Wednesday, May 18, 2016


Trinity Sunday C. Romans 5:1-5.

AIM: To explain the Trinity in terms of love.


          The Old Testament book of Job has a question which preachers the world over ask themselves on this Trinity Sunday, when they must speak about the One whom no words can properly describe, and whom the human mind can never fully grasp. “Can you fathom the mystery of God, can you fathom the perfection of the Almighty? It is higher than heaven ... it is deeper than [the nether world]; you can know nothing” (11:7f, NEB].

          Confronted with something beyond our understanding, it is a sound principle to start with what we do understand. For many people my age computers are a mystery. The first encounter with one produces confusion and discouragement.  After considerable frustration, we turn to something we think we may understand.  ‘When all else fails, read the directions.’  

          Where can we turn, however, to penetrate the infinitely greater mystery of God? What better starting place than the one we know best: our daily experience of our own human nature? Here is what Pope Saint John Paul II, wrote about the human experience in the first encyclical of his pontificate, way back in 1979: “We cannot live without love. We remain beings incomprehensible to ourselves, our lives are senseless, if love is not revealed to us, if we do not encounter love, if we do not experience it and make it our own, if we do not participate intimately in it.” (Redemptor hominis, 10)

          This insight, that life is unsupportable without love, is as old as the creation stories in Genesis. In the second one God says, after creating man: “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will provide a partner for him” (Gen. 2:18). The creation of woman follows. God fashions her from the man’s rib – a way of showing that the two sexes were made to complement and complete each other. The first creation story in Genesis says that this complementarity of male and female reflects the nature of God himself. “Then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image and likeness ...’ So God created man in his own image; in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (1:26f).

          If we are made in God’s image; and if we are created male and female with the instinct to unite in love to create other human beings, then this suggests that there is something in God that corresponds to our human experience of love and the family. When we look at Jesus Christ, we see this confirmed.

          Though born into a human family, Jesus had no earthly father. He constantly referred to God as “my Father.” Jesus lived a life of intimate union with his heavenly Father. He prepared for his public ministry by a prolonged period of prayer and fasting. Though he was always available to people in need, Jesus spent whole nights in prayer. He said, “My Father and are one” (John 10:30). He spoke repeatedly of the mutual love between the Father and himself (John 3:35, 5:20, 10:17, 15:9). Jesus could even say, “I have life because of the Father” (John 6:57).  And he told his friends, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

          Pondering this evidence, Christians came to realize even before the last New Testament book had been written that “God is love” (1 John 4:8). To express this truth, theologians in time developed the doctrine of the Holy Trinity: that the God who is one is also in some mysterious way three. The Father loves the Son; and the Son loves the Father; each giving himself to the other in a continual torrent of love who is the Holy Spirit – “God’s passion for himself,” as the German Jesuit Alfred Delp wrote before giving his life for Christ on February 2nd, 1945, in the closing weeks of Adolf Hitler’s evil tyranny.

          If we want to know what God is like, therefore, a good starting point is our experience of love. St. John goes so far as to write: “The unloving know nothing of God, for God is love” (1 John 4:8). We human beings were never intended, either by God’s design or by anything in our nature, to live in isolation or estrangement from one another.  God did not create us for hatred, for violence, for racism, for aloneness, or anonymity. He made us to develop and to enjoy deep and intense relationships of love with one another. Each of us was born into a family. Even those who do not marry and form a family of their own are still called to form communities of love, large and small, with our sisters and brothers.  When I was told thirteen years ago that, because of my age, I must retire, I asked at once to remain in the parish I had then served for almost 22 years. The people I served and loved had become my family.    

          During his life on earth Jesus modeled for us this life of love, family, and community. We see this in his intense union with his heavenly Father. And though unmarried, Jesus also had an earthly family: his disciples, women as well as men, and especially the inner circle of the twelve apostles. Their loving fellowship reached its climax at the Last Supper, when Jesus performed for them the menial task of washing the apostles’ feet, and told them that what he had done for them, they in turn must do for one another.

          In today’s second reading Paul tell us: “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.” The ability to love God and others which Paul refers to there is not bestowed on us simply to give us a warm feeling inside. God’s love is poured out into our hearts so that the image of God may be perfected in us; so that by becoming more divine, we may also become more human. How sad when people refuse this divine gift of love, or fail to develop it. The Spanish philosopher-poet Miguel de Unamumo writes: “It is sad not to be loved. But it is much sadder not to be able to love.”  

          The French Jesuit Teilhard de Chardin took this thought a step farther when he wrote: “Some day, after mastering the winds, the waves, the tides, and gravity, we shall harness for God the energies of love; and then, for the second time, man will have discovered fire.” On this Trinity Sunday, the feast of God’s love – exchanged between Father and Son through the Holy Spirit, and poured out through this same Spirit into our hearts – let us pray for this divine fire, in the words of an ancient Catholic hymn.  

          O Holy Spirit, Lord of grace / Eternal source of love,

          Inflame, we pray, our inmost hearts / With fire from heaven above.


          As thou dost join with holiest bonds / the Father and the Son,

          So fill thy saints with mutual love / and link [our] hearts in one


(O fons amoris, Spiritus, C. Coffin, 1676-1749;

translated by J. Chandler)