threesomes are apparently where it's at.
It may help to remember that the Trinity, a dogma hotly debated over the centuries, is not first and foremost a doctrine. Rather, it is how the Divine has been experienced through the ages, as a unity of Source, Spirit and Savior -- like the quark, always and eternally in relationship.
Thus, today's readings are not about the doctrine of the Trinity, but about the experience behind it. In Deuteronomy, we hear an almost childlike awe at the wondrous things Yahweh had done among the Israelites. Has anything so great as this ever happened? Has anything like it ever been heard of? Awesome deeds. Awesome.
Romans 8:14-17 is replete with Paul expressing the complementary relationship between Jesus and his God and the Spirit, and participation of the believer in this dynamic. You can almost see Paul at his desk, or pacing his room, searching for just the right words to express it all. I don't know how he could have written such a description, with such authority, without having experienced it firsthand.
The writer of Matthew uses the Great Commissioning to reprise themes essential to his Gospel's message and to invite his community of disciples into the very relationship that the Source, Spirit and Savior share. But, near its end, this Gospel does something else, as well.
Just prior to today's reading is the story of the guards who ran off to tell the chief priests what had happened at the tomb of Jesus. It contains a brief description of two communities, each with its own ways of being in relationship.
The guards report to the priests and elders, who hold the governor to be the highest authority in the land. They instruct the guards to spread the lie that Jesus' body was stolen from the tomb by his followers, and give the guards money to encourage their obedience in the deceit. Jesus and the Eleven have a different focus and a different purpose.
One way of being in relationship takes power by any means possible. The other way gives power whenever there is a chance. One way gives priority to empire over all else. The other holds out for more equitable relationships. One way denies God in deed regardless of the sound bites it professes in word. The other takes seriously the presence of God in the here and now, not just in the hereafter.
The two scenes leave us with a choice. To which of these two communities do we wish to belong? Do we stand with the guards gathered with the priests and elders in Jerusalem, or with the Eleven gathered with Jesus in Galilee? This, too, is the great challenge at the end of Matthew's Gospel. We are asked, "Who is your Lord?" Our answer will determine the kind of disciples we become.
As I write, I wonder if we can also think of this Sunday as Relationship Sunday, because that is, in fact, what we are celebrating. Relationships within God, between God and us, between ourselves and others, and within our individual selves. Like the continual turning of the Earth on its axis, this circularity of relationships keeps everything in balance. It's the quark in us and the Divine.
We have, through no merit of our own, the gift of life so that we might grow into conscious loving for eternity. Relationship allows both the life and the growing to happen. Relationship is at the heart of things, in the material world and the Divine.
Through that continuing process, we are reminded of all that God does -- not because of our own goodness, but because God is faithful. The Triune God loves us before we even know what the word means, and keeps drawing us into that love, and drawing us, and drawing us. Our home is the Trinity.
[Angie O'Gorman is a freelance writer and human rights worker living in St. Louis, where she works at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri.]