ETERNAL TRIANGLE

FAITH IN FOCUS: ETERNAL TRIANGLE

Theology students have nightmares about the Trinity. That’s because the books on theology try to explain the Trinity in complicated philosophical and theological terms that are based not so much on scripture as on the works of Greek philosophy and Latin scholars.

So we have to throw away the books and ask ourselves what our faith, based on God’s revelation and the constant teaching of the Church, tells us about the type of God we have. And our faith generally has nothing to do with concepts of person, nature, divine processions, economic or immanent relations etc. Thank God!

Scripture invites us to see God as Father (and if we look closely, even as Mother). This is because God is the parent principle of life, the author of creation. And society has attributed a protective and loving role to parents. Parents look after their children and want the best for them. So does God.

Jesus, the Son, was sent by the Father. He is the great communicator whose role is to tell us about the type of God we have and what God expects of us. He shows us a pattern, a way of living that will bring us happiness and let us live life to the full, while respecting everyone else’s right to live. And because we found it hard to respond to this way of life he showed us how to overcome sin, death, evil and all that would drag us down.

The Holy Spirit is the supreme enabler. It is he who animates us, who inspires us to go beyond our own limitations and who supports us constantly in all our endeavours. It is the Spirit who disposes our hearts to listen to the prompting of God’s grace and to bring hope, harmony, justice and reconciliation to all the areas of our lives.

Each one of the three is God. The fact that we attribute different aspects to each of them does not imply that one is greater than the other.

When we adopt a parental role or are seen as people who bring life and light to any situation, then we are living the life of the Father. When we follow the way that Jesus set out for us, then we are living the life of the Son. When we bring hope and encouragement, wisdom and support to those around us, we are living the life of the Spirit.

When we do all three, we are living the life of the Trinity.

 

HIDDEN HELPER

FAITH IN FOCUS: HIDDEN HELPER

“Footprints in the Sand” is a poem about God’s invisible presence. Sometimes seen on greeting cards, it’s about someone complaining that God was nowhere to be found at crucial moments. Then God replies pointing out that he was there all the time. Although he couldn’t be seen, there were two sets of footprints in the sand.

At Pentecost, Whit Sunday, we celebrate the coming of the Holy Spirit, the advocate promised by Jesus. The Holy Spirit is with us at every moment of our lives, and many of the things we do are only possible with the help of the Spirit. We may not always sense his presence, but there are always two sets of footprints wherever we go. For the Holy Spirit is the power behind all our attempts at doing good.

God’s Spirit makes people bold. The disciples were timidly huddled in a room before the Spirit released them to be fearless in their preaching. And when we need the courage to speak up for what is right or to take a difficult course of action it is the Spirit who emboldens us.

Life does not always go the way we hope it will. We suffer loss, we become downhearted, and we sometimes feel defeated. It is the Spirit within us that is able to console and comfort and who allows us to offer solace to others in their need. And when our world is riven with strife and discord it is the Spirit who urges us on to bring peace, reconciliation and unity.

But of course life is not all doom and gloom. We are capable of achieving great happiness, of being enormously creative, of sharing loving relationships with God and each other. This too is the work of the Spirit. For the Spirit animates us, encourages us and inspires us to go beyond our own human limitations to act in a God-like way.

Christians possess the Spirit through their baptism and confirmation. And today when we step forward to eat and drink at our Whitsun Eucharist we ask that his gifts may continue to blossom within the Church so that we may continue to proclaim to the world that God is alive and active, working through the hearts of men and women. Even if we can’t always see his footprints.

 

NEITHER HERE NOR THERE

FAITH IN FOCUS: NEITHER HERE NOR THERE

Today, the seventh Sunday of Easter, is one of the strangest of the Church’s entire year. There’s an air of anticipation and unfulfilment about it. Jesus has already ascended to heaven and yet we’re still here waiting for the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost. We’re in the  in-between time. It gives us chance to pause and breath a little, to take stock of the thrust of what Jesus said and did during his life and teaching on earth before he went back to the Father.

And when we listen to Jesus’ last message today, a prayer to God for his disciples, we find something of a paradox. Jesus wants us to be in the world but not part of it.Does this mean that we should become like monks in a monastery, shut off from the world and having nothing to do with it? Should we keep our distance from those who are God’s children but who are not Christians? Should we shun science and technology, culture, sport, music and enjoyment? Should we stack our bookshelves with nothing except bibles and prayer books? Should we pepper our conversations with scripture quotes and hope thereby to convert people?

The word “world” has a special meaning when Jesus uses it. It doesn’t mean the earth or the mass of people who inhabit it. It means all those values which do not reflect God’s vision for his creation. And so we live in the world but do not have “worldly” values. The world thinks it’s stupid to put yourself last rather than first, to put yourself out for those in need, to die to yourself in order that you can really live. Blessed are the poor in spirit, those who mourn, those who are meek. It makes no sense says the “world”. For the world puts a premium on comfort and affluence.

So today Jesus reminds us that if we are true to his word, if we allow ourselves to be consecrated in the truth, then our thought-patterns will be different from those who do not know him or believe in his message. And his final prayer is not that we should be removed from the world but that we should be protected from the tempter who will try and entice us to worship fame, success, wealth or what the world might call “progress”.

Are we sufficiently tuned in to God’s word that we can be in the world but not of it?

OMNIBUS

FAITH IN FOCUS: OMNIBUS 

You could say that the Church is rather like a bus. It started out from the terminus and it keeps on moving until it reaches its final destination. People get on and then get off, and it never carries the same passengers throughout the whole of the journey. As it winds its way through town and country it enjoys different views, encounters varied traffic hazards and meets fog and ice, snow and rain, sunshine and cloud.

Of course, not everyone is happy with such an image because it seems to them to be too fluid, too subject to change. They prefer the picture of a caravan in a field. Caravans are fixed and stable so that you always get the same timeless view.

During Eastertide we are presented with the extraordinary growth of the Church. Thousands of new disciples are converted by the preaching of the apostles. And already we begin to see rifts building up, as the early Christians are unsure about letting the pagans into the community of the Church. Yet God’s call is continuous. Every day is like the first Easter for God, a day to reveal the glory of the resurrection to new people.

In parishes up and down our country there are people who have only been Christians for five weeks when they were baptised at the Easter Vigil. How will the Church react to them? Will it expect them to take a back seat as newcomers, or will it wait with bated breath for the influx of new life and fresh air that their arrival will bring?

And what about us? Do we see the Church as something settled and fixed, or do we look forward to the challenge of the gospel to change? Whatever might be happening in our neck of the woods, the Church is growing in other parts of the world and God continues to have no favourites or preferred nationalities. Are we big enough to incorporate different cutures, age groups, customs and traditions? Do we take Jesus’s words about constant renewal seriously?

So our bus continues on its journey. While we are on it we may occasionally complain about the bumpy ride. We can moan about it being a bit late. We can say that it’s getting crowded and uncomfortable. But only if we keep our eyes closed can we pretend that the view is not changing.