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Torch provides a new Catholic homily each week written specially for this web site by Dominican friars, and read by followers worldwide. Read more.

God isn't watching us...

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Trinity Sunday. Fr Timothy Calvert warns us of the dangers of catchy tunes.

There are many modern songs with wonderfully catchy tunes that get inside your head and have you singing along to terrible lyrics before you know where you are. Among the many culprits, there are probably few as obviously guilty as the song "God is watching us from a distance".

This song with its 'hum-able' tune is totally contrary to what Christians celebrate on the Feast of the Holy Trinity. Human beings are not at a distance from God, as God, through the life, death and Resurrection of Jesus, has taken the world into his own triune life of love, has pressed it to himself. Now whatever the depth or height of our human experiences, we are encompassed by the eternal depth width and breadth of divine love. There is no distance between us and God, as we exist in God, and there is no distance in God between the Father and Son, and between them and the Spirit, as they are perfect and complete unity.

For preachers it rarely seems so simple, and this is why so many of us dread the annual arrival of Trinity Sunday when we have to talk about God, and so in desperation arrange for a mission preacher or hope for a pastoral letter from the Bishop. The Trinity, from a distance, can seem to be strange arithmetic about something being both three and one, or the torture of working through all sorts of obscure Greek words: all experiences to baffle brains. But of course, we're not supposed to consider the Trinity from a distance, but as the core of everything we experience and love as Christians.

One way of expressing the Trinity would be to use the words of Jesus to Nicodemus:

For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish, but have eternal life. For God sent his Son into the world not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

The Trinity isn't the mechanics of God laid bare so preachers can re-assemble him, but the staggering truth that God is more present to us than we are to ourselves; that God is truly present to the world with the presence of pure love with which he loves himself. There is no distant God managing the world as a distant tycoon might manage a football team. There is only the God who loves the world so much, that he brings the world into his own communion of love, his own perfect eternal friendship.

Christianity stands or falls by this proclamation of the closeness of God who is Triune Love. There have been of course many alternatives throughout history, many alternatives to this Gospel of love. One would be to turn God into pure transcendence, a being with no connection or interest in history or the world. But Christians proclaim the Father. Not a stern Victorian parent, but the one who knows and cares even for the sparrows, the one portrayed in the parable of the prodigal son as rushing towards his child and embracing him, the one Jesus tells us is perfect.

Or we could turn to a God who is something like us, our moral equal or one we can impress and influence by our behaviour. But we proclaim the Son who comes to save the world, to bear up creatures who are entirely helpless on his outstretched arms on the cross. There is only this God who does not spare himself in coming to us and so frees us from the false gods of human endeavour.

Again, humans run from the God of Love by turning the world or nature or history itself into their god, seeing in him only the reflection of their gradual decay. But there is no world spirit, no 'Gaia' god, no impersonal spiritual realm that can save us. There is only the Holy Spirit, the one who is the personal searching, healing and transforming one, who even searches the depths of God.

The doctrine of the Trinity should make us uncomfortable, of course; not because it is for the clever to speculate about, but because it is the most radical challenge ever issued to human beings.

If God really is this love who is involved with our world and who has embraced us, then we have a choice: we must either in turn love this God and embrace all that he embraces -- and then of course, we shall be crucified as the distance we have put between ourselves and God dies away in love -- or we must be content to watch the world around us from a distance, imitating the god who does not and can never exist.

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Readings

Exo 34:4-6,8-9
2 Cor 13:11-14
John 3:16-18

Comments

Anonymous commented on 24-Feb-2016 05:24 PM
That is an amazing revelation.

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