When Many Are One
(Acts 2:1-11; 1Cor.12:3b-7, 12-13; Jn.20:19-23)
Sometimes our language fails us, and we find it hard to explain things.
Take God, for example. Some scholars say that God is utterly beyond our capacity to understand or imagine, and always more than anything we can ever say about him.
And yet, some mystic-minded people do have a strong sense of God’s presence. They can achieve a one-ness with God that doesn’t need understanding or imagining or even explaining, because they actually experience him. [i]
Today is Trinity Sunday, and one question that’s often asked is how one God can possibly include three persons.
Sr Lucia, one of the three children who met Our Lady at Fatima, said that we will only really understand the Trinity when we get to heaven. However, if we pick an orange, we can remove the skin and take out the seeds which can be grown, and this leaves us with the sections we can eat.
If in a single orange, then, there are three separate things with three separate purposes, why should we be astonished to find three distinct Persons – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – in one God? [ii]
Now, the Bible doesn’t actually use the word ‘Trinity’, but it does recognise each of the three divine Persons. At Pentecost, for example, Jesus says to his disciples, ‘if you love me, you’ll keep my commandments, and I’ll ask the Father, and he’ll give you another Advocate (the Holy Spirit) to be with you always’ (Jn.14:15).
As well, at Jesus’ baptism, the Father speaks from heaven and the Spirit descends on Jesus in the form of a dove (Mk.1:10-11).
So, we accept the doctrine of the Trinity. But even though we find it hard to fully express the nature of God, we can still learn something of him from the Scriptures.
Our first reading today, for example, tells us that God is ‘a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, and rich in kindness and faithfulness.’ And our Gospel says that ‘God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not be lost but may have eternal life’
Both of these readings remind us that the essence of God is love (1Jn.4:8).
This has immense implications for us in our daily lives, for God is not the cold and distant figure many people think he is.
Indeed, the Trinity is a community of perpetual love, and by reaching out to us, as he has, through the Incarnation of Jesus and the work of the Holy Spirit, God is constantly trying to draw us into his loving communion.
The Canadian theologian Ron Rolheiser says we don’t need academic books to make God real in our lives, for God is a flow of relationships to be experienced in community, family, parish, friendship, and hospitality. And when we live inside these relationships, God lives inside us and we live inside God.
Rolheiser adds that the most pernicious heresies that block us from properly knowing God are not those of formal dogma, but those of a culture of individualism that invite us to believe that we are self-sufficient, that we can have community and family on our own terms, and that we can have God without dealing with each other. For God is community – and only in opening our lives in gracious hospitality will we ever understand that. [iii]
It’s significant that we’ve all been made in God’s image and likeness, because just as the Father, Son and Spirit are united in love, so we are all meant to come together in our families and communities. Each member of the family or community, like each member of the Trinity, has a different role to play and unique talents to share, but we are all brought together in holy relationship.
We see this in the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Jesus didn’t rush about as we tend to do today – he spent 90% of his life living in quiet but loving domesticity. Similarly, when Mary visited her cousin Elizabeth, she didn’t rush away soon afterwards as so many of us do. Rather, she stayed for months, and in that time they talked, they laughed, they shared and reminisced, and they sat together in quiet reflection.
And when the disciples agreed to follow Jesus, they didn’t add this to all their other responsibilities. They dropped everything else so that they could live together in close communion.
The message of the Trinity is that we are not meant to be alone. We’re all called to live in close connection with those around us – our family, friends, neighbours and co-workers.
Like God in his Trinity, we are all designed for close communion with others.
And the more loving we are, the more Godlike we become
[i] Brian Gallagher, Taking God to Heart, St Pauls, Strathfield, 2008:59.
[ii] Sr Lucia, Calls from the Message of Fatima, 2008. https://www.amazon.com.au/Calls-Message-Fatima-Mary-Lucia/dp/9728524234