The perfect community

Al Cariño
Trinity Sunday 2003
Reproduced with Permission

In this predominantly Catholic country, it is heartwarming to see many Philippine Basketball Association players making the Sign of the Cross at the start of a game. We also see this happen when a player replaces another or is about to execute a crucial free throw whose outcome will result in victory or defeat. We do not know if in making the Sign, these players are invoking the help of the Holy Trinity. But we know that they are praying. And publicly at that. This while many of us are hesitant to make the Sign before and after eating, say, in a restaurant.

Very likely, the first thing our parents, usually our mother, taught us about our faith is how to make the Sign of the Cross. At first she got hold of our right hand, opened our fingers and guided them to our forehead, our heart, and our left and right shoulders, as she uttered the words of the prayer. Since then, making the Sign has become a part of our lives.

Do we know the meaning of those different motions? When we touch our forehead we show our affirmation of faith and dedicate our minds to the Father. As our fingertips rest at the base of our heart, we give our love to Jesus, our loving Redeemer. Then our hand moves from one shoulder to the other, signifying our eagerness to give our arms and hands to good works under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Finally, the hands interlock, showing we are united and single-minded in our efforts. After this conclusive gesture, we say "Amen" -- so be it.

From this, we can see that the Sign of the Cross is a prayer in itself and a profound one at that. It is a powerful profession of our faith in the Holy Trinity.

As Catholics we believe in the Trinity. When we pray the Doxology, we say, "Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit." And when we pray the Apostles' Creed, we say, "I believe in God, the Father Almighty.... I believe in Jesus Christ, His only Son.... I believe in the Holy Spirit." This is what God reveals of Himself to us. And this is the core of our Christian faith.

There is one aspect in our belief in the Trinity that can help us in our day-to-day life, namely, the Trinity as one community -- the perfect community. Looking at what each of the Person is and what binds "Them" together in the Trinitarian community can help us create better human communities. We can start our exploration with a human experience.

When does a person become a parent? When he gives life. The first and greatest gift a child receives is life. A child then is one who receives while a parent is one who gives.

This is also the dynamics in the Trinity. It is in the complete outpouring of God in love that He becomes Father. This outpouring bears fruit and becomes the Son -- Jesus Christ. To be Son means to be completely open and receptive to what the Father gives. At the moment the Son totally receives the Father's outpouring, at that very moment He becomes Son. This relationship of giving and receiving between the Father and Son is so intense that it bears another fruit -- the Holy Spirit.

At Christmas, the Father gave us His Son who became incarnate in Jesus, our Redeemer. At Pentecost, the Father gave us the Spirit, our Advocate before the Father and our Sanctifier. The whole existence of the Three Persons in the one Godhead revolves around the love each one has for the other. It is this love that forms the Trinitarian community.

This is the community that Jesus wants every human community to become. A community whose members give more than they take and settle conflicts by talking with each other rather than with guns--as now happens in Mindanao. In short, a community where love reigns and is supreme. For where there is love, there is harmony, trust and peace.

Obviously, this is easier said than done since our experience tells us the opposite. What we see are selfishness, greed and distrust between persons and among peoples. At the root of this is another kind of trinity -- the "I," "Me," and "Myself" kind.

To reverse this situation, we have to go out to others with open, not closed, palms. Just as we do when we pray. When we go out to others thus, it means that we are ready to give of ourselves to them rather than to grab what we can from them. In other words, our selfishness, greed and distrust must give way to love -- the love that the Three Persons in the Trinity have for each other; the love that Jesus has for us; the love that the Spirit wants to well in us.

We cannot really form a perfect human community since the effects of Original Sin will always be with us. But if we want harmony, trust and peace in our community, we must somehow approximate that of the Trinity. How? By making ours a community of love.