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]
Fr. Maurice Emelu, Ph.D.
Father Maurice provides a daily blog of reflections based on the bible readings of the day from the Catholic liturgical calendar. You will find these reflections helpful for your spiritual growth, inspiration and developing your own thoughts. It may also be helpful for ministers in preparing their sermons for liturgical celebrations.