How can we explain the concept of the Trinity; three persons but one God? I am amazed when I hear all those attempts to explain how three persons can exist as one God. How can we explain it when our own Catholic Catechism says the Triune God is beyond human reasoning? Yet since it is Trinity Sunday in every diocese priests and deacons will attempt to give you a visual of what trinity looks like.
In some of my past homilies I listed some of those examples so if you want to see how inadequate they explain the trinity go to the menu bar and click on the Feast link for a listing of my past Trinity Sunday homilies. Open the A Cycle Holy Trinity 17 and you will read some of those illustrations.
Here is the problem with trying to explain the trinity; nothing we experience on earth comes close to the concept of one God and three persons. How can you explain their unity with each other and their unity of purpose? How can we explain equality when our attempt at equality still leaves someone or something the dominant authority? It goes beyond the image of God the father who is God and God the Son who is God and God the Spirit who is God. They are separate and yet when one acts the other is there within the act. When one speaks the other is there in total agreement with what is said. When one is reaching out to you the entire trinity is reaching out to you.
I can only speak from my own limited human understanding of experiencing the Father, Son and Spirit in my life. This is the only way I know how to help you understand why it is important for us to be open to the entirety of God’s plan and purpose for our lives. I was born into the Catholic Church and I have always accepted its teaching. For my first 35 years I had no relationship with God but I had a good relationship with the Church. I have strived to be worthy of God’s grace but the truth is I have constantly succumbed to temptations leading me away from God’s grace. Those failures have caused me guilt and created a determination to be better but I was unable to change my sinful nature.
Yet somewhere in my heart I had this feeling I had to change in order to be worthy of salvation. This desire to be worthy left me frustrated and at the same time searching for the right program, prayer, retreat, book, that would help me become who God desired me to be. I searched and although I wanted change I did not realize change was only possible by allowing God to change me. I was as stubborn as Saul of Tarsus, refusing to look beyond my own interpretation of who God was.
The plan of God has always been for us to be in union with him and in an intimate relationship with him. This plan has never changed and is clearly defined by every action of his throughout the scriptures to restore us. The way to the heart of God is easy to find if only we allow the Father, Son and Holy Spirit to lead us. Forget about trying to intellectually understand the Trinity because those attempts will never allow you to experience the Trinity filling you with the love of God.
We as a people want what God offers us but we fail to receive it because we are too busy trying to earn it. We want what God desires to freely give us but we fail to receive it because we believe we must do something to attain it. Paul in his letter to Timothy tells us “the scriptures give us wisdom for salvation and equips us for every good work” (2Ti. 3: 16-17).
So let me use the scriptures to show you how we have continually failed to accept the gift of God because we think we have to do something to attain it. The Israelites were freed from slavery and were journeying to the Promised Land. They reached that place God had planned for them to live in peace and prosperity in a short period of time. However, they failed to enter that land because the people of the land were “veritable giants” who could not be overcome.
Caleb pleaded with Moses to enter the land saying “God will give us the victory, let us enter.” Yet the voices of those who feared they could not overcome the inhabitants of the land won out and they spent the next 40 years wandering in the desert because they failed to understand they had to do nothing to earn their victory except to trust in God’s promise (Num.13:17-33).
What will win our victory to be all God desires us to become – the work of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit teaching us about forgiveness, love and changing our hearts.
God desires us to become holy so he set forth a plan for us to become holy men and women of God through his work not ours. Our holiness begins with God so loving us he sent us Jesus and by his life, death and resurrection we have become sons and daughters of God. This means all we need to understand about our spiritual life is revealed to us in the words and actions of Jesus Christ. He is not just the savior of the world; he is a personal savior for he is my savior and Lord.
We are given vivid images of forgiveness without us groveling or begging in his interaction with the woman at the well, the lepers, the blind, the lame, the woman caught in adultery, Lazarus and so many other stories. He shows us forgiveness does not depend on us but on the grace of God.
Once we understand this mercy we are ready to feel the arms of the Father embrace us as the prodigal son felt the arms of his father. Once we feel the embrace of the Father we are then ready for the next step and that is the transforming power of the Holy Spirit to change our hearts.
We are ready for the love of God to be poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom.5:5). This action of the Spirit reveals to our hearts how God views sin; it is forgiven and forgotten by God. We have been made holy by the saving action of Jesus Christ and the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
The three persons are in union changing us and opening our hearts and minds to understand not only our call but freeing us to now feel the very presence of God at all times. Individually in our daily life interacting with others, in our spiritual life of prayer and reading scriptures and in our serving brothers and sisters as we work to reveal God’s love for them. We as a community feel the presence of God in our worship during the mass celebrating the gift of God’s love and the very presence of Jesus among us who believe.
The trinity is not a concept to understand it is a reality God desire us to experience and allow it to change us into disciples.