Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. And on this feast day we are invited in a particular way to reflect on the mystery of God – the greatest mystery there is. When we hear the word “mystery”, perhaps we think of something a detective solves. A crime takes place, the detective interviews people, he gathers the clues, after much sleuthing around he finally figures it out, he gathers all the suspects together into a room, and then he reveals that – the butler did it. That’s not the kind of mystery I’m talking about. I’m talking about a different kind of mystery, the kind that by its nature can never be fully understood or comprehended. Once we begin to grasp a piece of it, we then begin to realize how little of it we actually understand. With this kind of mystery, you can always go deeper and deeper. Our faith – our very existence – is filled with this kind of mystery. So, when we profess our faith, we do not begin by saying “I comprehend” but rather by saying “I believe” – something very different.
So let’s begin by zooming way out and looking at the big picture. Human beings are different from animals in that we have the ability to question and to wonder about things. From the beginning of human consciousness, at whatever point in the existence of the human race that God first put souls into human beings, we have wondered about our existence. “Why am I alive? What is my purpose?” we might ask ourselves. (And if we don’t ask ourselves these questions, we should.) Human beings have from the beginning tried to make sense of the world around them and their place in it. And they have felt that there must be something more, something indefinable that is greater than what we can experience with our senses, something that this world cannot contain. As Christians, we believe that God created each one of us with this desire for “something more” – for the infinite. And it is this innate desire for the infinite that put mankind on a quest for God.
For thousands and thousands of years, humanity believed that there were many gods, and that these gods were much like us: quarreling with each other, falling in love, getting jealous, having mood swings, and so on. And the gods controlled all of the forces of nature and of the universe. The sun, the moon, the weather – there were different gods who governed all of these things. And the gods didn’t love or even much care about human beings. If there was a drought and the crops didn’t grow, it must be because the god of rain for some reason wasn’t happy. But human beings believed that they could influence the gods and earn their favor by performing various rituals, saying various prayers, and so on. So, for example, if I chant this prayer and make this sacrifice to the god of rain, he will make it rain, our crops will grow, and we’ll be able to eat.
And then at some point far back in history, God stepped in and began to reveal himself to a small, insignificant tribe who lived in what is now the Middle East. Over the centuries, these people became known as the Israelites and later as the Jewish people. And God revealed to them that He was the supreme God and in fact the only God. And that He was a personal God who loved and cared as a father for the people He had created.
But all this time, God was preparing the world for something beyond all human imagining. He was preparing us to reveal Himself to us more fully by sending us His Son, who at the appointed time, about 2000 years ago, became man and was born of a woman in a town called Bethlehem that exists to this day. Why did he send his Son? So that everyone who believes in Him might have eternal life, as Scripture tells us. In doing so, God revealed the depth of his love for humanity. God allowed us to see more of the mystery of who He is, to go deeper into this mystery. And with this glimpse into the mystery of God, humanity realized that this mystery is even greater than anyone could have imagined. God the Father has a Son who is also God – and yet God is still one? And the Son promised to send His Spirit upon his disciples. So God, who is One, is somehow also Father, Son, and Spirit: the Holy Trinity. The mystery deepens.
And the Church has struggled ever since to describe or grasp this mystery of the Holy Trinity. St. Patrick of course sought to explain the Trinity to the people of Ireland by using a three-leafed clover. But of course this analogy, although useful, inevitably falls short. This is what Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI, said about what happens when we try to comprehend the mystery of the Trinity: we enter “…a realm in which only the humble admission of ignorance can be true knowledge and only wondering attendance before the incomprehensible mystery can be the right profession of faith in God.” In other words, we cannot expect to fully understand the Holy Trinity, and yet we are called to profess faith in the Holy Trinity.
Perhaps you’re thinking, “What does this have to do with me and my life right now?” It has everything to do with your life right now! So now it is time to zoom back in to our lives here in Ottawa Couny, Michigan in 2019. Even though you might have a mortgage or whatever bills to pay, even though you might be worried about what the future might hold, even though you might be dealing with a family or workplace conflict, even though you might be under a lot of pressure at work and don’t know how you are going to get all these things done, in fact, whatever might be preoccupying your mind and causing you stress today, I can assure you that you were not created for those things. You were not created for paying bills, dealing with stress and anxiety, fear and worry, various interpersonal conflicts. Nor were you created for the created things of this world, however enjoyable or pleasant they might be. No, you were created for something much greater than anything you can imagine, and you have the desire for that residing inside you right now. You were created for eternal life with God, with the Holy Trinity: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
You were created to have eternal life with the Holy Trinity, in the very midst of this eternal relationship of love between the Father and the Son. And this love between the Father and the Son is their Spirit, who has been given to us at baptism. We were created to enter into this relationship of love between God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Doing so will be the fulfillment of all of our longings, all of our desires, our infinite desires that this world can never satisfy but which can only be satisfied by the Infinite.
And this is not some fantasy, so far off that it is not relevant to our lives today. We were created to begin to enter into this relationship of love even now, and every day to be drawn deeper into that relationship, into the mystery of God, into “the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the communion of the Holy Spirit.” Let us enter into that love today, meditating upon this mystery in our prayer, giving praise to God and inviting the Holy Trinity into our hearts and into our lives each day.