The Spirit makes us aware of the truth

  • May 24, 2007
Trinity Sunday (Year C) June 3, (Proverbs 8:22-31/Romans 5:1-5/John 16:12-15)

Explaining the Trinity is a delicate undertaking. Utmost care and precision in wording must be taken to stay on the right track. The slightest fuzziness or carelessness can result in a statement that is not completely orthodox.
One of the greatest hurdles is explaining the three persons of the Trinity in such a way that one is not left with the erroneous impression that Christians worship three gods. It took 300 years of controversy and discussion among the best minds of the church for the expression of the Trinity to reach its final form.

But the biblical passages are not so precise nor do the biblical writers feel the need to be. Scripture speaks a more poetic language and uses symbols and imagery to describe — or sometimes just suggest — things that are far beyond human comprehension. They focus on what God does: God creates, redeems and sanctifies.

The wisdom tradition found in Proverbs and the Book of Wisdom describes God’s creation of the world in beautiful and poetic language. God is not alone in the wisdom tradition, for creation is accomplished in concert with Lady Wisdom. She was present with God in the beginning before the foundation of the world and stood beside God like a divine artisan and master craftsman. There is a shared joy and delight in creation and in humanity. In similar passages in the Book of Wisdom even more exalted language describes her as a “pure emanation of the glory of the almighty” and a “breath of the power of God.” Feminine language and symbolism as well as masculine can certainly paint a broader and richer image of the divine.

Without hope life can be very grim indeed. Paul gives us every reason for hope: the movement and direction of our lives is towards a sharing in God’s redemptive glory. With that in mind, all of the suffering and struggle that life can throw at us is not only bearable, it makes sense. Our character is determined by how we meet adversity and suffering, and when we do so with grace, love, courage and patience, we are made into the vessels that can receive God’s glory.

How do we know this is true? The love of God that is poured into our hearts through the Spirit reassures us. But the simple fact remains that many feel that they have not really experienced the love of God or the love for God that Paul refers to. Love remains in an intellectualized form, not the vibrant experience that gives life and hope. Humility, openness of heart and surrender to the Spirit of God can help to make that experience a reality.

There are so many competing versions of contradictory “truth” in the world — how is one to know truth from falsehood? We might be tempted to side with Pilate who asked, “What is truth” while blissfully aware that it was literally staring him in the face.

Sometimes the truth can stare us in the face as we simply glaze over — perhaps we have heard it so many times that it has lost its force and power. The Spirit will guide us into a deeper awareness and comprehension of the truth, but only if we will allow it. But how much truth can we bear, and are we willing to stop clinging to what we only think is the complete truth?

To really comprehend truth in the mind and heart is to have one’s life transformed. Truth is certainly not information — we have far too much of that — and it is not simply doctrines or ideas. The sort of transcendental truth that John alludes to is simple, profound and beautiful. It communicates to us who Jesus is, His relationship to the Father, and how we may share in that — what we can become.

Jesus promises His followers that whatever has been given to Him by the Father will be communicated to them by means of the Spirit. That’s quite a promise — and if we really believed and understood that promise, how could we really feel alone or abandoned by God? How could we ever think that there was no guiding hand or meaning in our life?

The Trinity is a communion of love, and we are invited to participate in that communion in this life as well as the next.

Most of you have probably noticed that last week’s column was for the readings of the seventh Sunday of Easter instead of Ascension Sunday. I was not trying to suppress the feast or engage in liturgical innovation. The error is entirely mine. I am on sabbatical in the United States at present, where several dioceses celebrate Ascension on Thursday. I failed to read the fine print in the lectionary. My sincere apologies!