We’re told that the great Saint Augustine was once walking along the seashore trying to figure out the mystery of the Trinity. He came upon a child filling a hole with bucket after bucket of water from the ocean. “You can’t empty the whole ocean into that hole,” the saint laughed. Looking at the learned Augustine the child replied, “And neither can you ever completely understand the mystery of the Trinity.”
At the very heart of our Christian faith is the belief that God is One and at the same time Three. It sounds impossible. Others think that Christians are foolish for believing such nonsense. Nevertheless, because Jesus teaches us about the Father and about the Holy Spirit, we believe.
We are called Christians because we are followers of Jesus Christ. We believe in Jesus Christ and in Jesus Christ we are saved. Jesus called God His Father. Jesus tells us that He and the Father are One. Later, Jesus tells us that He will send us His Spirit.
We do not know how three persons can be one God. Even to call God a person seems to stretch way beyond our understanding. When we call God a person or three persons, it is saying both that God is like us but also that God is totally different as well. The glory of God touches us today as we celebrate this profound mystery.
Now, everybody thinks mystery means, like, mysterious. It doesn’t.
We say the Mass is a mystery. A mystery is a great truth hidden and to be uncovered and recovered and thought about.
So it’s a truth to be found by the inquisitive heart, or we Catholics would say, “If you have faith, you have the key to understanding the Trinity.”
In the Book of St Paul to Timothy, he writes, “God dwells in inaccessible light.” That means don’t even try to think about it – God dwells in inaccessible light.
And here’s a story that goes with it.
A young man climbs the sacred mountain and finds at the summit the aged guru in deep meditation. He’s really asleep. So he wakes him up.
“What do you want?” the guru says.
And the boy answers, “I want you to explain God to me, that I too might learn how to worship Him properly.”
And the old man smiles, “A God that can be explained is not a God that should be worshiped.”
Think about that. If you can explain God, it’s not God. Why?
Because God dwells in inaccessible light.
You cannot explain God. The awesome God, the real God, the God we worship, our God is beyond our grasp, beyond all telling, inexplicable and incomprehensible and inaccessible. He is divine and we are only human beings.
There is an old saying, it’s written in the Holy Book of Genesis, that in the Garden of Eden, God made man in His own image and likeness, and, ever since then, man has tried to return that gesture by trying to make God in his own image and likeness.
So the first thing that you might or might not have learned today is: if you’re looking for God, look for Him in your heart. Look for Him with your heart and your history, and think of Him with your heart.
That’s not an explanation, it’s a relationship. Blessed be God, the God of power and might. God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.
Three Gods in one?
No, three persons in one God: God the Father, God the Son, God the Holy Spirit.
Impossible to understand. But, if you think for a moment, if you think of relationship, how I relate to God.
And in our own hearts is a desire to learn how to love. It always comes back to love.
The Father loves the Son, and the Son loves the Father, and the Holy Spirit is that love that binds them together, and we become one with God Himself.
God is Father, God is Son, God is Holy Spirit. A caring Father who creates us, a brother who dies and lives for us now and forevermore, a Holy Spirit who inspires us, comforts us if we invite Him, and guides us safely home.
The first reading today, from the Book of Deutoronomy, can be understood either of Jesus or of the Holy Spirit. This reading speaks of Wisdom, personified in this reading, as being with the Father during creation. We can pray today that the Wisdom of God be in our lives, allowing us to experience some small aspect of this incredible mystery.
The second reading is taken from the Letter to the Romans and speaks of God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We hear both of the glory of God and the love of God—poured into us by the Holy Spirit. We can pray that this love of God poured into us will allow us to see the glory of God around us at all times—seeing this with eyes of faith.
Today’s Gospel is from St. Matthew’s Gospel and speaks openly of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. There is so much deep understanding of God in this very short passage: all that the Father has is given to Jesus. Jesus gives us the Spirit which will help us understand all that is. The most important things in life are only understood by the work of this Holy Spirit: love, hope, faith.
The Jews knew only that God is One – the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob – one God. Jesus certainly never taught the doctrine of the Trinity to his disciples though we can say that the doctrine came from him. What is more, it is difficult to find in the Scriptures, or in any texts from the very early Church, anything explicit about the Blessed Trinity. The Sacred Scripture certainly never used the word “Trinity” anywhere in its pages even though it is saturated with its presence. So where does this teaching come from?
The answer, you already know, is Jesus – Trinity was the way Jesus experienced God. He experienced God as his Father and himself as co-equal Son. He told us that he and the Father were one yet he made it clear that he was not the Father.
Similarly he experienced the Holy Spirit, through whom he was conceived, as the Spirit and power and love of God, and yet, at the same time, he recognized that the Spirit was not the Father, nor was he the Son.
The Holy Spirit was the ‘Advocate’ who would teach the Apostles everything. The Father (and the Son) would send him when the Son had departed this earth at the Ascension.
How then did the Church come by the knowledge of the Blessed Trinity? How did Jesus pass this reality on to the Church?
Essentially the Church arrived at the doctrine of the Trinity after careful reflection and prayer on its experience of Jesus and of God. This reflection was painstakingly and, often, controversially thrashed out.
Trinity is how Jesus experienced God and how the Church experiences God. As the Church, through Sacred Scripture and Tradition, shapes our understanding of God it also instructs our experience of him.
Jesus speaks to his disciples and lets them know that he has so much to tell them but until the Spirit comes into them, they won’t be able to understand it, or it may even frighten them so they can’t bear to hear it. But when the Spirit comes, they will know and understand. And what the Spirit lets them know is that Jesus wants them to know, because the Spirit and Jesus are one. But also, Jesus and the Father are one – “everything the Father has is mine – he says. And it is from this that we have developed the theological understanding of Trinity.
Truth is not always easy. That is why Jesus says that at this point before his Ascension, the Apostles would not be able to bear it. It is not always easy for us to tell the truth either. Sometimes we hold off telling the truth until such a time as the hearer can bear it or when we cannot fear to tell it. But it is only in truth that we can be truly free and be totally in the Spirit.
The whole concept of the Trinity is difficult – though central to the Christian’s beliefs.