Readings: Exodus 34:4b-6, 8-9; 2 Corinthians 13:11-13; John 3:16-18
Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Trinity. We celebrate this feast the Sunday after the Pentecost. Pentecost was our feast where we each received the Spirit. Now we are taken back into higher realm into the mystery. The root of the word “Trinity” originates from the Latin word “trini” which means “three each,” or “threefold.” God, who is one and is three really distinct Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Each of these Persons is truly the same God, and has all His infinite perfections, yet He is really distinct from each of the other Persons. Our faith teaches us that God the Father is not God the Son, but begets the Son eternally. The Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son, but a distinct Person.” In Jesus dwells the Father and the Holy Spirit. And the same can be said about the Father and the Holy Spirit. In each one dwells the other two Persons of God. The teaching about the Trinity is one of the most fundamental in our Christian faith but often referred as a ‘mystery’ and therefore something which can be affirmed but cannot be fully understood, still less fully explained.
In the Bible we have the support to the Trinitarian understanding. Before his Ascension Jesus told His disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit…” St. Paul greets the Corinthians with the words, “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit is with all of you.” Further in our daily life we begin every work in the name of the trinity and end in its name.
In the First Reading (from Exodus) Moses is told that God is the “Lord, a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness”. We really need to hear that, especially when we find times rough and painful. This gives us the image of the Trinitarian God, a message that is repeated in Psalms and also in the Book of Jonah. He loves, cares, understands and forgives. In the second reading we have the concluding greeting of Paul in the name of the Holy Trinity giving love, grace and fellowship. In the Gospel we have the words of Jesus to Nicodemus, speaking of the love of God which is a saving love.
We are asked to believe that, in the one being we call God, there are three Persons. Of itself, this is a statement we can neither affirm nor deny on the basis of reason alone. We are not in a position to make definitive statements about a transcendent God. We can only listen humbly to the statement in today’s Preface to the Eucharistic Prayer where God is addressed as “three Persons equal in majesty, undivided in splendour, yet one Lord, one God, ever to be adored”.
Rather than getting ourselves tied up in theological knots, we would do far better by reading prayerfully the beautiful Scripture readings of today’s Mass. Here there are no abstruse theological explanations or speculations. Rather, the emphasis is not on what, or how, or why, but, in very practical language, on the tangible way the persons in the Trinity relate to us. We have the three persons in one God; it is one God in three aspects, Father the creator, Son the redeemer and the Spirit the sanctifier. This is the way God functions in our life and we are the recipients of these graces.
We have God the Father as the creator. Traditionally the Christian Testament speaks of God as Father but we know there are no sexual differences in God. We see God as the originator, the source, the conserver of all life and of all that exists. “In him/her,” says the Acts of the Apostles, “we live and move and have our being.” God is to be sought and found in all things, which he has created and keeps in being: from the simplest minerals, vibrant with atomic energy, to the most gifted and creative of human beings to the outermost galaxy way beyond our most advanced telescopes. So we have the lovely prayer of Moses in today’s First Reading, “Let my Lord come with us”.
We have Jesus the Son our redeemer. He is the only-begotten Son, God made man. The “only-begotten” as such, having the nature of God became human for our sake. We know the “Son”, of course, best through Jesus, the man born of Mary. In him there was the mysterious combination of the divine and the human in one Person. Jesus is so precious to us because, in him, we have a partial unveiling under the limitations of humanity of our God. The message of this revelation is primarily to let us know that God loves us with an overwhelming love. “God loves the world so much that he gave his only Son so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life. For God sent his only Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.
Finally, we see God as indwelling Spirit. The Spirit is described, in theological language, as the subsisting love that is generated between the Father and the Son. Again, of course, we cannot speak of ‘he’ or ‘she’, still less of this Love as ‘it’. The meaning of the Spirit in practice means that God is indwelling in all creation and revealing himself through it.
Wherever there is truth or love or beauty, in nature or humanity, there is the Spirit of God. Every act of truth and integrity, every act of love and compassion, every act of human empathy, every act of solidarity, forgiveness, acceptance, and justice is the Spirit of God working in and through us. He is the breath, the grace poured out in our hearts.
Let us then pray today with Paul in the Second Reading: “Try to grow perfect; help one another. Be united; live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you”. And then he concludes with this lovely Trinitarian prayer we often use as a greeting at the beginning of Mass: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, the Love of God the Father and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit with you all.”