THE MOST HOLY TRINITY, SOLEMNITY
There’s a story that’s told about an old Amish woman who went with her family to a mall for the very first time. This Amish family was mesmerized by the hundreds of stores, the lights, and the food court. Then, for the first time ever in her whole life, the old Amish woman saw an elevator. She watched closely as an elderly man approached the elevator doors and entered. The doors closed. A minute later, the doors opened and a strikingly handsome young man, who looked almost exactly like George Clooney, exited the elevator. Right after that, she saw another elderly man get on, and a minute later saw a man who looked just like Brad Pitt step out. Almost immediately following this, a third elderly man went in, the elevator door shut, and out came a Ryan Gossling look-alike. At that point, this Amish woman’s daughter approached her and said: “Hey Mom, isn’t this place great?” “Yes,” said the old Amish woman. “Quick, go get your Father.”
That’s what our faith is really all about. And few things transform us more than the relationships in our lives. Our parents, our spouses, our children, our grandchildren, our siblings, our friends – little else quite impacts us as much as our most dear and devoted relationships.
What today’s solemnity is all about is a central feature of our faith life: the belief that our God is a community, a family of Love. Our God is a relational God: Parent, Child, and the Love that exists between them.
What this belief, which we profess publicly every Sunday at Mass, means in practical terms is that the God who created us, who sustains us daily, and who will one day welcome us into eternal life with “Them,” is not a God distantly removed from us. On the contrary, our God is a God who is so close and so near that “They” are present in the very depths of our being – especially present in what matters most to us: our relationships.
I was personally reminded of this recently as I was blessed to witness a wedding of one of my nieces. Beyond the beauty of the bride and the pride of the groom, beyond the gorgeous panoply of music and flowers and attendants, beyond the dancing and the laughter and the general feeling of joy that was present everywhere, beyond all of this was the love that was so obvious in the eyes of the parents of these two people joining themselves in marital vows.
These four people – the parents – represented years of undying devotion and care and worry and endless love. These four people brought the bride and the groom to this glorious moment in life where they could stand before them and all their loved ones and profess their gigantic love.
This quiet, but always present love of the parents – demonstrated in a thousand different ways through the years – transformed two people to the point that they were now prepared to do the same for others.
Our God of relationship, our family God – Father, Son, and Spirit – does the same with all of us: always trying quietly, secretly to push us and pull us forward into becoming people who are transformed into living replicas of the Trinity.
Just this past weekend in El Salvador, another even more profound transformation was honored by tens of thousands of people. An Archbishop who was originally known to be fully a part of the establishment and therefore could be counted on to not make waves or challenge the powers that ruled that country like an iron fist, changed.
He was transformed.
Reportedly what converted him and shoved him in the direction of becoming a priest who stood up for the poor and against the military dictatorships that were involved in assassinations and torture and countless other social injustices – what reformed him was essentially the same thing: relationships. Only the relationships that changed him went way beyond familial ones. For Archbishop Romero, what converted him were the relationships he developed with the poor and the marginalized.
For that he was shot and killed while saying Mass. He has now been beatified.
What is clear is that the magic that the Amish woman witnessed with the elevators doesn’t happen in real life. What happens instead is our relationships change us, alter us, make us different.
That’s what Jesus tries to get us to understand over and over again in the gospels. Even more than our family relationships, it’s the lepers of society, the disregarded, the less-thans that will pull us out of ourselves and introduce us to a bigger heart than we ever thought we possessed.
As Pope Francis has stated: “If you want to be a saint, work with the poor.” It was the poor that changed him as well.
It’s the essence of our faith. But it involves the great risk of embracing a Love that is ultimately personified in the most deep-seated and the most far-reaching of all relationships ever: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Ted Wolgamot, Psy.D.