Trinity Sunday 2015
Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations,
baptizing them in the name of the Father,
and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit,
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.
Trinity Sunday is a great solemnity of the Church celebrating the greatest of her dogmas, the ultimate truth about God, It is not uncommon today to hear people make statements about religion that imply a complete indifference to the weightiest matters of faith, such as the full truth about God, all the while considering themselves religious people, whatever that means.
For instance, it is quite common these days to hear even religious people say that it doesn’t ultimately matter what your idea of God is, so long as you live a good life and treat your neighbor well. That implies, of course, that the truth about God really does not have much to do with the way you lead your personal life and the way you treat your neighbor. A relativistic form of tolerance has become the supreme virtue of modern man, and so definite beliefs about God – except that God makes no demands on us – can be seen to interfere with tolerance of other religions which in turn causes societal conflict.
But it’s really quite a dangerous assertion to say that what one believes about God has little relevance for the way one should lead one’s life, or the way one treats one’s neighbor, or the way one lives in society. Such a religious attitude means that the dogmatic truth about God is never to be a determining factor in one’s moral life. However, this is simply not the case in real life.
Indeed, such minded Christians are perhaps beginning to see that many people think quite the opposite is true, and their false understanding of God has led them to commit monstrous crimes and outrages against Christians and others whom they consider to be infidels who can justly be slaughted in God’s name. So what these violent Jihadists falsely believe about God, that God is a totally intolerant God, who not only condones but commands the extermination of infidels from all other religions is quite obviously definitely determining the way they live their lives. Errors about who God is can have truly devastating consequences for the world.
For a Catholic Christian, this notion of religion which totally separates dogma from moral practice is a shocking departure from the whole Judeo-Christian tradition which has always held that what one believes about God is in fact the single most important factor in leading a good life and treating one’s neighbor with justice and charity. The Biblical God is a holy God, and our moral life is not only to imitate God’s holiness and goodness, but in aimed at becoming in action what God is in His being, holy and just and merciful, and all the the other attributes found in God in their perfection.
And of course the billion and a half Muslims in the world likewise find this to be western godless nonsense, and they unfortunately see this absolute tolerance and total separation of religion and man’s life in society as a sign that even most Christians really no longer believe anything and that’s why western society is now a-religious and dying. Unfortunately, the already inadequate understanding of who God is in the Muslim tradition – simply a Creator God who demands total submission to Himself and Islam, but not a redeemer God who dies for us – opens the way to the gravely distorted and much more false understanding of God among the crazed jihadists of our day and earlier centuries.
The whole Christian tradition, unlike the new non-dogmatic uber tolerant Christianity of many modern Christians, has always believed that what one believes about God must make all the difference in the world as to how we should live our lives; otherwise why would God have chosen to fully reveal Himself to us in Jesus Christ. God could surely have saved us without an Incarnation, without becoming flesh. But the revelation of who God really is could never have been seen or so powerfully revealed had not God become flesh and lived among us.
The truth of the Incarnation cannot be divorced from the truth about God as the Holy Trinity. The Incarnation was the most concrete way that God could be revealed to man, a revelation, as it were, not just in word, but in the Word made flesh. If the Lord Jesus truly is the Son of God, and God truly is one in being, then God is also more than one divine person in that same one nature and being.
The Incarnation of God, the life, death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ – deepens the truth about God for us, teaches us who God truly is, but also who we are. In Genesis it is revealed that man, male and femaole are made in the image and likeness of God. So, then, since God is revealed by Jesus to be truly a communion persons existing in a perfect unity of love, then what must man really is and how must man actually live is detrmnined by man’s vocation to be an image of that Triune God in our world
Jesus Christ came, therefore, not only to redeem us from our sins, but to teach us who we really are, and how we must live, all of which is based upon the fact that God really is a Triune communion of Persons, Thus we are by our lives and activity to become this Triune God’s visible image in this world. So what we believe about God teaches us that we have been created to become a communion of persons in this world in various ways, such as marriage and the family, and the fuller communion of saints in the Church.
Moreover, we are called to build a human society which is first an foremost a communion of persons based upon and reflecting the perfect union we see in God, thast ultimate communion of interpersonal love. Pope Paul VI was teaching this social implication of the doctrine of the Trinity decades ago when he spoke of a “civilization of love” that we should be striving to create, that is, a fully human society whose contours and essence is rooted in love, and above all the kind of love we know constitutes the life of the Triune God.
Moreover, the truth about Jesus’ sacrificial death not only shows us how we are saved, but it also reveals another profound truth about God and God’s relation to us. It teaches us, first, that love is what constitutes the very being of God; “God is love” as John teaches us. (1. Jn. 4:8) Moreover, Jesus’ sacrifice teaches us just how much God loves us. God loves us so much that God the Son is surrendered by God the Father to his enemies, only to be empowered by God the Holy Spirit to triumph over man’s sin and man’s death. God has done all this for us men and for our salvation. And what does this salvation mean? Our salvation means that God has done all this so that we might be drawn up into the very mystery of God’s eternal love and life, just as Jesus was drawn up into that love and life at his Ascension.
For Christians, then, the truth that God is a Holy Trinity and perfect communion of love is the deepest truth, the most profound and important revelation about God and about man. To suggest that the doctrine of the Trinity is irrelevant, or of little concern for our daily lives is simultaneously to suggest that we are ultimately irrelevant and that we are ultimately of little worth. But we know that such a reduction of man can never be true since God the Holy Trinity is our creator, our Redeemer, and our destiny, and for that destiny God became man in Jesus Christ. What then must be our personal and collective worth in God’s estimation, if He did all this for us?
Thus, what we know about God as the Trinity of persons whose very life is love, teaches us that we are loved and how much we are loved by God, and how that very love is guiding our final destiny. Moreover, it is that same Holy Trinity who is to be the moral guide and spiritual source of our new life on earth – You must keep his statutes and commandments that I enjoin on you today that you and your children after you may prosper (Dt. 4:39) – and our final destiny in heaven – we are children of God, and if children, then heirs (Rom. 16-17). If all this truth about who God is does not make a dramatic and determinative difference in our concrete lives, then what posssibly could?
It is this precise faith in the true God of Love that inspired all the saints to abandon everything in this world for the sake of His love, in order to search for that love everywhere. Likewise, only a deeply committed belief in this ultimate truth about God can truly change the world dramatically for the better, because this is the deepest truth about the created world and its purpose as determined by God. God has revealed His inner nature to us, in so far as we are capable of understanding it here and now, precisely to draw us ever deeper into this mystery of divine love and life, and to enable us to live in this world as true children of God, children made by love and for love, here in this world and far more wonderfully in the next. That we have been taught that God is a Trinity of persons is indeed the most important truth we can possibly learn in this life.