The Holy Trinity: Peter Paul Rubens
Sunday Readings, Holy Trinity: http://www.usccb.org/nab/061911.shtml
Ex 34: 4-6, 8-9
2 Cor 13: 11-13
Jn 3: 16-18
A well known story is told about St. Augustine, one of the great theologians of the church, who one day was walking on the beach contemplating the mystery of the Trinity. He came upon a boy who was digging a hole in the sand. The boy was pouring water from the sea into the hole. When St. Augustine asked him what he was doing, the boy explained, “I’m going to pour the ocean into this hole.”
“That’s impossible,” St. Augustine declared. “The whole ocean will not fit in the hole you have made.” The boy replied, “And neither will you ever understand the whole mystery of the Trinity.” The legend then says the boy vanished, leaving St. Augustine to wonder if he had been talking to an angel.
This Feast each year is always a preacher’s challenge. How do I explain to you the mystery of the Trinity in a way that we can all understand? It is like trying to put the ocean into a hole. Yet, despite that, we do know something about the nature of God who we as Christians proclaim as One in Three – a Trinity of Persons, yet one eternal God. While that is a deep theological concept its truth has great implications for our lives.
Christianity on the one hand presents a God who is distant, mysterious, and incomprehensible to our very limited human minds. As people of faith, we can only see what God has done rather than see God himself. But, that certainly doesn’t tell us much about what God is like. And, God could have remained distant and mysterious – who are we to tell God what to do?
But, we do know instinctively that this God is calling us into relationship with him. Our restless nature and our spiritual thirst call us to seek beyond ourselves for satisfaction. God isn’t just some disinterested Creator who has done his work and now sits back watching the universe play itself out.
This one, living and true God extended an invitation to us to come into communion (unity) with his family: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. His “Son” was sent as his Word who reveled to us what God is like – Love. In today’s first reading from Exodus 34, we see Moses who encounters this God who is “hesed.” A Hebrew word which is defined as: “merciful, gracious, slow to anger and rich in kindness.” It is a kind of spousal love, a relationship of covenant that God desires between himself and human beings when we are faithful. That is hardly a God of indifference. It is a God who wishes we be changed by his love.
The words of Moses to God in that reading today, strike me as especially hopeful. In the presence of God, Moses bows down in awe and wonder. In humility he asks, “If I find favor with you, O Lord, do come along in our company . . .” Then he prays that God will be patient with his sometimes, “stiff-necked people.”
“Come along in our company” is an invitation from Moses to God. “Don’t abandon us despite our unfaithfulness!” But, it also is the same invitation we hear from God to Us – “Come along in my company. Be faithful to me and enjoy this Trinity of Persons who has spoken to you through my Son who died for you and sent the Spirit to give you life.”
The often quoted Gospel verse today (John 3: 16) reveals this deeper truth. It is both a statement and call to respond: “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 nature of God is revealed here in the Trinity of Persons. That God send his Son among us reveals that he operates only out of a Love that does not EXclude but in a love that INcludes all who would come to believe.
By that Love we are called to imitate that same character. How often can we say about ourselves that we are: “merciful, gracious, slow to anger and rich in kindness?” Does receiving the Lord in the Eucharist do anything to change you?
You sent your Word to bring us truth
And your Spirit to make us holy.
Through them we come to know the mystery of your life.
Help us to worship you, one God, in three Persons,
By proclaiming and living our faith in you . . .
(Opening Prayer for Trinity Sunday)