Monday, 8 June 2009

Trinity Sunday Year B

“Father God, we ask that you send your Spirit, the Spirit of your Son upon your people so that they can be filled with the Spirit, Father God... Yes Father God, we need your Spirit to make us strong Father God”.

Putting aside the devotion and passion expressed in the prayer, there is no Father God. For if there were, then, we would be guilty of what another religion accuses us of. For not far from Father God is Mother God and further away and lurking in the corner, we could perhaps have our Kitchen God. If you follow the dictum or the traditional axiom, lex orandi, lex credendi, that is, the law of prayer is the law of belief, [how we pray is what we believe] nowhere will you find in the prayers of the Church this formulation, “Father God” because that could indicate that we believe in a community of gods. We don’t. Instead we believe in one God.

Today we celebrate Trinity Sunday and the theme is appropriately Abba, Father. Like Jesus, we call God Father but this name Father is totally different from what you heard in the prayer I composed off the top of my head: Father God. Even a tiny little comma can make a heresy of a difference. These two formulations, “Father, [comma] God who is ever loving” and “Father God who is ever loving” are as different as the East is from the West. The God we worship is not Father God but the God who has revealed Himself to be God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit.

The Trinity, as God’s own self revelation, lies at the very heart and centre of Christian faith. In this, we catch a glimpse of who God really is. The Christian understanding that God is one but three in persons, can be found, firstly, in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, secondly, in the post-Easter experience of the Spirit and thirdly, in the worship of the early Christian communities. Contrary to another religion that is afraid of how we address God, our understanding is not an “invention” [as they claim] that came from about the 4th century or thereabout. Sacred Scripture itself recorded that Christ on the mountain told them most explicitly: “Go. Baptise all the nations in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”. There on the mountain, it was clear that there was only one name, not “names” and thus, only One God whom we, since that time, have called Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

The Christian community has always been able to deal with the notion that there are three persons in one God. Even though the Trinity is beyond our reason, there is no contradiction because it is not against reason. This is because our reason can function as it grasps things analogically. For example, I have a brother and a sister. Three of us make one family. What seems to be a logical contradiction that 1 + 1 + 1 = 3, has been dissolved in a family, where 1 + 1 + 1 = 1. This is just one example where our finite minds have tried to grasp an infinite truth.

The number “three” refers to WHO they are: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One is not the other two [1] and so the question “Who are you?” will draw these answers “I am the Father”, “I am the Son” and “I am the Holy Spirit”. The number “one” refers to WHAT they are. One Divine Godhead because each person of the Trinity, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, will answer to this question: What are you? The Father will say, “I am God”; the Son will say, “I am God”; and the Holy Spirit will say, “I am God”.

It is a mystery why God is like that but it is not an unbelievable or unliveable mystery. First, it is believable because we accept it on the strength of God’s word. He chooses to reveal as much as it is possible for our minds to comprehend but what is beyond reason’s grasp is not always against reason. Second, this mystery is liveable because it is deeply embedded into who we are and is crucial to how Christianity is to be lived. For example: We began this Eucharist in the name of the Father, the Son and Holy Spirit and we shall end also in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. And throughout the Eucharist, we see how the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are there for us, not as three gods but as one God.

The entire Eucharist is directed to the praise and glory of God as it opens our eyes to how the Trinity is at work. We acknowledge God the Father because He created the world. We acknowledge God the Son because He saved us. And we acknowledge God the Spirit because He sanctifies us. God works as one. Whenever there is a mission, only one God is at work. Our liturgy helps us to appreciate how God who is the Father creates, God who is the Son redeems and God who is the Spirit sanctifies. We assign the work of creation, redemption and sanctification to each person of the Trinity. And the way the Trinity works is a help for the organisation of our communities.

When we begin to enter into community, we will begin to understand the Trinity. According to Saint Augustine, he says, “If you see charity, you see the Trinity” and the Pope echoed this in Deus caritas est. Charity or love is the only way to understand the mystery of the Trinity and conversely, the Trinity is the perfect model of our relationship. Even though we assign different tasks to each person of the Trinity, we find that there is one-ness in their mission—there is a unity of mission that is a reflexion of the unity of relationship amongst the three persons and the fruit of the unity of these three persons is the one mission to create, to save and to sanctify.

The nature of who God is in Himself impacts greatly on how Christianity is to be lived. First, the Trinity is the model of how we ought to love one another. Christ, all through His earthly life, pointed towards this mystery as we often hear in John’s Gospel. Christ in relation to the Father and the Spirit tells much about our relationship in and with the community called the Body of Christ, the Church. In that way, Christ taught us how to truly become the image of God, the imago Dei, the image of love, the image of charity.

Thus, there is something so different in the Trinity that makes God different from any other gods. In the Eucharist, the sacrifice of love, the Father invites us through His Son to share in His life in the Spirit. It is an invitation to the mystery called love, an invitation into the very life of God. The way we love, the way we dare to love is the only proof that we have to show that we have appreciated God’s gift of Himself to us, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
[1] The Father is not the Son and the Son is not the Father. The Son is not the Holy Spirit and vice versa, etc.