The Official Newspaper of the Diocese of Little Rock

What comes first in relationships? Love or trust?

Published: June 16, 2017   
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily June 11.

Have you ever figured out which came first, the chicken or the egg? It’s a mystery, a circular mystery of cause and effect.

Paleontologists can trace the evolution of today’s chicken from dinosaur birds hatched from dinosaur eggs, but they still can’t tell which came first.

In a similar way, love and trust are a circular mystery of cause and effect. Without trust, positive relationships are not possible and without positive relationships trust is not possible. And since love is the greatest of all positive relationships, without trust love is impossible.

God loved us first. And not just first, but also second, third and fourth and so on, as many times as necessary.

This circular mystery of trust and love is cumulative, spiraling upward to greater trust and deeper love or in its absence, spiraling downward in a vicious circle of increasing distrust and eventually hatred. And since heaven is a place of perfect love, without trust heaven is impossible. But which comes first, the chicken or the egg? ... Trust or love?

Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Trinity, God whose very nature is love, which is a relationship. And since all relationships require another person with whom to relate, God has multiple persons at the very core of his being — he is both one and three; he could not be love, which is a relationship, otherwise. One divine nature (love) subsisting in three divine persons in an intimate relationship of love and trust. But which of the three came first: Father, Son or Holy Spirit?

Well, in terms of human history, God has revealed his three persons to us progressively: First in the person of the Father, our Creator, then thousands of years later in the person of the Son, our Redeemer, and then finally on Pentecost in the person of the Holy Spirit.

Moreover the very words “father” and “son” seem to imply that one is older than the other. Human fathers are always older than their sons — but not in the case of God!

God is love, which is a relationship, which requires multiple persons, therefore there never has been one person of the Trinity without the others. We humans may have known about the three persons of the Trinity for different lengths of time and theologians may be able to trace the development of our doctrine of the Blessed Trinity, but that’s us going through a series of stages, not God.

God is by definition eternal, so all three persons of the Trinity are logically the same age. Eternal means always and there’s nothing older than always!

So in the case of God’s inner self, trust and love are an eternal circular mystery at the center of his very being. Similarly, in the case of human relationships, trust and love are also a circular mystery, though in our case neither eternal nor perfect. In the case of our relationship with God and God’s relationship with us, trust and love are not a circular mystery. There is a starting point: God loved us first. And not just first, but also second, third and fourth and so on, as many times as necessary to finally elicit from us a response of trust.

Like with a stubborn lawn mower, God pulled and continues to pull over and over and over again, trying to get something started with us, trying to get a response. And every part of God’s divine self, every person of the Blessed Trinity always was and still is and always will be involved.

Once we do respond, our relationship with God begins to spiral forward, our growing trust increasing our love for God and neighbor. And our growing love increasing our trust in God and neighbor. And in the process we change to become more like God ourselves, whose very nature is love.

This is what John is talking about in today’s Gospel, where he uses the word “belief” which in the Bible is a synonym for trust. To believe in Jesus means to trust him, to respond to his love. Our Gospel says: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him — trusts in him — might have eternal life.

God loves us first so that we will then trust him, thus establishing between us and God a relationship of love and trust that will then spiral forward to greater trust and deeper love in this life, and God willing, eternal life in God’s Kingdom of perfect love in the next.

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