The Compass: Official Newspaper of the Catholic Diocese of Green Bay
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June 16, 2000 Issue
Bishop Morneau's Column
"Reflection on the Readings"

Bishop Robert Morneau
Bishop Robert Morneau

The Trinity: A practical doctrine?

Mutuality, reciprocity and equality are at the heart of the Trinitarian doctrine

June 18, The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity


By Bishop Robert Morneau

Questions for reflection:

1. What does the sign of the cross mean to you?

2. Is your life characterized by equality, reciprocity, mutuality?

3. In what sense is the "Glory be" a practical prayer?

In his book, Understanding Christian Spirituality (New York: Paulist Press, 1997), Michael Downey asserts that there has been a "theological effort to reconceive the doctrine of the Trinity as a very practical doctrine with radical consequences for Christian living" (39).

If there is one thing that we Americans demand it is practicality. We like things that work (now); we are not terribly patient with theory and abstraction. Doctrines and creeds that do not impact on our daily life are easily dismissed. "Down to earth" beliefs are much in demand.

So what does Dr. Downey say about the Trinity that might touch our daily life: "What is the doctrine of the Trinity at its heart, at its best? The doctrine of the Trinity affirms that it belongs to God's very nature to be committed to human beings and our history, that God's covenant with us is irrevocable, that God's face is immutably turned toward us in love, that God's presence is to us utterly reliable and constant. The basis for these affirmations is the self-revelation of God in salvation history, specifically, for Christians, in the self-communication of God in Jesus Christ. Christian living is the Spirit-assisted response to the Incarnate Word of God, Jesus Christ, who reveals the face of the invisible God" (45).

Christian life is an expression of mutuality, reciprocity and equality. These realities are at the heart of the Trinitarian doctrine.

Mutuality! What is more practical than the give and take in our relational life? This is more than having mutual funds in the stock market. It is a mutuality in which we share decisions on where to go for vacation, whether or not to move across country, when and where we will work with the poor. Mutuality is a sharing of our lives, a sense of deep solidarity. The Gospel tells us that God is with us always, just as Jesus was with the Father and in the Spirit.

Reciprocity! Reciprocal refers to "each to the other," both sides are involved in doing, feeling, giving. It is never a one-way street. It is this reality that leads us to cry out "Abba, Father" as we recognize and acknowledge what God has done and is doing for us. When we make no return we diminish our humanity. Within the life of the Trinity there is constant interdependence and sharing. We, made to the image and likeness of God, achieve our humanity by embracing and living the notion of reciprocity.

Equality! When we think of equality, most often it refers to having the same rights and responsibilities in the areas of politics, economics and social exchange. But equality refers to the heart of human dignity - every person, as person, is equal to any other in that dignity. This derives from the life of the Trinity, one God, three persons, equal and holy. Moses taught his people that God created them and established them in a promised land. If God deals with us in love and justice, so we are to treat one another with that same sense of equality and dignity.

The life of the Trinity reveals to us our own human worth. The more we know about God, the more we come to self-understanding and what the community is to be. The Trinity is a practical doctrine indeed.

(Bp. Morneau is the auxiliary bishop of the Green Bay Diocese.)



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