The Most Holy Trinity
On Trinity Sunday one is reminded of the great saint and philosopher, St. Augustine. There is a well-known story that one day Augustine was thinking about the Trinity while walking along the seashore. He came upon a little boy who was busy emptying pails of water into a hole he had dug upon the beach. Augustine asked him what he was doing, and the boy replied that he was trying to empty the sea into the hole. When Augustine told the boy that he was attempting the impossible, the boy replied that Augustine in trying to understand the mystery of the Trinity was also attempting the impossible.
Nevertheless, the boy's advice did not stop Augustine from writing a treatise on the Trinity. Nor has it stopped theologians and homilists from writing millions of words about the Trinity ever since. None of these words would ever have been written if our Lord had not repeatedly referred to the Trinity during His time on earth. The Church did not invent the idea of the Holy Trinity, our Lord did.
For example, in today’s gospel passage from the final episode of St. Matthew’s gospel Jesus explicitly refers to the Trinity. Jesus has risen from the dead and now, before his ascension to heaven, he gives the disciples their marching orders.
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…
These words we repeat practically every day when we make the Sign of the Cross.
If Jesus had not uttered these words or referred to the Father and the Spirit on so many occasions we would never have come to the idea of three persons in one God by the use of reason alone. Reason had led even the pagan philosophers to conclude that the many gods of antiquity were fraudulent, even comical. Reason had led them to conclude even before the time of Christ that there could only be one God. Of course, the Jews had come to this realization even before the philosophers.
Still, only the words of Jesus opened up the idea that this one God contained three Divine Persons. Let's pause for a minute and consider the meaning of the word "person." The Latin word "persona" means the mask or masks that ancient actors wore to express different characters or emotions. We've all seen pictures of these masks, some with smiles and others with frowns, which the actors held over their faces while playing their roles. It's similar to the way our TV newsmen will look glum while reporting a tragic story but then smile when the next story deals with the rescue of a cat from a tree.
We often today think of our "personality" or "persona" as something different from ourselves. No matter what we are like inside, our personality is the way we appear to the world outside of us. Looking at it this way, couldn't we say that there are many persons in any one of us. A man could be a husband to his wife, a father to his children, a son to his own parents, a friend to his friend, etc. A woman would not be the same person to her husband as she is to her children, or her parents, or her friends.
Certainly Jesus meant much more when He talked about the relationship of the Persons of the Trinity. And I don't mean to suggest that God wears masks. I am merely saying that He has chosen to appear to us in different ways. I know that this is not a scientific explanation but if we consider the Trinity, we will see that our Lord is telling us that it is possible to have a warmer, more intimate relationship with God than our reason could ever imagine. Just imagine that the same God who created not only this world but also all the worlds keeps them in existence by love alone. He actually came into our world as one of us. Then after He suffered, died, and rose from the dead, He sent His own Spirit to dwell in us and guide us.
Some poor heretics throughout history have been unable to accept this divine intimacy. For some Jesus was God but never truly a man. How could God lower Himself in such a way? For others, Jesus was a good man but certainly not God. How could a man be God?
We say, however, that what kind of a God would it be who couldn't do it, or who wouldn't do it?
Who would want a different God? God is not a white haired old man sitting on some mountaintop waiting to zap us with lightning bolts when we do wrong. He is not some force of nature that guides our evolutionary progress. Neither is He some kind of unconcerned creator who made the world and then ignored it. St. John tells us that God is Love. The Book of Proverbs says that God "found delight with the human race." Our creed tells us that God sent His Son to be one of us, and to suffer and die for us.
In today’s second reading from the letter to the Romans, St. Paul says that the hope is in the Trinity.
The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit That we are children of God, And if children, then heirs, Heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, If only we suffer with him So that we may also be glorified with him.
We have a mystical relationship with the Trinity. Because of the Trinity we can with Jesus call God, "Abba" or "Father." We can call Jesus, "our brother." Finally, we can say that the Spirit of God lives not in the faraway heavens, but in our very selves.
Reading 1. Deuteronomy 4: 32-34, 39-40
Reading II. Romans 8: 14-17
Gospel. Matthew 28: 16-20 (make disciples of all nations)