Some of you may remember that about three years ago Pope Francis wrote an encyclical letter about care for creation, known by the Italian title Laudato Si’. It has been very important in strengthening Catholic moral teaching and consequently has come under attack, even from some Catholics. One of the points the pope makes repeatedly in the letter is that we need to ground our moral teachings in our spiritual and worshiping life – and there is an important section of the letter, towards the end, where he reflects on the Holy Trinity as a source for what we believe about how we should treat the created order. If you like you can read what the Holy Father says: click here – the part dealing with the Trinity is sections 238 – 240.
One of the inspirations for the whole letter is St Francis of Assisi, well known as affirming that we see God’s goodness in the world which He has created. One of Francis’s earliest friars was a man called Bonaventure, who went on to become a bishop and the order’s first theologian. Bonaventure taught that not only human beings but everything which is made bears the mark of God the Holy Trinity since God is the creator of all things. Not being able to recognise God the Trinity in everything which has been created is a result of sin.
Moreover because God the Trinity is one God in three persons we have to focus on what that means because we’re made in His image. So Pope Francis writes: ‘…the world, created according to the divine model, is a web of relationships. Creatures tend towards God, and in turn it is proper to every living being to tend towards other things, so that throughout the universe we can find any number of constant and secretly interwoven relationships. This leads us not only to marvel at the manifold connections existing among creatures, but also to discover a key to our own fulfilment. The human person grows more, matures more and is sanctified more to the extent that he or she enters into relationships, going out from themselves to live in communion with God, with others and with all creatures. In this way, they make their own that trinitarian dynamism which God imprinted in them when they were created. Everything is interconnected, and this invites us to develop a spirituality of that global solidarity which flows from the mystery of the Trinity.’
There is a tendency, even among clergy, to think that beliefs like the doctrine of the Trinity are too difficult to think or preach about – something for ivory tower theologians. What does it matter anyway? Surely it’s OK if you simply believe in God? The Holy Father’s reflections show how wrong such dismissive attitudes are. Anyone can say that they believe in God – but if you look into what sort of God it is that people believe in, you see how important it is to get it right. It is particularly easy to believe in a God who is remote from our lives, unconnected with the world, distant and unmoved, ‘in light inaccessible, hid from our eyes’ (in the words of my least favourite hymn). Such a deity makes no demands on us – we can do what we like.
The Pope is asserting in his letter that we are all responsible for the whole of the created order. We are all in relationships of connectedness not only with other members of the human race, but with animals, plants, the soil of the earth, water….and this reflects the social, ‘community’ nature of God. God the Holy Trinity is a community of three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, united in a relationship of love, equality and perfect balance. So if we upset the balance of the created world – in the way we are through climate change, for example – we are infringing the way the world has been made by the God of love. Again and again in his letter Pope Francis accuses humanity of arrogance – and this accounts for the terrible damage we are doing to the planet. Climate change deniers aren’t simply wrong about the science; they’re wrong about God: they’re lacking in humility; they don’t understand our dependence on God and on each other which is willed by God, which is the way he has created us to be. It’s the same in our human relationships: as we are called to reflect the equality, love and interdependence which are at the heart of God, it follows that when we order societies which are based on inequality, competitiveness and independence, in effect we’re blaspheming – we’re denying how God has made us.
So on this Trinity Sunday try and reflect about how important this doctrine is which we are celebrating; and pray that, before it’s too late, humanity may put into effect the implications of what we believe and save our planet.