After the Bible
#AftertheBible is the podcast for June 16, 2019, Trinity Sunday. How do we know what to do about issues that are not explicitly mentioned in the Bible? The Trinity holds the key. Listen here and find out more: Download it into your phone. #John16 #GospelofJohn #John #Abortion #Athanasius #TrinitySunday #Trinity
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 6/16/2019 Trinity Sunday.
Please pause this audio and read John 16:12-15.
The word “abortion” is not mentioned by name in the Bible. So, how could the church possibly come down one way or another on such an issue? Trinity Sunday is the best day of all to explain how we, the Church, can know anything and interpret the Gospel to address issues that are not explicitly outlined in the Bible.
Three years ago, I used the idea of a Mosaic to describe the Trinity in talking about this passage from the Gospel of St. John. I said, like one tile of a Mosaic is independent of itself, has its own pattern, its own colors, and is beautiful in its own right, so each person of the Trinity has his own personality. This, I said, is the fact that the Trinity is a Trinity of persons. Each person of the Trinity is a person in their own right.
Yet, the whole pattern of the Mosaic is important to the integrity of the tile. It needs to be within the whole. The whole Mosaic is essential to it. The Mosaic has one message, one pattern. This is emblematic of how each person of the Trinity is fully God; one God in three Persons.
I believe it was Athanasius, but I am not certain, who said about the Trinity, “if you cannot know his essence, you can know him by his economy.” By ‘economy’, Athanasius means “how he works”. The term is a combination of two Greek words that mean “house rules”. So, let’s try this out.
First, last week, we celebrated Pentecost. Pentecost is the celebration in the Christian Church of the descent of the Holy Spirit onto the Church and humanity. We are connected to God through the Holy Spirit. Jesus today says in Chapter 16 of John’s Gospel that the Holy Spirit will speak to us. This is not an abstract, it is an ongoing process.
Because we are people who are ‘in the Spirit’ within the Church, we know that God speaks to us. He speaks to us as a faith community, but when he does, he speaks to the whole of the community that has remained in him. He is the Vine, we are the branches. It is important that we stay connected to Him. My larger Church body believes that the way we do that is to maintain apostolic succession. That is, a direct line of ordination and teaching back to the Apostles and to Jesus himself through the laying on of hands.
Last week, I said the Holy Spirit was “predictably wild”. That He speaks to us through movements outside of and through religious practices and Sacraments both. What we need to remember is, and Trinity Sunday sheds light on this, the Holy Spirit is God. When the Holy Spirit speaks, it is God. So, when we hear the whisper in our heart or in our head, we need to be sure to test the spirits to ensure that it is God who is speaking. One of the ways we can test the Spirit is to ask if whatever it is glorifies Jesus or sounds like something that would glorify Jesus.
Why would we use this as a test of the Spirit? Because Jesus said in this passage from St. John that the Holy Spirit would not speak on his own, but that his words would glorify Jesus. “The Spirit of Truth” hears from Jesus, the Son. The Holy Spirit speaks in concert with the Son, never against. So, we are spoken to in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is spoken to through the Son. So, the Holy Spirit is the enlivening force of the Gospel. The Son is the redeeming presence into whose body we are baptized. The Holy Spirit joins us to the Son, the Son speaks to us through the Holy Spirit. Well, what do these two have to say?
Jesus tells us that he and the Holy Spirit speak what the Father says, “All that the Father has, he gives to me.” We know that all that the Father has, he gives to the Son, who gives to the Holy Spirit.
So, the Father moves through the Son and in the Holy Spirit to us. We, in turn, pray in the Spirit, who speaks through Jesus and his salvific act to the Father. It is a constant loop. It has never stopped.
When we say we are a community of the Holy Spirit, then we are saying we are a community of Jesus and a community of the Father. We can never be separated from one person of the Trinity against the others. He is one God, the Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This is why we never speak of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in the plural. He is three in one.
So, being a community that is connected to God through this Divine Economy, what about abortion? How can we speak on the matter or any other matter without the word we are considering being mentioned in Scripture?
As to abortion: Does it make sense that we would terminate a life because it is an inconvenience? There are two brief things I want to say here, before you tune me out, if you are so inclined. Jesus was a huge inconvenience as a baby. He wasn’t even Joseph’s natural born son. He was conceived in a situation that usually would have ended in divorce. So, as the Holy Spirit speaks to us on the issue of abortion, we need to remember that the life of the Incarnate Son was born in adversity. We favor life, even in adversity, and also in inconvenience.
What I think is missing for the Pro-Life Movement is the articulation of something else that glorifies Jesus: the protection of his Mother Mary through the process of his birth. We have failed women. We have failed them because we do not realize that there are other considerations for women in the moment of pregnancy. We have failed to consider the economic considerations, the educational considerations, the work place issues of being pregnant, and a host of other issues. We have also failed to articulate needed moral and ethical demands to care for children after birth that would alleviate the mother’s worries. We have failed to create a culture that celebrates pregnancy, the valiant nature of women carrying any and every child to term. We have also failed to articulate a moral responsibility that men have to consider who is going to raise the child before the act of conception is undertaken. The Father made provision for the child at every stop. So should we.
How do I know these things are important? Because God wants us to share. The Lord wants us to treat other as we would be treated. The Lord wants us to bring the children to him. I also know because the churches in apostolic succession, which are not disconnected from the Vine, have heard God speak on this issue collectively. The Church has responded to the Holy Spirit as an active force in this regard. When we, as a collective community of Christians, as St. Vincent of Lerins said, acknowledge all that is believed, everywhere, and by all, we know it is of the Spirit. I would add, we are absolutely certain if what is believed is in apostolic succession.
We can apply this logic to everything that is not explicitly mentioned in Scripture. Does it represent the models of life God created and protect them from being seen as one option among many? Does it value life? There are many more questions we should ask of anything not explicit in Scripture, but I only have 8-10 minutes to talk with you today.
We know something is of God when the Spirit speaks to us when we know it glorifies the Son and would be something the Father would give us or do. Amen.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian