“Why do we have to hear all this stuff about the Trinity?”
This question burst from a man in the audience at a talk of mine. “Why can’t we just be good to each other and go to church”?
I answered, “Because.”
Because the Triune God is not some kind of brainy speculation by scholars. It is simply the way we experience God in this world. Christian living is the Trinity in action.
First, long ago human beings learned by living that there is only one God, and that he “takes delight in the human race” (First Reading). Think of the many, many stories in the First Testament about God’s pursuit of us, his laboring to make a loving and holy covenant with us. “I will be your God and you will be my people.” Like marriage agreements (used to be).
By turns, God became angry, hurt, delighted, spurned, glorified, ignored, praised and rejected. Yet he kept coming back and back to renew the covenant.
Because God's love is steadfast.
Then we discovered that God’s nature has always had another component. God had not been alone or lonely, like a rock in the desert. His very nature had always been to relate to others, to “pour himself forth,” as the First Reading puts it, and to receive back. This goal is called the “Second Person,” and it has been at one with “the First Person” for all eternity.
We saw him.
Jesus laughed and cried and preached and turned over tables and cured people, and was loyal to his friends even unto death. “Everything that the Father has is mine,” he said (Gospel). That’s how we knew he was the Word and that the Word was God.
Then came a third revelation. Jesus hints about it in the Gospel: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.” In other words, our small souls would burst with the greatness of God and Jesus—unless they gentled down and began to dwell inside us, to guide our understanding. So Jesus promised to pour the Holy Spirit into us.
The Spirit actually is God, Jesus tells us. “Everything that the Father has is mine; for this reason I told you that he [God the Spirit] will take from what is mine and declare it to you” (Gospel).
Do you get the logic? Everything the Father has belongs to the Word. Everything that the Word has belongs to the Spirit. Everything the Spirit has belongs to us, if we say yes to it. This third part of God bestows us and the whole earth back upon the Father.
Which closes the circle!
What liveliness, what transformation there is in God: speaking, reaching out, flowing forth, receiving back. God is like liquid motion, like a dynamism in which everything is changing always, yet remains always the same—because it is rooted in love, because it is love.
We are invited into that unchanging circle of love, no matter what it brings.
Too theoretical? Allow me to put it more simply. Do you suffer? God invites you meld that pain into the Trinity’s unending love. Do you lack hope? The Christ who rose from death is within you. Are you abandoned? Remember that the one God in three persons was abandoned too, and embraces you with tender affection and asks you to melt into his arms.
That is why we “hear all this stuff about the Trinity.”
John Foley, SJ
Write me an email! I'd like to have a discussion with you about this.
Back to Spiritual