Justice Reflections From Fr. Claude

Trinity Sunday

Reflections for the Solemnity of the Trinity

A remnant from the Covid-19 pandemic are the markers on footpaths, outside cafes, pubs, restaurants, offices, and railway stations indicating where people had to distance ourselves from one another to prevent infection. Called ‘social distancing’ it would have been more appropriate to call it ’physical’ or ’spatial’ distancing. Social distancing suggests a distancing that is ‘heart’ related and has a violent connotation. It has been implemented against people considered unacceptable or nuisances such asylum seekers, people who are poor, homeless, unemployed, and sexually diverse. It justifies avoidance and neglect in different ways. 

It justifies keeping people out of sight by marginalising and neglecting them. It occurs when we refuse to listen to people who want their voices heard, such as First Nations people, or when used to blame certain groups for our ills.


Today’s solemnity repudiates any form of individualism in thought and action. Thomas Merton, in Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander, condemned ‘the heresy of individualism’ where people act like isolated monads that prioritises their personal well-being. The experience of Covid 19 showed us that we cannot escape our fundamental interconnectedness as the virus ignored borders, race, gender, sexual orientation, socioeconomic status, or age.


Today, we celebrate the diverse ways in which God interacts with us as real people and in real time. It challenges images of a top-down and outside-in God as Jesus points to a God who is not about domination, threat, vengeance, or coercion. God’s power is expressed as power with - not power over. It includes giving away, sharing, letting go and mutuality. In the reading from Exodus, Moses encounters God as ’a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness.’ This God is rich in the loving kindness (‘hesed’) that human hearts long for. God is social. God is a God of relationship. So, any spirituality, teaching, or policy that disconnects us from the concerns of the world must be repudiated. God is not ‘up there’ but in us, within us and between us and in the whole of creation. The gospel passage completes or elaborates on the first reading where God’s love is always expressed in action – in the life of Jesus which demonstrated how God loves the world.


This has social implications that involves us with the world and daily life. The early church mothers and father spoke of the Trinity in terms of a dance because dance suggests circles rather than hierarchy. Dance suggests relationship, forgiveness, and communion. It suggests inclusion where no one is left out - no wallflowers. But circles can be threatening to the wealthy as well as imperial and patriarchal systems. If we look around and see what is happening in the world, we are all invited into the dance where everyone is involved and no spectators. This should have had implications for the kinds of relationships in the church, marriage, and religious life.  So, this feast involves us in justice and peace and focuses on the common good. It directs us God’s special concern for the poor, the vulnerable, the stranger, and those marginalised in any way. It does not allow for amnesia about past injustice but for a ‘remembering’ that we are interconnected. As we look crucified people, we see that the authority of those who suffer becomes absolute over against the claims to ultimacy of churches and religions – which are put in their place. Where the world focuses on individualism and independence and promotes God as uninvolved, the gospel prioritises interdependence and acceptance of responsibility for the well-being of others and the community.


Scripture has often been used as weapon for prejudice, oppression and even war-making, thus hiding God’s face from us. It has justified war, oppression of LGBTIQA+ people, women, people with disability, destruction of God’s Creation, our ’Common Home’. This feast reminds us that God is creative, liberating and transforming; that God is near; that God has a heart; that God is passionate about people and all creation; that God is present whenever people strive for love and peace. The imagery of Trinity is crucial to our vision of a new world. As with the Ascension, we are called to change our focus by opening our eyes to a world in pain and suffering and see Jesus’ God present in people working for the liberation of others. God's action and our own actions become one. As we contemplate the gospel, we are reminded of violence in the world and urgent call to life-life for a 95-year-old woman tasered by police; life for people wanting to have a voice about decisions that pertain to them; and life for people who are racially vilified in society and by the media. This feast calls to resist in whatever way we can. It calls us to make a preferential option for the vulnerable. It calls us to look at how our privilege (white, socio-economic, gender) isolates us from the needs and concerns of others. God's action and our own actions become one. It is a relationship of responsible partnership. It refuses to outsource responsibility. It shares resources. It crosses all lines of discrimination. Miroslav Volf says ‘Sin is a refusal to embrace others in their otherness and a desire to purge them from one's world, by ostracism or oppression, deportation or liquidation… the exclusion of the other is the exclusion of God.’ 


In The Joy of the Gospel (#59) Pope Francis refers to relationships gone amuck: ‘Today in many places we hear a call for greater security. But until exclusion and inequality in society and between peoples are reversed, it will be impossible to eliminate violence. The poor and the poorer peoples are accused of violence, yet without equal opportunities the different forms of aggression and conflict will find a fertile terrain for growth and eventually explode. When a society - whether local, national, or global - is willing to leave a part of itself on the fringes, no political programs or resources spent on law enforcement or surveillance systems can indefinitely guarantee tranquillity. This is not the case simply because inequality provokes a violent reaction from those excluded from the system, but because the socioeconomic system is unjust at its root’.


For Francis, our isolation from God, from one another and from the earth and its creatures has consequences for Mother Earth. Though the divisions we create are illusory, we recognise that any small changes have large impact, when multiplied through the interconnectedness of systems and creatures. It even goes down to what we buy, eat, drive or wear. These impact for better or worse on people in distant places. This connectedness can be threatening. The Church can become a place of escape where connections are carefully monitored and controlled.


What if we can learn to embrace what can be learned and rediscovered where we identify ourselves by our connectedness, rather than our difference or disconnection. How different would be our ministry if motivated and guided by how we are connected to others, rather than focusing on how ‘they’ are different from ‘us’? Recognising that we share in the community within the Trinity, we find a home, leading us to a radical openness and hospitality towards others.


We can live differently. The implications of today’s feast hit home when we realise we have been created in God’s image and likeness. If God exists in community—then we, too, are created to exist in community with one another. We were not created to live out the ‘heresy of individualism’. We were created for one another, to exist relationally, giving of ourselves to one another. Our theology tells us that we are intertwined or interconnected with one another. Coronavirus has also shown us this. No matter how much we try, we cannot escape this fundamental unity.


What God? The God of inclusive love, compassion, and peace or:

the God of militarism and empire

the God of prosperity and self-indulgence

the God of self-sufficiency

the God of revenge and unforgiveness

the God of fear and cowardice

the God of formality and rigidity

the God of pessimism and negativity


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