TRINITY SUNDAY – Pro 8:22-31 Rom 5:1-5 Jn 16:12-15
Becoming and Remaining in the Image of God through Largeness and Unity.
The experience of God in Our Lives; The Intrinsic Unifying Element in Our Spiritual Life.
Every year in many countries pollsters survey public opinion on a variety of topics. One of the questions they ask is, “Do you believe in God?” a good percentage of the people reply that they don’t believe.But everyone has a god. What answers all the ultimate questions of life for you is your god. Scripture speaks of those whose god is their belly. Included in that are gods of pleasure, comfort, and the “almighty money”. Other people believe in a kind of spider god, who lurks in wait for the unwary. Still others believe in humanity as their god, and state that, in the entire realm of being, there is nothing higher than people, nothing finer or nobler, nothing more worthwhile.
When we assert our belief in God, we refer to those wonderful attributes presented so poetically by the Book of Proverbs in the first Reading of today’s Mass, and by today’s Responsorial Psalm. The Book of Proverbs reminds us of many facets of God. There is the creative action of God the Father, forming the world and all that it contains. It brings us to realize that we have a wonderful idea of God because we live in such a gorgeous world; if we lived on the moon, our sense of God would reflect that more barren landscape. St Catherine’s best known image for God is the ocean. And Proverbs portrays God not as an authoritarian remote figure, but someone intimately accessible to the created world.
One of the aspects of God that neither Proverbs nor anywhere else in the First Testament fully revealed is that, as God Himself later told us, ours is a triune God. Now that our long celebration of the drama of Easter, which concentrated on the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. Is over and we have commemorated the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, today we have an opportunity to stand back a bit and see some of the fuller context of God being three Persons in one nature.
The full, clear, and explicit realization of the doctrine of the Trinity took time to come to us. Amid the many ancient gods – the forces of nature, and emperors, and Statues, in addition to the gods we already mentioned – the ancient Jews hung on to God’s revelation of Himself as one and absolute, infinite, and alone the Creator. Their knowledge of God’s oneness prevented them from falling into idolatry, and was so important to them that they put out of their minds any notion that would compromise it, including foreshadowing of God’s triune nature.
So when ideas such as the Trinity threatened their belief in one God, the early Christians as well as the Jews from whom they sprang, had problems. God the Creator they understood. They had greater difficulty with the fact that, unless their eyes and ears were deceiving them, Jesus – even though their experience showed him to be a human being like themselves – was also Absolute God. And he had taught them about their having the Holy Spirit of God so as to be able to speak with authority and even to forgive sins in God’s name.
Even today, much that we know about God is according to our way of thinking and talking. For example, feminists find difficult the masculine terminology about the Trinity – especially “Father” and “Son”. They prefer such terms as God the Creator, God the Redeemer, and God the Sanctifier. Whether we refer to God as Father, Mother, Yahweh, Great Spirit, or whatever else a particular culture at a specific time dictates, God is so filled with the energy of Being-at-its-fullest that the Father eternally generates the “Living One”, a beautiful title for the Risen Jesus.
The Life which leaps and sparks between two is in turn so dynamic, so joyous, and so fertile, that another Living Peron, The Holy Spirit, powerful and life-giving, comes forth eternally. The essential meaning of the Trinity has to do with life generating life. The life energy that is thus generated overflows into the entire universe, creating and renewing the face of the earth.
In our limited way of thinking and talking, we appropriate to the three persons of God various works. We say that the Father creates us and keeps us in being; the Son redeems us and strengthens us throughout our earthly lives by his word and sacraments; and the Holy Spirit fills us with love and helps us find our ways through this life and into the next. But the truth is that in each of those works that are outside of God – creation, redemption, and making people holy – all three Persons of the Trinity, as far as attributes go, may also be said of each of the other Persons – the Father is almighty, the Son is almighty, the Holy Spirit is almighty; the Father is eternal, the Son is eternal, the Holy Spirit is eternal; and so on.
It is within the Godhead that the divine Persons’ relationship is distinct. Furthermore, the Persons are intensely active, more active than the energy exploded from nuclear fission. But the three Persons are also one. And their unity is an intensity of love and communication between one another, infinitely more than what may exist within the most lively and living community we know of on earth. The Father is eternally begetting the Son, the Holy Spirit is eternally proceeding from the Father through the Son.
In the First Testament, the Father revealed Himself as love. Because of His Transcendence, though, He seemed to be awesome and far away (reflected in the Psalmist’s wonderment expressed to God, “What are people that you are mindful of them?”; the Son became a human being in order to show the love of the Father and to show the love of the Father and to show us what God intended for us from the beginning. The Holy Spirit manifests to us and in us the life of the Son and of the Father.
Today’s portion of St John’s Gospel shows Jesus at his Last Supper praying to the Father, speaking of himself as the Son, and promising the Holy Spirit. Here, he emphasizes the Spirit. The Spirit represents the continued presence of Jesus among humankind, sustaining the disciples, clarifying Jesus’ message, and bringing a fuller understanding of God’s revelation in Jesus. Although the Spirit is the Paraclete, the advocate, intercessor, consoler, and comforter, here Jesus emphasizes the Spirit’s role of abiding guidance. The very word for “spirit” in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin is the same as the word for “breath” and “life”. The last two verses of today’s Gospel come nearest to providing an insight into the actual “life of love” at the heart of the Trinity.
St Paul mirrors the beginning of the Christian tradition in today’s part of his letter to the Romans. He reflects on God’s love that establishes the new covenant relationship and identifies the various actions of God in its descriptions of new life. Salvation is through God’s gracious action in Christ.
Our whole Christian life is caught up in the life of the trinity. Liturgically, we pray to the father through Jesus and in unity with the Holy Spirit. And we are taught to imitate the Trinity, which means entering more and more fully into the life of God, a life which is never static or selfish. Many in our tradition have followed this injunction and become saints.
Our reflections show that our imitation of God is important especially in two ways. First, though God is so great that He can never be fully comprehended by the human mind, we should be in that tradition of greatness. Allahu Akhbar, say the Muslims: “God is great!” For the ancient Greeks, greatness was one of the ideals for the development of the human person: that one become a megalopshchos – form megalos, meaning large, from which we have such words in English as “megalomania” and “megalopolis”, and psychos, meaning the soul or the spiritual aspect of persons, from which we derive such English words as “psychology” and “psychosomatic”. The Roman copied the idea in their word magnanimitas – magnanimity – which means especially the same thing.
One second conclusion as a result of our contemplation of the Trinity is unity. Just as the tree Persons in God are intensely active and separate but at the same time one, so should we be with other persons. God calls us to be united in a community of active love, even as the three Persons in Himself.
We should make our faith in God a matter of reality that will through our largeness of spirit and oneness in love bring others to a meaningful faith in our triune God.