31 May, 2015
St Augustine of Hippo was a great philosopher and theologian who wanted so much to understand the doctrine of the Trinity and to be able to explain it logically. But he found this very difficult to do. One day as he was walking along the seashore and reflecting on this, he suddenly saw a little child all alone on the shore. The child made a hole in the sand, ran to the sea with a little cup, filled her cup, came and poured it into the hole she had made in the sand. Back and forth she went to the sea, filled her cup and came and poured it into the hole. Augustine went up to her and said, “Little child, what are doing?” and she replied, “I am trying to empty the sea into this hole.” “How do you think,” Augustine asked her, “that you can empty this immense sea into this tiny hole and with this tiny cup?” To which she replied, “And you, how do you suppose that with that small head of yours you can understand the immensity of God?” With that the child disappeared.
Like St.Augustine we would probably like to understand more about the mystery of the Holy Trinity. But like St.Augustine we may not be able to understand the how of the Trinity that is, how can there be three Persons in the one God and so on. But it is very important that we understand the why. So why did God, The Blessed Trinity reveal itself to us as Trinity?
Experts in religion tell us that people always try to be like the God they worship. People who worship a warrior God tend to be warriors, those who worship a God of pleasure tend to be pleasure-seeking, people who worship a God of wrath tend to be angry people, etc. So the more important question for us to ask today is: What does the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity tell us about the kind of God we worship and what does this say about the kind of people we should be?
God wants to be known as a community of persons. He has revealed himself as three, Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God does not exist in solitary individualism but in a community of love and sharing. God is not a loner. Neither can a Christian be a loner. We are our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers. True love requires another, others to help us grow as human beings. We must always remember that we are using human concepts and human words to try and understand better who God is. Mystery in the religious sense means that we cannot know everything about God. But we can know more and more about God as he progressively reveals himself to us according to our capacity. A parent will tell a teenage son or daughter things what they could not have understood 5/6 years earlier.
The best revelation of God as Trinity is seen in the gospels. Each of the three persons of the Trinity is concerned for and focused on the Others. At the Baptism of Jesus and on the mountain of the Transfiguration God the Father is not speaking about himself but of Jesus:’ This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased’. Jesus constantly refers to the Father. “I came not to do my own will but the will of the One who sent me’, and ‘Father into your hands I commend my spirit’. And, of course, the great prayer he taught us starts: ‘Our Father’. Jesus before he goes promises to send the Holy Spirit who according to Jesus will teach and explain to us what Jesus came to achieve. So the Holy Spirit is constantly inspiring us to listen to and follow Jesus. Very simply put, this is the pattern of Christian living. In being concerned for others we are living out who God is and what God is about as community.
In a very feeble attempt to understand a bit more who The Trinity is, we know that when a couple marry their love issues in another person, their child and especially at the beginning the baby is their joy, concern and focus. This human community of love could not exist with three loners living under the one roof. It needs the fuel of loving concern and reaching out to the others to grow and develop.
In the first reading from Deuteronomy, we find that it was because of their own lived experience that the Israelites came to realize that it was Yahweh who did all the signs and wonders on their behalf when he freed them from slavery in Egypt. He alone is God and there is no other. For us our faith tells us that God is still a revealing God for us. And in the second reading from St. Paul we are told that through the Holy Spirit we are God’s children who wishes to lead us away from whatever enslaves us to real freedom. With Jesus we have this incredible promise of being heirs of God, coheirs with Jesus. Then in the gospel of Matthew we have the great promise of Jesus that ‘he is with us always until the end of time’.
It might be worthwhile to reflect on what we do every time we bless ourselves in the name of the Trinity.
‘In the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, and also when we say the prayer ‘Glory be to the Father etc’. If we realised the significance of what we often rush through we might have a greater awareness of our dignity of belonging to God’s Trinitarian family. These are short but very effective prayers. “Glory be to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.”
Fr. Jim Kirstein, SMA.