Welcome to heretic Sunday. Today’s feast of the Holy Trinity is the one Sunday I dread preaching because the Trinity is so complex that in order to speak about Him without becoming a heretic you need to use minute philosophical distinctions, complex Greek and Latin words for which there are no English translations and such precision that changing one letter on some of the words causes you to be a heretic. With all of the difficulties in speaking about the Trinity, there are many people out there who say, the Trinity is a mystery and we should leave it at that. While that might be the easy way out, it is a great disservice to us who are trying to follow Christ. Afterall we are called to love God above all things, but how can we love Him who we don’t know?
In today’s Gospel Jesus reveals God to be the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, showing us that our God is a relationship of love. Think about it for just a second. If the Father did not exist then there would be no Son, after all, there can be no son without a father and if there was no Son then there would be no Father because a father can only be a father if he has a son. Thus our God who is a Trinity, 3 distinct persons in one God must be a God of loving relationship after all this is what binds the three persons into one. While we can be tempted to see God as some big power in the sky, today’s Gospel reveals our God to be someone completely different, He is a God of love, who reaches out to us wanting to draw us into that relationship of love. The Son, afterall came into this world to suffer and die to save us and the Holy Spirit remains active in this earth to continue to bind us into the love of the Trinity.
You see the Trinity is what sets Christianity apart from every other religion. While the pagans knew to look beyond themselves for God and God revealed Himself to the Jewish people as a Father who had entered into a covenant with His chosen people, it was not until Jesus revealed God to be three in one – three distinct divine persons (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) yet still one Divine nature (God) that mankind could come to understand that God does not just tolerate each of us, but rather He calls each human person into a personal relationship with Him.
Who then is this Trinity? While the Trinity will always remain a mystery, the Church, for two thousand years has painstakingly unfolded the teaching of who the Trinity is. Some of the Church’s greatest teachers have used complex philosophy and Greek terms, others like St. Patrick used a three leaf clover but perhaps the best analogy I know is to think of the Trinity like a family. Each family has many distinct people – a mother, a father and perhaps a daughter. All three of these people are distinct human people, yet they are all one single unit, one single family and they are bound together by a deep life-generating and self-giving love. Just as the love between the members of the family that binds them together and makes them one the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, while three distinct persons are bound together as one God in love.
When we come to understand the Trinity as existing in an infinite perpetual love, we come to a radically understand that our faith is not about our quest for God, but rather it is God’s quest for us. In fact, since God subsists in a relationship of love, every action of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit emanates from love. God created the world out of love for us, He rescued His chosen people from slavery in Egypt out of love, He sent His only Son, Jesus Christ out of love to redeem us and to give us eternal life and as we recalled last Sunday on Pentecost, He sent His Holy Spirit, out of love to guide us and to help us bring His love to others.
In revealing Himself as a Trinity, God shows us who He is. Each of the persons of the Trinity, subsisting in an infinite relationship of love, shows us that God does not simply tolerate us; He loves us. The Trinity reveals to us that while God is truly all-powerful, supremely just, knows all, and transcends all, He does not exist to lord power over us, but rather to enter into a loving relationship with us. So when we hear Jesus’ command in today’s Gospel to “go make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” we are hearing His invitation to share in His mission. He is calling us to enter into a personal relationship with Him and to bring people into a relationship with God. God does not simply tolerate us, no He wants to enter into a relationship with us and as Christians, our lives should express that we live in a relationship of love with God. God is on a quest to enter into a relationship with us. Will we open our hearts to allow ourselves to enter into that relationship?