I’m sure at some point in your life you have heard that “God is love”. Or I certainly hope that you have. In fact, for some of you, it might be the only Catechesis you ever really received. It is a foundational statement of our faith, a uniquely Christian statement, but one that also leaves us with a logical problem.
On the one hand, we have God, who in monotheistic religions is defined as the foundation of all being, the one who pre-exists creation itself, the one who holds us in existence. If he were ever to stop thinking about us for even a moment, we would cease to exist. Logically, there can only be one God, because we cannot have two “foundations of all being”, because one would necessarily need to be the foundation of the other.
On the other hand we have love, the classical definition of which is “choosing the best for the other person”. Notice the phrase “other person” there at the end. Love requires another person to be loved. Love can other occur between two people; it cannot be a solitary enterprise.
So there is the logical problem: how can God, who existed before all else, who is existence itself, be love, when love requires there to be another person.
We could say something like “God loves us” or “God loves the universe” but this is not quite the same as saying that “God is love”. To say that “God is love” is to say that the very nature, the very definition of God is love; that God was love before he created anything at all.
My friends, today is Trinity Sunday, and this phrase “God is love” is the best proof I have ever heard for the Trinitarian nature of God. That is to say, the Trinity solves the problem, because the Trinity means that God is himself, of himself, by himself a relationship of love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The very definition of God is “loving relationship”.
And if God himself is a relationship, this has some implications for our lives. First, think about the fact that God lives at the very center of our beings. God created us, God sustains us, and this means that God is the deepest desire of our hearts, that we long for above all us. And if God is relationship, then the deepest desire of our hearts is relationship. First and foremost, relationship with God, of course, through prayer and worship. But also relationship with others. I myself am an introvert, so I am very happy to shut myself in my room and play a video game or read a book. But I have learned that, even if I may find these things restful, they will not ultimately make me happy. It is relationship, with my family and friends, my parishioners, and with God that makes me happy.
Second, if we are going to do godly things, they must always be done in relationship. We cannot imitate the God who is relationship outside of relationship and community. For example, consider your attendance at Mass here today. Do you think that a God, who himself is an eternal loving relationship, would prefer that you worship him alone, or in a community of believers? In community, of course! When you come to Mass, you participate in a relationship with all those who are also in relationship with God through Jesus Christ. You become the body of Christ, which is itself the mystical relationship of all believers.
So let me conclude with this: we often hear “God is love” as a saccharine or shallow phrase. But it is anything but! It contains, in those three simple worlds, the entire Trinitarian mystery. I hope when we use that phrase in the future, we feel on our lips the power and awe that “God is love” contains within itself.