A reflection for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Emma Cieslik reflects on the readings for May 26, 2024.
Catholic Voices

Readings (Year B):

Deuteronomy 4:32 – 34, 39 – 40
Psalms 33:4 – 5, 6, 9, 18 – 19, 20, 22
Romans 8:14 – 17
Matthew 28:16 – 20

Reflection: The Trinity and liberation

Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, affirming the belief in one God living through three divine persons. I love this Sunday because it recognizes that one spirit can inhabit multiple people, who together can champion communal and divine action. Even before delving into the readings this week, I thought of Elizabeth Johnson’s She Who Is in which the feminist theologian argues for the historical precedent—and the liberation—of speaking about God, about the Holy Spirit, using traditionally feminine pronouns. 

I first read this book in college, when a professor invited a group of LGBTQ+ Christians to discuss how the liberation theory Johnson posits in the book can also help liberate queer people of faith who find themselves at odds with the institutional church. Just as Johnson argues that recognizing that women not only receive and bear the divine—through the vision of Mary—but also symbolize it as well—through God and the Holy Spirit, we argued that a gender expansive conception of God can liberate us all. I returned to the book this past Sunday.

Today in our first reading, we hear Moses preach to his people about the raw power of God, how God would take the nation of Egypt through “testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors,” followed by a responsorial psalm in which the just and right Lord’s eyes fall upon those who fear him. I always struggle with these passages, along with the gospel reading today—the “great commission”—for how blatantly militarized this language is.


And hand in hand with this militarization is the masculinization of God and the Holy Spirit. When perusing our second reading—“the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”—I couldn’t help but think about the holy wars waged today, how some view a claim to ancestral land as justifying sexual violence, the murder of children, and the destruction of families in Gaza. It is this same vitriolic male presence that has emboldened certain key players in this war, who see the destruction of an entire people as a divine mission. 

While it is decidedly problematic to claim that the masculine presence in this conflict is totally to blame, I wonder about how Biblical descriptions of God and the Holy Spirit engender “sacred violence.” As I returned to Johnson’s book, I reflected on how the readings today and the gospel have weaponized this male anger, this fear of spiritual impotency to justify violent ends. 

Just this past November, Pope Francis called us to de-masculinize the Church, to prioritize the woman church, at the largely male Pontifical Theological Academy, and I began to wonder: How do the messages of these passages change when using feminine or gender expansive pronouns and names to describe God and the Holy Spirit? Is the war these passages refer to rather that which exists in the Church today, where women and queer people fight for justice and truth and against their own disenfranchisement? And can this reinterpretation dismantle this militarized biblical interpretation that challenges our world today?

About the author

Emma Cieslik

Emma Cieslik (she/her) is a queer Catholic scholar focused on material culture and LGBTQ+ identity within the church. She founded and directs Queer and Catholic, A CLGS Oral History Project based out of the Pacific School of Religion.

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