Monday, June 08, 2020

Made in the Image: The Trinity is not just a Factoid

This Sunday we celebrated the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. God is a Communion of Persons, and we are made in the image of this Communion. So whatever divides human society is contrary to God, and contrary to the human vocation to be God's living image in creation. Whenever words like “those people” or dehumanizing epithets like “swarm” or “pigs” are used to attribute a quality or behavior to an entire group without distinction, that is, quite literally, the work of the devil, “ὁ διάβολος”: the accuser. How conveniently this language puts the speaker on the side of humanity, reasonableness, justice, and all things right, without any hint of the need for conversion or change. It is all on "them" to change, or to go away, or to be forced out of sight.

But does it even make sense to think or speak of an “us” that is not the immediate group in which I currently find myself—literally the people I am with here and now? When “we” (“us”) remains undefined, amorphous: Isn't that when the probability of divisiveness rises? Who are “we” when the criteria of belonging are left to the imagination or to inference? The language itself contributes to division into ever-smaller units. Eventually, there is no more “we” but only individuals, fearful of one another.

I am concerned about the timing of the current social crisis, because Catholics have been (of necessity) away from the sacraments, and many have descended into quarrels and bickering over the forms of reception of the Eucharist. Weakened by this unaccustomed fasting, we have become all the more vulnerable to the suggestions to turn the stones of social media into bread. Anything that divides us serves the enemy of all humanity. As Bl. Joseph Toniolo urged at the beginning of the 20th century: “Unite! If the enemy finds us divided, he will pick up off one by one.”

This coming Sunday the Church marks the feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. The Eucharist is the “Sacrament of Unity and the bond of Charity,” as Augustine wrote. It is the antidote to division. There is only one Body of Christ, and Paul reminded us 2,000 years ago that we are all baptized into it, whatever our race or social status. (Here's a witness story from a Black Catholic dad who wants to teach his bi-racial children precisely that.)

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The Friday after next will be the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (who so loved mankind and spared himself nothing for our sakes). A great theme of devotion to the Sacred Heart is making reparation for outrages and negligence against the Real Presence. Perhaps we have been denied the Eucharistic Real Presence in order to sharpen our senses to recognize the Real Presence of Jesus in our neighbor.

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