GOD, AS FATHER, SON AND HOLY SPIRIT
Deut 4:32-34, 39-40; Rom 8:14-17; Matt 28:16-20
Every year, on the Sunday following Pentecost Sunday, the entire Catholic Church celebrates the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, that is, what is now commonly known as TRINITY SUNDAY. On Trinity Sunday, we celebrate the Father, Son and Holy Spirit-three Persons in One God. Interestingly, this is the one festival in the Christian Calendar that does not relate to events that have happened or that will happen in time. Advent, Christmas, Epiphany, Lent, Passiontide, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, all relate to specific events in Christ’s life on earth. But Trinity Sunday is different; it refers to A REALITY THAT HAS NO DATE and it leads some people to ask – when did God become the Holy Trinity? Was he always the three-in-one creator, redeemer and sustainer? Was he always Father, Son and Holy Spirit? This is a difficult question that we do not intend to try and answer this morning!
1. THE TRINITY AS AN ARTICLE OF OUR FAITH
In celebrating this solemnity, the Church reaffirms her belief in the One Godhead, three persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit, undivided unity. This is the heart of our faith – our belief in God. In simple arithmetic 1+1+1=3. If we go by human arithmetic, God the Father, + God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are three Gods, since each person is completely and fully God. But in Trinitarian arithmetic, 1+1+1=1. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit = One God. How is this possible? This is theological mathematics. It is not intended to be fully understood before acceptance. On the contrary, it is meant to be accepted as A GIVEN, whether understood or not. Consequently, this is the case of “take it, or leave it.”
2. THE TRINITY AS THE CENTRAL MYSTERY OF THE CHRISTIAN FAITH
The Trinity is a mystery; and a mystery is a truth which surpasses our knowledge and understanding, but which we believe as revealed by God. It is a truth which is above reason, but revealed by God. This means that we may not fully understand it, because it surpasses all our knowledge, all our wisdom, all our understanding and all our learning.
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 234, “The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the “hierarchy of the truths of faith”. The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men “and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin””.
3. THE TRINITY IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
In the Scripture, we find frequent references to Trinity, most especially in the gospel of St. John. There, Jesus talks a lot about his Father. He also makes a number of references to the Holy Spirit who will come after him. However, the best known reference to the Trinity is found in St. Matthew’s gospel which is the gospel we use today. Jesus says to his disciples: “Go then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples, baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19). The most graphic reference to the Trinity occurs in Mark gospel. Immediately after the Baptism of Jesus, the Holy Spirit descends upon him in the form of a dove and a voice from heaven say, “You are my Beloved Son,” (Mark 1:11). The voice, the dove and Jesus, these three images create a vivid portrait of the Holy Trinity.
But if we expect the Sacred Scripture to give us a clear and elaborate presentation of the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity, that simply does not exist. There are verses in the NT teach us and mention about each of the three persons in the Trinity. For instance:
v Many verses of the NT teach us about the divinity of God the FATHER. One example is 1 Corinthians 4:8: “for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things.”
v Many verses teach us about the divinity of God the SON. One example is Titus 2:13: “…the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.”
v Many verses teach us about the divinity of God the HOLY SPIRIT. One example is 1 Corinthians 6:11: “you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.”
In several places in the New Testament the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are mentioned next to each other in a way that leaves no doubt that they are equal and equally God. The gospel text of today is a clear example:
v “This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing” Acts 2:32-33.
v “…according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ” 1 Peter 1:2.
4. GOD AS TRINITY
God, therefore, reveals himself in the Bible as God THE FATHER, THE SON, and THE HOLY SPIRIT. We need them all. God the Father is our creator. God the Son is our Saviour. God the Holy Spirit sanctifies us; he is our Sanctifier.
v The Son is the WORD of the seemingly silent God;
v He is the VISIBILITY of the INVISIBLE GOD. “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30).
v Or this other text: “that they may be one, as we are one” (John 17:22).
v “Who has seen the Son has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9 –Jesus says to Philip)
v Everything the Father is, he gives to the Son. Everything the Son receives he gives to the Father in return.
v This gift between the Father and the Son is called the Spirit of God.
v The bond of unity and love between the Father and the Son is called THE SPIRIT.
5. THE TRINITY SHOWS US THE LOVING FACE OF GOD
The feast of today gives us an opportunity to reflect on the nature of the God whom we believe in. The 1st Reading of today tells us that the biblical God is quite different from the gods worshipped by people of other religions. He is a God who is merciful and lives among his people. Before then, humans believed in a God who terrifies. To Moses now, God reveals a completely different face. He is a father who looks at his children with tenderness, understands their mistakes and faults and loves them even when they sin.
In the 2nd reading of today, St. Paul says to the Romans: “The spirit you received is not the spirit of slaves bringing fear into your lives again; it is the spirit of sons, and it makes us cry out, “ABBA, FATHER”. This is an indication of how close God is to each and every one of us. For this reason, “God loved the world so much that he gave his only son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life.” (Jn 3:16). St. Paul throws more light to this when he says: “God shows his love for us in that while we were sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom 5:8) St. John crowns it all by saying: “God sent his son into the world not to condemn the world, but so that through him the world might be saved.” (Jn 3:17)
God is not just the merciful Lord, clement and full of compassion, as we heard in the 1st reading. He loves us to such a degree as to become one of us. God has become and remains one of us. He has not come for some 30 odd years, and left for heaven, to resume his usual “spying on our sins”, as people believe. God mixes with us, though he hates sin. He understands our plight and he is always there for our good.
6. THE SIGN OF THE CROSS AND THE HOLY TRINITY
Making the Sign of the Cross is one of our devotions to the Blessed Trinity. At the words, ‘In the name of the Father’, we touch our forehead, to affirm that the Father is the First Person of the Godhead. At the words, ‘and of the Son,’ we touch the breast or heart, to signify that the Son of God came down from heaven and became man. Lastly, by touching the left and the right shoulders with the words, ‘And the Holy Spirit,’ we profess that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as from one source. We make it from the left to the right to express that the Cross of Christ removed us from the left side of sin and perdition to the right side of holiness and salvation. We finish the sign of the Cross with the word, ‘Amen’. This means, “So be it”, we assert that we believe the Holy Trinity.
St. Augustine said: “The Sign of the Cross was introduced by the Apostles themselves.” Tertullian (194 AD) observed: “At every step and movement, whenever we come in or go out, when we dress ourselves or prepare to go out of doors, in the bath, at table, when lights are brought, at lying or sitting down, whatever we may doing, we make the Sign of the Cross.” The Sign of the Cross as a form of our devotion to the Blessed Trinity is very venerable and holy because it reminds us of the mystery of the Blessed Trinity and of our redemption.
As Christians, what we hunger for is not a new argument about the Trinity but the experience of a God who loves us. This experience of God’s love pushes us to break into praise of God. Here examples of the presence of the Trinity in our daily prayer and devotion:
v In the Greetings at the beginning of Mass (The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you… 2Cor 13:14)
v In the “Glory be to the Father, and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit …” (2Cor.13:13)
v In the Creed (We believe in the Father-Creator, Word-Son, Helper-Spirit)
v The Baptismal formula (we are baptized “in the name of the Father, Son, Holy Spirit”)
v The thrice-holy (Holy, Holy, Holy at Mass, with each “Holy” indicating one of the three persons in the Trinity)
v The thrice “Lord have mercy (Father); Christ have mercy (Son) & Lord have mercy (the Holy Spirit)
v The thrice “Lamb of God” (each standing for the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit)