Today is the feast of the Holy Trinity, when we recall that God revealed himself to humanity as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. It is no small thing. Today is the day on which we remind ourselves of the most basic Christian teaching and belief about the nature of God. The Trinity is peculiar to and in many ways defining of Christianity. It should also be defining of our lives as Christians.
The Exodus scripture, which we heard first, is one of the many places in the Old Testament that shows how God reaches out to form a relationship with humanity. In today's reading we see Moses encountering the mystery of God. Now, in Moses' time, people believed that God was so powerful that nobody was allowed to speak his name—and they believed that nobody could lay eyes on God and live. Even in our time today the name of God is considered sacred and unspeakable by the Jewish people. For us it's a lesson to revere the holy things that God reveals to us.
In the first reading, God reveals himself to Moses and calls out his own sacred name, which itself points to his completeness and self-sufficiency. "The Lord, the Lord," he says, which Hebrew scholars interpret to mean "I am that I am" or "I will be who I will be." What God reveals himself to be is "a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich and kindness and fidelity." He is a God whose attributes show us the meaning of love, and that God desires above all things loving communion and friendship with humankind. He desires that each one of us respond to his reaching out to us.
The mercy, grace, patience, forbearance, providence, and faithfulness of God the Father are the signs of his nature. Through God's attributes we know that God the Father is love. We may not be accustomed to thinking of the God of the Old Testament in such a way, but that is exactly what he is and it's what he wants to share with us about himself.
Our second reading, St. Paul's second epistle to the Corinthians, closes with a Trinitarian blessing: "The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with all of you." So we see that grace, love, and fellowship are characteristics of the triune God, the Holy Trinity. Perhaps the key to understanding how the Trinity defines our lives as Christians is in St. Paul's phrase be with all of you. God wants us to be like he is. God wants us to be vessels of grace, love, and fellowship.
Life gives us many opportunities to be like God. The Trinity itself reveals relationship within the godhead. Where there is a distinction of the three persons of God, there is a dynamic movement of encounter, communication, and giving. So it is with us also. Where there is distinction of persons there is opportunity to share, and no one, not any one, lives entirely alone. The Trinity models relationship and relationship is what God desires from us. The possibilities are endless because relationship has as its source the fathomless mystery of God's own being. Even so, there are a few things that are quite clear.
The first thing is that in order to be in a true life-giving relationship with God, we must also be in relationship with others. Remember, God desires a relationship with others. He has given us his Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit to make this happen. We enter into relationship with God by encounter, communication, and giving. First we encounter Jesus; we communicate to him and give ourselves to him; we say, "God I want to belong to you. I give myself to you. Take my heart. Make me be who you want me to be and in me be who you will be."
Being in relationship with God includes things like personal prayer, attending church, and studying scripture. However, our relationship cannot be vertical only; that is, it cannot be between God and me only, it must also be horizontal. It must be between you and me and all others.
God has given us an imperative, which raises relationship to a new level. Although we must begin with those closest to us—perhaps a good lesson for Father's Day—relationship cannot be just an individual thing where we choose with whom and to whom we will relate: it must be taken to greater and greater levels. Relationship modeled after God's reaching out to humanity in Christ does the same thing as its model. It reaches out in ways that refuse to be satisfied. It reaches beyond interpersonal limitations. It reaches out and heals what is broken in the world; it fixes systems of injustice. It encounters, communicates, and gives. The power of God's love poured out is such that it shakes the very foundations on which we stand, and God calls us each to participate in it by relationship.
Recall that when God revealed himself he calls out and Moses hears him. He doesn't call to Moses but calls his own name. Moses had to listen not for the familiar but for the unfamiliar. He hears the voice of God say, "I am that I am; I will be who I will be." Recently the thought came to me that it sometimes seems like God is silent in our times. Perhaps this is because we don't hear God call out our names and because we have greater awareness of the challenges in life than at any other time in history. We hear not of God but of natural disasters, of scandals, divisions, unbelief, the polarization of peoples, and the loss of time-honored values. What we hear amounts to challenge upon challenge upon challenge, and we ask, "Where is God's voice in all of this? Does he speak to us no longer? Has God abandoned us forever? Is God silent?"
Yet we need to understand. Where we fail to hear God is when we fail to hear the outcry of others in the perplexing situations of life; it is where we fail to respond with love. We fail when we cease to see that God gives us the responsibility for others.
God is indeed speaking to us in our times. God is still revealing himself to us. He is asking for the faith in our lives that will allow God to be God. God is asking us to embody who he is as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is asking us to love. He desires not a self-seeking love, not a love that is hard or disciplinarian; not a you'll-get-what-you-deserve love. God's love is not small, not stingy; rather, it's a courageous love that steps up to challenges. It's a self-emptying love, which gives with abandon and that reaches out and permeates the whole world: it reaches to the private, the public, the sacred, and the secular. In our times God indeed speaks to us and asks us to enter into the relationship that defines him. God asks us to come to him in his fullness, to come to Jesus, to be united in fellowship of the Holy Spirit, to stand before God in complete surrender and to love one another without reservation.