“Rory, I’d like you to have this,” he said as he gave me the gift, “I got it from my father and I would like you to have it.” I was packing, leaving a former parish when my friend called with the gift. As I looked up, I was convinced that artistic taste is so individual. He went on, “I want you to take good care of it, it’s very expensive, and don’t move it on.” He obviously knows me very well!!! I thanked him for his generosity, we chatted, he wished me well in my new appointment and he left.
As a paperweight or a door stopper, or even when I used it as a target to practise my putting, it was useful, but as a piece of art, I never liked it. It was in its door stopper phase that Paddy (though that’s not his real name) saw it, when he came to visit sometime after I had moved. He wasn’t very happy with how I was using his beautiful (not my adjective) piece of art. “I didn’t give you that so that it could be smashed by a door at every hand’s turn,” he said, and as he lifted it I just prayed that he wouldn’t see the marks of the golf ball.
I was glad that he took the wretched thing away with him because it wasn’t really given out of love for me. If it had been freely given there would have been no pre-conditions; if it was given to me out of love, then it was up to me how I use it, or what I do with it, door stopper or not. It was a gift freely given and freely received, how I decided to use the gift was entirely up to me. If it was freely given out of love, as claimed, there would have been no preconditions, no ‘sell or return’ strings attached.
That is at the heart of today’s feast of the Holy Trinity; a relationship of love. I am not very good at theological explanations and I am only slightly better at doctrines, but for most of us, when we come to celebrate today’s feast of the Holy Trinity, we celebrate not so much the doctrine but the reality and the reality of the Trinity is that we are loved with no pre-conditions, as the Father loves the Son and the Son loves the Father. Jesus loves us unconditionally and He shows how much He loves us by giving us the Spirit to face our many challenges of life. It is the same gift given to us by Christ as was given to him by the Father, given out love for us with no pre-conditions. When we start putting conditions on our giving then such giving is not love. Christ’s giving of the Holy Spirit, given out of love, was unconditional. If we are born to love, which we are being made in the likeness of Christ, then surely our giving must be likewise.
One of the hymns which we sing frequently, contains the lines, “freely, freely you have received, freely, freely give…” We have received freely, the gift of the Holy Spirit from Christ because He Loves us; as His siblings we ought to do likewise and freely give to our siblings. How anybody uses the free gift is entirely up to them, just as it is up to us to use, if at all, in whatever way we choose the gift of the Holy Spirit, freely given to us at Baptism, at Confirmation and again at Pentecost. If that use is different to expectation, so be it, but to take the gift back for that very reason, shows that it was not freely given in the first instance. The reality of today’s feast, namely the relationship of love amongst the Father, Son and Spirit, is that love has no pre-conditions. To quote the words of my door stopper friend, “I got it from my father and I would like you to have it.” – period.