Sunday, May 18, 2008

A community of love


“God in three persons, Blessed Trinity!” We hear those words of the great Trinitarian hymn Holy, Holy, Holy and they name the mystery of today’s feast. We celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – this great reality of faith that both draws us into the wonder of God and confuses us a bit when we try and understand it with the mind. I was never very good at math; this was one of the things that attracted me to the priesthood. It’s only in the Church that with the Trinity 1 + 1 + 1 can still equal 1. Three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, yet still one God.

“God so loved the world that He gave His only Son.” The doctrine of the Trinity tells us about the inner relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They relate in such a way that each of them is fully and equally God, yet there are not three Gods but one. This cannot be fully comprehended by the human mind. It is a mystery. And yet, we still try, don’t we? Perhaps most famously, St. Patrick. The shamrock is his symbol because he used it to try and explain this relationship of the Trinity – three leafs, but still just one shamrock.

If we expected today’s readings to give us a clear and elaborate presentation of the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity, we have found out that they simply do not. The doctrine of three persons in one God, equal in divinity yet distinct in personality, is not explicitly spelled out in the Bible. In fact the very word “Trinity” is not found in the Bible. Early Christians arrived at the doctrine when they applied their God-given reason to the revelation which they had received in faith. Jesus spoke about the Father who sent Him (the Son) and about the Holy Spirit whom He was going to send. He said that the Father had given Him (the Son) all that He has and that He in turn has given to the Holy Spirit all that He has received from the Father. In this we see the unity of purpose among the three persons of the Trinity.

Perhaps trying to understand the nature of the Trinity in its fullness is the wrong way for us to go. Instead of worrying about what we cannot understand, perhaps we should look at what we can understand. What do we know about the Trinity?

The importance of this doctrine lies in this: we are made in the image of God, therefore, the more we understand God the more we understand ourselves. The question for us to ask today is: What does the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity tell us about the kind of God we worship and what does this say about the kind of people we should be?

First and foremost, it tells us that God is not a loner. God does not exist in solitary individualism but in a community of love and sharing – in His very nature He is a Father, loving a Son, loving the Holy Spirit. Want to know what Scripture means when it says that God is love? This is it – in God’s most inner reality, He is a relationship of love. So a Christian in search of Godliness must shun every tendency to isolationism and individualism. The ideal Christian spirituality is not that of flight from the world; it is an ideal of loving the world, loving in the world, bringing that God-centered love to the world.

Secondly, the nature of the Trinity tells us that true love requires three participants. You’ve heard the saying “Two is company, three is a crowd.” The Trinity shows us that three is not a crowd, three is a community, three is love at its best. Just look at married love. When a man is in love with a woman they marry, but that love only reaches its fullest expression when a child is born. Father, mother and child – love, when perfected, becomes a trinity; a community of love.
We know that we are made in God’s image and likeness. Just as God is God only in a Trinitarian relationship, so we can be fully human only in a relationship of three participants – ourselves in relationship with God and loving our neighbor.

We can only best understand our Christianity when we live in a relationship of love with God and other people – reaching out and perfecting that love in community. While our minds may strain to understand the fullness of three-in-one, our prayer today is that we strive to be each day more like the community that is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In that way our life becomes Trinitarian – like that of God.

Let us pray today and always that the grace of the Most Holy Trinity help us to banish all traces of self-centeredness in our lives and to live in love of God and of one another.

May God in Three Persons give you peace.

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