Saturday, May 26, 2018
God in Three Persons, Blessed Trinity
Many years ago, the Jesuits and Franciscans were offered a large, beautiful church in Rome, but didn’t know how to decide who should get it. So, they held a debate to settle the issue. Each Order sent their greatest theologian and to make it more interesting, they decided neither theologian would be able to speak. When the debate began, the Jesuit went first. He raised his hand and showed three fingers. The Franciscan looked back and raised one finger. The Jesuit waved his fingers in a circle around his head. The Franciscan pointed to the ground where he sat. Then Jesuit pulled out bread and a glass of wine. And the Franciscan pulled out an apple. Finally, the Jesuit said, “I give up. You are too good. The Franciscans win!”
The Jesuits asked their man what had happened. He said, “Well, first I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me that there was only one God. Then I waved my finger around me to show him that God was all around us. He pointed to the ground to say God was right here with us. I pulled out bread and wine to show the power of the sacraments. He pulled out an apple to remind me of original sin. What could I do?”
Meanwhile, the friars also asked their man what happened. He said, “First he played hardball and said we had three days to get out of here. I told him not one of us was leaving. Then he told me that this whole place would be cleared of Franciscans and I let him know that we were staying right here.” “And, what happened next?” the friars asked. The friar said, “I don't know. He took out his lunch, so I took out mine.”
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity – the mystery of God as three persons, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and still one God. It is a challenging mystery of faith. How can three things be one? St. Patrick famously explained this using the image of the shamrock – three leaves, yet one shamrock. The Catechism has this to say, “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the mystery of God in Himself…The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to people.” Does that clear things up for you? Probably not. And yet, we can come to a better understanding of the Trinity in our lives – spiritually and intellectually.
We all remember what we did at the beginning of Mass today. It is the same thing we do at the beginning of every Mass. We did this and please join me. + In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. It is a familiar gesture that we do often more as a reflex than a conscious movement. But it is a gesture that points to today’s feast. When we are conscious of what we are doing in that act, it is a simple act of faith in the complexity of God who is revealed to us in the mystery of Trinity – Father, Son and Spirit.
I say “revealed to us” because we wouldn’t have a clue about the Trinity if Jesus didn’t tell us about it. Jesus talked about His Father in Heaven. He talked about Himself as the Son. He talked about sending us His Holy Spirit. This is what the Catechism means when it says, “The history of salvation is identical with the history by which God reveals himself.” God reveals Himself precisely as Trinity; as three Persons in one God. Although the Trinity is a mystery, it doesn’t mean it is mystifying; rather it is a mystery that God wants us to be drawn deeply into.
So, let’s think about that sign of the cross and how it draws us into mystery. First we touch our forehead and say, “In the Name of the Father…” When I hear those words, I think of the beauty of the trees, and flowers and plant life coming into bloom; I recall beautiful red sunsets at the beach as the setting sun shimmers on the water; the grandeur of the mountains; the feel of a warm breeze. I think of all the beautiful children who received First Communion a few weeks ago; the giggling and crying babies baptized; and the pride and happiness on the faces of their parents. I think of these things because God the Father is the Creator of a beautiful world – something that should always cause us to marvel. That finger on my forehead is a reminder of a God so in love with us that He sent His only Son to draw us back into His embrace. This same Father we speak of as “Our Father who art in Heaven.”
Next we move to our chest, to the place where our heart resides and say, “and of the Son.” Here I think of the love the Son of God showed us when He multiplied the loaves for the hungry, when He reached across social and racial barriers to Samaritans, when He made room at His table for outcasts and sinners, when He chased the scavengers away from woman caught in adultery hungry for her blood, when He gave the ultimate and agonizing proof of His love for us on the cross. “No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.”
We move to our shoulders and say, “and of the Holy Spirit.” We recall a Spirit who gives so widely of Himself that it takes the full span of our shoulders to remind us – left to right, from one side of the world to the other. And I think of God’s desire to be close to us; to be our friend, to be in our hearts; to be in here in Buzzards Bay, in Boston, Los Angeles, Afghanistan, Jerusalem, Rome, Tokyo and every corner of the world all at the same time. I think of the Holy Spirit as a the power in my life – as a great force for goodness and holiness, as one to turn to when decisions are to be made, as one who consoles us through difficult moments in our lives. With the Holy Spirit, we are never alone. God is always with us. What we span in blessing, the Holy Spirit strengthens in life so that we can shoulder our burdens and responsibilities.
And so, we come to the end of the blessing – the joining of hands and the concluding, “Amen.” And we remind ourselves that word “amen” means “so be it;” it is an expression of agreement, in is an act of faith in all that has gone before. And with that “amen” we renew our faith. I believe in you Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
My friends, may all the signs of the cross we make be a proclamation of our belief in a God who has revealed Himself to us as as Father, Son and Spirit. May it signal our acceptance of God’s love and our willingness to share that love with others. May the hands we join in faith be generous in giving and eager in helping others. May the life and love of the Trinity be reflected in our lives too. This is true meaning of the Most Holy Trinity in our lives.
May God bless us all + Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.