Sunday, May 31, 2015

Gospel For Today: Trinity Sunday

THE SOLEMNITY OF THE MOST HOLY TRINITY (B)
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Most Christians don't spend a lot of time thinking about the Trinity, and that's a shame.  Jesus in today's gospel reading gives us the baptismal formula we are all familiar with.  
"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).  The Trinity is the faith we are baptized into.  The Trinity is the life of God that we aspire to be united with in eternity.  

You'd think contemplating the mystery of the Trinity would be a priority for the Christian. It certainly was a major concern of the early Church.  Most of the early heresies the Church dealt with Trinitarian questions.  Was Jesus Christ God or man?  Is the Holy Spirit also God?  Does the Holy Spirit proceed from the Father only or also from the Son?  The result of these early controversies is found in the creed we recite each Sunday at Mass, which is nothing less than an expression of faith in the Trinity.

Perhaps because the Trinity is called a "mystery" people feel that we can never fully understand it, so why bother?  Isn't the Trinity just one of those esoteric parts of our faith, of interest to theologians but not much use to the average Christian?  What does it matter if we care about the Trinity or not?

It does matter, and a great deal.  The Church's teaching on the Trinity is nothing short of a privileged glimpse into the inner life of God.  Every time we begin or end our prayer with the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, we express our faith in the Trinity, one God existing in three Persons.  The definition of the Trinity is simple to state, but profoundly difficult to comprehend.  Part of the trouble is that it is so outside of our experience as human beings.  As far as we are concerned, each person we know (including ourselves) exists as a separate being.  I have an existence that is distinct from yours, even though we are both human persons. 

It is not so with God.  With God you have three distinct Persons all of whom share the same divine existence.  The key to understanding this is the fact that God's very nature is existence.  In this God is unique.  I possess human nature meaning I exist as a human being.  But I could not exist.  I'm glad that I do, but the fact remains that my existence is optional.  My donkey, Waffles, possess donkey nature.  She exists as a donkey. She could just as easily not exist.  But God does not exist as anything.  He exists, period.  His nature, the Divine nature, is being itself.  This is why God revealed His name to Moses as "I am who am" (Ex 3:13).  He is the source of all existence, the only one whose existence is not dependent upon anything else.  God cannot not exist.

Since the divine nature is being itself, it follows that anyone who shares in that nature also shares in that being.  You and I can share in the same human nature as different beings.  Not so with the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  They share the same divine nature and so share in the same being.  

God the Father knows Himself, and He knows Himself perfectly.  God's image of Himself is not like some dim reflection in a mirror, but perfect and real.  It is such a perfect Image of His being that it also has being.  This perfect Image of God is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Son.  The Father and the Son know and love one another.  Their love is likewise so perfect that it shares in God's existence and has being. This perfect Love of God is the Third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.  All three Divine Persons know and love one another completely.

The unity of the three Persons of the Holy Spirit is a dynamic unity of love.  The Church at the Council of Florence stated, "Because of this unity the Father is entirely in the Son and entirely in the Holy Spirit; the Son is entirely in the Father and entirely in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is entirely in the Father and entirely in the Son."  In other words, each Person of the Trinity dwells within the other two in a relationship of perfect love.

If you have followed along so far, you may be thinking, "That's interesting, but why does that matter?"  It matters because the same God who exists as Three Persons dwelling eternally within one another in love also desires to dwell in you.  In John 14:23, Jesus says, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we shall come to him and make our home with him."  God is love (1 Jn 4:8).  The fact that God exists as a community of Persons means that God, in His very nature, is both lover and beloved.  Love is part of the very nature of divinity, and this Love wants to make His home in you and I.  

No, we do not understand this fully, and we never will.  But we do not need to fully understand it in order to receive the gift of God's love and His life, nor to appreciate its beauty.  If we accept the gift of God's grace, we will be spending heaven contemplating and communing with the Trinity.  We begin that life here on earth.  We can begin that life today.
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WCU Catholic Campus Ministry
Matthew Newsome, MTh, campus minister
  
(828)293-9374  |   POB 2766, Cullowhee NC 28723

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