“If it’s not about love, it’s not about God”

A Semon for Trinity Sunday

Preached at the Parroquia Catedral de la Natividad

Bethlehem, Pennsylvania

May 30, 2021

Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so
move every human heart [and especially the hearts of the
people of this land], that barriers which divide us may
crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our
divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace;
through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Un mandamiento, Dios nos ha dado, que nos amemos unos a otros

que nos amemos

que nos amemos

que nos amemos unos a otros

TRinity Symbol

Almost without exception, the important Feasts which we celebrate each year are taken from actual events which occurred in the life of Our Lord Jesus Christ. We can name them, easily, as they unfold for us chronologically—the birth in Bethlehem of Judea, the Epiphany, the Presentation in the Temple, The Flight into Egypt, the Baptism in the River Jordan, The Transfiguration, the Triumphant Entry into Jerusalem, The Last Supper, the Passion, Death, and Resurrection, The Appearances to the Apostles, and the Ascension.

In the Liturgical Calendar, though, there are two other great Feasts which have a different origin. The Feast of Weeks, of Shavuot, or of Pentecost, which we celebrated this past Sunday is a celebration of the baby Church. It celebrates that explosion of power which transformed those frightened disciples locked in the Upper Room and sent them out into the streets preaching the Good News of Jesus Christ.

The Solemn Feast of the Most Holy Trinity—which we celebrate today, is often thought to be a “doctrinal” Feast. That is to say that it does not commemorate a specific event from the Holy Scriptures, but rather, is usually thought of as an affirmation of the central mystery of our Faith as explained to us in the words of that Creed from the First Ecumenical Councils of Nicea and Constantinople which we profess each Sunday. In summary, we profess that God is one undivided Trinity. In that reality of One Loving God, we acknowledge three Persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God, the Holy Spirit. Of course, we readily admit that it is impossible for words to ever fully capture the essence or reality of God. God is the ultimate mystery. Our words are limited, incomplete and fragmentary. Yet, we are reminded that theology is “faith seeking understanding.” It is, thus, the vocation of the theologian to assist us as we enter into the presence of that most sacred of mysteries—not only to make an attempt to comprehend, but, more importantly to love, to adore, to worship, and to serve.

The single most helpful theologian for me, is the late German Jesuit, Karl Rahner. Father Rahner wrote a more devotional work in which he presented his own understanding of the “ontology of the symbol.” When we were given the article to read in Seminary, I took one look at the title, and thought, “Oh no, I am NEVER going to be able to make sense of this!” To paraphrase (after thirty years), Father Rahner made a surprising statement, “Reality can only be truly real, present, effective, and actual if it reaches outside itself in love.” He then went on to give the best analogy for the Holy Trinity which I have ever heard. From all eternity, God the Father is filled with love. That love goes forth, outside of the one God and engenders, gives birth to the Son. Between the Father and the Son is an all-encompassing love. That reciprocal love between the Father and the Son is the Holy Spirit. Rahner suggests that there is only one way to understand the Trinity. God is essentially a Community of Love.

This God of Love, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then reaches out in the acts of creation: of all that is seen and unseen, this world which is entrusted to our care, and humans who are created in beautiful diversity in the very image and likeness of God. God viewing that creation says of it that “it is good,” and that the humans who are created are “very good.” Perhaps this is as much God’s wish for us as it is a description of our origin. We humans are most like God when we love. It is in those acts of loving, caring, and nurturing that we most resemble our Creator.

Whatever theories we espouse about the more tragic events in the Book of Beginnings, the Book of Genesis, it is clear that we live in a world which has been wounded. Our relationship with God is damaged, our relationships with each other fail to reflect love, care, and concern. We have wounded and damaged creation, to a horrible degree. And yet, as our Eucharistic Liturgy reminds us, God never gave up on us. God has reached out to us, again and again. The Story of Salvation History is that in Covenant after Covenant, God reached out to us in love and invited all people into a loving relationship.

In the fullness of time, we are told, God chose to “pitch a tent among us” (as the Greek of the Prologue to the Holy Gospel According to Saint John reminds us). God became one with us, God became one in solidarity with us—God from God, Light from Light, True God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father. And we are told that God became incarnate—out of love for us, for our well-being, for our health, for our salvation.

Those of us who have been incorporated into new birth through the waters of the Holy Sacrament of Baptism, like our Brother, Nolman, this past Sunday, were Baptized in the Name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Then we were then sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever. In the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we have been nourished and fed with the Body and Blood of Christ, the “Bread of Heaven,” and the Cup of Salvation.” And in the Sacrament of Confirmation, we have received the strengthening and empowering of the Holy Spirit to carry out whatever vocations God has given us.

What then does this mean for us as we seek to love and serve God here and now? First and foremost, it means that we are invited to be transformed by God. Through prayer, through our participation in the life of grace of the Sacraments, and through concrete acts of loving service to our sisters and brothers (and in our care for the gift of creation), we make God’s love real and present in our homes, in the places where we work, and in the lives of every person “whom we receive as Christ.”

The danger is that we allow superficial things to prevent us from viewing things as God views them. For that reason, we constantly need prophetic voices to remind us, to open our eyes, and to empower us to act for God.

The Scriptures make clear to us that God has priorities. God is on the side of the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, the abused, and the excluded. God is especially concerned with widows, orphans, and “foreigners.” God loves every gender identity, each person of every race. God loves the beauty in every language, and culture. God joyfully receives the prayers offered by persons of any religious expression—or of those who attached to none.

If we wish to be like God, to be people of love, to know that “we have passed from death to life because we love,” we must make our love more than just an emotion which makes us happy. We must make God’s love real, active, present, and effective in the here and now.

We must work to respect the beauty, dignity, and worth of every single person—with no exceptions. We must denounce racism, misogyny, homophobia, Anti-Judaism, Islamophobia, Xenophobia, bigotry, and intolerance as forces which are in opposition to the love of God.

In our own time and place we must denounce, reject, and oppose, with all our heart, the sin of Racial Hatred—and especially against our Black, Indigenous, Colored and Asian Sisters and Brothers.

We must denounce, reject, and oppose, with all our hearts, the violence against, the abuse against, and the exploitation against women: mental, emotional, sexual, physical, and financial.

Our Lord, in particular, challenged us to show love and charity to the poor, to the hungry, to the naked, to the homeless, to the sick, and to those in prisons. He told us that when we loved them, cared for them, and ministered to them, that we did so to God, present in them.

We must become a loving, welcoming, and truly inclusive community. We must become a safe place in which everyone finds a home, a place at the table, and a voice. We must become a Beloved Community. And we must constantly assess, evaluate, and plan each act we undertake in light of a single criteria: does this make God’s love, real, effective, and present here?

Our Presiding Bishop often reminds us of this, “If it’s not about love, it’s not about God.”

The lyrics of the song with which I began this reflection today challenge us. God has given us a new commandment, “that we love one another.”

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