Last Sunday, we celebrated the sending of the Spirit, which sealed God’s new covenant and made a new creation.
In this new creation, we live in the family of God, who has revealed himself as a Trinity of love. We share in His divine nature through His body and blood (see 2 Peter 1:4). This is the meaning of the three feasts that cap the Easter season – Pentecost, Trinity Sunday, and Corpus Christi.
These feasts should be intimate reminders of how deeply God loves us, how He chose us, from before the foundation of the world, to be His children (see Ephesians 1:4-5).
Today’s readings illuminate how all God’s words and works were meant to prepare for the revelation of the Trinity and God’s blessing in Jesus Christ – the blessing we inherited in baptism, and renew in each Eucharist.
There are two principal ways we come to understand things in life, namely, through study or through personal experience.
For example, we can learn about human relationships by study. We can take classes in human psychology and sociology. We can read books dealing with the ways people interact. We can observe how individuals form and maintain their connections with one another. We can watch movies and realty shows centred on family dynamics, friendships, and romance. In such ways we can grow in our understanding of human relationships.
The other way we can come to understand human relationships is through our personal experience. The dealings we have with family members, friends, neighbours, classmates, co-workers, and strangers teach us about human interaction. Our personal experiences of love, friendship, compassion, misunderstanding, and forgiveness expand our knowledge of how people interact. We quickly come to understand that relationships can bring us the greatest joy and they can bring the greatest sorrow.
This Sunday, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. We celebrate the most important of all relationships – the divine relationship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the Three Persons who are the One God.
We can come to some understanding of this central mystery of our faith in the same way we learn all things – through study or through experience.
We can study the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. We can analyze the Creed that we profess each Sunday. We can consult the Catechism of the Catholic Church. We can take courses in theology and read theological treatises. We can examine scripture passages that point to this doctrine. Such a passage makes up this Sunday’s Gospel (Matthew 28:16-20). There the Risen Lord tells his followers, “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
We can also come to an understanding of this central mystery of our faith through our personal experience. As people of faith, we have experiences that can reveal the Holy Trinity and give us some understanding of the One God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
For example, we can experience God the Father and Creator in the power of nature, in the birth of a child, in the immensity of the universe with its billions of galaxies, and in lifting our hands in prayer as we call upon “Our Father.”
We can experience God the Beloved Son and Saviour in our fellow Christians gathered for worship, in the proclamation of a Gospel reading, in reverencing the cross on Good Friday, in quiet moments before the Blessed Sacrament, and above all in receiving his life-giving Body and Blood in the Eucharist.
We can experience God the Holy Spirit and Comforter in the wisdom that unexpectedly inspires us, in the courage that strengthens us to confront evil and injustice, in the words that come as we seek to explain what we believe, and in sensing the mercy, love, and presence of God even when all seems lost.
The doctrine of the Holy Trinity that we highlight this Sunday and that we bring to mind each time we make the Sign of the Cross will always remain a mystery. But it is a mystery we can understand, at least in part, through study and through experience.
St. Hildegard a Benedictine writer, composer and mystic used the image of a flame.
As the flame of a fire has three qualities, preached St. Hildegard, so there is one God in three Persons. How? A flame is made up of brilliant light…that it may shine; energy that it may endure; and heat that it may warm.
When we profess that God is a Trinity we are saying that God is a flame, the flame of love, an eternal flame of eternal love.
God is love. And love is an experience, not a speck on the horizon.
When you and I find ourselves yearning for God, longing for God, we reach for love. And, if St. Hildegard is right, that Love will light the darkness in our soul
Yes, our God is a Trinity. A Trinity of Light, Endurance and Heat. A Trinity of Fire. A Trinity of Love.