Most of our time and money are spent cultivating “relationships,” and rightly so. Man is a social animal. We cannot be fully human without relationships. From conception, I develop in relationship to my mother, sensitive to her moods and physiological states. I can hear her voice and feel her heartbeat. At birth, I nurse at her breast, and then begin to cultivate relationships with other people—my father, my siblings, aunts and uncles, friends. I begin to understand myself as reflected in their eyes. As I grow into adolescence and adulthood, I begin draw very close to some individuals—best friends, kindred spirits, and for most of us, eventually a spouse and then children of my own. My happiness, my well-being, my sense of myself, all depend on right relationships. But if my relationships are dysfunctional, I will be dysfunctional.
The Holy Trinity: A Community of Persons
Today, Holy Mother Church celebrates the deepest truth God has given us: the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. God is one, but he is never alone. God is a community, a relationship of persons. Three persons in one God. God is relational, and that is why we are hard-wired for relationship, for we all made in his image. The relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is a right relationship, and it reveals to us what our relationships can be. The Father gives to the Son rather than takes from him. Life is about giving, not taking. We call this “stewardship.” The Father gives himself to the Son, who receives him; the Son gives himself in return to the Father, who in return receives him.
Our own relationships are dysfunctional to the degree that we reverse this divine model. When I take from another person rather than giving, I turn the divine pattern on its head. On the other hand, when I refuse to receive the gift of another person, I refuse happiness. If we want right relationships, and the vitality that comes from them, we must imitate God’s relationship to himself.
Believing and Doubting Each Other
How do we know that God is a trinity? This we know, for the Bible tells us so: “All power has been given to me,” Jesus says in today’s Gospel. Given by whom? By the Father. “The Father and I are one,” Jesus often said. Jesus and the Father are one, but they are distinct persons. The closest anyone comes to this is in marriage, where two persons become one flesh, one in mind and heart, while remaining distinct individuals.
“Go, therefore,” Jesus continues, “and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Jesus names the three divine persons. And then he extends his eternal relationship to us: “Behold, I am with you always, even until the end of time.” God will always be in relationship to us, even as he is eternally in relationship to himself. Will we be in relationship to him?
A curious verse occurs here: “When the disciples saw Jesus, they worshipped, but they doubted.” We believe in God, or we wouldn’t be here. But we doubt. When really bad things happen to us, or when much is asked of us, we are not absolutely sure God really exists, or that he cares about us. In fact, when a human relationship fails us, we often give up on our relationship with God. Few Catholics maintain their relationship with God through a divorce, or the death of a child. “What kind of a God could do this to me?” we say.
Submitting Our Relationships to God
Yes, I believe in my relationship with God, but I doubt. I believe in my relationship to my spouse, but I doubt. I’m not absolutely sure she really loves me, or that my father really cares about me, or that my children will be there for me, or that my friends understand me. “Women, you can’t live with them; you can’t live without them.” we men say.
The solution to this dilemma of human relationships—we believe but we doubt—is our relationship with Christ. If my friendship with God is alright, my friendships with others will be perfectly alright. Seek ye first the Kingdom of God, and all else will be given to you.
Do you want your marriage to flourish? Do you want a free and life-giving relationship with your parents or your children? Do you want effective relationships with employees, co-workers, and your supervisor? Do want supportive relationships with friends and associates? Do you want a right relationship even with yourself? Then work for a right relationship with God. Take the trouble to pray, to listen to God and even speak with Him, to spend time with him. If I am a man of prayer, my personal relationship with God will be right, and if my personal relationship with God is right, my human relationships will be perfectly alright.