Readings: Exodus 34: 4b-6, 8-9; Psalm 3, Response: Glory and praise for ever!; 2 Corinthians 13: 11-13; Gospel – John 3: 16-18
A key element that contributes to the nurturing of excellence in a person is a caring environment. This is true for organizations, especially schools and other formation communities within the Church, as well as nonreligious communities. It is equally true, if not more, for the family.
This was concluded by Chris Lowney in his 2003 book, “Heroic Leadership,” where he chronicles and analyzes some of the greatest achievements in human civilization across disciplines and eras.
His conclusion further points out that this caring environment provides people opportunities to achieve their full human potential.
In my work in education, I have integrated this into a teacher’s mission to love the students into excellence, and into the principal’s mission to lead in building a caring community in the school, and to love his/her teachers into excellence. Teachers are the front-liners with regard to the day-to-day education, training and formation of the students.
As we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Trinity, I invite you to reflect and assess the communities—our families, workplaces, faith communities, neighborhoods—that we live and work in. Are they caring communities that provide members with opportunities to excel?
The Community of the Holy Trinity provides not just an example of, but the grace to be this caring community. May I propose three graces of the Trinity both to pray for and to use to “assess” our communities.
Three graces of the Trinity
First is the community rooted and grounded in perfect love. Second is the community that brings out the excellence of the identity and mission of each and every member. Third is the community that is united in mind, heart and spirit, and expresses this unity in concerted action.
Rooted and grounded in “perfect love” is the foundation of a family. It is the seed, the cornerstone which begins in the love between husband and wife. This is the loving commitment that makes possible the community of the family.
It is “perfect love,” in quotation marks, because we can only approximate the perfect love of God in the Trinity. This is what Daniel Pink refers to in his book on motivation, “Drive,” as mastery being an asymptote, i.e., a curved line that comes closer and closer to a straight line, but never 100 percent.
In theological language, one can call this “perfect love” as a proleptic presence, i.e., already here but not yet perfect. This is just like the Kingdom of God which is in our midst, but anticipating perfection.
This grace of the “perfect love” welcomes the imperfect. As someone once remarked, paying tribute to her former husband, and I paraphrase: Thank you for teaching me that one need not be perfect to be a good person, and one need not be perfect to be loved by God and to love others.
Such a community, such family provides a loving environment which is most basic and fundamental: a safe space where one can open up without fear of judgment and rejection. A community of men and women that is not perfect yet striving towards “perfect love.”
From safe to sacred
This being the foundation of the family, it now builds up to the second quality or the second grace of community. From safe space to sacred space, one can consider this as the pivot grace, moving from the “safe” to the “sacred.”
It becomes sacred because the family now becomes a seedbed of dreams and hopes, the environment where its members discover who they are and the why of their life. The two are integral to each other.
One cannot discover mission without a sense of identity, who one is. Conversely, becoming aware of one’s identity naturally leads you to discovering your mission, the why of your life.
The excellence becomes possible as this identity and mission become the horizon of living one’s life. Quite often it is discovering our life horizon that is a dream larger than life. This is what inspires excellence.
The third grace is now ready to “burst forth”—a family now moving in unity of mind, heart, spirit and action, the integrity of love, excellence and mission.
I leave you with an image of the Trinity to drive this point. This is from the St. Ignatius prayer on the Incarnation in the Spiritual Exercises.
Picture the Father, Son and Spirit seated in their thrones in majesty and they observe what is happening to the world and humanity: the good and the bad, but the reign of evil, mostly. In more contemporary description, the injustice of inequality, the violence and killings, the decay of our moral fiber as individuals and as societies, the lies and manipulation, the crisis of this pandemic and the suffering it has inflicted on so many.
In all this, the Trinity decides to send the Son. They mission him into the world. In the words of today’s Gospel: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:16)
The Trinity is a community that comes from perfect love and gives us perfect love. Our hope for our families, our Church and our world, is that we may be icons of the Trinity in this time when love and redemption are most needed. —CONTRIBUTED