“Why do we have to hear all this stuff about the Trinity,” a gentleman asked at a talk I was giving. “Why can’t we just go to church and be good to each other?”
I replied, “well, we can … because of the Trinity.”
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.
Let me explain.
First, long ago human beings learned that there is only one God, who found “delight in the human race” (First Reading). Think of the many, many stories in the First Testament about God pursuing us, his labor to make a loving and holy covenant with us. “I will be your God and you will be my people,” he said. Like a marriage agreement.
Did this work? Well, not really. God became, by turns, angry, hurt, delighted, spurned, glorified, ignored, praised and rejected. Yet he kept coming back and back to renew the covenant, since God's love is steadfast.
Second, we found out that God’s nature had always possessed another component.* God had not been alone or lonely, as in a 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 giving and receiving is the “Second Person,” or the “Word.” This Word was made flesh.
We saw him. Jesus laughed and cried and preached and turned over tables and cured folks, and was loyal to his people even to the end. “Everything that the Father has is mine,” he said (Gospel). That’s how we knew that Jesus was The Word and that the Word was God.
Gradually there came a third revelation about the Trinity. In Sunday’s Gospel Jesus hints about it: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.” In other words, our small souls could never ever open to the great God—unless an actual presence of God gentled itself down and began to dwell within us.
Do you get the two-way logic?
• Everything the Father has and is belongs to the Word.
• Everything that the Word has and is belongs to the Father.
This mutuality is a third “part” of God. It is the Spirit. It tells us who the Christ (God) is, and it bestows us (and the whole earth) back upon the Father, closing the circle.
What aliveness, what keenness there is in God: speaking to us, reaching out, flowing forth, and then receiving back. God is like liquid motion, like a dynamism in which everything is changing always, yet it remains always the same because it is rooted in love—because it is love.
We are invited into that circle of love.
Too theoretical? Allow me to put it more simply. Do you suffer? Do you love? God invites you to meld that pain and that care into the Trinity’s unending love.
You are invited to email a note to the author of this reflection:
Fr. John Foley, SJ