One of the first things we are taught in the Scriptures is that we are made in the image of God. “Then God said: Let us make human beings in our image, after our likeness.” If we are made in the image of God and our God is Three in One, our personhood and consequently our dignity may be more than we imagine it to be. In the Trinity, three Persons engage in a mutual and self-giving activity that is so complete, it makes them a dynamic unity. The Greek word to describe this activity is perichoresis, a divine dance. If we are made like this, as persons we are essentially plural, an ongoing interrelating and interpersonal flow of energy. It is a beautiful image.
However, this is not how we are used to identifying ourselves. For the most part, we think of ourselves as self-enclosed beings who have individual successes, disasters and destinies. We engage in competition with everyone else to gain a comparative sense of well-being. Our dignity is always threatened by negative experiences and always compared to the situations of others. If we viewed our own personal dignity as grounded in the three Persons of the Trinity, we would see ourselves not as self-enclosed individuals but as plural and social.
The Scriptures for today emphasize our social nature. Moses reminds the children of Israel that God chose them as a nation, as a community. When God spoke to them, he spoke to them as a people peculiarly God’s own. Moses reminds them: “You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today, that you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have long life on the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you forever." To this day, the Jewish people cannot think of themselves without remembering how they are tied to the land that God gave them. Israel was conceived as a theocracy, a community that found its unity in God.
St. Paul reminds the Romans that they have been adopted by God and are now part of the people who identify themselves as God’s own children. “The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God.” Further, he says that as God’s children, we look forward to the day when we will participate in God’s glory.
The Gospel commission at the end of the Gospel of St. Matthew reminds us that we are to gather everyone under the name of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. We are joined together with the Triune God and can never separate our personal identity to the people we have become together.
The commandments which Moses enjoined upon the children of Israel are the same commandments which join us together. We are to love God who first loved us. We are to love our neighbors as ourselves. Jesus has put his own identity on these commandments by asking us to love one another as he has loved us. Jesus has enfleshed the mystery of God’s love and models for us a God-like way of living.
When questioned about our neighbor, Jesus told us the story of the Good Samaritan. Through our baptism in the name of our Triune God, we have been given the Good Samaritan gene. Think about how many people react to major catastrophes like the Covid-19 pandemic. This gene connects us to one another. When we are confronted with natural disasters, with famine, with disease, with terrorist attacks, our better nature is on display for all to see. We act as one people rather than as competitors. We name as heroes those who spend themselves for others. This weekend, for instance, we remember one particular group of such heroes in our Memorial Day Holiday. Our plurality outshines our individuality when we are confronted by those things that would tear us apart.
So we celebrate the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity with an exhilaration in being made in the image of the Trinity, our escape from the confinement of individualism. We, like the God in whose image we were made, are a dynamic unity of people generated by and sustained by love.
Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator