Community of Love

trinityI was reading something yesterday that caught my attention. It was about some issue or other, political in nature, it matters not.

A commenter remarked that the problem with “getting the minority vote” (in this case the African-American) was that the “Democrat (sic) Party teaches all that stuff about mass entitlement and it’s hard to get those ‘ethnics’ to understand things like responsibility, individual hard work and the importance of our freedoms”.

Now we can move beyond the obvious racial tones exuded here, for that is not my point. The speaker here obviously heralds the Republican mantra that above all else are good Protestant values of individual efforts and personal responsibility. And there is merit in some sense to the argument. These are fine things. We all need them to some degree. They promote self-esteem and accomplishment.

Yet, we learn that the is certainly not the basis of our true place in the universe.  We are the product, as it were, of cooperation and community. So many things must come together in symbiotic relationship to make us–the laws of physics require that all work together in order to achieve a stable universe, and ultimately humans.

Is it any surprise to us that this is true? We know that our God mirrors that relationship in the Holy Trinity. God shows us by His very nature that we are meant to work in unity with others to achieve our truest selves. We are meant to be in community.

Some suggest as well that we are best from God’s point of view when we don’t think too hard about things, when we “have the faith of babes”. They take this to mean simple and unquestioning–never mulling over those things we do not understand, never reconciling those places in scripture which speak of things that we recoil at today. Yet in Proverbs, Lady Wisdom sets us straight:

“When the Lord established the heavens I was there,
when he marked out the vault over the face of the deep;
when he made firm the skies above,
when he fixed fast the foundations of the earth;
when he set for the sea its limit,
so that the waters should not transgress his command;
then was I beside him as his craftsman,
and I was his delight day by day,
playing before him all the while,
playing on the surface of his earth;
and I found delight in the human race.”

God delights in wisdom. God delights in our minds which surely is a mirror of His own. Wisdom found “delight in the human race” precisely because She realized the magnificence of God in that the sentient mind is a mind made for God, one she can join with and soar to great heights. See how God delights in Wisdom and see how Wisdom delights in human.

Wisdom can be who we are. Wisdom is the human mind that continues to crack the code of disease and bring relief and good life to millions. Wisdom is the human mind that creates new and amazing ways by which we can communicate with each other and bring the human family together no matter our physical distance. Wisdom enters the human mind and partners to eradicate fears and superstitions about physical processes.

The Psalmist marks forth the wonder of what God has wrought in perhaps my favorite lines from scripture:

When I behold your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars which you set in place —
What is man that you should be mindful of him,
or the son of man that you should care for him?

You have made him little less than the angels,
and crowned him with glory and honor.
You have given him rule over the works of your hands,
putting all things under his feet:

We stand in awe of our Creator as we should. We tremble to think of our place. Yet, God works in good measure. He gives us all we need to join with Him. God graces us with wisdom, with a well-ordered mind, and with the beautiful model of Trinity. When we take these gifts and marry them together in their own trinity, we soar as humans, and we touch the face of God.

From Meister Eckhart:

‘Do you want to know what goes on in the heart of the Trinity?
I’ll tell you.
At the heart of the Trinity
The Father laughs, and gives birth to the Son.
The Son then laughs back at the Father,
And gives birth to the Spirit.
Then the whole Trinity laughs,
And gives birth to us.’

Amen.

 

What of This Spirit?

holyspiritIn John’s Gospel, we have the beautiful final discourses. John places Jesus’ last words before his arrest, where they can be seen as prophesies and promises and become all the more powerful to us.

Jesus, among other things, promises that the Holy Spirit of God will come after he has left them:

The Advocate, the Holy Spirit,
whom the Father will send in my name,
will teach you everything
and remind you of all that I told you.

Surely this is not a new idea, for the Spirit of God appears as in the opening sentences of Genesis:

“In the beginning there was a formless void and the Spirit of God hovered over the waters … “

As Fr. Ron Rolheiser suggests, the Spirit is the very life force of the universe, breathing it into existence, and being the “glue” if you will, that animates and orchestrates it.

Jesus thus suggests that this Spirit of God, present since before the beginning, will be a personal presence in the lives of all who welcome it into their lives. The Spirit represents that personalized God who dwells intimately with His people.

The Father, so Jesus explains, sends His Spirit in Jesus’ name, as a sign to us that what we have learned from Jesus is in fact the Father’s will. We begin to see the interplay in this trinity of love, God, Redeemer, and Holy Spirit. All are one, one are all, each a part, yet not separate, each with its own duties, yet doing the will of all. This is mystery in its finest manifestation.

We can trust this Spirit as being of God, because Jesus has told us it can be trusted. It will teach us everything. It will remind us of what Jesus taught. Strange and opaque words are they not?

It is said by some that Vatican II showed the in-pouring of the Spirit in a most obvious way. A council that started in one direction, is captured by the Spirit, and sent on a new trajectory. Some are saying the same thing about the Pontificate of Francis.

The question becomes, will we open our minds and hearts to the working of the Spirit, confident that it can be trusted? As our dear friend Tim reminds us, much of the Hebrew Scriptures can be seen as a discourse on learning to trust this God that we have come to know. This becomes the ultimate in trust–“the spirit will teach you everything!”

But the ending statement is, I think most telling–“it will remind you of all that I have told you.”

This is the key to understanding I believe.

We are all of us, attempting to discern truth. We read the bible. We read learned and not so learned “experts”. We pray. We think. We ponder.

We all wish to believe that the Spirit guides our conclusions. We all wish to believe that we understand rightly. Some of us are very sure of that. Some of us are not at all sure. How can we be? The bible, (except for some few of us) remains a maddeningly enigmatic series of documents, difficult to define, difficult to unravel, seemingly contradictory in places and inexplicable in others. The more we study the more we realize that it is a collection of very different writings pointing in many different directions. As I said, it is only the most arrogant of persons who claims that it is obvious and clear.

Let us be honest. We are but mortals attempting to define that which is ineffable. We walk upon holy ground. We breath holy air. We are gifted with this life of short duration, a mere moment in the grand design. We are like an ant trying to discern the pattern in an area rug which we walk upon. We cannot see the expanse to make out the pattern.

Yet, we have this Spirit guiding us. And if we remember the words of Jesus, recorded in some fashion within the Gospels as they have come down to us–if we remember the ideas and the themes he brought to us, THEN these become the guide to how we might approach understanding “God’s Will”.

When our understanding is in alignment with what Jesus said, then we approach truth. When it does not, when we stretch and twist the Gospel stories to stand for things that can bear no relationship to Jesus’ world, or to the body of his teachings, then we are moving from truth and toward a self-centered non-truth that may  serve us but not the Gospel. If we must warp the Gospel to reach the place we want to go, we are most assuredly heading in the wrong direction.

We can learn “everything” from the Spirit when we use as our template the basic tenets of love, kindness, forgiveness, inclusiveness, justice, fairness, equality, patience, humility, and honesty. These are what the Master taught. We will act within the Spirit of God when we bring to every experience these qualities.

What Would Jesus Do?

The Spirit will tell you everything.

Amen.

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