Eleventh Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

You know, there are a lot of differences here among us. This is a somewhat diverse congregation: different ethnicities, different cultural backgrounds, different educational levels, different types of careers and vocations. And we are all on different places in the spiritual life: some are traditional and others are progressive; some are advanced on the journey to Christ, some have only just begun; we all like to pray in different ways, and each of us has different experiences even in our common worship. But as diverse as we are, there is one thing that unites us without question: we all need a Savior. King David knew this very well and so it is very appropriate that he helps us to pray in today’s Psalm response: “Lord, forgive the wrong I have done.”

At the bottom of this need for a Savior is the fact that we are all sinners, every one of us. We all fall short of God’s expectations of us – and not just sometimes, but every single moment of our lives. Even our great successes in the spiritual life and our best efforts of discipleship are tainted by the wrong we have done, and the wrong we have chosen, over and over and over again. I know that’s not easy to hear, but it’s also not easy to argue against, is it? It’s not popular to talk about sin even from the pulpit these days, because in our society everything is someone else’s fault. In days gone by, if a child misbehaved in school, woe to him when he got home. Today, if a child misbehaves in school, woe to the teacher when the parents find out the child has been held accountable. If we spill coffee on ourselves and it burns us, we sue the purveyor who sold it to us. Recently an assistant state’s attorney got into a car intoxicated and got into an accident in which she died. Now her family is suing the restaurant where she, a prosecutor who brought intoxicated motorists to justice and who should certainly have known better, drank to excess. Personal responsibility is not something we are ready to accept, let alone teach to our children. Lord, forgive the wrong we have done indeed!

And so all of us sinners who are in great need of a Savior have gathered here for this weekend Liturgy. What we hear from today’s Scriptures is all about sin. First, sin has consequences. Second, repentance is crucial. Third, forgiveness is freely given. And finally, reconciliation brings joy.

Sin has consequences. This was what King David heard in today’s first reading. You may know the story. While the war was raging and his army was fighting for his own survival, David looked out and saw the wife of Uriah the Hittite, who was very appealing to him. He sent for her, and had his way with her. In the society of that day, such an act was an offense primarily against the woman’s husband, and rendered his blood line dried up. When that happened, the man’s property would not be passed on to his heirs after death, and would instead be given to the state. So David’s taking of Uriah’s wife also meant that he stole his inheritance. And just to make the deed complete, he arranged for Uriah to be “accidentally” killed in battle. This was not just a minor sin or a tiny indiscretion. What God says to David in today’s first reading is that yes, his sin is forgiven because God is mercy. But, because of his wrong choices, David has unleashed a chain of events that will result in violence being part of his family’s inheritance forever. That is not punishment for his sin, but rather the consequence of it. Even when our sins have been forgiven, we often unleash consequences we could not have foreseen. That’s how insidious and destructive sin can be, and that is why there is no such thing as a victimless or private sin in which no one else is affected.

Repentance is crucial. We see that move to repentance in King David’s behavior today. When confronted by God, David is quick to repent: “I have sinned against the LORD,” David says. And this is the crucial step. God is always ready to forgive, but we have to recognize that we need to be forgiven. We have to know that we need a Savior. God’s forgiveness takes two: God to offer it, and us to receive it. For us, I think, the move to repentance is easy to make by simply approaching the Sacrament of Penance. We offer it every Saturday here at the parish from 4:00 – 4:45 pm. You don’t have to have committed the sins of David to need this precious sacrament; in fact we are instructed to go at least once a year, because we all have some sins on our soul, and we all have need to receive God’s mercy and grace and forgiveness. I always say this, but if you haven’t been to the sacrament in a long time and have forgotten how to do it, just go. It’s the priest’s job to help you make a good confession and I know that Fr. Ted and I are committed to helping you do that. Remember, the step to repentance is a crucial one. If you want God’s grace, all you have to do is to make a move to receive it. We all need a Savior, and we are all promised one if we will just ask for it.

Forgiveness is freely given. God’s response to David didn’t even take a minute. As soon as he says that he had sinned against the Lord, God’s response comes through Nathan the prophet, loud and clear: “The LORD on his part has forgiven your sin: you shall not die.” And notice, please, that the Lord doesn’t say, “OK, I forgive you,” as in “now that you’ve said ‘I’m sorry’ I will forgive you.” No. The message is that David’s sin has been forgiven; that is, the forgiveness has already happened. It is not necessary that we repent, or do anything, in order that we be forgiven. But it is crucial that we repent in order to receive that forgiveness and grace that is given to us freely, without a moment’s hesitation, by our God who is at his core, forgiveness and grace. We should not, of course, commit the further sin of presumption by assuming that that it does not matter what we do because we are always forgiven. But above all, we should not deprive ourselves of the grace of forgiveness by choosing not to confess and repent and receive what is offered to us.

Reconciliation brings joy. I think what is so important in today’s Gospel is for us to see how great is the joy that comes from sin forgiven and mercy received. The unnamed “sinful woman” is not bathing and anointing the Lord’s feet so that he will then forgive her sins. She is bathing and anointing him because she is overjoyed that her many sins have been forgiven. The little parable Jesus tells to Simon the Pharisee makes that clear: the one who was forgiven the greater debt loves more. He loves not to have his debt forgiven, but instead he loves because the debt has already been canceled. And so we too gather with joy this day because the debt of our sin has been erased. We pour out our time, talent, and treasure, and especially our own lives, on this altar of sacrifice, because our sins have been forgiven and the debt has already been paid by our Savior who stretches out his arms on the cross so that we might have salvation and might be reconciled with our God who created us for himself. Today in that silent time after Communion, I hope I hear weeping for joy from all of us because of the great forgiveness that is ours when we sinful people realize that we need a Savior and turn to find his arms already open to us. What other response is there to that grace but tears of joy?

It might not be popular to talk about sin these days but, brothers and sisters in Christ, it’s the only reason we’re here together this day. If we don’t need a Savior, then we don’t need to waste an hour together, do we? But the truth is we are a sinful people, a people in need of a Savior, who gather together to sing the words of King David, “Lord forgive the wrong I have done.” In our gathering we can cry out in tears of joy for forgiveness freely given and mercy abundantly bestowed. “Blessed” – indeed happy – “is the one whose fault is taken away, whose sin is covered.”

Thursday of the Tenth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

Would that we all would be, as St. Paul said, transformed from glory into glory. But the problem is, we get caught up in all the wrong kinds of things. Which is exactly what he was cautioning the Corinthians against, and what Jesus was condemning the Scribes and Pharisees for doing in today’s Gospel. When Moses was read among the Corinthian Church, St. Paul tells them that it was always with a certain veil over it all. And that veil kept the people from understanding the Mosaic Law’s true intent. The same could be said for the Jews in Jesus’ time. The Scribes and Pharisees had the law down to a science. But they always missed the spirit of the law. And of that Spirit, St. Paul says: “Now the Lord is the Spirit and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.”

And for those who follow the spirit of the law, there really is true freedom. There is freedom from getting caught up in all the minutiae. There is freedom to really serve God and other people. There is freedom to do what we were created for.

It’s always scary when Jesus starts out saying “you have heard it said that…” because he always follows up with “but what I say to you is this…” What he is doing here, though, is freeing us from the strictness of the law and opening our eyes to the spirit. So in Christ, it’s not enough just not to murder, we must also respect life in every way. We can’t just be content with not murdering or aborting, but we must also be sure to tear down any kind of racism, hatred, or stereotyping. We must care for the elderly and sick and never let them be forgotten. We must never be so angry that we write people off and hold grudges. Murdering takes many forms, brothers and sisters, and we must be careful to avoid them all or be held liable for breaking the fifth commandment in spirit.

We should shine the light of God’s spirit on all of our laws and commandments and be certain that we are following them as God intended. As St. Paul said in today’s first reading, “For God who said, Let light shine out of darkness, has shone in our hearts to bring to light the knowledge of the glory of God on the face of Jesus Christ.” May we all be free to follow the spirit of God’s law and be transformed from glory into glory.

St. Anthony of Padua, Priest and Doctor of the Church

Today’s readings

stanthonypadua-grecoI think I can always remember my mother, and my grandmothers, praying to St. Anthony anytime something was lost. There’s even the popular little prayer, “Tony, Tony, please come ’round, something’s lost and can’t be found.” This everyday need to find lost objects has made St. Anthony one of the most popular saints.

But the real story of St. Anthony meshes very well with the words of Jesus in today’s Gospel: “Whoever obeys and teaches these commandments will be called greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.”

The gospel call to leave everything and follow Christ was the rule of Anthony’s life. Over and over again God called him to something new in his plan. Every time Anthony responded with renewed zeal and self-sacrificing to serve his Lord Jesus more completely. His journey as the servant of God began as a very young man when he decided to join the Augustinians, giving up a future of wealth and power to follow God’s plan for his life. Later, when the bodies of the first Franciscan martyrs went through the Portuguese city where he was stationed, he was again filled with an intense longing to be one of those closest to Jesus himself: those who die for the Good News.

So Anthony entered the Franciscan Order and set out to preach to the Moors – a pretty dangerous thing to do. But an illness prevented him from achieving that goal. He went to Italy and was stationed in a small hermitage where he spent most of his time praying, reading the Scriptures and doing menial tasks.

But that was not the end for Anthony’s dream of following God’s call. Recognized as a great man of prayer and a great Scripture and theology scholar, Anthony became the first friar to teach theology to the other friars. Soon he was called from that post to preach to heretics, to use his profound knowledge of Scripture and theology to convert and reassure those who had been misled.

Through the intercession and example of St. Anthony, may we all find the courage to obey and teach God’s commandments, and be called with him, greatest in the Kingdom of heaven.

St. Barnabas, Apostle

Today’s readings | Today’s saint

“Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.”

st barnabasBarnabas, a Jew of Cyprus, comes as close as anyone outside the Twelve to being a full-fledged apostle. He was closely associated with St. Paul (he introduced Paul to Peter and the other apostles) and served as a kind of mediator between the former persecutor and the still suspicious Jewish Christians.

When a Christian community developed at Antioch, Barnabas was sent as the official representative of the Church of Jerusalem to incorporate them into the fold. He and Paul instructed in Antioch for a year, after which they took relief contributions to Jerusalem.

We see in today’s first reading that Paul and Barnabas had become accepted in the community as charismatic leaders who led many to convert to Christianity. The Holy Spirit set them apart for Apostolic work and blessed their efforts with great success.

Above all, these men hungered and thirsted for righteousness, a righteousness not based on the law or any merely human precept, but instead on a right relationship with God. This is a righteousness that could never be disputed and the relationship could never be broken. Just as they led many people then to that kind of relationship with God, so they call us to follow that same kind of right relationship today.

As we celebrate the Eucharist today, we might follow their call to righteousness by examining our lives in light of the Beatitudes. How willing are we to enter into poverty of spirit, work for peace and justice and pursue righteousness? Blessed are we who follow the example of St. Barnabas and blessed are we who benefit from his intercession.

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ

Today's readings

During World War II, the officers of the Third Reich's secret service forcefully recruited many 12- and 13-year-old boys into the Junior Gestapo. The harshly treated boys were given only inhumane jobs that they were to perform without rest or complaint.

After the war ended, most had lost contact with their families and wandered aimlessly, without food or shelter. As part of an aid program to rebuild postwar Germany, many of these youths were housed in tent cities. There, doctors and nurses worked with them in an attempt to restore their physical, mental and emotional health.

Many of the boys would awaken several times during the night screaming in terror. One doctor had an idea for handling their fears. After serving the boys a hearty meal, he'd tuck them into bed with a piece of bread in their hands that they were told to save until morning. The boys began to sleep soundly after that because, after so many years of hunger and uncertainty as to their next meal, they finally had the assurance of food for the next day.

On the last day of my dad's life about a month ago, I gave him Holy Communion for what would be the last time. He was able to pray with us, and was so grateful to receive the Sacrament of Jesus' own body and blood. We call that last Communion Viaticum which in Latin means "bread for the journey." Like the former Junior Gestapo boys who slept soundly because they knew they had food for the next day, my dad was able to rest in Christ knowing that he would be able to eat at the heavenly banquet table.

On this feast of the Body and Blood of Christ, we are called to take comfort in the many ways God feeds us. We know that when we pray "give us this day our daily bread," we will receive all that we need and more, because our God loves us and cares for us. But to really trust in God's care can sometimes be a bit of a scary moment.

It was certainly scary for the disciples, who asked Jesus to "dismiss the crowds" so that they could go into the surrounding cities and get something to eat. They were afraid for the crowds because they had come to the desert, where there was nothing to eat or drink. They were afraid for the crowds because it would soon be dark and then it would be dangerous to travel into the surrounding cities to find refuge and sustenance. And, if they were to really admit it, they were afraid of the crowds, because all they had to offer them were five loaves of bread and two fish – hardly a meal for the Twelve, let alone five thousand.

loaves fishBut Jesus isn't having any of that. Fear is no match for God's mercy and care and providence, so instead of dismissing the crowds, he tells the disciples to gather the people in groups of about fifty. Then he takes the disciples meager offering, with every intent of supplying whatever it lacked. He blesses their offerings, transforming them from an impoverished snack to a rich, nourishing meal. He breaks the bread, enabling all those present to partake of it, and finally he gives that meal to the crowd, filling their hungering bodies and souls with all that they need and then some. Caught in a deserted place with darkness encroaching and practically nothing to offer in the way of food, Jesus overcomes every obstacle and feeds the crowd with abundance. It's no wonder they followed him to this out of the way place.

The disciples had to be amazed at this turn of events, and perhaps it was an occasion for them of coming to know Jesus and his ministry in a deeper way. They were fed not just physically by this meal, but they were fed in faith as well. In this miraculous meal, they came to know that their Jesus could be depended on to keep them from danger and to transform the bleakest of moments into the most joyous of all festivals. But even as their faith moved to a deeper level, the challenge of that faith was cranked up a notch as well. "You give them something to eat," Jesus said to them. Having been fed physically and spiritually by their Master, they were now charged with feeding others in the very same way.

Christ has come to supply every need. In Jesus, nothing is lacking and no one suffers want. All the Lord asks of the five thousand is what he also asks of us each Sunday: to gather as a sacred assembly, to unite in offering worship with Jesus who is our High Priest, to receive Holy Communion, and to go forth to share the remaining abundance of our feast with others who have yet to be fed. After the crowd had eaten the meal, that was the time for them to go out into the surrounding villages and farms – not to find something to eat, but to share with everyone they met the abundance that they had been given. So it is for us. After we are fed in the Eucharist, we must then necessarily go forth in peace to love and serve the Lord by sharing our own abundance with every person we meet.

You might do that by participating in a small faith community, sharing the Scriptures and our own living faith with your brothers and sisters. Maybe you would do that by becoming Eucharistic Ministers, and dedicating yourselves to the ministry of distributing the precious gift of the Lord's own Body and Blood each Sunday. But you could also do that by volunteering to serve a meal at Hesed House, or bringing food to Loaves and Fishes. Sharing our abundance of spiritual blessing doesn't have to be very elaborate. You might just bring a meal to a friend going through a hard time or visit a neighbor who is a shut-in. Jesus is the font of every blessing, and it is up to us to share that blessing with everyone in every way we can. We too must hear and answer those challenging words of Jesus: "You give them something to eat."

What we celebrate today is that our God is dependable and that we can rely on him for our needs. Just as he was dependable to feed the vast crowd in that horrible, out-of the-way place, so he too can reach out to us, no matter where we are on the journey, and feed us beyond our wildest imaginings. Just as the Junior Gestapo boys were able to rest easy as they clutched that bread for the next day, so we too can rest easy, depending on our God to give us all that we need to meet the challenges of tomorrow and beyond. The challenge to give others something to eat need not be frightening because we know that the source of the food is not our own limited offerings, but the great abundance of God himself. We need not fear any kind of hunger – our own or that of others – because it's ultimately not about us or what we can offer, but what God can do in and through us.

In our Eucharist today, the quiet time after Communion is our time to gather up the wicker baskets of our abundance, to reflect on what God has given us and done for us and done with us. We who receive the great meal of his own Body and Blood must be resolved to give from those wicker baskets in our day-to-day life, feeding all those people God has given us in our lives. We do all this in remembrance of Christ, proclaiming the death of the Lord until he comes again.

Friday of the Ninth Week of Ordinary Time

Today’s readings

straphael-tobias-2Angels are messengers that God sends sometimes to let us know his plans for us, or to guard and guide us, or even to help us to see what’s really important. And it’s that last thing that the archangel Raphael does in today’s first reading. If we remember all the way back to Tuesday, we heard about Tobit being made blind by cataracts caused by bird droppings, and later in that same story, he scolded his wife for accepting a goat as a bonus on her labor, because he did not believe her story. I mentioned then that Tobit had to learn that charity – for which he was quite well known – begins at home. His period of blindness gave him that very insight, I think, and in today’s story he rejoices in his cleared vision.

Through the intercession of St. Raphael, Tobit regained his sight and was able to see his son safely returned from a long and dangerous journey. He saw also the return of his family fortune. And he saw the union of his son Tobit with his new wife Sarah. There was great cause for rejoicing in all that he was able to see and Tobit didn’t miss a beat in placing the credit where it belonged. He said,

Blessed be God,
and praised be his great name,
and blessed be all his holy angels.
May his holy name be praised
throughout all the ages,
Because it was he who scourged me,
and it is he who has had mercy on me.

And so we praise God today for angels who help us to see what’s really important. We praise God for angels who clear up our clouded vision and help us to see past the obstacles we’ve put in God’s way. We praise God for angels who help us to overcome our pride and self-righteousness so that God’s way can become clear to us. May we rejoice along with Tobit and Anna and all the rest that God has truly sent his angels to us often to bring us back to him.

Thursday of the Ninth Week of Ordinary Time

Today's readings

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart,
with all your soul, with all your mind,
and with all your strength.
and You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
There is no other commandment greater than these.

straphlLove is very definitely the theme of today's Liturgy of the Word. As I mentioned on Tuesday, I'm so excited because this week we are reading from the book of Tobit, from which we get the stories about our patron saint, St. Raphael. And today we hear about him entering the story, in the guise of the person of Azariah. Tobit and Tobiah and all the rest don't know he's an angel yet, but that will become clear enough when the blessing of love wipes the cataracts away from Tobit's eyes, and everything becomes clear to him.

And we know that it is love that can do all these things. Love can clear up old Tobit's vision. Love can and will let Tobiah survive his wedding night when he marries Sarah. Love can heal Tobit's and Sarah's broken hearts. And love can reveal that the power of God works in all of our lives, in all of our hearts.

Sometimes we need an angel to come to know that. During our lives, we can go through periods that are just awful and seem devoid of any joy. But love won't let that be the final answer for any of us. Just as the angel Raphael took the form of Azaraiah and was a blessing to Tobiah and Sarah, so too there may be angels in our own lives, in the form of family or friends or caregivers that end the cycle of sadness in the same way that God's blessing ended the cycle of death for Sarah's husbands.

Tobiah and Sarah sang a song of praise to God and said "Amen, amen" before going to bed for the night. They woke up the next morning to rejoice in God's love in the same way that we can, if we will but realize that there is no commandment greater than the commandment to love God and one another. Death cannot and will not ever win the battle over love.

St. Boniface, Bishop and Martyr

Today's readings | Today's saint

St. Boniface was sent by Pope Gregory II to reform the Church in Germany, which had been heavily negatively influenced by the forces of paganism. He sought to restore the fidelity of the German clergy to their bishops, in union with Rome. He also sought to build up houses of prayer throughout the region, in the form of Benedictine monasteries. While he had much success, in the Frankish kingdom, he met great problems because of lay interference in bishops' elections, the worldliness of the clergy and lack of papal control. During a final mission to the Frisians, he and 53 companions were massacred while he was preparing converts for Confirmation. St. Boniface has been called the apostle to Germany.

One of the great problems in the German Church at Boniface's time was the worldliness of the clergy. The caution against getting too caught up in the things of this world is well-taken for all of us. Jesus said as much in today's Gospel reading. Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, but do not withhold from God the things that are of God. Namely, we owe God our worship and faithfulness, and a spirit of prayerfulness that should imbue everything that we do.

Perhaps Tobit lost sight of this too in today's first reading, but in a different way. He was so caught up in showing what he thought was charity to those in need that he forgot that charity begins at home. When we do not center even our good works in that spirit of prayerfulness and faithfulness to God, even our charity becomes corrupt and our lives remain broken.

May the spirit of St. Boniface's efforts to reform the Church keep us all from being caught up in anything that is not of God.

The Most Holy Trinity

Today's readings

holy trinity-1I don't think it would come as too much of a shock for me to tell you that not one of us here in this place, not one of us here on this earth, will ever come to understand the Holy Trinity in this life. We've all been told that the Trinity is a mystery, and that's not just a church cop-out, it is in fact, truth. What we hear in today's Liturgy of the Word is that all of the truth about the Trinity is there, for the taking, in the person of the Holy Spirit. But we still don't get it, do we? And Jesus said as much: "I have much more to tell you," Jesus says, "but you cannot bear it now." We cannot bear it now because we are earthly creatures, corporeal and temporal – that is, material and bound to this time – and so our minds necessarily do not conform to God who is heavenly, ethereal and eternal. The long and short of it is, we'll never fully understand the nature of the Holy Trinity this side of the Kingdom of God.

St. Augustine found out as much. The story goes that he was walking along the beach, trying to figure out the nature of the Holy Trinity. As he walked along, he came across a little boy who was digging a hole in the sand right next to the shore. With his little hands he was carrying water from the ocean and was dumping it in the little hole. St. Augustine asked, "What are you doing, my child?" The child replied, "I want to put all of the water of the ocean into this hole." Once more St. Augustine asked, "But is it possible for all of the water of this great ocean to be contained in this little hole?" And the child asked him in return, "If the water of the ocean cannot be contained in this little hole, then how can the Infinite Trinitarian God be contained in your mind?" And the child disappeared. No wonder Jesus says to us, "I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now."

But even this is not meant to discourage us from trying to find out more about our God. As St. Augustine says in another place, we are made for God, and "our hearts are restless until they rest in thee." And so it is with hearts and minds filled with expectation that we gather on this Trinity Sunday, yearning to know the One true God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

This is Trinity Sunday and so it is perhaps appropriate to approach things in threes. And so, if you will, a third idea from St. Augustine. If you heard me preach on the feast of Pentecost last Sunday, you know that he said of the Trinity that the Father is the Lover, the Son is the Beloved, and the Holy Spirit is the Love between the Father and the Son. Now, as I also said last week, this is but a tiny scratch in the surface of who God is. With this little caricature, we come to understand a tiny bit about the Trinity, but it is a very important tiny bit, I think. Because from this description of the Trinity we get two very important facts about God. The first is one that we know quite well, that God is love. And the second is one that makes sense if we think about it, and that is that God is a relationship.

This notion of God as a relationship is fundamental to Catholic thinking. It forms the basis for so much of our theology and our experience as a Church. For example, many of our protestant brothers and sisters emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus Christ above all else. While we do not necessarily reject this notion, and while we do think it's important for all people to come to know Christ, we believe that a person comes to know God in community because God is a community. So that's why we think it's important to come to Church for worship and reject the idea that one can worship God best by looking at a tree or focusing on a crystal. God made us to know him and gives us other people in our lives so that we can come to know him better. Indeed we see God's love for us poured out in the way others love and serve us. And so gathering as a community is fundamental to our faith and expresses our true belief in the Triune God.

Today's readings underscore this notion of God as relationship. The mysterious figure of Wisdom in our first reading from Proverbs was with God in the beginning. The relationship between the two of them brought forth the heavens, the earth, the skies, the waters, and everything that is in them. It has been said that Wisdom here is the personification of the Word of God, which we often identify with the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. But whoever it is, it makes clear the fact that the creation of the world took place in the context of relationship. Sure, God could have created everything himself, but that's not who God is. God is relationship, so his creating action is one of relationship as well.

The second reading mentions all three Persons of the Trinity. We have peace with God (the Father) through our Lord Jesus Christ, through the Holy Spirit. Peace, too, can only be experienced in community. Sometimes we think we'd be better off without some of the people around us, but we can never experience the peace of God apart from the community. Peace, true peace, the peace that God gives, is a peace that comes from the love experienced in the Community of the Trinity and bestowed upon all those who believe. We experience peace when we relate to one another as God intended, we have peace when we exercise our vocation and our calling as God intended, we have peace when we love and serve others as God intended. St. Paul is not naïve here, though. He does not claim that knowing the Triune God will give us a life devoid of tribulation. No, we will definitely experience affliction, but instead of being crushed and dejected by our afflictions, we can instead boast about them, because we know that through them we come to know endurance, proven character, and a hope that can never be taken away from us. God is relationship, so he does not leave us alone in our afflictions, lost and broken, but instead, stretches out his arms on the cross and endures them with us, giving us hope and peace.

The idea of God as a relationship is helpful to us, I think, because we know what relationships are. But it's also difficult, in a way, because none of us experiences their relationships perfectly. If God is a relationship and our own relationships are broken and fragile, then our understanding of the Triune God remains at least partially shrouded in mystery. What truly stands in our way on the quest to coming to know God and comprehend the mystery of the Trinity is that we are sinful people, and always will be so this side of the Kingdom. And so it is most likely that it is only on that great day when Christ will have destroyed sin and death itself, when all that is hidden will be revealed, it is only on that day that we will truly understand who God is. Until then, we can at least scratch the surface by experiencing the love of God in relationships, perfecting them as best we can. And on that great day, we believe that we will see our God as he truly is and will cry out with the Psalmist, "O Lord, our God, how wonderful your name in all the earth!"

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