There are many things I will appreciate more post-Covid. Already, I have enjoyed seeing people’s teeth, especially their smiles. It is amazing how much a smile can bring to life. I appreciate what we are doing now: coming together to celebrate Mass, live, in person and able to exchange pleasantries on the church steps, something I would have taken for granted only a year ago. However, more important than these has been my greater appreciation of the Trinity.
There are many mysteries with the Trinity, not the least of which is why did God reveal it to us if we will never understand it? The usual answer has been that as all we can say about the Trinity is that God is least poorly understood as being in relationship and that these relationships are least poorly seen as what we call love. There are many important things which flow from this. Most important is that the Triune God is best reflected in community and that community is most securely formed by love. I could now deluge you with scripture quotes and I assume many of you have realized that I hope I will asked for them after Mass but few of you make that mistake anymore but let me use two Covid related examples to illustrate the connection between the Triune God and our community.
Teenagers, particularly teenage girls, have especially suffered during Covid. There has been an increase in sleep dysfunctions and loss of appetite. The cause is usually seen as psychological. I think that it is also metaphysical. Teenagers are designed to explore life and to expand their world, most importantly to learn how be in relationship with other people beyond their families. As we better realize now there is something about human interactions which cannot be fulfilled on Zoom. Philosophers call this “Tacit Learning”. It is what we can read if only unconsciously in a face and experience with body posture and countless other signs of which we are not consciously aware.
Like the Blessed Trinity we are who we are because of our relationships. This is what is meant when we say that we are made in the image and likeness of God. Not that God has made us so that we look like him physically, he does not have a physical form, but that we are made to be – to use the least offensive analogy – with others in community. That is being God-like.
When he reveals that he is love, he is telling us that in order to be who he has created us to be our relationships must be based on love. Our love is puny compared to His.
But notice some things about it. It is constantly giving. God has revealed not only that He is love but that each person of the Trinity been emptied by giving everything. John tells us: “He whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. 35 The Father loves the Son and has placed all things in his hands.” (Jn 3:34–36).
It brings together, not casts apart. The love of the Trinity is so great – they are 3 persons but still one being. Our minds will never understand, but in many marriages and with some mystics there is an inkling of what this unity is like and what is offered to us. John says to all disciples that after the Spirit has come:
“You will know that I am in my Father, and you in me, and I in you.; and those who love me will be loved by my Father, and I will love them and reveal myself to them.”( Jn 14:20–22)
The more our relationships reflect – however dimly – the love of God, the more we will truly be living in His image and the more we will be truly human. I hope that we have learned from the pandemic that if we wish our parish to be in the image of God, we can only do so by strengthening the personal relationships within it.
Another group that was especially affected were older people. Because we were particularly susceptible to the Virus, we needed to separate ourselves from physical contact with others. This could mean that older people literally were untouched by human hands for months. It was devastating. Let me share with you how I learned this.
I was in a parish where Sunday Mass was very long, and the kiss of peace became our seventh-inning stretch. I felt sorry for the children and without really thinking told them they could walk around the whole church if they shook hands with old people. They did and Mass went on even longer.
After a few weeks an older women got me after Mass and said she wanted to talk to me about the kiss of peace. I braced myself. Before she could say anything, she started tearing up and told me that her family had moved away, and this was the only time during the week that anyone touched her and that it “made her feel human.”
This should not come as a surprise. God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son; He became flesh and bone. Our love must follow here as well. Love must be spiritual, but it can never be ethereal. It must literally touch other people. It is interesting that last year St. Charles had nothing which directly touched people in need; now we have a thriving food pantry. Can we really think that this is an accident? If we are open to the love of the Triune God what else will spring up? Who else will be touched?
If my appreciation of the Theology of the Trinity has not changed this year my appreciation and realization of the experience that is the Trinity has. What God wishes us to know about the Trinity will not be found in thinking, but in loving.