By far the hardest course I’ve ever taken was the course on the Trinity. I remember laughing at the fact that I was going to take an entire course on what the Catechism says in the central mystery of our faith. How am I supposed to understand what the Church says we cannot understand? This course was filled with Greek and Roman words that just changing a few translations meant being Catholic or being a heretic. I remember sitting at my desk preparing for the final exam which I wasn’t sure what the professor was up to. On the final exam, he gave us a list of heresies and we had to define what the heresy was. I remember thinking to myself, here I am studying to be a priest and I am going to be tested on all the mistakes people have made. Why not test me on what we actually believe? But then I realized when it comes to the study of the Trinity, the goal isn’t necessarily to articulate everything (that is impossible), it’s just to make sure you are not a heretic.
This of course does not mean that we cannot learn something about the Trinity. As we come to learn about this great reality of one God in three distinct Persons, we ourselves can fall more in love with God. We ourselves can be better disciples. You see today’s Gospel gives us a very clear understanding of who God is. He is revealed to be the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. We are sent out to baptize people in that way. But is it that unites all of them. There are three distinct people but one God. What puts them together? Well of course it is love. Think about it for just a moment. If the father did not exist then by definition you could not have a son. You only have sons if you have a father. Likewise, if there is no son, there would be no father. What makes someone a father? Well they have a child. All of this then is the relationship of love between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
Now I’ll stop there before I become a heretic or you become confused. But I think it is important for us to realize, that this is what we are invited into; this perpetual existence of love. It’s almost like a circuit. This is why the earliest Church explained the Trinity they did so with a triangle. You have the 3 corners of the triangle. If you remove the Father, the Son or the Holy Spirit, if you remove one of the angles, you no longer have a triangle. If you remove one of the persons of God, you no longer have God. What is that runs between them, that keeps them united? That perpetual flow of love.
You say so what? You say that it’s a great intellectual act that should be left to the scholars to figure out. But no, that love defines the relationship that God has with us. The fact that God has invited us into His love. God has reached down and said He wants to raise us up to be a part of this perpetual love.
A few years ago, I met a Muslim man. and we had a fascinating conversation about the differences between our two faiths. As we were talking, he said to me after a while “you know there is something very beautiful about your faith. I wish I could believe that God is a loving Father who wants to draw me into relationship with Him.” Of course, I reminded him that the doors of the Catholic Church are always open and it’s not that hard for him to come in. But He said, He just could not get to the point that God was just not calling Him to submit. He couldn’t believe that God was reaching out to Him as a Father to call Him into love.
You see the Trinity is what sets Christianity apart from every other religion. While the pagans knew to look beyond themselves for gods and God revealed Himself to the Jewish people as a Father of many nations and He entered into a covenant with His chosen people, the Israelites, but it was not until Jesus Christ that we came to understand who God was. Father, Son and Holy, Sprit. It wasn’t until Jesus came into the world that you and I had a link or a connection to God. After all, you and I are not God and we never will be. How then can we enter into that love that God has for us? Well Jesus is fully God and fully man. He is the bridge that unites us into the love that God has for us.
Who then is this Trinity? The best answer is that He will always remain a mystery. For two thousand years, the Church, has worked to explain 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 to explain the one God and three Persons. Perhaps the best way I know, is by the analogy of a family. Please be mindful that all analogies fail. But think about it, each family has many distinct people – a mother, a father and perhaps a son or daughter. All three of these people are distinct human people, yet they are all one single unit, one single family and what unites them? The bond of love that exists in that family. The same is true with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Each distinct people, yet one unit, one God, held together by God.
You see, when we come to understand the Trinity as this perpetual existence of love, we come to a radically different understanding of who God is, an understanding of God that is distinctly Christian. Our faith is not about our quest for God, but rather it is about God’s quest for us. It is not that I have to reach up into the sky to get myself into heaven. No, it is this perpetual source of love has reached down me and wants to raise me up into heaven. In fact, since God subsists in a relationship of love, every action of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit is manifest in 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 into the world to suffer, to die, and to redeem us and to give us a hope of eternal life, and last Sunday as we recalled at Pentecost, He sent the Holy Spirit upon us out of love, to guide us in loving one another.
You see as we celebrate this central mystery of our faith, we come to see who God is. That while He is truly all powerful, He is supremely just, He knows all, and He transcends all, He doesn’t just tolerate us. He actually loves us. He doesn’t exist to lord power over us, but rather to enter into a relationship with us. And so when we hear that command of Jesus in today’s Gospel to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, we are hearing an invitation to share His mystery. He is not calling us to just go through a motion or a ritual, or to engage some intellectual mind game. He is calling us into a personal relationship with Him and to bring others into that perpetual love.
My friends, God is on a quest to enter into a relationship with us. The love exists, the question is can we open our hearts to receive that love and then spend eternity with God in the midst of that love forever in heaven.