Fr. Charles Irvin
Trinity Sunday [A] 2011
Exodus 34:4-6, 8-9; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; John 3:16-18
You may wonder why the Church gives so much attention to our human experience of community. In a nation built on rugged individualism, why is our worship experience focused so much on our shared prayers at Mass, the Kiss of Peace, processing together to receive Holy Communion, communal penance services, and so forth? Well, the answer has a great deal to do with the very nature of God in whose image and likeness we are made.
Today we rejoice in the revelation of the Holy Trinity. It is upon this reality that Christianity is built. One of the most radical revelations of Jesus is that God is in Himself community, that we are made in God’s image and likeness, and that in Christ we are to become like God. God is Three Persons, a community of Persons that exists in love. That is the inner nature of God, that is the life of heaven, and that is what we are called to live here on earth.
It is interesting to note that in the Book of Genesis we find God saying: “Let us make man in our image…” We are called into existence, to be in and to live in a relational existence. We discover our selves, we find the meaning of life, and we know who we are when we see and understand our selves in the eyes of those who know us, who love us, and who relate to us. Do you have really good friends who deeply know you? Have you experienced the joy of loving and being loved by a number of people? If you have, you’ve begun to taste heaven and to experience the ultimate community of God, the communion of the Three who are One. Not only that, but also when you live in communion with others you become more than just your self. Who you are is expanded, broadened, and deepened in loving others and in being loved by others.
It is for this that we praise and thank God in the Preface of today’s Mass. We give Him thanks always and everywhere because He is more than solitary. We praise God because He is a union of Persons who are absolutely in love and in total union with each other. What a blessing that is for you… a blessing because if you lived just with your self and for your self life would be horrible.
There are those who are troubled with the Christian doctrine of the Holy Trinity. It appears to them to be so unreasonable, so incredible, and so impossible. From where, we might ask, does this teaching come? Well, it comes from Jesus. It is uniquely His revelation to us. No other religion in history has anything like it. No philosopher ever reasoned to it. It is original to Christ while at the same time we find hints of it in the Jewish Testament, the Old Testament.
This belief in the Holy Trinity rests upon Christ’s life and is found in His continual references to His Father in heaven and to the Spirit of God. Belief in the Holy Trinity does not come to us from the thoughts of men, nor is it a construct produced from deep within the psychological recesses of our human subconsciousness. It is not a doctrine found in any of the other great religions in human history, nor did any philosopher ever teach it. It is beyond human speculation about what kind of a God God really is. It’s beyond any human thought about what God might be like. Yet it is central and vital to the message of the Gospels, the faith of the Apostles, and consequently to our faith.
A man like St. Paul, trained as a Jewish leader and acknowledging only the one God, when brought into the Christian world by Jesus… such a man completely changed his ideas about God. We have so very often at Mass heard the result of Paul’s newfound faith, a Trinitarian faith. He went on to frequently speak of the Holy Spirit, calling us to let the Spirit lead us… the Spirit of adoption who leads us, says St. Paul, to cry out: “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself, St. Paul writes, gives witness with our own spirits that we are children of God. “And,” says St. Paul, “we are heirs as well; heirs of God, heirs with Christ…”
Another and much more important aspect is that Jesus’ teachings about the Holy Trinity allow us to begin to participate in the life of God. This is what the Catholic Church teaches us in its concept of sanctifying grace… that gift from God that sanctifies us and makes us holy. When we become more like God in the way we live with others then God’s presence, power, and love are made all that much more real for those who live around us. The more we live in a caring communion of love with those around us the more we become filled with God’s holiness, not only for our own sake but for the sake of others who know us and love us.
Loving others, you see, isn’t something that’s simply nice… it is essential; it is of the essence of being one with Christ. It is only in love and in deep relationships with others that we can understand what St. John is talking about when he says that God is love and he who loves has found God, and God lives in him.
Finally, it is the doctrine of the Trinity that is the foundation of Christian ethics, social justice, and morality. Upon it rests the two great commandments: Love God and love your neighbor as yourself. Upon it also rests the Ten Commandments and the teachings of our great saints. They all call us into right relationships with others. What is good and what is evil depends upon how we relate to others and the quality of love that we share with them. Community life depends upon those commandments, commandments having their foundation on the Triune God who is a community of Persons in union and in love.
So rather than being puzzled by Christ’s teaching about the Holy Trinity, and rather than trying to question it from the distance of detached examination, let’s you and I throw ourselves into life and into love, and so experience the life of the Trinity in our own relationships with others. Let us share with each other a life in which we can be so much more of our true selves. It is there that we can know God. It is in loving others deeply, closely, and with constancy that we can begin to feel the wonder of life and the joy of knowing who God is and what His life is like.
Jesus told us that heaven begins here on earth. The kingdom of heaven is here, among you, He told us. We are not far from it. The life of God begins to be experienced here. Heaven is not a carrot dangled in front of us. Heaven isn’t the reward at the end of a road of pain, trial, and suffering. Heaven begins when we discover our selves, when we discover each other, when we begin to live a Trinitarian life with others, when we begin to live in that communion with others that is God’s.