The first Sunday after Pentecost is Trinity Sunday. It honors the most fundamental of Christian beliefs – a belief in an eternal God, consisting of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – the Holy Trinity.
Mystery. In this sense, the mystery presents itself as a supernatural fact revealed by God which, within itself, transcends the natural power of human reasoning. Three persons in one God – not similar but each one different – not identical pieces of the same pie or identical flowers or leaves on the same stem – but each one distinct, and yet all three in one . . . the math just doesn’t add up!
Tradition. Many revered and beloved Catholic traditions are closely associated with the Holy Trinity, including the Sign of the Cross and the prayer of praise – Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit. Representations of the Holy Trinity are also well-known and wide-spread: the Father and Son shown in human form and the Holy Spirit shown as the figure of a dove.
Understanding. A dear friend (now deceased) once recalled to me how his seminary studies of trying to understand the Holy Trinity almost caused his mental breakdown! The Trinity is a doctrine we affirm but have great difficulty explaining. The idea of one God in Three Persons – three-in-one – is a concept we have difficulty getting our heads around!
While the human mind can never fully understand the mystery of the Trinity, we are able to boldly articulate our belief:
God is three persons in One Nature. There is only one God, and the three Persons of God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit – all are equally God, and they cannot be divided.
Faith. As I try to develop my own understanding of the Trinity, I’m encouraged by theologians to stop thinking of the Trinity as a theological concept, but to keep an understanding that, as followers of Jesus, we are loved by the Father, and led by the Spirit. All three persons of the Godhead are at work in our lives, in the life of our Church, and in the life of this world.
This Sunday’s readings celebrate the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the whole Church and on each of its members. We hear how the formerly wounded and frightened apostles are touched by a mighty wind and tongues of fire that fill them with the Spirit. They immediately leave the room where they waited and boldly go out to share what God had revealed to them with Jews from every nation. Language barriers and divisions are shattered by the Holy Spirit who brings them together.
Like the apostles, we all have wounds and fears that can keep our hearts barricaded and our voices silent until we too are touched by the Holy Spirit. At a recent Notre Dame gathering Sr. Mary Kay reminded us, though, that the Holy Spirit didn’t call Elijah out of his cave into service with a mighty wind but rather with a gentle whisper. We were challenged to identify our gentle whisper and where it calls us.
Mine came just days ago in a very simple way. I have an 11 year old grandson on the autism spectrum who spends an overnight with my husband and me every weekend. I was wallowing in hurt from what seemed like the abandonment of a soul friend when this beloved child propped himself on my lap and began sharing a computer game he was playing with me. My hurt was replaced with love, joy and peace, fruits of the Spirit. I knew my call was to consciously nurture the confidence and joy of this special child.
In the second reading St. Paul tells us that “to each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit.” What does the Holy Spirit need to heal in you? How are you called to share the gifts of the Spirit’s love with others?
“Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and kindle in then the fire of your love.”
“Love one another, as I have loved you.” In one form or another, Jesus tells us to “love one another” eleven times in the Bible. The Lord does not offer this as a suggestion nor as an option. He offers it as one of the two most important commandments. If we have made an effort to genuinely love one another, we will have gone a long way to living as faithful disciples.
Today’s Second Reading from the First Letter of John could not be more specific on our call to love one another. St. John used the word “agape” to make clear the kind of love. This love from God is self-giving without expectation of a return. This is the kind of love God feels for us. Too often we may do something with the expectation of getting something back. We need to love the way God loves us. That is what John is trying to teach and explain to us.
Each of us has heard the expression “God is love” countless times. However, have we truly embraced it? We need to sincerely accept that love. In response, it is essential we commit ourselves to loving in the same way. If we do that, God’s love can transform not only each of us but also those around us. This is the love Jesus intends for us. This is the love we must strive to achieve.