Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love. [1 John 4:8]
Among all the questions that man asks in this world, none is more important than the question of God – does God exist, and if so, what can we know about God. To these questions man needs true answers, otherwise, his existence in this world ultimately becomes an unanswered and ultimately meaningless mystery. No surprise, then, that as our age becomes ever more agnostic and atheistic, that is, as men in our day answer that first question falsely, denying God’s existence, we witness suicide rates climbing everywhere, even among the young. Without a positive belief in God, man’s being and his self become unintelligible, unanswered mysteries, for without God, the true God, man cannot really know who he is, why he is, the purpose of his being, and this ignorance causes a deep alienation from his true self which easily leads to despair and a desire to escape this world.
But even where man affirms the existence of God, and in our world this still includes a greater part of humanity, it becomes equally important to discover the true answer to the second question, who is God and what can we know about God? We Christians will readily admit that by the light of reason alone a man can discover very little about who God is, not even that God is our creator in the strict sense. However, it is also true that it was never God’s original intention that man would be left to his own reason to discover who God is. Thus, from the very beginning, according to Genesis, God was personally present to man, revealing himself to man, and through faith and reason man was gradually able to come understand more and more of the truth aboud God, as God chose to reveal it. After all, only God knows Himself perfectly, and if man is to be given revelation by God about Himself, then it will be given when God chooses and only as much as God chooses to reveal about Himself.
The truth is that the fullest revelation about God, that is, who the true God really is, in so far as we can know God in this world, came only in Jesus Christ. Certainly, a partial revelation had been given to Abraham and his descendants, God’s first chosen people, through the prophets, and so they understood things like the fact that God is perfectly one, that God is the Creator of all else that exists, and that God is a just, merciful and loving God, who has chosen to redeem man, starting with his people Israel
Now Jesus also clearly taught that that there is only one God and that God is perfectly, absolutely one. But Jesus went much further and revealed that this One God is also truly three divine persons while remaining perfectly one, Father, Son (Himself) and Holy Spirit. But He and His church insist that the fact that there are three persons in no way at all means that there are three gods, nor do the three persons in any way divide the one divine being, thus compromising in any way the absolute unity of the divine being. Judaism considers this teaching on the Trinity as heresy, as does Islam, both of whom see it as denying the unicity of God, the absolute truth of monotheism.
Nonetheless, this revelation of the Holy Trinity is the ultimate truth about God, revealed by God, and it thus has the greatest possible implications for what it ultimately means to be human, to be a human person. For as Scripture teaches, man is truly made in the image of God, which means that man, male and female is made in the image of the Triune God.
Thus, to know and understand ourselves, who we are, why we are, what we are to become, we must embrace with faith this truth about the Triune God who made us in His image, this Triune God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. This ultimate truth about God, however, is an infinite abyss for the human mind, and our desire to understand will be fully satisfied only in heaven. Still, there is much to be learned and much richness to be gained by the thinsg we can already know here on earth. Otherwise, why would God reveal this truth now?
For Instance, perhaps the single most important implication for us here and now that follows from the truth that God is three Persons, is proclaimed by St. John when he says in his 1st Epistle, that God is Love. Now John does not teach this truth in isolation from the doctrine we celebrate today, the truth that God is three persons in one divine being. The truth that God is love is understood by John only from two other truths; first, that God became incarnate and died for our salvation and, second, the truth that God is Three in One. The three divine persons are who they are individually because they are each identified completely with the divine being, which is Love. The Father is Father because the Father gives of himself totally in love and brings forth eternally the Eternal Son. The Son likewise gives himself totally back to the Father in love, and from this double self-giving love of Father and Son, there proceeds the Holy Spirit who is simply Love, the very Love who unites the Father and Son.
Thus, in God we learn what love truly is. Love is unconditional self-giving that unites persons as one. Jesus, according to Paul, said that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” But Paul first sees this in God, beginning with God the Son, where love consists in pure giving; God does not need to receive anything because God lacks no perfection and because God is Love.
Jesus, in totally giving Himself to the Father on our behalf, is simply doing here on earth what He and the Father are doing for all eternity, that is, giving themselves to each other totally and unconditionally in the perfect unity of the Holy Spirit, who is Love.
Thus, since you and I are made in the image of this God, then we too were made for this kine of love, not just any form of love, but the Love of God which is pure unconditional self-giving. Only in this mystery of divine Love can we find our true happiness, because it is what we were made for. In this Love, we attain the blessedness which is God’s, and which is God, for God is Love.
Thus, a deep truth derived from this divine mystery is that the human person cannot help loving humanly, for he was made in the image of Love; so human love is intrinsic to human nature, and ultimately divine love is the fulfillment of the human person. But not all love is this kind of unconditional self-giving as we see it in God. There are other forms of love as well. For instance, we love food, but we do not give ourselves to food. All love originates in an act of the will, and in its higher forms love actually unites us with another person; for instance, in the love of friendship or the love of spouses. But even this exalted form of human love is not yet pure love, pure self-giving. There is never a dimension of perfect, unconditional self-giving on the strictly humna level, even in marriage.
Perfect self-giving, however, is found only in God, and thus it is possible only in God. Thus even married love only distantly approaches pure self-giving and only does so when it is a mutual participation in God’s divine love, that is, only when conjugal love becomes conjugal Charity. Therefore, man cannot be ultimately happy in this world, lacking a full participation in this highest form of love, because the human person is made in God’s image, and is made for that highest for of Love. That perfection of love comes only in God, in Heaven.
In Heaven, at last, we fully participate in God’s own natural love, what we call Divine Charity, which is pure unconditional self-giving, and thus perfectly fulfilling. Again note what Jesus says, that “it is more blessed to give than to receive.” He has taught us that the love that is pure-selfgiving is more fulfilling, more blessed, makes us happier, than all other kinds of love. We naturally pursue these other forms of love in this world, because we, unlike God, are not fulfilled in ourselves, because we are wounded by sin, and so we feel a deep need for others to heal us by their love. That is natural for man, and even more pressing because of the fall.
But we have been called to participate in a higher love yet, the highest Love, to love as God does, to share the love of the Blessed Trinity, to give of ourselves as God does, and be more blessed than we ever could by all our natural forms of love, which are so imperfect.
This is ultimately what it means to lead a full Christian life and become a complete human person. It is a life lived in the Trinity already here in this world. It is a life where imperfect human forms of love are perfected by God’s perfect Love, and where the human person can find happiness and fulfillment not so much in being loved as in the act of loving others, of giving of their selves, so they can find themselves by Love. If modern man often finds life meaningless and tends to despair, it is because the Trinity and Divine Love are simply not the framework of his self-understanding. When modern man rediscovers the true God, once again he will begin to understand his true self. Once again he will discover Love.