Saturday, May 30, 2015


(I'm heading off to the funeral of a high school classmate, so this post will be a little shorter than some of my others.)

This Sunday is Trinity Sunday, an opportunity for us to reflect on the mysterious nature of God's love. St. Augustine, who spent so much time studying and reflecting on the mystery of God's inner life, tells us that if we humans were able to understand the mystery of God, then God would not be God.  We need a certain intellectual humility to admit that at some point there will be things about existence that lie beyond the limits of our understanding.

Still, though, we can't help wanting to understand more deeply the central beliefs of our faith. If you're in the mood, you can check out some of my previous thoughts by clicking "trinity" in the labels in the lefthand column.

The doctrine of the Trinity reveals that God is not an isolated being existing in solitary sovereignty, infintely beyond our human reach. God as a trinity of persons means that God is relationship. God is Love. God is family. Rather than engage in theological abstractions here, though, I'm just going to look at the notion of "love." 

Let me start with a quote which I came across this week:

“Our identity as persons is bestowed on us in the love which others have for us… Our identity is equally determined by the love we have for others. In both senses we owe our identity as persons to others.  - Bruenner “The Model of Love,” 171

Interesting that when I first read this passage I didn't worry about Bruenner's definition of “love.” Ironically, I was reminded of Justice Potter Stewart’s well known approach to the definition of “obscenity:”  “I know it when I see it.”

Not to oversimplify, but I think most of us usually know love when we see it, whether we're on the giving or the receiving end. I spent my meditation period this morning thinking about some of the many ways that I have loved and been loved just in this past week.

I thought of all the people who love me or have loved me, who have helped bestow on me my identity. Then I thought of the great responsibility I have toward my students and my brother monks if it's true that “Our identity as persons is bestowed on us in the love which others have for us… This has to be especially true for adolescents who are still trying to find out who they are, to find their "identity as persons." If Bruenner is right, then I have the responsibility of helping each of my students to form his identity as a person, and to do it through loving them. What does "loving" mean in this case? Well, here I echo Justice Stewart's answer:"I know it when I see it."

Then there was the other shoe that needed to drop: Our identity is equally determined by the love we have for others.

How good am I at loving others, I asked myself. Do I know what love is? Again Justice Potter came to the rescue: generally "I know it when I see it."

Let the Feast of the Holy Trinty be an occasion for us to look at our lives from the point of view of love, and develop a sharper eye for seeing love when we come across it every day.


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