Holy Trinity Yr A 2017
Ss. Peter & Paul, Danville
Studying the Trinity in seminary was challenging – at least until I came across a 12th century monk named Richard of St. Victor. His musings were based on a key Biblical revelation we all know by heart: GOD IS LOVE. Not just that God loves, loves us, wants us to love Him – all of that is in there. But the Bible says, “God is love.” From that, ole Rich of St. Vick figured out that it makes sense that God is both one and three. Don’t tune me out just because we’re talking deep theology. Because this is awesome stuff – and because I know you want to hear a story about little Fr. Alan and his “snoopy.”
When I was just a little boy, I had a snoopy who went everywhere with me. EVERYWHERE. When I woke up in the morning, Snoopy had been right there all night long. Off to shower, snoopy was there. Outside to make the mud pies and pick the dandelions and feed the birds, Snoopy came right along. Somehow I learned how to go through life with snoopy tucked under one arm or another. And somehow he found a way to go through life with me too, though after several years – as you can imagine – he lost a little bit of his whiteness, along with an eye, an ear, and nearly all of the stuffing in his left leg. I never really knew how important Snoopy was to me until the first time they said it was time to get rid of him. “Honey, don’t you think it’s time to retire Snoopy? He’s so awfully dirty.” I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it. It doesn’t take a theology degree to figure out why: “NOOOO!!” I cried at the top of my lungs. “I WUUUVVVSS HIM!!”
A little boy loves his snoopy. Not bad for the beginnings of a theological principle. Don’t laugh – the first basic insight that comes from saying that GOD IS LOVE is all right there: for there to be love, there must be a lover and a beloved. Any context that speaks about love must include at least two persons: lover and beloved. A husband loves his wife – a wife loves her husband – a mother loves her child – and a boy loves his snoopy (lover, beloved). There’s no way of talking about love without both one who is loved and one who loves. Where there is love there is lover and beloved.
There’s a difference between a boy’s love of his snoopy and saying that God is love – an important difference. Little Fr. Alan had love, expressed love, felt love, even shared love – but we say that God is love. If God is, Himself, love, then He must be – in Himself – both lover and beloved. There’s no other way. We worship the One True God – but if God is love, He cannot be merely or only One: at the very least he must be two: lover and beloved.
There’s another important aspect to love – true love is generous. I think I was four or five when I got the mumps. Don’t ask me how it happened – I’d had all of my shots, but somehow it happened anyway. What’s even worse: I gave it to my mother. There we were – sick as could be. If Snoopy had been a living creature, he’d have had them too. Didn’t matter, though. He was right there with me, every moment. I remember going to bed, cuddling Snoopy close, and even in my unsophisticated child’s mind realizing that my love for Snoopy was such a comfort to me that I shouldn’t keep it all to myself, especially with mom in the other room at least as sick as I was, if not worse.
So I crept into her bedroom and gently laid Snoopy on the pillow beside her head as she slept. Sharing Snoopy with her, sharing my love of Snoopy with her, made the love more perfect somehow; more right. And we know that to be true, don’t we? When we see true love – wherever we see true love – we see it being shared. Spouses in love share it with their children. Friends share it with those around them. The love a little boy has for his snoopy is so strong that he has to share it. True love is generous, always seeking another – a third – to share the love with. A love that is kept, hoarded, guarded only between lover and beloved is missing something – it’s not real love.
So…if God is LOVE…there must be lover and beloved… and someone with whom these two can share their love. The love between them is somehow less perfect if they only share it with one another, there must be a third. To say God is love in and of Himself is to say the One God must be in Himself lover and beloved and someone with whom both freely share the love between them.
That’s the essence of Almighty God, isn’t it? Love. God is love – and for that to be true, God must be – in and of Himself – lover, beloved, and someone with whom love is shared. It all seems clear, thanks to good ole Richard of St. Victor, with some help from little Fr. Alan and his Snoopy… God is love – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Awesome…but…so what…?
Why does it all matter? Well, what did we hear in the Gospel just now: “For God so loved the world that He gave us His Son…” God is love, and even in His perfect Oneness which requires a perfect Threeness, that Love must be shared. And God loves us enough to share Himself so you and I can love and be loved by Him and like Him. But – do we let ourselves be loved in so complete a way? Are we playing our part to accept that love of Jesus? Are we doing our part to love God and others that way in return?
You and I were made for love. We were made by love, for love, to be loved and to love in return. How about giving that a try this week…?