Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain where Jesus told them to go. When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted. Jesus came near and spoke to them, “I’ve received all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to obey everything that I’ve commanded you. Look, I myself will be with you every day until the end of this present age.”
Today is Trinity Sunday. The day set aside to celebrate G‑d in Three Persons. Or, as I’ve seen it in several Celtic writings and the one I prefer — the Three in One, the One in Three.
The Holy Trinity can be hard to figure out. Especially if you’re of a Western worldview. Even more so if you’re from the United States. Given that the word “trinity” doesn’t appear in the Bible, some have abandoned the belief altogether. And that’s fine but I find it rather silly. We don’t ever read a story about Jesus going to the bathroom either, but we’re quite sure he did!
Some people claim that today’s reading was added later by the church. Others see it as proof that Matthew’s telling of the Jesus story is quite late. And still others see that it’s neither. Some people hold the view that it reflects (innocently enough) the understanding of G‑d as revealed in Jesus of Nazareth by the early followers of The Way.
How can we make sense out of it?
First, we have to leave the comfort of our Western, post-modern, worldview and visit another part of the world — South Africa.
In South Africa, there is a word that I have found quite helpful. It’s the word ubuntu. It’s a philosophy about life. Archbishop Desmond Tutu explains it like this:
Another thing that helps me understand the Trinity is also called Ubuntu. It’s the Linux based operating system (OS) I use. The founder of the project is Mark Shuttleworth. He’s from South Africa. He embraces ubuntu as a philosophy and, because of it, named his OS after it. The tag line for the Ubuntu OS is, “Linux for human beings.”
One of the images that helps me in understanding the Trinity is the Ubuntu OS logo:
The orange would be the idea of “G-d” — the Divine Essence, Divine Love, Life-Force, etc. The three “people” would be the Father-Mother, the Child, and the Holy Spirit. As we can see, they’re all connected (surrounded, infused, inseparable) by the Divine energy, the essence of Divine Love. Yet, each One is distinct from the Other. Three in One. One in Three.
So, if we take these two expressions of ubuntu we can better understand the Trinity. In other words, for us to fully understand G‑d as Trinity, we need to understand that G‑d is best understood in relationship (This understanding is clearly seen in the Hebrew Scriptures).
But notice how this works out. If we want to know what G‑d looks like — what G‑d is like — we look to Jesus. And, by extension, if we want to know what the Holy Spirit is like, we look to Jesus. As St. Paul tells us, Jesus is the “visible image of the invisible G‑d” (Colossians 1.15).
Furthermore, as this is Father’s Day, we can’t have fathers without sons. Again, relationship. Interconnectedness. In other words, not only does Jesus reflects what the Divine Essence we call “G‑d” is like, he show us that G‑d can be known as Father (John 14.9).
How can we say that? Because of ubuntu. As Archbishop Tutu explained, “[Ubuntu] speaks about our interconnectedness.”
Furthermore, as today’s Gospel reading proclaims, “all authority in heaven and on earth” has been given to Jesus. That is, New Creation has been inaugurated through Jesus. G‑d’s Realm has come. As people who follow The Way of Jesus, we should view the world through ubuntu. We’re to be understood in our relationships with each other. We aren’t in isolation. We aren’t alone. And, contrary to what we have learned in western culture, we aren’t individuals. We can only be who we are because of others.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC