Proverbs 8:22–31; Romans 5:1–5; John 16:12–15
Trinity for today
Trust in the Father, love like the Son, and listen for the Spirit.
Henry Kissinger, former Secretary of State under Richard Nixon, wrote a book called Years of Upheaval. One incident in the book took place Wednesday night, August 7, 1974. This was the night before Nixon announced his resignation to the world.
Kissinger was at home having dinner with his wife, Nancy, his children, and columnist Joseph Alsop. At about nine o’clock the telephone rang. It was President Nixon at the White House.
Nixon asked Kissinger to come over right away. When Kissinger arrived, he found Nixon slouched in a brown
chair. A thin beam of light from a small reading lamp
fell on a yellow pad in his lap. The rest of the room was
The two talked about many things. Then about midnight, Kissinger got up to leave. Nixon escorted him to the elevator.
Suddenly Nixon stopped just outside the door to the Lincoln bedroom. He asked Kissinger to kneel in prayer with him.
Nixon recalls that both knelt. Kissinger says he doesn’t recall
if he knelt or not. He does recall, however, being “filled with a deep sense of awe’’ and not knowing “what to pray for.’’
The image of Kissinger kneeling in the darkness, filled
with awe and not knowing what to pray for, is a good image
of many of us as we consider today’s feast, the Feast of the Holy Trinity.
Like Kissinger we are filled with awe, but we don’t know what to pray for or how to pray to the Trinity.
How should we Christians pray to the Holy Trinity? What should we say as we kneel before the Father, the Son, and
the Holy Spirit on this feast? How should we strive to make the Holy Trinity a more practical part of our daily lives?
One way is to take a cue from members of religious orders, who take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. They view these vows as opportunities to devote themselves, in a special way, to the Holy Trinity.
For example, they see the vow of poverty as an opportunity
to devote themselves to God the Father. They see it as an opportunity to express special trust in his providence.
They see it as an opportunity to put into practice these words of Jesus to his followers:
“And so I tell you not to worry about the food you need to stay alive or about the clothes you need for your body. Your Father knows that you need these things. Instead, be concerned with his Kingdom, and he will provide you with these things.”
Luke 12:22, 30–31
If the vow of poverty is an opportunity to show special devotion to God the Father, the vow of chastity is an opportunity to show special devotion to God the Son.
First of all, Jesus lived a single life, as all religious vow to do.
He too thought of himself as being a member of every family,
yet belonging to none.
Second, and more importantly, the vow of chastity is an expression of the personal love religious strive to have
for Jesus, their Lord and model. They vow to follow him
as closely as possible.
Finally, the vow of obedience is an opportunity to show special devotion to the Holy Spirit.
The word obedience comes from the Latin word meaning “to hear.’’
By taking a vow of obedience, religious dedicate themselves
to “listening’’ for the voice of the Holy Spirit, to learn God’s will for them. And they believe that the Holy Spirit speaks to them, especially, through the order and their superior.
The three vows of poverty (trusting the Father), chastity (following the Son), and obedience (listening to the Spirit)
apply to our own Christian lives, too, even though we don’t take these vows.
For example, in our world of financial ups and downs, all of us, especially the unemployed and elderly, need special trust in the Father.
Like the birds of the air, we too are not always sure what the future holds for us. We too need to trust that our heavenly Father will provide.
Second, in a world of selfishness and self-centeredness,
we need the example of Jesus to follow. “My commandment
is this: love one another, just as I love you.” John 15:12
Finally, in a world of conflicting voices and ideas, we need the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
There are so many times when we honestly don’t know what is right. There are also times when we don’t know what is the best way to handle some situation.
It’s at times like these that we need to pause in prayer and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit.
And so even though we don’t take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, we can still apply the spirit of these vows to our own lives.
We too can trust the Father in our hour of need, just as do the birds of the air.
We too can love as Jesus loved, reaching out even to our enemies.
“If you love only the people who love you,why should you receive a blessing?Even sinners love those who love them!”
Finally, we too can listen to the Holy Spirit, especially in prayer.
Trusting in the Father, following the Son, and listening to
the Spirit these are ways of bringing the Holy Trinity into
the nitty-gritty of our daily lives.
And after all, at a practical level, this is what the Feast of the Holy Trinity is all about.
It’s the celebration of the great mystery that God is our Father whom we can trust; Jesus is our brother whom we can follow; and the Holy Spirit is our constant companion whom we can always turn to for guidance.
Let’s close with that prayer to the Trinity that has become a trademark of our Catholic faith—the Sign of the Cross:
In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
Proverbs 8:22–31; Romans 5:1–5; John 16:12–15
Unity and trinity
God is a mystery of unity and trinity: three persons in one God.
Dr.Mortimer Adler was the originator of the 54-volume series entitled Great Books of the Western World. He was also the creative force behind a recent edition of The Encyclopaedia Britannica.
One Sunday morning surrounded by the great outdoor beauty
of Aspen, Colorado Dr. Adler was interviewed by television’s Bill Moyers.
At one point Moyers asked him point-blank, “Do you believe in God?’’ The 75-year-old Adler surprised a lot of viewers by saying yes. He went on to say, and I quote:
“In the last two years I have become convinced that I had found reasonable grounds for affirming God’s existence.’’
Moyers then asked him if reason could tell us about God.
“Reason alone can’t make the bridge from an infinite supreme being . . . to a being that is merciful . . . [and] caring.’’
In other words, Dr. Adler is saying that reason can tell us
that there is a God but it can’t tell us very much about God.
If we want to learn about God, we must turn to the Bible.
And what the Bible tells us about God is something that no human mind could have ever imagined.
The Bible tells us that God is a mystery of unity and trinity.
Put simply, the mystery of God is this: God is a single being,
composed of a trinity of persons Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
The Father is truly God. The Son is truly God. The Holy Spirit is truly God. But there are not three Gods; there is
only one God.
When it comes to the idea of three persons in one God,
the mind falters. The mind comes face-to-face with a mystery.
To give us some faint inkling of the mystery, which we will never be able to grasp in this life, St. Ignatius of Loyola used the example of three musical notes played simultaneously.
There are three notes, but the notes form only one sound.
A modern theologian used the example of water. Water can exit in three different forms: as gas, that is, steam; as solid, that is, ice; and as liquid. Yet, chemically, all three are identical.
The best-known biblical reference to the Trinity occurs at the very end of Matthew’s Gospel. Before ascending to heaven, Jesus says to his disciples, “Go, then, to all peoples everywhere and make them my disciples: baptize them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.”
The most graphic reference to the Trinity occurs at the baptism of Jesus.
At the conclusion of that memorable event, “the Holy Spirit came down upon [Jesus] in bodily form like a dove. and a voice came from heaven, ‘You are my own dear Son.’ ” Luke 3:22
St. Luke uses these three images a dove, a voice, and Jesus himself to present us with a trinitarian perspective of God.
St. Luke also uses his Gospel and his Acts of the Apostles
to present us with a trinitarian perspective of God acting
in human history.
Implicit in his presentation of his writings is the idea that the Old Testament era is the “era of the Father,’’ the gospel era is the “era of the Son,’’ and the post-gospel era (starting on Pentecost) is the “era of the Spirit.’’
In the Old Testament era God is revealed not only by word but also by action.
God is revealed as a God of love, a God of mercy, and a God of compassion.
In the gospel era the revelation of God takes a giant step forward in the person of Jesus. Jesus is the only Son of God,
who alone has seen God. (John 1:18)
The Letter to the Hebrews says that Jesus “reflects the brightness of God’s glory and is the exact likeness of
God’s own being.” Hebrews 1:3
Jesus himself said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. . . . I am in the Father and the Father is in me.’’
John 14:9, 11
In his lifetime, however, Jesus could go just so far in revealing God to his disciples. This is the point that Jesus makes in today’s gospel reading, when he says to his followers:
“I have much more to tell you, but now it would be too much for you to bear. When, however, the Spirit comes, . . .he will lead you into all the truth.”
The post-gospel era begins with the coming of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost.
With the coming of the Holy Spirit, the followers of Jesus
received a deeper appreciation of Jesus’ teaching and, therefore, a deeper appreciation of God.
It is this deeper appreciation of God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit that we celebrate today.
God is like a parent. To God we owe our origin and all that we have.
God is like an elder brother. Jesus “reflects the brightness of God’s glory and is the exact likeness of God’s own being.”
Finally, God is like a constant companion. The Holy Spirit came on Pentecost to dwell in us personally and to lead us
to the fullness of truth and life.
It is this great mystery that God reveals to us through sacred Scripture.
It is this great mystery that we celebrate today.
It is this great mystery that we profess each time we sign ourselves with the cross: In the name of the Father, and
of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Proverbs 8:22–31, Romans 5:1–5, John 16:12–15
Living the mystery
Trust the Father, imitate the Son, listen to the Spirit.
T]he Spirit . . . reveals the truth about God.” John 16:13
There’s an ancient story you have probably heard many times. It is so appropriate for the feast that we are celebrating today that I’d like to repeat it.
Legend says that Saint Augustine was walking along a sandy beach meditating on the Holy Trinity. He kept saying over and over:
“How can God be both three and one? How can God be both three and one? How can God be both three and one?”
Suddenly he was distracted by the sight of a small child
carrying a toy bucket of water from the ocean to a hole in
Smiling at the child, Augustine asked, “And what are you doing?” The innocent child said, “I’m emptying the ocean
into this hole.”
Augustine stopped dead in his tracks and thought, “I’m trying to do what the child is doing. I’m trying to pour the mystery of the great God into my tiny little mind.”
Traditionally, we have summed up our relationship to the Holy Trinity in terms of the three great acts of love that God has bestowed on us.
The first of these three acts of love is creation. Traditionally, we attribute the work of creation to the Father.
It was the Father who called us into being and put each of us on earth for a purpose.
The second of these acts of love is salvation. Traditionally, we attribute the work of salvation to the Son. Jesus took flesh
and dwelt among us as one of us. It was Jesus who saved us from sin and called us to complete the work he began on earth.
The third act of love is sanctification. Traditionally, we attribute the work of sanctification to the Holy Spirit.
It is the Holy Spirit who graces and helps us carry out
the work for which we were created and called.
And so today’s feast celebrates our relationship to the Holy Trinity in terms of the three great acts of love that God has bestowed on us.
That brings us to the all-important question: How might we deepen our relationship with the Holy Trinity in appreciation
for what the Trinity has done for us?
We might take our cue from members of religious orders,
who take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience.
Consider the vow of poverty. Religious see it as an invitation to put into practice these words of Jesus:
“[Do not] worry about the food you need . . . or about the clothes you need. . . . Your Father knows that you need these things. Instead, be concerned with his Kingdom, and he will provide you with these things.” Luke 12:22, 30–31
That brings us to the vow of chastity. Religious see it as
an opportunity to free themselves for greater availability in working for the spread of God’s Kingdom.
Finally, there is the vow of obedience. Religious see it as a way to enter into a more personal relationship with the Holy Spirit.
By taking a vow of obedience, they see it as a way to listen
more closely to the voice of the Holy Spirit, especially within
the context of community living.
That brings us to a suggestion for making the Holy Trinity come more alive in our own personal lives.
Even though we do not take vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience, we can live according to their spirit in our lives.
Take poverty and Jesus’ words about not worrying about material necessities. He said, “Your Father knows that you need these things.”
In our world of financial insecurity, we can put full trust
in Jesus’ words that the Father knows our needs and will respond to them.
The same holds true if we are elderly, in poor health, or
single parents. We can place our trust in Jesus’ promise
that the Father will provide for us, no matter what happens.
Next, take the vow of chastity. In a world of self-indulgence
of all kinds, we can imitate Jesus and deny ourselves to better work for the spread of God’s Kingdom.
Finally, in a world filled with confusing voices and mixed signals, there are times when we honestly do not know what we ought to do in some difficult situation at home or at work.
It is at times like these that we need to pause in prayer and listen intently to the guiding voice of the Spirit.
In summary, then, even though we do not take vows of poverty, chastity, or obedience, we can live according to
their spirit in our daily lives.
We can put our trust in the Father, who knows our needs.
We can imitate Jesus more fully by reaching out to the lost,
the least, and the lonely in their hour of need.
Finally, we can pause in prayer, to listen for the voice of the Holy Spirit in confusing times and situations.
And so the feast of the Holy Trinity is an opportunity to inventory our lives to see how we can deepen our relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
For example, we can trust the Father, who created us and loves us infinitely.
We can imitate Jesus, who died for us and taught us how to love the Father and our neighbor more fully.
Finally, we can open our hearts more fully to the Holy Spirit,
who graces us and wants to help us do what we could never do by ourselves.
This is what we celebrate today.
It is the great mystery of the love of the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Spirit for us a love that we profess each time
we recite the Creed at Mass, as we will do in just a few minutes.
It is the great mystery of God’s love that we recall each time
we sign ourselves with the cross, as we do now in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.