Happy Trinity Sunday! I hope you realize and appreciate that our belief in the Trinity is one of the things that sets Christians apart from all other religions in the world. While many religions share many beliefs (the holiness of God or universal brother and sisterhood, for example), all religions are NOT the same. And faith in the Most Holy Trinity is one of our distinctive Christian marks.
Muslims, for example, are radical monotheists. By this I do not mean “radical” in any kind of political or social sense but entirely in a theological sense. Muslims insist strongly and pointedly on the UNITY of God. God (in Islam) is ONE. There are no other gods. Anything that would seem to take away from the unity or transcendence of God is rejected (such as pictorial images of God). There is ONE God, period.
Christians also believe in one God. But then we immediately complicate the issue by saying that God, while only ONE, is really a community of THREE. This is, of course, illogical and as any first grader can recognize, bad math. One does not equal three. Yet we insist on this, and in a sense we are leading with our hearts. God in God’s self is not lonely. God is fundamentally a community of persons. God is so full, so total, so complete, that God is a relationship. I like to think of this as one total, complete love. God is Love (1 John 4:8), and in God there is the Lover (Father) and the Beloved (Son) and the Love that flows between them (the Holy Spirit): one complete love, one God, three persons. In this case one does equal three.
Since we are created in the image and likeness of God, Who is a community, we are not complete in ourselves. In spite of all our Texas insistence on independence, we need others to truly be ourselves. We can attain the fullness of life only in community. As the Protestant poet John Donne wrote: “No man is an island entire of itself.” We need to be in community in order to be whole.
So in the Book of Genesis God says: “It is not good for the man to be alone.” I take the word “man” in this sentence to really mean the human person. We all know about loneliness, and we all know it is not good. It is not good for the human person to be alone.
I think this is part of the problem the Church faces in its opposition to same sex marriage. A dozen states have now approved of same sex marriage. Some, like Rhode Island, are heavily Catholic, and this is in spite of the strenuous efforts of the Catholic Bishops there to prevent the recognition of same sex marriages.
Why is this? We all know the bitterness of loneliness. If it is not good for the person to be alone, how can those who discover (not choose) their sexual orientation is to their own gender, find intimacy, companionship and togetherness? The reason that so many Catholics support the legalization of same sex marriage (even more than the general US public as the poles show) may be due to Catholics’ instinctual understanding of our need to be in relationship in order to be whole. We value community.
Anyone who is married (bishops and priests are at a disadvantage in this argument in that they are not married and so cannot speak from firsthand experience) knows that marriage is about much more than reproduction. We humans have a natural desire to commit ourselves to another in a way that provides support, intimacy and companionship. Even as a celibate living in community I know how easy it is to turn in on myself in selfishness.
I think our church (that means all of us) needs to address the real need of homosexual people to be in relationship if Catholics expect to effectively slow or even stop the legal recognition of same sex marriage. Not every homosexual has been gifted with the charism of celibacy. How can single people, gay or straight, come to the fullness of their humanity in relationships of service and friendship outside of marriage? That, I think, is the real challenge presented to us in the same sex marriage debate.
The Church teaches us that heterosexual marriage bears a unique resemblance to the Most Holy Trinity in that it is open to the creation of new life. This cannot be expressed by other types of relationships. As a USCCB statement says: “Male and female are made in the image of God - they are equal in dignity but different. Through their difference and complementarity, a man and a woman are able to form a unique and life-long communion of persons—one that is truly two-in-one-flesh, a total gift of self to the other. The communion of persons found in marriage mirrors the mystery of the Trinity, even if obliquely. A husband and wife’s communion respects each other, does not exhaust or consume each other, and leaves room for the third (the gift of a child).”*
So as we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, we are called to reflect on very basic issues, on how we are called to live in community imaging the Holy Trinity. God is a Trinity, and we are made in that image.