The Most Holy Trinity

A blessed Memorial Day weekend. Monday we remember over 1.2 million men and women who died in the wars of our country and honor them for sacrificing their lives so that we can enjoy our freedoms. I invite all of us to pause for a moment of silence to pray for these brave men and women who gave “the last full measure of their devotion" to the cause of freedom, to quote Lincoln's Gettysburg address.

Last week, I met a couple married sixty-some years. I asked, “What’s the secret to such a marriage?” The wife answered, “Each week, we go to an upscale restaurant for a delicious meal, fine wine, a little dancing, and then a slow walk back home.” Then she added, “He goes on Tuesdays. I go Fridays.”

Which reminds me, while out sipping wine with a friend, I noticed that whenever he put the glass to his mouth, he would close his eyes. I finally asked, “Why do you do that?” He replied that the last time he had a medical checkup, the doctor told him never look at a drink again.

Today we celebrate the awesome mystery of the triune God, a fundamental truth of Christianity: one God in three; a God completely beyond us yet a God completely within us. To put this mystery simply: the God of the universe became flesh in Jesus (the incarnation) and is alive among us by the power of the Holy Spirit. Yes, one God in three distinctive movements: Father, Son and Spirit.

One of my favorite Broadway plays was Godspell. Especially the song: “O dear Lord three things I pray: to see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day.

A powerful prayer in an age when many people live as though there's no God. I of course think Blaise Pascal, a 17th century mathematician/philosopher, got it right with his famous wager or bet. Pascal's Wager is this:
One does not know whether God exists;
not believing in God is bad for one's eternal soul if God does exist;
believing in God is of no consequence if God does not exist;
therefore it is in one's interest to believe in God.

The 19th century novelist Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote, if there's no God, everything
is permissible.

Think about it!

In our better moments, or when some crisis may begin to overwhelm us, we may think about fundamental questions such as: what is the meaning of life? What's my purpose? Surely, we can't be content with the pedestrian adage “eat, drink and be merry.” An orderly universe presupposes an order-er, just as a watch presupposes a watchmaker. The will to live presupposes some purpose for living.

I would argue, as Pascal did, that within each one of us is a space which “can be only filled with ....God himself.” (Pensées VII)

Pascal likely read Saint Augustine who wrote in his autobiographical Confessions, “You have formed us for Yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless till they find rest in You.” Yes, we were born to live in relationship with God--the triune God--and that's what today's feast highlights.

The word of God takes us back to Moses who poses a series of rhetorical questions about God to his fellow Hebrews in the wilderness of Sinai.

God, Moses says, has appeared to the Hebrews, as a creator, a worker of signs and wonders and a loving parent. And this God promises peace and prosperity if the Hebrews will be faithful to the covenant God made with them. We might ask ourselves: how faithful are we in our relationships and in our responsibilities.

Paul in his letter to the Romans speaks about our new relationship with God through Jesus Christ by the power of the Spirit: we are adopted sons and daughters of God and co-heirs to his kingdom. Paul might ask you and me: Do we try to live as best we can in light of our status as sons and daughters of God.

In the Gospel according to Matthew, Jesus sends us forth by the power of the Spirit to continue the saving work of Jesus Christ: “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Spirit.”

The mystery of the triune God--a God utterly beyond us and yet utterly within us, a God who is one as well as diverse, a God of distinctive relationships--invites us to ask ourselves: What kind of a relationship do we have with God?

Most people, I think, have a relationship with God, perhaps more subconscious than conscious. Why do I say this? Because we are forever trying to find answers to those fundamental questions of human life that people often ask in moments of crises, for example, the sudden death of a loved one, a life-threatening illness, a broken marriage, the loss of a job or savings, misunderstandings and so forth. In moments such as these, people often do ask questions such as: What is the purpose of life? Where's my life going? Does anyone care what happens to me? These are religious questions, questions we cannot help but answer by the way we live.

As we grow old, we may wonder: what was my life all about? We appear to have accomplished so little and now it is almost over.

Moreover, life seems to be filled with so many tragedies— senseless murders in our cities, mindless violence in the middle east, and natural disasters closer to home.

But we also have occasional experiences that shake us out of our dull routine—moments of awe and wonder, and not necessarily a spectacular experience like the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls. Perhaps it’s a glorious sunset, or the joy of a friendship, or the accomplishment of a goal. Such experiences can lift us out of ourselves into the presence of a power beyond us. We begin to experience the transcendent dimension of our own lives.

Yes, we say, there must be an awesome power beyond us, a purposeful, gracious and compassionate God who is responsible not only for this incredible universe but also for our own very lives.

Catholic Christianity says that our God is indeed an all-good, merciful God who can heal the brokenness of human life. This God became flesh in Jesus and is alive among us by the power of the Spirit. That is the mystery of the triune God: Father, Son and Spirit.

This is the same God who freed the Hebrews from their oppressors in Ancient Egypt, who renewed His covenant with them at Sinai. This God showed his face to us in Jesus of Nazareth. Through Him, with Him and in Him, we live in God’s triune life and the triune God lives in us.  

This triune God, the archetype or model of self-giving love, empowers us to reach out in love to one another with compassion, forgiveness, a smile, a kind word, a helping hand. And in reaching out to one another in love, we become like the triune God in self-giving love. 

Yes, today's Gospel proclaims that God so loved us that he promised to be “with you always, until the end of the age."

So, I come back to the play Godspell: dear Lord three things I pray: to see thee more clearly; to love thee more dearly; and follow thee more nearly, day by day. Let us pray on this feast that God will grace us so that we cano see this God more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow this God more nearly, day by day. Amen.

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