Called to Community: Beckoned by the Trinity

Before the beginning is the Trinitarian life of community of the eternal Persons of God.  The life of the Trinity is an infinite explosion of giving and receiving love.   The spiration of the Spirit is the expression of the Father and Son’s profound love for each other.  Each Person of the Trinity pours forth love toward the Others and dances in the love of the Others. Each lives and dwells in the Others and, by sharing life, the Three constitute a community characterized by unity in diversity.  The interrelationship of the Persons of the Trinity is so complete that the Three are one God, that is, three loves in the same love.

The Trinity lives from, with, through, and for each Other.   From all eternity, this community of shared life has existed in a dynamic, mutually interdependent, and reciprocal relationship of self-giving love.  Historically, the eternal Three expressed the dynamus of their love in the outward movements of Creation, Incarnation/Redemption, Pentecost, and continue to do so in the ongoing life of the earth community and, in a special way, the Christian community.

The Triune God, a Mystery of intense inclusion, invites human beings to share in its communion of life and love, and, through this experience, to enter into community with others.  Just as the community of the Trinity exists in relationships of self-donation and self-differentiation, so, too, the Christian community entails each member’s giving of self in love to others and the flourishing of  members’ personal development.  True community embraces the individuation of its members and inspires them to contribute to the common good.    

Through His teaching and example, Jesus stressed the importance and value of community.  He taught His small band of followers to be together in love. Jesus responded lovingly to others’ needs and encouraged His disciples to do likewise. Today, Jesus’ call is to continue His self-donating way of being.  Love of Christ and the commitment to contribute to the growth of God’s Kingdom of love on earth through gospel living is what binds together contemporary Christians.

The following are some of this author’s reflections concerning the  meaning and value of Christian Community:

  • Community is a grace that involves collaboration with God and others.  
  • Community is about experiencing a sense of belonging.  In Christ we are, indeed, members of each other.
  • Relationships that nurture, encourage, and challenge us shape and enrich our shared life in community.  
  • Community involves carrying each other’s burdens, i.e., being there for each other in good times and hard times.  
  • Community means praying for and with each other.
  • Community and forgiveness go hand-in-hand.  This entails seeking reconciliation when we inflict pain on another and offering forgiveness to those who have caused us to suffer.  
  • Community is a discipleship of friends who together steward the talents and resources God has bestowed on them.  
  • In community, with courage and constantly renewed vigor, we quest together to serve the needs of God’s people by attuning ourselves to the signs of our times.
  • Hospitality is essential to Community. The spirit of welcoming includes honoring each other and creating ample space for differences among us.  

The Trinity constantly beckons Christians to community, which entails an ongoing commitment to walk the long journey in love together.  As Mercy foundress, Venerable Catherine McAuley, poignantly reminds us:  “Our mutual respect and charity is to be cordial; now ‘cordial’ signifies something that revives, invigorates, and warms; such should be the effect of our love for each other.”  Just as the cordiality of the Persons of the Trinity for each Other moves outward, so, too, Christian cordiality expresses itself in the mission of mercy to our world, which roots itself in the desire to respond lovingly and wholeheartedly to the needs of our time.  

In his text, Why We Live in Community, Eberhard Arnold, the founder of the Bruderhof, stresses that the “witness to voluntary community of goods and work, to a life of peace and love, will have meaning only when we throw our entire life and livelihood into it.” 1 Additionally, in an essay on community, Thomas Merton notes that community is God’s work.  He insists: “It isn’t just a question of whether you are building community with people that you naturally like; it is also a question of building community with people that God has brought together.”2

The story of  Christian community is ever unfolding.  Beckoned by the Trinity, as we continue into the future in the 21st century and beyond, let us encourage and inspire one another to dream dreams, share hopes, and seek and find creative ways to live mercifully by serving persons in need in our broken world.


1 Eberhard Arnold, Why We Live in Community (Farmington, Pa.: Plough Phing Co., 1996), p. 28.

2 Thomas Merton, “Building Community on God’s Love” reprinted in Why We Live in Community, p. 51.  


Dr. Marilyn Sunderman, RSM is Professor of Theology and Chair of the on-campus Theology Program at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine.

“I am spiritual but not religious”

A Washington Times headline on December 6, 2010 read: “Religious strength tied to well-being” (Wetzstein 2010).  The headline is gleaned from a Gallup-Healthways Well-Being survey of 550,000 participants.  The survey, as reported by the Washington Times, found a direct connection between “emotional health, physical health, life evaluation and work environment” with praying and studying Scriptures and the sense of belonging to a “moral community based on religious faith.”  Additionally, the survey finds that “Christianity, the dominant religion of the United States, embody tenets of positive relationships with one’s neighbors and charitable acts, which may lead to a more positive mental outlook.” Lastly, the Washington Times article, quoting another survey from the American Sociological Review on religious behaviors and well-being, reported that “people who attend religious services weekly and have three to five close friends in their congregation are most likely to say they are ‘extremely satisfied’ with life” (Wetzstein 2010).

Often we hear the statement, “I am spiritual but not religious” which really means the person seeks spirituality aside from a faith community.  Interestingly, the surveys conducted by Gallup and the American Sociological Review, connect spirituality and participation in a faith community together as a key ingredient for one to be “extremely satisfied with life.”   It appears that a journey of faith within an ecclesial (Church) community of faith really does matter!  Expressions of faith, making prayer a part of our daily life and praying in community enables us to discover true and lasting hope.

Fellowship in a faith community matters because we find support for the journey of life. The Gospel of Matthew reminds us Jesus is present wherever two or more are gathered in his name (cf. Mt. 18:20). Community prayer and support help individuals become “extremely satisfied with life” because it ought to lead us to an encounter with Jesus.

Part of our spiritual DNA is the quest for meaning and purpose.  So the heart longs for the answers to such questions as “what (or who) are we really made for”or “what is the meaning of life” and “is there more to life than meets the eye”?   Other questions unfold before us as we confront life’s situations and world events that perplex us and perhaps cause disquiet within our being.  Who of us has not pondered the question, “why do bad things happen to good people,” or “how is it that the ‘innocent’ seem to suffer so much evil?”

Today we begin our annual pilgrimage into the heart of the Pascal mystery. The drama of jesus enters jerusalemthe Passion, death and resurrection of Christ is where we can and ought to bring our questions and our restless heart. Let this Holy Week with all of its readings, prayers, symbols, rites and rituals seep deep within our inner most being.   Let the Church’s worship and our meditation become for us the lens through which we examine our actions and interpret life’s events.  Reflecting on the crowds laying palm branches before the humble Christ entering Jerusalem on a donkey, St. Anthony of Crete offers this spiritual pearl to us:

Let us run to accompany him as he hastens toward his passion, and imitate those who met him then, not by covering his path with garments, olive branches or palms, but by doing all we can to prostrate ourselves before him by being humble and by trying to live as he would wish. Then we shall be able to receive the Word at his coming, and God, whom no limits can contain, will be within us. (Oratio 9 in ramos palmarum: PG 97, 990-994).

The last line of St. Anthony’s reflection gets at the heart of what it means to be “extremely satisfied with life.”  The key to our quest for meaning and satisfaction, our longing for community, and love is found in our encounter with Christ.  Our God is a transcendent God who wishes to make his home within us.  Holy Week reminds us to what lengths God went to do just that…to make his home within us.   Today, on Palm Sunday, let us be present, with all of our questions, hopes, doubts and faith so we can

… spread before his feet, not garments or soulless olive branches, which delight the eye for a few hours and then wither, but ourselves, clothed in his grace, or rather, clothed completely in him. We who have been baptized into Christ must ourselves be the garments that we spread before him. Now that the crimson stains of our sins have been washed away in the saving waters of baptism and we have become white as pure wool, let us present the conqueror of death, not with mere branches of palms but with the real rewards of his victory. Let our souls take the place of the welcoming branches as we join today in the children’s holy song: Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. Blessed is the king of Israel.  (Oratio 9 in ramos palmarum: PG 97, 990-994)

Great will our satisfaction be in this life and the next if we open our souls and welcome Christ who is indeed our Savior and the answer to all of our questions and our longings. Let us now be on our way to accompany Christ that he may accompany us.

Lisa Gulino teaches pastoral theology for Saint Joseph’s College Online.