Grace to you!
Once Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen was asked to explain the mystery of the Trinity. He warned the audience that no matter how erudite his explanation may be, it would still not be clear to them. He went on with the teaching for about two hours.
After the talk, a woman approached him and said, “Now I understand the mystery of the Trinity very well.”
To which Sheen replied, “Then you didn’t understand it at all.”
My reflection here isn’t likely to be a refutation-proof explanation of the mystery of the Trinity. I gladly embrace my limitation.
We believe this mystery through the gift of faith. God gives this gift, so we can gradually understand what we do not know about divinity. Have faith first, then you will understand. If you don’t’ believe, and you want to believe, pray for this light of faith. It’s a gift worth more than gold.
Although “Trinity” as a word isn’t found in Scripture, the truth that God is three persons in one is clearly expressed in it. Those who insist that every word must be in the bible before they accept it as the Word of God take note. As I hinted in my book, Word for A Wounded World, it was an African Catholic theologian, Tertullian (155-230 AD) who coined the word, Trinity (from Latin – Trinitas) to designate the revealed truth, which is also in the bible, that God is triune. The Church solemnly defined the doctrine at the First Council of Nicaea (325 AD) in refutation of Arian heresy (Arianism). Arianism denied the divinity of Jesus the Christ.
The early Church, right from the time of the apostles, were on board regarding this biblical truth. Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ, spoke about the Father who sent him (the Son) and about the Holy Spirit whom he was going to send. There are numerous places in the bible where Jesus talked about his relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit. [For your private readings and meditations, see Genesis 1:26; 3:22; Matthew 3:16-17; 28:19; John 1:1-51; 10:30-36; 14:16-17, 26; I Corinthians 8:6; 2 Corinthians 1:21-22; 13:14; Ephesians 4:4-6; Colossians 2:9; Philippians 2:5-8; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 5:7-8, etc.]
In Christian salvation history, we usually attribute the work of creation to the Father, redemption to the Son and sanctification to the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, though they are distinct as persons, neither the Father nor the Son nor the Holy Spirit exists or acts in isolation from the other two persons of the Godhead.
Like Saint Augustine, we may not be able to fully understand the how of the Trinity, but I think it is very important to understand part of the why. Why did God reveal to us this mystery regarding the very nature of the Supreme Being? We are made in the image of God, therefore, the more we understand God, the more we understand ourselves.
As Christians, a relevant question for us to ask today may be: What does the doctrine of the Blessed Trinity teach us about the God we worship and what does this say about the kind of people we should be? On this, I have two points to share with you.
(1) God does not exist in solitary individualism but in a “community” of love and sharing. Thus, a Christian seeking a deepened Godly life (Matthew 5:48) should shun the tendency to isolationism. We live not just for ourselves but also for others, and ultimately for the Lord. St. Paul tells us “None of us lives for ourselves alone, and none of us dies for ourselves alone’ (Rm 14:7). Glory is in living beyond ourselves.
(2) Agape love, that distinctive sacrificial love which Christians should emulate from our Lord Jesus Christ, requires three—I, God and thou. We believe we are made in God’s image and likeness. Just as God is God in a Trinitarian relationship, so we can be fully human in relationships. The self needs to be in a horizontal relationship with others and a vertical relationship with God. By so doing, our life becomes Trinitarian like that of God. Then we discover that the so-called “I-and-I” principle of unbridled individualism, acceptable in many modern societies, leaves much to be admired.
The doctrine of the Blessed Trinity inspires us to adopt rather an I-and-God-and-neighbor principle. By so doing, our entire life becomes a pleasant orbit with God at the core and in the warmth of relationships with others. The I-alonism or the me-me syndrome does not assure us of a long-lasting future. I am a Christian insofar as I live in a relationship of love with God and other people. Actually, this is socially healthier than exclusive individualism.
You may have heard about a 75-year research on real people (considered the longest research ever conducted by Harvard University) on what keeps people happier and healthier. The current director of that research, psychiatrist Robert Waldinger, recently shared some of the results. Based on the findings, he claimed that people who build relationships and keep relationships tend to live happier and longer. Loners tend to die earlier and are unhappy.
I guess you want to live long and be the best you have been created to be. Tap from the lessons of the Trinity. Relationships are the key to happiness; the finer the relationships, the better. What could be better than building our spiritual core in God while in relationship with other(s).
May the grace of the Holy Trinity help us to overcome self-centeredness and to live in love of God and love of neighbor.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Reflection for Trinity Sunday]
Grace to you!
Long-term planning is a double-edged sword. In many cases, it is a wonderful thing. In other cases, it could be a bottleneck to growth and blessing.
I’m fascinated to hear friends and family share how they have worked out every detail of the rest of their lives, up to the likely time they will pass. Their retirement plan is worked out—how much they need, budget for vacations, for charities, for family, grand kids, great-grand kids, for emergencies and unforeseen expenditures, every detail. This fascinates me.
It’s a wonderful, commendable practice. It’s equally, in my opinion, a probable sign of good stewardship of our God given gifts, talents and treasure.
Long term planning generally gives us a better view, a panoramic view of where we are at regarding the goals we have set for ourselves. It makes the path of the future seem clearer. It’s like a map leading us in the right direction. Similarly, it helps us know where we have to work harder, where to make some improvements and adjustments, as well as when and how to re-strategize.
However, a nonflexible long-term plan could be a bottleneck not only economically, but also in our relationship with God. It’s a double-edged sword. What is a blessing could equally be a stumbling block.
Take for instance; you planned to visit Spain when you are fifty, during the summer. You have all things worked out ahead of time. However, something happened in the family that calls for your physical attention. You could delegate, but a better Christian thing to do is to be present. If you are fixed on your long-term planning, you may insist on travelling and cause your family more pain than you had thought.
A more serious example is when our long-term planning does not make room for God. We suppose we are in charge and have the final say. We have worked it all out, when actually God has the final say. One single turn of events, say a health situation or death of a loved one can change the entire plan.
I love what the Letter of James has to say about the paradox of fixed long-term planning that seems to ignore providence in the equation: “Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and realize some gain,” whereas you do not know about tomorrow. What is your life? For you are in a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and we shall do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil” (James 4:13-16).
If I may recommend for us, go back to your vision-plan or long-term plan chart if you have one. Include “God willing” or “By the grace of God” or “If the Lord wills.” In other words, in your planning, think in the light of God’s grace. Also, be open to adjust as new facts evolve concerning better ways to do things. It saves us from many surprises.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Wednesday, Week 7 Ordinary Time: Jas 4:13-17; Mk 9:38-40]
Grace to you!
Parents share in the labor of love for their baby. Moms in particular are experts at it.
The curious baby runs out of the house on a rainy day and makes the dirt his toy. Painted all over with the mucky dirt, he runs into the living room. In excitement, he rubs the dirt on the spick and span carpet. He finishes off with some conspicuous smears of the dirt on the light-brown suede sofa.
Meanwhile, mom and dad are momentarily in suspense. Their mind flashed back and forth. The house has been just tidied in preparation of a special dinner with august visitors coming in minutes.
Dad gets upset. No word said, yet his face tells it all. He manages to pretend all is well. After all, “it’s my child.” The baby catches the glimpse of dad’s face and instinctively senses something isn’t right. He is eerily quiet.
Mom smiles and picks up the baby, looking all over his dirt-smeared body to be sure he is ok. Her first instinct is the welfare of the baby. The spill on the floor and the messed carpet and sofa come second. I was one of those muddy and messy babies. At least my mom told me so.
Notice the way parents receive the baby totally, including his messes and dirt, without judging or rejection. It is the best way to receive the Lord’s message. We don’t choose only the sweet part. We don’t focus only on the joys. We accept everything, because the beauty of discipleship is in following the Lord in a complete way. Just like the beauty of parenting is in accepting the entire child, the way the baby is—whether messy or clean, healthy or impaired.
Jesus shares with his apostles the price of his mission as the messiah. They were concerned about positional and, perhaps, plus economic authority, and all the fanfare that go with it. They were concerned with who was the greatest; and, therefore, who would have the top leadership role in the said kingdom. They weren’t in the same spiritual wavelength with the Lord. The Lord was talking of service. They were thinking of kingship.
He told them, as he tells us: “Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, and whoever receives me, receives not me but him who sent me” (Mk 9:37). This could mean receiving the Lord with child-like qualities. I have reflected on this meaning during other times of our reflection and in chapter 19 of my book, Word for a Wounded World volume 1. Here I look at it in another way, the normal way parents receive the baby as described in the story of the mom and the dirty child above.
We are to receive the Lord as moms receive the baby. We receive fully, not parts and pieces, or one aspect over the other.
If we receive the Lord as he is revealed, in the cross and the glory, we are blessed for it. We do not choose only the glory. Nor do we choose only the cross. We need both. We receive both because here on earth, they go together.
I pray for you today. I pray for me too. May we grow in the tender love of the Lord. May we accept the fullness of the Lord’s revelation, in its pains and its joys. Amen.
God love you. God bless you.
Fr. Maurice Emelu
[Tuesday Week 7 Ordinary Time B: Jas 4:1-10; Mk 9:30-37]
Author and Goal
Father Maurice Emelu PhD., provides a daily blog of reflections based on the Scriptural readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. The goal is to teach, inspire, encourage, and foster healing through the grace of God's word. They are written in a language that is appropriate for a general audience. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration, and developing your thoughts. They may also be useful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.