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A Scripture Reflection for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

by Mary Frohlich, RSCJ | June 11, 2017

A Scripture Reflection for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

June 11, 2017: Ex 34:4b-6, 8-9; Dn 3:52, 53, 54, 55, 56; 2 Cor 13:11-13; Jn 3:16-18

Trinity Sunday, occurring so soon after the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords, is an invitation for Catholics to take an even deeper look at Pope Francis's message in his encyclical Laudato Si': On Care for Our Common Home. In paragraph 239 of that document, the Pope affirms that the signature of the Trinity is literally embedded into every creature on Earth. Just as the Trinitarian God is fundamentally relational, so every one of God's creatures is built at its core to be relational. One implication of this is that every creature's first and most defining relationship is with God, its creator. The Pope writes in paragraph 77: "Every creature is thus the object of the Father's tenderness, who gives it its place in the world. Even the fleeting life of the least of beings is the object of his love, and in its few seconds of existence, God enfolds it with his affection." He continues on to develop the theme that every creature, great and small, offers an image and a message of God's love. We have no right, he affirms, to wantonly destroy what belongs to God.
Another major implication of the Trinitarian imprint on creation is that we are all family -- worms, bacteria, fungi, trees, spiders, lions, rats, human beings and any other living creature you can name are, in the deepest sense, sisters and brothers who share a common heritage and a common home. While the Pope develops this primarily as a theological truth, it is also a scientific truth. A picture of the evolutionary tree shows that all life on Earth can trace its lineage back to the first single-celled microbes three billion years ago. This can be shown by DNA as well as by evolutionary lineages. All life on Earth has a common origin, both biologically and theologically. To call other living creatures our "sisters and brothers" (or at least "distant cousins") is not just a romantic metaphor; it is a truth that we ignore to our peril.
The readings for today, at first glance, do not appear to deal with anything related to this broader familyhood of creation. Yet we need to read them in view of our current global situation, in which we are faced by an ecological crisis that threatens the very existence of thousands of species and millions of human beings -- perhaps even the human race itself. When Moses encountered the merciful and gracious God on Mount Sinai, his first thought was not for himself or his special friends, but of what God could do for his whole people, the bad with the good. In our day we are invited to expand our view of who belongs to "our people" even to the whole community of creatures, and to beg God's accompaniment for all as we together traverse the difficult days ahead.
A similar expansion of view is called for with the reading from Second Corinthians. This text is a delightful expression of the feelings and attitudes that the people who belong to the Trinitarian God have for one another. Paul speaks of how God pours out love, peace, grace and fellowship in us as we share agreeableness and "holy kisses" with one another. Today, God will similarly open Trinitarian communion to us ever more abundantly insofar as we find ways to live in harmony and tender care not only with other human beings, but with all creatures, especially those most threatened and vulnerable.
As we read John 3:16-18, it helps to know that the preposition in the phrase "believe in him" can also be translated as "believe on him" or "believe into him." While these sound rather strange in ordinary English, they better convey the relational sense of literally leaning on or into God with one's whole being. In fact, all creatures naturally lean on God with their whole beings; the difference in the case of human beings is that we have greater freedom either to consciously enter into this relationship with profound intimacy, or to attempt to close ourselves off from it.
John says that if we do the latter we are "condemned." I like to think of this less in the legal sense, and more in the sense of what it means to "condemn" a building. A building is condemned because it is already in the process of falling down. When a creature stops leaning on or into its Creator God, it immediately begins to fall into ruin. As far as we know other creatures do not really have that choice, but we do. Sadly, the ruin that we humans are bringing upon ourselves by failing to choose to lean with complete trust on the God whose tender relationality is imprinted at the very core of our beings is not a private matter. We are webbed in relationship with other human beings and with all living creatures whether we want to be or not, in such a way that our ruin is their ruin. In this time of escalating ecological ruin there is no more important challenge for human beings than to learn to lean, ever more intimately, on the God who created all of us and who longs for nothing more than to bring Love to full fruition in the midst of the entire community of creation.

The above image is from Flickr user Matthew Lancaster, within the Public Domain.

Author information Mary Frohlich, RSCJ
Associate Professor of Spirituality

B.A., Antioch College; M.A., Ph.D., Catholic University of America

Professor Mary Frohlich, R.S.C.J., is a Sister of the Society of the Sacred Heart. Her research interests include mystical dimensions of “conversion of the Earth,” contribution of women in seventeenth century French Spirituality, methodological issues in spirituality, and Carmelite Spirituality. Each year at the Summer Seminar in Carmelite Spirituality, she offers lectures and workshops with a particular focus on the women of Carmel. Her publications include essays on spirituality as a discipline, Carmelite spiritual writers, and topics in ecospirituality.

Frohlich has edited two collections, The Lay Contemplative (St. Anthony’s Messenger, 2000) and St. Therese of Lisieux: Essential Writings (Orbis, 2003).

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