Friday, June 5, 2015

The Blessed Trinity

The people of Israel were very different from the other nations that surrounded them. While the Romans, Greeks, Phoenicians and Egyptians worshiped many different gods, Israel worshiped one God. As the Bible shows us, they believed this God to be the maker of heaven and earth. All of creation was under His control. All peoples and nations were under His authority. Nonetheless, He chose Israel to be a people all His own. It would be to them that He would reveal His wisdom and love and through them that He would teach other nations about the truth of His Law.

The other nations only knew about their gods through legends and myths. However, Israel had first hand experience of the one true God. As Moses reminds the people in today’s first reading, it was their God who liberated them from slavery in Egypt, who guided them through a hostile desert and who led them into the place that would be their Promised Land. It was God Himself who gave them a Law to ensure that they would live peacefully in the land He had given them. The God of Israel was no distant god manipulating people from afar. Rather He is a God who is intimately involved with the people He has chosen. He makes Himself part of their history. He lives in their midst.

It was to this people who believed in one God that Jesus appeared. While He was the fulfillment of God’s promise of a Messiah who would definitively establish the Kingdom of God, He challenged the faith of the people of Israel. They had always believed in one God, however this Jesus claimed to be equal to God. Like God, He showed that He had power over nature by calming the stormy seas, multiplying loaves and fish and healing sickness. Like God, He claimed to have power to forgive sin. Finally, He showed Himself to have power over death by rising from the dead. It became clear to those who believed in Him that He and the Father were one. They came to believe that He was God’s Son come down to earth to save His people.

Those who came to believe in Jesus and were baptized in the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit received the Spirit of God. Those who received the Holy Spirit learned that they were empowered to do the same wonders that Jesus did. All throughout the Acts of the Apostles we read how through the power of the Holy Spirit the disciples were able to heal the sick, endure hardships for the sake of the gospel and, ultimately, win thousands upon thousands of converts for the Christian faith. Through the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian community, believers came to understand that, like the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit was also God.

For those first hundred years or so since the resurrection, believers understood that the One God of Israel was Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They might not have been able to fully articulate it in those words. But they lived their faith with the understanding that it was true. It was only later that the name “Trinity” came to be used to identify this belief. However, it was already deeply ingrained in baptized believers.  
It is that mystery that we gather to proclaim and celebrate today. The God of Israel - our God - is a unity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. While each is a distinct person, they all share the divine nature. This mystery is at the heart of what we believe as followers of Jesus Christ. It is a reality that is at work whenever we gather to worship together.

It is at Mass that we most clearly experience the reality of the Trinity. We begin Mass by making the sign of the cross in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. The Mass itself is offered to the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. We pray to the Father, in the name of Jesus and in the power of the Holy Spirit. This Mass on earth takes us up to heaven where the angels sing “Holy, Holy Holy” and the Father, Son and Holy Spirit live in a continual exchange of love for each other. Through our liturgy here on earth we take part in the divine liturgy in heaven - the worship of the angels and saints at the throne of the One God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Before this mystery, the only rational response is to fall down in worship before our God. In the presence of this God who is love and who has loved us, we can only raise our hands and sing His praise. Our hearts were created to be in God’s presence and praise Him. When we lift up our voices in adoration of our God, we become filled with joy. In our life of daily prayer, we should include some time for adoration and praise. During the day today and throughout the week we should each take some time to ponder this great mystery of the One God who is Three Divine Persons, not to try to figure it out or understand it but to contemplate it and allow it to lead us to praise and adoration. It is what our merciful and loving God deserves and it will bring more joy into our lives than we can imagine.

Like the people of Israel, we live in a society that worships many gods. People in our world today run after pleasure, power, wealth and status believing that it will bring them fulfillment and happiness. They sacrifice their health and relationships pursuing what can only lead to frustration and bitterness. By the grace of God, we have experienced the love and mercy of our Heavenly Father. We have come to believe in Jesus who died for our sins and rose to give us the promise of eternal life. We also follow the inspiration of the Holy Spirit who leads our hearts to praise the living God and who guides our thoughts, words and actions. Like the people of Israel, it is our responsibility to make this living God known to those who worship this culture’s false gods. It is only possible through the Spirit who has been given to us in our baptism. As Jesus orders His disciples in today’s gospel reading, we are to make disciples of all the nations. Then they can share with us the joy we know in worshiping the one true God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

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