God Is One, And Yet Three

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

Love is always a mystery as Cardinal Ratzinger wrote years ago.  So to ponder the love of the uncreated, eternal God must therefore be the highest degree of mystery.  And it is good for us to do so today on this feast of Trinity Sunday, which follows the birth of the Church we celebrated last week.

How did our knowledge of the Trinity arise, where did it come from?  What it a result of philosophical thinking?  Not at all; it developed from the historical experiences we find first in the Old Testament.  God was encountered as the Father of Israel, the creator of the world and as Israel’s Lord.

Then in the New Testament something very unexpected happened.  God shows himself as a man in Jesus Christ, who says he is the Son of God.  He comes as an ambassador, sent to reveal himself and the Father to us.  He is completely God and says with us to God, “Father.”  This man who calls God his Father also speaks to him directly.  Then Christ must be someone other than the Father to whom he speaks.  He is truly God-with-us, and has a human form and nature.  He has to be God or he would be bringing us away from the Father, and he is truly man.  So now God meets me as Son and as my brother.  A duality now exists in God.

This new experience of God is followed by a third one as we saw last week.  The Holy Spirit comes down ten days after the Son has ascended to heaven and this Spirit lives in us.  It is not a Spirit identical to the Father or the Son, nor is it an obstacle between God and us.  It is a mode or way that God gives himself to us, and is in us, and infinitely above us.  It is not easy to ponder these aspects of God, but let’s make the effort a bit today since we are made in this image.

Does this reflection about the Trinity also tell us something about God himself?  Or is it just a theological reflection.  In the history of the Church there were constant battles over the correct understanding of God as he revealed himself in Christ and in the Spirit.  Was Jesus truly God and truly man?  He had to be in order to save us.  Was the Father acting only in different modes of being?  Was the Son lower than the Father, and many other questions?  This constant study and fighting with each new heresy gave the Church a further definition of God as he revealed himself to us.  He is one God but three divine persons, different in their relation to one another, and all equal and of the same substance.   The Father did not put on a mask to be the Son; the Son was a distinct person.

What does all this tell us?  He loves us so much that he wants to be closer to us.  He is as he shows himself to be.  He doesn’t show himself in a way that he is not.  We are called to be very close to God; to be divine ourselves.  He is a brother to us and lives inside of us.    I hope you are still awake and reading.  Let’s take a look at something easier in the gospel today (john 16: 12-15).  Jesus speaking of the Spirit says, “He will glorify me because he will take from what is mine and declare it to you.”  Would it be possible for the Holy Spirit to not give glory to the Son?  I don’t think so.  He comes to clarify and to remind us of what Christ said.  We have seen many examples of the apostles not understanding what Christ said.  And now with the Holy Spirit they get who he is and comprehend what he said to them.

Cardinal Newman said God’s presence is not discerned at the time he appears, but only afterwards when we look back and reflect on it, and if someone helps us to shine some light on it.  Just consider the gospel on the road to Emmaus.  The two disciples spend the good part of the day with Christ and only when he breaks the bread do they realize who he is.

The same is true for us.  We need a small group or a study group or a catechesis to understand how God has been acting in our lives.  Joseph in the Old Testament said many times to his brothers not to bewail what they did to him because it was God who brought him to Egypt.  It was God who arranged that he be put in jail, good with interpreting dreams, made him second in command in Egypt, and able to help his family and save thousands of lives.

When we look back on our childhood with faith we can discover many things about how God was acting; perhaps many things that we thought were a mistake.  The power of God today is ten times more powerful and glorious that when he walked this earth.  He is with us in Spirit and if he did amazing miracles in the days of his flesh how much more can he do for us now.

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