In the UK’s best Catholic weekly, The Catholic Herald, His Excellency Most Rev. David McGough has a column about the Mass to be celebrated on Sunday’s (on the same page as my own column, as a matter of fact). This week, Bp. McGough’s column is posted not just in the pages of The Catholic Herald, but also on its site.
Far from overwhelming us with an inscrutable mystery, the Solemnity of the Holy Trinity invites us to rejoice in the God who reveals himself to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This is not to deny the hidden depths of God that no creature can ever fathom. In the words of the prophet Isaiah, as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are God’s ways higher than ours, his thoughts beyond ours. The wonder that we celebrate in the Trinity is that this God, so far beyond us, invites us to share his innermost life. The Trinity is not a problem to be solved, but a life to be lived.
Deuteronomy is lost in wonder at the God who so graciously revealed himself to the children of Israel. “Did ever a people hear the voice of the living God, as you heard it, and live?”
The whole Book of Deuteronomy rejoices in the God who delivered his people from the enslavement of Egypt, chose them in love and brought them to a land that would be their home. Human relationships are only possible as the hidden self is revealed to the other, thereby enabling a communion between those who had previously remained apart. The experience is life-giving. Here we begin to understand the wonder and joy of Moses’s address to the people. The God of Israel is not hidden in mystery. He has revealed himself as the one who has Fathered his people and prospered their children.
In his Letter to the Romans St Paul named the Holy Spirit as God’s power creating the bond between God and man. In the earlier chapters of this same letter Paul had outlined the frustrated efforts of sinful humanity to find peace with God. We have minds that can reason their way to God and yet, because of our sinfulness, reason alone had not brought us into communion with God. The children of Israel had enjoyed the inestimable gift of God’s law and, once again because of their sin, a flawed observance of the law had not brought them into the presence of God.
In his triumphant conclusion Paul rejoiced in the Holy Spirit as the unmerited grace that alone enables our longing for a life with God. “Everyone moved by the Spirit is a Son of God. The Spirit you have received is not the spirit of slaves bringing fear into your lives again. It is the spirit of Sons, and it makes us cry out ‘Abba, Father’.”
We long to be embraced by God and yet every instinct of our sinful humanity seems to mock this possibility. Of ourselves we have neither the strength nor the virtue to live such a life. It is from the slavery of this fear that the Holy Spirit delivers us. “The Spirit himself and our spirit bear united witness that we are the children of God.”
As the children of God our lives become one with Christ, the eternal Son of the Father. Suffering is no longer the frustration of hope, but a sharing in the death and Resurrection of the Lord.
Matthew’s account of the commissioning of the Apostles uses the words proclaimed at our baptism. “Make disciples of all the nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. And know that I am with you always, to the end of time.”
It is through the grace of baptism that we know God as Father, live our lives in communion with his Son and our selfish love is transformed by the Holy Spirit.
I will add that belief in God as One God in Three Divine Persons – though probably the hardest of all dogmas to grasp – is necessary for a Christian to believe. Christians believe in the Holy Trinity as the Church teaches about the Trinity (and therefore not in some other kind of trinity).
Each year we, a little changed by our life’s journey, come back around to these unchanging truths of our Catholic Faith. We should be able to glean more from them and about them. We should make a constant review of the tenets of our faith, not because they change (they don’t) because we are changing. Faith seeks understanding, even of those doctrines which are the hardest, either because they are in themselves difficult, or because they challenge how we are living.
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