We are celebrating today the Most Holy Trinity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. This Solemnity comes after our fifty-day celebration of the glorious Resurrection of God the Son, and right after we welcomed the coming of God the Holy Spirit last Sunday at Pentecost. The preface of today’s Mass tells us what we are celebrating: “For with your Only Begotten Son and the Holy Spirit you are one God, one Lord: not in the unity of a single person, but in a Trinity of one substance.”
Celebrating this great feast, we ponder what it means for us that God is “Trinity.” The word itself is not found in the Bible. However, in the Bible God reveals himself as a relational, loving and compassionate God. This truth is eloquently proclaimed by God himself in today’s reading from the Book of Exodus. He reveals himself to his people through his servant Moses, proclaiming his name and his essential qualities: “The LORD, the LORD, a merciful and gracious God, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”
Jesus speaks about the same merciful and gracious God in today’s Gospel: “God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.” The God who sent his Son is the One whom Jesus refers to as the Father. The One whom the Father sent, “his only Son,” is Jesus, who reveals that he is also God. Both the Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit who is also God. Each of the three is God, but there is only one God, Three in One: the Holy Trinity!
In today’s second reading, St. Paul greets the Christians in Corinth with a trinitarian formula which we often use as the opening greeting at the Mass: “The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.” The greeting mentions God the Father, Jesus Christ – God the Son – and the Holy Spirit. They are all one God, not three different Gods, yet each is distinct from the others. For instance, it was not God the Father who physically died on the Cross but God the Son, Jesus Christ.
To help articulate and put all these together, a theologian of the third century called Tertullian used the Latin words tres unitas – three in unity – which eventually became “Trinity” in English. But, three what? Tertullian employed the term persona – person in English. He did not mean human person as we know today, because each human being has a unique will. The three divine Persons, however, have one will; they are perfectly united as one God. The standard description of who they are is “three Persons;” while the description of what they are is “one God.”
The reality of God as Trinity, Three in One, is not an abstract and esoteric mystery that is given to puzzle us. Rather, it is a marvelous and accurate revelation of the very nature of God – a revelation which should fascinate and delight us immensely, and which should transform and shape our lives. God is Trinity because God is Love! Love is his very essence, his very nature. Our God is not a cold, solitary remote deity who watches us from a distance; he is a relational God, a Communion of Persons. He so wants to share his rich life of love that he reveals himself for our salvation and sanctification. The Father sends his Son that we may be saved and have eternal life. The Father and the Son send the Holy Spirit for our sanctification and to guide us on our journey to our true home, Heaven. God who is Communion of Persons wants us to share in his Communion of love, joy and peace for all eternity!
God communicates his Love not in an abstract way, but in Jesus Christ. His saving love is made most evident in the sacrificial Death of Jesus on the Cross. As St. Paul explains, the proof that God loves us is that Jesus died for us (cf. Rm 5:8). Jesus did not come into the world to condemn us but to save us. “Whoever believes in him will not be condemned, but whoever does not believe has already been condemned.” The stakes are high: salvation or condemnation, that is, loss of eternal life. The right choice is clearly to accept the gift of communion of love with God, which he has offered through the Death of his Son Jesus.
Our acceptance of God’s gift requires of us two interrelated things: first, the worship of the Triune God, which strengthens our communion with him. Second, it requires the imitation or the reflection of God who is a Communion of Persons. This means putting into practice St. Paul’s exhortation to the Corinthians: “Brothers and sisters, rejoice. Mend your ways, encourage one another, live in peace, and the God of love and peace will be with you.” It is by striving to remain in a communion of love and peace with one another that we enter into communion with the God of love and peace for all eternity.
Keeping in mind that the ultimate aim of God in revealing himself to us as a Trinity is so that we may enter into the communion of love with him in Heaven, we can pray the famous prayer of St. Elizabeth of the Trinity: O my God, Trinity whom I adore, let me entirely forget myself that I may abide in You, still and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity; let nothing disturb my peace nor separate me from You, O my unchanging God, but that each moment may take me further into the depths of Your mystery! Amen.
Do I experience God as merciful and gracious, slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity? Have I accepted the gift of communion of love with God through the Death of his Son Jesus? Have I experienced God as a relational God or as a cold, solitary remote deity?
Excerpt from The Anawim Way, Volume 16, no. 5. More information about The Anawim Way may be found here.