Friday of the Second Week of Lent

Lectionary: 234

Finally, he sent his son to them, thinking, 'They will respect my son.'


In the last few years I have read several books about the mystery and doctrine of the Holy Trinity. My interest began partly in response to the resurgence of Islam. 
I hope I am not, and never become, Islamophobic. The United States has a rare opportunity to prove to the world the superiority of democracy as we welcome Muslims from abroad, and as many natural-born Americans embrace the ancient religion. 
Islam gave birth to one of history's great civilizations; it contributed much to the world's arts, sciences, medicines and civilization even while European Christians hacked at one another with sword and pickax, and the Mediterranean was a war zone between Europe and Africa. 
The doctrine of one god makes eminent sense and lent itself easily to a unified empire with a common religion and language. If the Muslim Empire spread by the sword it was civilized by its religion. 
Many Americans, scandalized by, and weary of, the sectarianism of Christianity, find the simple doctrine of one supreme deity reasonable and appealing. They have never been persuaded of the Holy Trinity and find little appeal in the idea of three persons in one god. How is that supposed to make sense? 
I have discovered through my reading that the doctrine is truly scriptural. Those churches that deny its biblical foundation have simply ignored the story of the ancient struggle between Arianism and Catholicism. Unwilling to do the work, or too enamored of their own preconceived opinions, they say the word trinity is not found in the Bible and therefore they dismiss it. Some bring an agenda to the discussion, such as the submission of wives to husbands. 
Their specious arguments are not new; the bishops who defined the doctrine addressed the same objections eighteen centuries ago; and they used the very scriptures these latter day skeptics ignore. The ancient Fathers of the Church had to contend with philosophical preconceptions of their day as we do today. They found clear indications of the doctrine, if not the very word, in every book of the Old and New Testaments. Trinity was simply a definition to clarify what the scriptures attest, that God the Father sent God the Son and God the Holy Spirit; and there is only one God. 
Studying the doctrine we see more clearly the shortcomings of Islam. Muhammad announced a merciful and gracious god who dwells in supreme solitude, utterly removed from the human drama. There is no relationship in Allah, and no relating to him except in abject humility. Allah is understood as supremely good, powerful and wise but, controlled by his own supreme power, cannot humiliate himself before men. Why would anyone -- god or man -- who is supremely powerful surrender his advantage, especially when he can do so much good for pathetic human beings? But Allah's benevolence is without sacrifice; it costs him nothing. Islam cannot imagine what Jesus has done for us. 
The allusion in today's gospel to the Father and the Son is one more reminder of God's superabundant love for us. He gave his only beloved son for our salvation, even unto death, death on a cross.  
But there is no salvation for the human being without God's supreme sacrifice of his Son. The bishops of Nicea saw that clearly. Allah's benevolence cannot purify the infinite depths of the human soul; it can only whitewash the exterior. 
Islam encourages Muslims to give generously to the needy; and we should admire their generosity. Our God insists that we should "Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus."
True, this is impossible for human beings. We are incapable of such sacrifice. But in God the Holy Spirit all things are possible, as our martyrs have proven.

No comments:

Post a Comment

I love to write. This blog helps me to meditate on the Word of God, and I hope to make some contribution to our contemplations of God's Mighty Works.

Ordinarily, I write these reflections two or three weeks in advance of their publication. I do not intend to comment on current events.

I understand many people prefer gender-neutral references to "God." I don't disagree with them but find that language impersonal, unappealing and tasteless. When I refer to "God" I think of the One whom Jesus called "Abba" and "Father", and I would not attempt to improve on Jesus' language.

You're welcome to add a thought or raise a question.