My husband is in the hospital with a serious medical condition. The doctors put him on some heavy duty drugs because of the pain. So he drifts in and out of being lucid. I thought it might help him to think of something besides his illness.
So I asked him, “How do I explain the Holy Trinity?”
“You want to know infinity?” he asked in confusion. But then came the clarity for which Jurgen is well known. He has read more books on theology than most theologians!
In his groggy state, he shared this: “People who focus too much on God the Father as Judge, end up with a god of no compassion, only law. Too much emphasis on God the Son as Love and you end up imagining a ‘feel good’ god who judges no one. Too much emphasis on the Holy Spirit as an inner guide and you end up imagining that all knowledge is yours. You mistake ‘self direction’ for something divine (which is the cardinal sin of pride.) God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God is the fullness of Truth, Wisdom and Love. God is Three. Don’t forget!”
I was thinking about Jurgen’s words as I drove home late from the hospital to be with the kids at home. By then I was groggy too. But I kept coming back to the image of a judge in heaven. Back in the time of the Old Testament, people believed that sickness was punishment for sins. Remember Job? The friends who came to “comfort” him, began instead to accuse: “What did you do to deserve this?” But, clearly, good people like Jurgen end up suffering. Perhaps the suffering comes so that those around will “do the right thing” by being of service.
Doing the “wrong” thing, by abdicating responsibility, would be a time of sin and potential judgment. Judgment and law are complex things so God gave us the church and sacraments to help us understand. I also know that the image of “God as love” has become very twisted by the modern world. Love is not pleasant self gratification. Especially not when you’re dealing with grave illness! The example of Jesus is that love definitely involves sacrifice! Pentecost Sunday was the day Jurgen went into the hospital so I’ve been thinking about our family’s need for Holy Spirit. I can understand the urgency in what Jurgen was saying about the Spirit…
There was a time in my younger years when I believed I didn’t need the Church. I though the Spirit would guide me if I listened in prayer. Who needs a Church? How wrong I was to delude myself! We are so good at rationalizing and justifying sin. Then we tell ourselves we are inspired…we are following some kind of divine guidance. That’s pretty scary.
I love that Jurgen, in his pain and confusion, could still call me to anchor our family in the fullness of God, the Trinity—to remember Law, Guidance and Love. The Trinity may seem hard to comprehend. But when we contemplate the vast mystery of the Divine, then the Trinity is a reflection of that vastness! I guess “infinity” really does go with Trinity!
–Judith Costello. Judith is the mother of two kids. She and her family live on a small farm they call “Sagging Acres” in rural New Mexico. Judith writes for national and regional magazines. She is a catechist, artist and a Secular Carmelite (OCDS).