Over the years I have heard the so many priests and deacon’s try to explain the trinity without ever being able to help anyone truly understand how we can have three persons in one. To compare the Father, Son and Spirit to a shamrock certainly did nothing to help me understand the intimacy shared between them. To compare Father, Son and Spirit to a cherry pie – yes a cherry pie. I will never forget that one where the Father is the dough, the Son is the Cherries and the Spirit is the liquid filling it was creative but did nothing to help anyone understand the trinity.
I have heard lay people attempting to explain the trinity by comparing it to our roles as a parent, spouse and friend. This not only does not explain the trinity but it is poor theology.
Does this mean I have the key to help you understand the trinity with clarity? I would be foolish to believe that I could help you understand the trinity when our greatest theologians have attempted to help us understand and here we are still trying to grasp the inner workings of God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.
What I do know is that the trinity is not beyond our capacity to understand and appreciate its deeper meaning for us as sons and daughters. I say this with confidence because we have been invited into the very heart of God by his own design so that we may share the same intimacy with him as does the Son and the Spirit. We see this desire of God in his intimacy with Adam and Eve whom he not only walked and talked with daily but in his giving them dominion over all creation. Those desires did not change after the sin of Adam but it is achieved by the working of the entire trinity to bring us new life.
I will not quote you all the scriptures that confirm this desire for us but instead will tell you my quoting from church teaching, from scripture or from tradition will not help you appreciate or understand the trinity. What you would gain from me doing those things would be to add to your knowledge without adding to your appreciation of the trinity. There is more for us to gain from approaching the trinity by attempting to enter into their relationship spiritually not intellectually.
Years ago my wife and I were in a Lenten program in our parish and to tell you the truth I have forgotten what it was called. The concept was that we were to be a host couple and were required to invite five other couples we did not previously know to join us for a weekly discussion on the Sunday readings. We were provided with discussion questions for each week to guide the process. One question I remember being asked was “which person of the Trinity do you relate to most often: God the Father, Jesus the Son or the Holy Spirit.”
Of the twelve of us, four said none but they did have intimacy with saints or Mary. Six responded Jesus and one each related to the Father and the Spirit. That question if asked today would most likely be responded to in a similar fashion. Many have trouble relating to any of the trinity and feel more comfortable with persons rather than with God the Father,the Son or God the Spirit. Some can relate to Jesus since he shared our humanity but few can even understand the role of the Spirit much less have a relationship with the Spirit.
We will never understand the trinity until we begin to experience the person of Jesus Christ. Why do I say this because Jesus himself said the way to the Father is through him? Jesus said you see me you see the Father. Today’s gospel is clear in its meaning and intent: God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him will not be condemned.”
God plan was to reconcile the world to himself by through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 5:19). If we would take the time to meditate on the depth of God’s love overlooking our nature to sin and providing a means for us to overcome sin we might gain an insight into the true nature of the trinity. In the trinity there is complete unity without hierarchical power. There is a complete understanding of love shared and expressed with the goal to have us share in that love and live in that same manner. Jesus tells us he only does what the Father tells him. The Spirit, according to Jesus, glorifies him (Jesus) and the Fathers love is poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.
How can we relate to one more than the other if all they do is to build up the other? The Father sends us to the Son in order for us to understand the forgiveness of sin and God’s desire for us to be in a relationship with him. Jesus sends us to the Spirit to understand God’s love and to make the life and death of Jesus change us. The Spirit makes the reality of love burn within our hearts so we know we are loved by God, forgiven through the sacrifice of Jesus and the Spirit reigns in our hearts to change us into sons and daughters of the most high.
The trinity is a constant stream of love at work in us to help us grow in relationship with God, with Jesus and with the Spirit. All of this so we will be changed and begin to love our spouses in the same manner, love our children in the same manner, love our neighbor in the same manner. The trinity teaches us to never judge, never condemn, never desire to punish but always working to reveal how being loved by God changes how we embrace forgiveness and motivates us to seek to reconcile others to ourselves and God.