The doctrine of the Trinity describes the unique ways that we experience God’s presence in our lives. As one scripture commentator writes, The Trinity is a confusing doctrine because it seems to imply three gods who are yet One God. We can only try to apprehend that mystery by analogy, poetry, and symbolic language. But what we might be able to describe concerning the doctrine of the Trinity is our experience of God.
First, we know God through His creation and also through the way we perform our own creative acts. When we make something – when we shape something physical into a new form of something beautiful – we go to another place. We forget our problems. Time goes by without us noticing it. We find ourself in another place.The intense fulfillment of childbirth is another example of creative time. We get a sense of something almost “other-worldly.”
In these times, we are in touch with God who is creating through us. We are fulfilling the mandate of Genesis 1:28 – “Be fruitful and multiply.” We have a sense of being an instrument for the Divine. We can call this way of experiencing God as “Father.”
Second, we know God in the sense expressed in 1 John 4:16 “God is love, and He who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” God is close to us when love is shared among people. This is especially the case when love is expressed to is in a way the brings relief or healing or a sense about something that seems transformative and transcendent. Using the metaphors of biblical language, we could say that we “meet Christ” in these profound acts of human, “incarnational” love and healing.We begin to know God through the “flesh and blood” of His presence in our lives and through the power of love of others to us that leads us into deeper place. We actually get a sense of what “God-is-love” feels like. We call this way of experiencing and knowing God as “Son.”
Finally, we sometimes feel moments when we are “tuned into” God’s power. We describe an experience of receiving inspiration. We describe times and tell others that “certain words or ideas or insights or wisdom just ‘came to me.'” This is especially poignant in moments of indecision or confusion or worry or crisis. “Spirits” of darkness are pushed aside by “spirits” of light. As Christians we can describe this way of knowing God in our lives in these moments as having experienced the “Holy Spirit.”
Oblate Father Ron Rolheiser tells a story told of a young Jewish boy named Mortakai who refused to go to school. When he was six years old, his mother took him to school, but he cried and protested all the way and, immediately after she left, ran back home. She brought him back to school and this scenario played itself out for several days. He refused to stay in school. His parents tried to reason with him, arguing that he, like all children, must now go to school. To no avail. His parents then tried the age-old trick of applying an appropriate combination of bribes and threats. This too had no effect.
Finally, in desperation they went to their Rabbi and explained the situation to him. The Rabbi suddenly had a thought – an “inspiration” of the Holy Spirit.” He said: “If the boy won’t listen to words, bring him to me.” They brought him into the Rabbi’s study. The Rabbi said not a word. He simply picked up the boy and held him to his heart for a long time. Then, still without a word, he set him down (The physical love of “The Son”). What words couldn’t accomplish, a silent embrace did. Finally the Rebbi took the boy to the inner sanctum of the synagogue. The boy sat in the seats where he and his family sit during Shabbat. He saw the Menorah. He gazed upon the Torah Scrolls. He felt the presence of God in the beautiful, physical, created “stuff” that leads The chosen People of God to a different, transcendant place each week.
Mortakai not only began willingly to go to school, he went on to become a great scholar and a Rabbi. What that parable wonderfully expresses is how the Trinity works.
“Words, as we know, have power. They can calm and heal and soothe and inspire. But sometimes, words are not enough, In critical situations they often fail us. When this happens, we have still another language, the language of ritual. The most ancient and primal ritual of all is the ritual of physical embrace. It can say and do what words cannot. God physically embraces us. Indeed that is what all sacraments are, God’s physical embrace.”
Poet J. Janda writes, And this explains what the Holy Trinity is all about. If God were solitary, how could his nature be love? Love always means relationship and self-giving. God can only be love if he is both one and three: three divine persons, each one fully divine, living from all eternity in an unbreakable unity of mutual love. God is love. And God loves listening and conversing and interacting with us – His beloved. As we read in the Catechism,(CCC 254), “God is one, but not solitary.” God is all about community. God says to us – his beloved community on earth, ” I give you life. I place you on earth for a very special reason but you won’t find out unless you ask me what the reason is … and talking is so easy well, why don’t you do more with me? Waste some time with me
Audio version of the homily is here: