September 6, 2019

Christ the Cornerstone

God is love, and love must be shared

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“As G. K. Chesterton observed, the Trinitarian doctrine is simply a technically precise way of saying that God is love.” (Bishop Robert E. Barron, Letter to a Suffering Church: A Bishop Speaks on the Sexual Abuse Crisis).

As women and men of faith, we embrace the wondrous mystery that God is so full of love and goodness that he cannot be contained by our human categories of individuality and separateness.

As St. John’s Gospel says, even the Holy Spirit does not speak or act alone. God always acts as a communion of persons, a divine unity-in-diversity that is totally beyond our comprehension even as it demands our complete acceptance in faith.

In his book, Letter to a Suffering Church: A Bishop Speaks on the Sexual Abuse Crisis, Los Angeles Auxiliary Bishop Robert E. Barron cites “the strange doctrine of the Trinity, which presents the one God as a unity of three persons” as one of six reasons that Catholic should remain faithful to the Church.

Why would the mystery of God’s inner life, the Trinity, serve as a persuasive reason for Catholics “who feel, understandably, demoralized, scandalized, angry beyond words, and ready to quit” to remain active members of the Church they are disillusioned with?

The answer is found in a deeper understanding of who God is, and of who we are as sharers in the mystery of God’s love and goodness.

“We are saved,” Bishop Barron writes, “precisely because God opened himself up in a great act of love, the Father and the Son gathering us into the Holy Spirit.” The Trinity reveals to us the great news that God is love, and that love must be shared. There is absolutely no isolation or self-centered singularity in God. Everything about God is open and loving—so much so that God’s inner life is a community of persons, a constant, free exchange of love and creativity.

We Christians celebrate the Trinity not because we understand this mystery, but because we have encountered it in the merciful love of God the Father, in the saving grace of Jesus the Son, and in the inspiration we have received through the power of the Holy Spirit. If we leave the Church, which in spite of all its human imperfections and sinfulness, is still the most perfect source of trinitarian grace, we cut ourselves off from what Bishop Barron describes as “the grace of Christ in which eternal life is found.”

Belief in the triune God is not an academic exercise. It is not an abstract teaching or a lifeless dogma or creed. The mystery of the Holy Trinity reveals the depth and breadth of God’s love. It’s simple, really. The Trinity is both who God is and how God shares his divine life with others. Yes, it’s a mystery, but it’s also a great gift to us and to all creation.

God is love and love must be shared. The way God shares his love is by giving himself to us, and to all of creation, totally and without reservation in the three persons who are perfectly united with one another in the Holy Trinity which is God.

How will leaving the Church help make God’s love more readily accessible to us or to our sisters and brothers who are frustrated and angry because of scandals caused by human sinfulness? How will it help to renew and rebuild what has been seriously damaged? How will it help to heal the deep wounds inflicted on the body of Christ?

The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is a reason for staying in the Church because God is love and love is faithful. The Church that we love is in serious need of our prayers and our active participation. Now, more than ever, it needs the unity and solidarity of all its members. Above all, the Church needs the trinitarian grace that allows us to experience and share with others God’s abundant, unconditional love.

Bishop Barron writes that most religions would agree that love is one of God’s attributes. “But only Christianity makes the odd claim that love is what God is.” He goes on to say that “the Church bears this truth to the world: what is ultimately real is love.”

If we leave the Church, we turn away from the bearer of the mystery of God who is love. We may argue, understandably, that some Church leaders have done a poor job of witnessing to this truth, but we can never successfully persuade ourselves that we don’t need what the Church has to offer: the truth about who God is and why we, the members of Christ’s body, need his grace and mercy now more than ever. †

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