Summary: History teaches us that God's loving kindness comes from His essence--His Trinitarian family--and to that we must attract the whole human family.
Trinity Sunday 2013
Just one week ago, our Archbishop Gustavo announced plans for our Catholic community here in South Texas. It is fitting that on this Trinity Sunday, when we celebrate the core mystery of our religion, we contemplate the third core value, “unity.” The text reads: “Grounded in the Eucharist, we embrace diversity among persons, cultures and apostolates, and foster the bonds of charity that reflect the Trinitarian relationship of God, creating a culture of communion.” This statement echoes what the Council Fathers taught in Gaudium et Spes nearly a half-century ago. Speaking of the Catholic Church, they wrote: “United in Christ, they are led by the Holy Spirit in their journey to the Kingdom of their Father and they have welcomed the news of salvation which is meant for every man. That is why this community realizes that it is truly linked with mankind and its history by the deepest of bonds.”
Our Introit today sings: “Blessed be the Holy Trinity and undivided Unity. We will confess Him, because He has shared with us His loving kindness. O Lord, our Leader, how excellent is Your Name in the whole world.” And the communion verse expands on the theme: “We bless the God of heaven and extol Him before all the living because He has shared with us His loving kindness.”
The Book of Genesis, and indeed the ancient secular histories and archaeological evidence, tell us about the darkness that descended on the human world after the Fall of our first parents. Last week at the Pentecost vigil, the Church read the story of the Tower of Babel. In human worship of false gods, they erected a huge ziggurat, one that was supposed to reach all the way to the heavens. But in the process–and Genesis attributes this to divine intervention–they had a breakdown of communications, and they scattered all over the world, arguing and bickering. The original unity of humankind was destroyed by arrogance, pride, and sin. In the Greek tradition, this tendency is called hubris, a kind of arrogant pride that offends even the gods, and that sets humans up for crisis and tragedy.
Into this chaotic scene comes the figure of a lone family–Abraham and Sarah–called by the One God to right worship and right action. Genesis records that this was an incomplete family, because they were sterile, unable to bear descendants. But Genesis also records a promise to this family. If they would follow God unreservedly–do as He wished–there would be descendants, and it would be a vast multitude who would as a new human family do the will of God and inherit the earth.
The conflict between the orthodox believers and the pagan world surrounding them consumed the next several thousand years. We read about it in the Old Testament. The faithful descendants of Abraham even in Israel were surrounded by a culture of idol-worship. Human sacrifice and sacred prostitution were the main features of that horrid Semitic worship. King after king of Israel and Judah succumbed in one way or another to it. There is even good evidence that for several hundred years, in the Temple of Jerusalem, there was an idol of a female consort of the Lord God.
The conflict was deep in the human spirit. Most of the world was trapped in a vision of the divine that was grounded in fear and hostility. Just think of the relatively tame Greek and Roman legends–Zeus or Jupiter was a fearsome foe, a serial rapist. The gods of Greece and Rome were in eternal conflict, and played with human beings like pieces on a chessboard. The prayers of the pious pagans were centered on protection of their fragile families. They basically asked the gods to leave them alone.
Across the Mediterranean, the Phoenicians and their spiritual fathers at Carthage played a more deadly game with their gods. Those gods –rightly seen by the Hebrews as demons–were bloodthirsty. They set up temples with sacred prostitutes to act out the fertility rites that were supposed to bring fruitfulness to the soil. But their pantheon, their bloody family of gods in conflict, demanded that every human firstborn be brought for sacrifice to Baal, or Moloch, or whatever the local priests called him, and cast into the fire. Archaeologists have found their tiny remains at the temples of Carthage and the Mediterranean ring. Yes, even the Hebrew kings of the latter kingdom committed this horrible crime.
In the greatest book of the twentieth century, The Everlasting Man, G.K. Chesterton relates how the battle between the gods issued in the various Punic wars. Rome, with its relatively tame pantheon, battled to the death with Carthage, and destroyed that civilization. We should note that sacrificing babies to gain wealth did not die as an option for human choice. Today the Carthaginian spirit survives as organizations like Planned Parenthood. But on the surface, the most bloodthirsty of pagans were eradicated from the Mediterranean world.