How can we understand the great mystery of the Trinity?

The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40

Moses said to the people: "Ask now of the days of old, before your time, ever since God created man upon the earth; ask from one end of the sky to the other: Did anything so great ever happen before? Was it ever heard of? Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live? Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors, all of which the LORD, your God, did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other. You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today, that you and your children after you may prosper, and that you may have long life on the land which the LORD, your God, is giving you forever."

Romans 8:14-17

Brothers and sisters: For those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, "Abba, Father!" The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.

Matthew 28:16-20

The eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had ordered them. When they all saw him, they worshiped, but they doubted. Then Jesus approached and said to them, "All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."

We celebrate today the Feast of Trinity Sunday. This is a great mystery that God is a Trinity of persons. God is one, but can be experienced in three different Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God is a unity and yet a community of three Persons.

We may feel that it is a confusing language. Yes, we have to realize that we are talking about God. God is an infinite mystery, and as early church fathers say, He is “totally beyond being”. God is not a being in the world, and is not like anything in our experience. He is the source of all that exist. Therefore, it is appropriate that we use a strange, puzzling, and even confusing language when we are describing God. As Saint Augustine said, “If you understood him, it would not be God” (Catechism No. 230). Indeed, to an extent, the Trinitarian language of “God in one yet three”, is meant to confound us. Pope Emeritus, Benedict XVI, has an excellent comparison. He says that in liturgies we use incense. Part of the purposes is to appeal to our senses of beauty. Furthermore, incense also obscures, and sometimes burns our eyes so we cannot see it all. It reminds us that our Lord is a mystery which surpasses our capacity to understand. So the doctrine of the Trinity is like an “intellectual incense”, smoke in the eyes of the mind. It reminds us that we are dealing with the ultimate mystery.

So, how do we understand the Trinity as a lay person? We can perceive it through the Paschal mystery, through Jesus Christ. The Gospel of John says, “For 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” (Jn 3:16). The Father did not simply send one more prophet, one more spokesperson or a religious teacher. The Father sent one of the Trinity, God the Son, so that at the limit of God forsakenness, His son has rescued all of us who have wandered far away from the Divine Life. Moreover, “God so loved the world” means there is a love that connects the Father and the Son. It is in love that the Father sends His Son, the Son accepts His mission, and they are held together by love. This love is the Holy Spirit. It is Father, Son, Spirit, the Divine Community into which we have been gathered by the Paschal mystery. That is why the Trinity is not just one of “Rubik’s cubes” for theologians to puzzle over, but it truly stands at the very heart of Christian faith. Without it, we are not saved, and we cannot be gathered into the Divine Life. Furthermore, it is not simply the case that God loves, but “God is Love”. God is the Trinity of Persons. It means that in the very inner life of God, there must be a lover, beloved, and the love they share. The Father so loved the world that He sent His only Son all the way to God’s forsakenness. In love this mission was accepted; lover, beloved, and the love they share. God’s love is not just towards the world, but rather Love is what God is. Love constitutes the very being of God who determines and defines it.

With all these in mind, let us look at our Sunday Gospel: The risen and glorified Lord speaks to the new Israel of the Church, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me” (Mt 28:18). It is not an ordinary prophet nor a spiritual master might say, but it is Jesus, the very Word of God speaking. Therefore Jesus tells them go forth and do the work of gathering in. “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit” (Mt 28:19). What is the mission of the Church? It is the mission of the Son, in which all people are now gathered into the love that connects the Father and the Son. This is the Holy Spirit! Therefore, we should not allow this “arcane” language of theology to obscure the revolutionary meaning of the Trinity as a summon to mission, a call to action. The Son is saying to all of us, to our sons and daughters in Him, “You now go and do the work that was given to me, to gather the whole world into the dynamics of the Divine Life.”

Friends, allow this love to wash over you on this Trinity Sunday, the Trinity as an invitation into the dynamics of the Divine Life, and as a summon to mission and to action. May God bless you.

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Acknowledgement

This is an excerpt from Bishop Robert Barron’s homilies, including “The Trinity As Call To Action”, “The Loving God”, and “God Is Love”. For more information, please visit WordOnFire.org.

Posted: May 30, 2021

Ben Cheng

 


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