Perhaps the hardest course I took in the seminary was the course on the Trinity. This course was filled with minute philosophical distinctions, complex Greek and Latin words for which there were no English translations and it required such precision that changing one letter on some of the words caused 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 live the Christian life. After all we are called to love God above all things, but how can we love Him whom we don’t know?
Today we are challenged to face the truth about whom the Trinity is and what He means for our life. Today’s readings challenge us to avoid the two extreme ideas about God often put forward by our culture today. Sadly, because of the way God is portrayed in our culture, I think on one end of the spectrum many people understand God to be a dictator, some supreme being who is detached from us and simply does with us whatever makes Him happy. Many people believe that if we appease Him, He will give us many blessings like wealth, health and good fortune and if we make Him upset He will give us many curses like poverty, illness or ill fortune. On the other end of the spectrum many people believe God is a pure ball of love, they believe God loves us so much, He doesn’t care what we do and He will see to it that we are always happy even if we reject Him by our actions.
In 7th grade I was fascinated by Homer’s classic work, The Odyssey, and other works of Greek mythology. Sure, I found the adventures captivating, but what excited me was the way the god’s used mortals as pawns for their own pleasure. I found it exciting to read about how the human characters were controlled, almost like puppets by the gods. These works of Greek mythology are not just great pieces of literature but they also express the true belief of the ancient Greeks about God. It was not until God revealed Himself to the Jewish people, first in the burning bush and then repeatedly more explicitly throughout the journey of the Old Testament, and culminating in God’s fullest and complete revelation of Himself by sending Jesus, God made man, into the world, expressed in the New Testament, that the Truth about who the God is was revealed.
In today’s first reading God reveals Himself to Moses as someone completely different than the Greek idea of the gods. He reveals Himself to be a Father who is merciful, gracious, kind and faithful. In the gospel God reveals Himself more fully to us. He reveals Himself to be the God of love, the God of relationship. God reveals Himself, not to be our puppet master, but our redeemer, not our dictator but our friend.
It can be just as easy to fall into the trap on the other extreme of believing God has done all the work. It is easy to believe God has a relationship with us regardless of what we do. Today’s Gospel, John 3:16, is probably one of the most quoted verses in the Bible. Yet taking this passage out of context contradicts itself. Since God truly loves us, He will not force Himself on us for love does not force itself on anyone, but rather He invites and waits for us to respond to His invitation. Just as a loving Father always offers his love to his children but does not force his children to have a relationship with him, so too with God, He offers us eternal friendship but does not force us to accept it.
We are reminded by St. Paul in today’s second reading that this second extreme is incorrect. Yes, our God is a God of total power who does have dominion over all of creation. Yes, our God is a God of love, mercy, compassion and a God of faithfulness. Yes, God did not come to condemn the world and if we believe in Him we shall live forever. But to simply say we believe in God is not enough. If we truly believe in God our lives will reflect that belief. We will mend our ways, encourage one another and live in peace.
It can be really easy to fall into the trap of believing one of the two popular extreme views of God. It can be easy to believe that God simply uses us as His pawns, after all that belief has been held since people first began to come to an understanding of God,. Or we can move to the other extreme and cite this Gospel passage out of context and believe all is good because God is cool and He will take care of everything. Yet, all we have to do is look at the crucifix to realize that our God, the Trinity, is a God of relationship a God of love who wants to draw us into relationship with Him. Our God is not a dictator, no He calls us friends not servants, He wants to draw us into relationship with Him, but a relationship takes the work of both parties. We know God is always reaching out drawing us to Himself, we must open up our arms and accept that friendship.
Sure, the Trinity is the central mystery of our faith, and while we may not totally understand Him, we know He is real. While we may not be able to totally comprehend Him, that shouldn’t keep us from following Him or even to doubt Him. I have flown over a million miles in my life and I have no idea how a plane takes flight. All I know is that I do my part, I get on the plane sit down, and the plane flies. So too with the Trinity. Even though I don’t totally understand Him, I do my part, I have a relationship with Him and allow Him to work through the mystery.
Do we want to enter into relationship with God? Then let’s follow St. Paul’s exhortation in the second reading to encourage one another, mend our ways and live in peace. If we live out St. Paul’s exhortation we can be sure that we are living out our true belief in God and that He will do the rest to lead us to eternal life with Him.
 CCC 234