Today is The Feast of The Holy Trinity. But today, I am not going to try to explain the Trinity to you. Instead, I want to talk about what the Trinity means to you. But first a couple of historical notes you may find interesting.
Today’s Gospel reading is from Matthew is unique only to Matthew. This is the most direct reference to the existence of the Trinity in Holy Scripture. Jesus directs and empowers His apostles to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. Prior to that people were baptized only “in the name of Jesus”. It seems to have developed, because the more people reflected on the relationship with God which Jesus brought them, the more they understood that the Father and the Holy Spirit were just as much involved in their lives as they had been in the life of the historical Jesus.
And the formula itself that we all learned was not even developed in the church until almost 300 years after Jesus at the Council of Nicea. But the early church never really formulated all of this into some kind of a concrete belief as precise as, “I believe in God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit, one God in three persons” until then.
It remains however the greatest mystery of the Catholic Church I sometimes think that the frustrations of trying to explain three persons in one, in a sense, is the pride of humans trying to get a handle on God, trying to bring God down to some sort of formula that we could understand. God is beyond everything and anything that we could understand.
And so we don’t try to understand it. We accept it as one of the great mysteries of our faith. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t come to this feast day with expectations of trying to come into a deeper relationship with God. We can’t fully understand three persons in one God, but we know immediately that God is a God who loves, reaches out to others from the Son and the Holy Spirit and that there’s a mutuality of love. There’s a community of life, a communion of life within God. That’s God’s image for us — that we have to reach out in love. We’re made in the image of God. If we’re going to be like God then we have to relate to others with mutuality, with respect, with love, with caring. And we have to be quick to forgive, just as we read in scripture: “Yahweh is a God full of mercy, slow to anger, abounding in truth and loving kindness.” God shows loving kindness to the thousandth generation and forgives wickedness, rebellion and sin.”
God is a God who is totally merciful, and that’s probably harder to believe for many of us than that God is one God in three persons.
God loves us no matter how we have failed. God loves us at every instance and with every inch of his love. God is quick to forgive, always ready, reaching out to forgive us. How many of us really believe that? But that is what the scriptures reveal about God; this is a God who loves, who is love. That is the most important thing we need to take from our celebration of this mystery of the Trinity: God is the communion of life where there’s sharing, mutuality, total giving.
That is made clear when we listen carefully to Holy Scripture: “God so loved all of us, so loved this universe, so loved all of creation that God sent his son, Jesus, to be one of us, to become fully human. God gave Jesus, the son, but then the son so loved us that he gave himself.”
Because Jesus loved us, he was willing to accept hatred and brutality and violence perpetrated against him and respond with love even to his enemies. That’s the kind of love God has for us.
How do we respond to this?
First of all, we respond with gratitude and we do that by keeping awake His faith within ourselves. But then we have to try to be like God. We’re made in God’s image. We need to love as God loves us.
You see, when we don’t love we destroy God’s image within us. When we allow ourselves to hate, argue, not forgive, use violence, we are destroying the image of God. So we have to always maintain an awareness that it is God who is love and who has made us in that image of God. Therefore, we have to be people who love, who give of ourselves. Just as Jesus poured himself out in love for us, we have to keep on reaching out in love for one another. Think of the enormity of that statement in the relations you have. Be it spouse, partner, friend or neighbor. Every action of ours that is not loving is killing the spirit of the image of God in us – the image in which everyone is made. Every argument, every mean word, every unkind email, every time we put ourselves above another we are destroying the image of God within. How do we call ourselves Christians when we are not Christ-like?
At the end of his letter to the church at Corinth, Paul urged them, “Mend your ways. Strive to be perfect. Encourage one another. Be of one mind. Live in Peace.”
Encourage one another. Live in peace. Is living in peace our definition of that or the definition of Christ. Because living in peace means that within our immediate family, within our circle of friends, within our neighborhoods, within our parishes, we seek to always be an instrument of peace. We seek to always reach out and make peace – even when we are not asked. We look for ways to bring peace. Is there a family, a neighbor, a fellow resident of Panama, where we can be an instrument of God’s love and bring peace?
“Then,” Paul said, “the grace of Jesus, the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit will be with you forever.” That is the gift we receive when we try to understand who God truly is and understand that we are made in the image of this God. And then when we live according to that image, then the grace of Jesus, the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit will be ours forever.
The grace of God is what separates humankind from all other species on earth. Think of it of it as the most worthy gift you could receive. The grace of God is like a beautiful cloak that surrounds us. The grace of God is empowerment; It empowers you to act in the name of Christ. It empowers you to act Christ like. It is a gift that flows to you and around you every moment of your life. It is the spirit of God – the Holy Sprit – that dwells within you and brings you to understand and to act in the name of God. May God bless you always. In the name of the father and of the son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.