Loving in Communion with the Holy Trinity: An Educator’s Perspective

Benjamin Gan muses on how teachers can mirror the love of the Holy Trinity. His poignant sharing on a recent incident when he chased a troubled boy up the staircase of a nearby HDB block after he ran away from school, exemplifies how we can live a life that reflects the communion of the Holy Trinity that dwells within us.

In a few days’ time, the church will celebrate the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity: a relationship of love between the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God welcomes us into this communion of love: we are called to reflect this love in our own relationships with one another, whether with our spouses, family and friends, school, or community life.

While reading and reflecting on this month’s Sower’s article, I wanted to pay particular attention to how this relates to our role as educators. In particular:

  • the importance of love in our teaching vocation, and
  • how we can mirror the love and unity of the Holy Trinity

Loving in communion with the Holy Trinity

The English Language has only one word for love, but there are in fact different kinds of love: Eros (romantic love), Phileo (brotherly love we feel for friends), Storge (love among family members) and Agape (God’s love, which He commands us to give). Agape is love which is of and from God.

Through our teaching vocation, we are invited to show love and compassion – to our colleagues whom we work together with purpose, and especially to our students whose lives we have the privilege to influence.

Each day can bring about different challenges for us. Last month, I was chasing a troubled boy up the staircase of a nearby HDB block after he ran away from school. After running up many flights of stairs, I stopped chasing. I stayed where I was and prayed for wisdom and serenity. Then I started talking to the boy as though he was listening, when in fact I had no idea if he was even there! After some time, he came down from the next flight of stairs, where he was listening all along. He shared about the issues he faced staying in a children’s home – the bullying he faced and lack of freedom due to the rigidity of everyday routines. And, most of all, his incomprehension and anger about why his parents did not take him back even though they were still living in their old home. Through the conversation, it dawned on me that when students start running away from their problems, what they need is not to be chased back to reality, but an adult to show that they genuinely love.

Why do we do what we do, and where do we draw our energy and love from? It can only come

from God. Agape is the love God commands us to give. In his 2018 book, Love and Compassion: Exploring their role in Education, John Miller makes a solid case that if education is to be meaningful and “draw forth” the student, the underlying point and the means is love. Love is an important, albeit neglected, aspect of our identity as educators. Many of us have heard of the quote by American educator Nicholas Ferroni that “Students who are loved at home, come to school to learn. And students who aren’t, come to school to be loved.” Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr saw love as the basis for living and social change. They also showed how love and compassion require real strength and courage.

Indeed, love is the purpose and means of our vocation as educators. This love comes from God and is exemplified through the Holy Trinity.

Mirroring the love of the Holy Trinity

The unity of the three persons of the Trinity is based on a shared identity and purpose, and in the same way, we share a united purpose and duty of growing persons of God who will contribute to
the common good.

As teachers, we are called to imitate the love and unity that exists within the Holy Trinity to help our students grow in their understanding and love of God. What is God’s love like? 1 Corinthians 13 perfectly summarises the aspects of God’s agape love. Here are some relevant aspects: can we find these qualities in our hearts?

  1. Agape doesn’t give what we deserve, but what we need. It also espouses servant leadership: to serve and empower others and enabling our colleagues and students to achieve their full potential.
  2. Agape is not easily provoked. It is guided by God’s Grace and the wisdom and strength of the Holy Spirit. Perhaps we can draw on this the next time we are driven up the wall in the classroom!
  3. Agape is humble. Let’s seek to give credit to God and others for their role in our work. Instead of avoiding areas of weakness, agape gives us the courage to take on a growth mindset to learn and grow alongside God.

As Matthew 28:19 says, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in thename of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” By living out our relationships as a reflection of the Holy Trinity, we can then fulfill the commandment and bring the love of God to those in need.

Further reading:

  1. Miller (2018) Love and Compassion: Exploring Their Role in Education. Toronto University Press.
  2. https://www.catholic.sg/12-june-2022-sunday-the-most-holy-trinity/
  3. https://holytrinitychristianchurch.com/n/what_is_agape_love.html