June 3, 2012 - The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity

Deuteronomy 4:32-34, 39-40
Psalm 33:4-6, 9, 18-20, 22
Romans 8:14-17
Matthew 28:16-20

Today is Trinity Sunday, so today we contemplate the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. This mystery is the central mystery of our faith. Even more central than the Incarnation or the Passion or the Resurrection is the mystery of the Trinity. In the sense that we contemplate a greater mystery, today is more important than Christmas or Good Friday or Easter.

When we talk about a mystery of the faith, we do not mean Scooby Do or Nancy Drew or the Hardy Boys. A mystery of the faith is an idea that begins with a fact. The mystery of the Incarnation begins with the fact of a baby, conceived in the womb of a virgin, born in a stable, and laid in a manger. And the idea is that this baby is totally human but also completely God.

So why do we call it the “Mystery of the Incarnation” and not the “Idea of the Incarnation” or the “Fact of the Incarnation”? It is because this idea is too big to fit in the human brain. To believe in a mystery is fundamentally an act of humility. When we believe in a mystery we are saying that there are some ideas out there which we are not smart enough to understand. Of course, we believe this in principle: there are some differential equations out there that I cannot make heads or tails of. But in practice people act as if the opposite were the case. They start a sentence with “I don’t understand why” and consider it the perfect logical argument against the idea. “I don’t understand why gay marriage is wrong” usually means that the person is sure that it is right.

A mystery of the faith will never be understood. No one can understand how Jesus, one person, was fully human and fully divine. We can believe it. We can think about it and talk about it. When Jesus ate fish, God was eating. When Jesus died on the Cross, God died. Yet God was always alive. It is a mystery. It is like the Grand Canyon: you can look at it all day long, but you cannot take it home with you. You can take all the pictures you want, but you still do not have the Grand Canyon in your pocket. You can climb down one side and climb up the other, but you still do not know the Grand Canyon. And God is bigger than the Grand Canyon.

So the mystery of the Trinity, which we contemplate today, begins with the fact of a universe that is clearly created by an all-powerful being. Every tree, every rock, every molecule proclaims the existence of God. The second law of thermodynamics proves the existence of God. This much we can figure out with science and philosophy. That there is only one God can also be easily proven, since it is illogical that there would be two fundamental principles of all reality.

Furthermore, God, when he revealed himself to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and above all when he revealed himself to Moses, was very clear about there being only one God: Moses said to the people in our first reading today, “This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below, and that there is no other.” For thousands of years, God revealed himself as the one true God.

Then one day a man came along and said, “The Father and I are one.” This man accepted the worship of his disciples. Not the admiration or the praise of his disciples, but the worship which is for God alone. And then he said that when we enter into relationship with God, we should do it in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

But there cannot be three Gods. That makes no sense. There are three people: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And they are all God. The Father is God. The Son is God. The Holy Spirit is God. But they are not one person with three names. The Father is not the Son. The Son is not the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is not the Father. The Father did not die on the Cross. The Son did. But God did die on the Cross, because the Son is God.

So what does that mean? Is God like a club that three people belong to? No, not exactly, since God is who they are. Their essence is God. The Son is consubstantial with the Father and the Holy Spirit. This word “consubstantial” means sharing the same substance. How can three individual people share the same substance? Are they like three robots that combine to form one larger robot? No, not really, since each person is complete God. God cannot be divided into parts. So also we cannot say that it is exactly like a shamrock with three separate leaves. Nor exactly like water that is ice, liquid, and steam. Every analogy we create either separates God into three or combines the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit into one person.

There are two analogies though which stand above all the rest. The first is in the Creed. The Trinity is like Light from Light. The light of the sun is in the sun, but it is also here on earth. The sun shines and there is light everywhere. The light is reflected over and over yet remains the same light. And the one light can be separated into all the colors.

The second analogy is the one chosen by God himself. It is the family. God invented the family to teach us about the mystery of the Trinity. Three individual people: the husband, the wife, and the child, are all held together by love. So a man and woman become in marriage one flesh, and the result of this bond is a child who is an individual person, yet takes their nature from their parents. Three people, one family. Three people, one God. And yet, no family is as united as God is in his essence.

Mass with Baptism:
How appropriate it is today that we have the baptism of little Alexander. He will be baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, just like Jesus said. And while he is baptized, his parents holding him, the three of them standing there together will be a symbol for us of the mystery of the Most Holy Trinity. We cannot comprehend the mystery, but we can contemplate it.

Mass without Baptism:
All of these analogies fall short of the mystery that is beyond human comprehension, but we use them anyway to think about what we can never understand. We look at the shamrock. We consider how light functions. We live in our families. We cannot comprehend the mystery, but we can contemplate it.