It was Fr. Power who directed Downey’s doctoral dissertation 30 years ago, helping to launch Downey’s ministry as a theologian and writer. Nine years ago, Fr. Power published an article, “On What Foundations? The Christian Witness to the Justice of the Divine Trinity,” which drew a connection between the theology of the Holy Trinity and the cause of building a society grounded in justice, peace and reconciliation.
This idea warranted an entire book, Downey thought, and he proposed the idea to his mentor, who accepted. It then took seven years of theological conversations between the two, and plenty of research and writing together and separately to birth the book. Downey calls it a synthesis of his own focus on Trinitarian theology and spirituality and Fr. Power’s sacramental and liturgical expertise.
“This book weaves these interests of ours together,” he says. “The common thread is our concern for justice, especially for those who are wounded and marginalized in the Church and in society.”
The central question of the book, Downey says, is “what does the doctrine of the Trinity say about our call to live justly?” He acknowledges that for some this question may be difficult to answer because the Trinity is viewed as “the most lofty and abstract of all the Christian doctrines.”
But he says the revelation of the Trinity through the “self-emptying of God in Jesus Christ” is the key to working for a Christian order of justice.
“We are justified by a loving and gracious and forgiving God who dwells among the wounded and the weak,” Downey says. “It’s because we are justified by God’s grace that we can go about making justice. But this is a justice rooted in forgiveness.”
Another important quality of the book, says Downey, is its “intercultural and intercontinental” perspective. Insights from Asian, African and Latin American theologians help Downey and Fr. Power to focus on the Word and the Spirit at work within local communities in diverse cultures.
“Living the Justice of a Triune God” was released in February and has already received several positive academic reviews. The concepts and language can be dense in parts and it is not a “summer vacation book,” Downey admits.
“Some things cannot be put in a sound bite,” he says. “But all of it is written with pastoral intent for the good of the people of God.”
He predicts it will be used in college classrooms, seminaries and could also be an important resource for diocesan ministers and social outreach ministries in parishes and dioceses.
Living the Justice of a Triune God is available at www.litpress.org