Meanwhile, the eleven disciples were on their way to Galilee, headed for the mountain Jesus had set for their reunion. The moment they saw him they worshiped him. Some, though, held back, not sure about worship, about risking themselves totally.
Jesus, undeterred, went right ahead and gave his charge: "God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I'll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age." Matthew 28: 16-20*
I’m intrigued: who hesitated/held back and why? After all, these are the men who become the foundation of the Church and our bishops are their successors. One can’t help but think that were Jesus to come back and take up being a builder he wouldn’t last long as his idea of what constitutes a foundation is pretty rubbish to say the least!
The disciples are presented with the personification of Life in its absolute fullness; they are presented with the visible proof of God’s all-powerful and unfailing love that conquers even death…and yet some still hold back.
Why? I think, based on my own holding back, it might have been because the invitation to Life is so powerful and I am so lazy and (stupidly) content with my version of life. Much needs to change if I’m going to Live.
I heard a programme on the radio recently that featured an autistic man who could barely communicate with anyone but was an accomplished concert pianist; he could hear a complicated piece of Rachmaninov once and then re-play it himself note-perfect. He is unable to read and write music. Another man, a published author, who is unable to form any sort of emotional relationship, can recite Pi accurately to over 20,000 digits. Needless to say he holds the world record! The most recent theory behind this is not that it’s genius as such, but rather these people operate from the back of the brain, which is largely unmapped and therefore a mystery. On the other hand, most of us so-called ‘normal’ people operate from the front of the brain which is where all our thoughts (and distractions!) are found. It is unclear why autistic people by-pass the frontal lobes of the brain. Similarly, it is unclear why the rest of us are not using this other part of the brain. If the theory is correct we all have the potential to be concert pianists, to recite Pi to 20,000 digits, to speak innumerable languages. In short, we all have the potential to live a much fuller life than the one we’re living at the moment.
I think this is a glimpse into what the mystery of the Trinity might mean to us who spend too much time being bamboozled by the thought of three persons in one God. That there are three persons implies relationship and relationship implies Life beyond the self. Most of us spend most of the time propping up our version of life which is usually centred around ourselves and often with very praiseworthy justification. I want to be good priest, a good student, a successful business person, a good mother or father, husband or wife. These are all praiseworthy desires, for sure, but they are not you! ‘You’ are not just priest, student, mother, wife, husband, never mind entrepaneur, businessman of the year, professor of nuclear physics, President of the United States, Pope. ‘You’ are really ‘you’ when you reach out to another and allow yourself to be stretched and challenged, even and especially when you feel that to do so is risky or frightening. ‘You’ are the one that God sees and loves absolutely as much as He loves all His children without exception.
This is the kind of Life that is truly full and truly authentic, not the miserly and selfish life that typifies the age in which we live. It is God’s Life and it is noticeable by its generosity. Notice throughout this reflection I’ve spoken of ‘Life’ and ‘life’ – a capital Life as opposed to a pathetic small-case life. God has planted the fullness of Divine Life deep within our beings and our spiritual task is to awaken to that reality and become so much more than we are settling for at the moment. To live Trinity-Life demands a total change of thought and modus operandi and so it can be somewhat scary. No wonder some of those first ‘bishops’ hesitated to bow before such a life; but if it’s good enough for them then it’s excusable for us too. But it was only a hesitation; eventually they did embrace it.
I wouldn’t get too worked up about the theological niceties of Trinitarian theology and philosophy – I’m sure God doesn’t. Such splitting of hairs and knotting of knickers is an excuse to avoid living a Life that God has designed especially for us. Our task is to Live in such God-like generosity and openness towards others until that moment when we are finally consumed by Life itself.
you reveal yourself in the depths of our being,
drawing us to share in your life and love.
One God, three Persons,
be near to the people formed in your image,
close to the world your love brings to life. Amen.
(adapted from the Roman Missal)
*Translation: The Message, by Eugene Peterson.
Simon Lodge, June 2009