Fr. Bill Carroll – Trinity Sunday, June 12, 2022
In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
I’d like to begin with a prayer:
God above me, Father from whom my being descends, on whom my existence hangs, to whom I turn my face, to whom I stretch out my hands [in prayer]:
God beside me, God in a human like me, Jesus Christ in the world with me, whose hand lays hold of me, presenting me, with yourself, to God:
God within me, soul of my soul, root of my will, inexhaustible fountain, Holy Ghost:
Threefold Love, one in yourself, unite your forces in me, come together in the citadel of my conquered heart.
You have loved me with an everlasting love. Teach me to care. Amen.
Bishop Matt Gunter, of the Episcopal Diocese of Fond du Lac, shared this prayer this week. It was written by Austin Farrer, an Anglican priest who was an outstanding philosopher and theologian. He lived from 1904 to 1968, and he was C. S. Lewis’s close friend and confessor. He helped to bury Lewis’s wife.
Today, I would like to spend some time unpacking this powerful prayer. Because it unveils the mystery of the Holy Trinity–above us, beside us, and within us.
But first, let me say this: It is not just the Father who is God above us. For Jesus has been exalted to God’s right hand. And, as the Gospel of John teaches us, Jesus has returned to the bosom of his Father, from whom he came, and toward whom his entire life was directed.
Furthermore, it’s not just God the Holy Spirit who is God within us. For it is the love of Jesus that the Spirit pours into our hearts. As I said to you last week, the Spirit is God’s own boundless love—the source of our freedom in Jesus.
The point is this: wherever we find any person of the Holy Trinity, all the others are at work. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit (God in three persons)…each exists in perfect unity, as a single communion of love. There are three persons, but only one God. In a unique way, each shares in the one divine mission–reconciling all people (every last one of us) to God and each other in Christ. And so, although we may and must distinguish the persons, the Being of God is completely one.
And yet, as our prayer suggests, “Abba, Father” is the person to whom we usually direct our prayers. That’s because, during his earthly ministry, Jesus prayed to “Abba, Father.” Even though the Son and the Spirit are intimately involved in the work of creation, the Father is our Creator, the “giver of every good and perfect gift.” And so, God is “God above us, Father from whom our being descends, to whom we turn our faces, to whom we stretch out our hands in prayer.” The First Person is the source of the entire Trinity. He creates by speaking his Word–and his Spirit, as Genesis says, “hovers over the face of the deep.” The One whom Jesus called “Abba, Father” is infinite generosity and goodness–beyond every form of domination and violence.
And, for his part, Jesus Christ is the Son and Word and Wisdom of the Father. He is our great high priest. He stands beside us and takes our side. And he offers us up to God, with the entire creation, for healing and transformation. Even though the Father and the Spirit are intimately involved in the work of redemption, Jesus is the One who lives and dies for us all. He becomes truly human and goes to the Cross for our salvation. He is our Lord and Savior–who rises again to break the power of death in our lives. And so he is “God beside us, God in a human being like us, Jesus Christ in the world with us, whose hand lays hold of us, presenting us, with himself to God.” It’s not just the bread and the wine that we offer in the Eucharist. It is “ourselves, our souls and bodies.” Jesus Christ offers us all up to God.
And, finally, the Holy Spirit is another name for God’s free gift of grace and love. Even though the Father and the Son are intimately involved in the work of sanctification, the Spirit is the Comforter—the Lord and Life–giver—who takes our hearts and makes them holy. The Spirit turns us back to God–and back to each other. As often as we fall, whatever it is that makes us afraid, God is within us, bringing us to life through the gift of Jesus. The Spirit turns us back. She guides our steps and gives birth to Jesus in us. And so, she is “God within us, soul of our soul, root of our will, inexhaustible fountain, the Holy Ghost.”
And all of this is very important, because there is another spirit at work in the world today. That spirit is our ancient enemy. Jesus calls him “the father of lies.” St. Ignatius Loyola calls him “the enemy of our human nature.” Among other things this evil one is responsible for broken relationships, school shootings, and wars of aggression. He delights in malice, lust, greed, and falsehood. He rejoices in divisions, warfare, and murder. Wherever there is hatred and violence in the world, he is at work.
But, on the Cross, Jesus has triumphed over him. In fact, Jesus has cast him out, once and for all, so that we might live as friends of God. The devil doesn’t know it yet (and so, he rages on), but he has been defeated forever. Deception and violence are the only language that he understands. He doesn’t understand the power of love—or of truth or friendship. He doesn’t understand loyalty. He doesn’t understand the power of hope. He doesn’t understand the power of community—of people living together as brothers and sisters. He doesn’t understand the power of the life that Jesus laid down for ALL of us.
But the most powerful thing there is (and the very nature of God) is generous, self–giving love. And so, the Father gives all that he has to the Son. And Jesus gives his life for us all. Jesus lives and dies as one of us. He loves us and makes us his friends. He sets us free for the work of love. And, together with his Father, he breathes the Spirit of love into our hearts. He gives us the power to love other people with the same strong love that he loves us with.
The Spirit is the bond of peace. She unites us with God and with other people. And, as Jesus says to us in the Gospel today, the Spirit “will take what is mine and declare it to you…All that the Father has,” he says, “is mine. For this reason, I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”
Above all, the ministry of the Spirit is to show us Jesus—and to root us more deeply in his love and holy friendship. We stake our lives on Jesus. He is God’s own Son, our Lord. He is our Savior. He is above us. He is beside us. He lives within us. And he shows us who God is–and what God’s love is like.
And so, we pray:
Threefold Love, one in yourself, unite your forces in us, come together in the citadel of our conquered hearts.
You have loved us with an everlasting love. Teach us to love each other like Jesus does. Amen.