Solemnity of the Holy Trinity at New Melleray Abbey
[Scripture Readings: Deut. 4: 32-34, 39-40; Rom. 8: 14-17; Mt. 28: 16-20 ]
Karl Rahner began his essay Remarks on the Dogmatic Treatise ‘De Trinitate’ by raising the question whether knowing that God is a Trinity of persons makes a practical difference in our lives; or is it simply some information Christians have about God that other people do not? If we didn’t know that God is a Trinity, would our behavior be any different? Phrased somewhat differently, do we have the attitude toward knowledge of the Trinity that since it is a mystery it is beyond our comprehension? It is a doctrine for theologians to speculate about and for us to accept without understanding. Yet, from the beginning of the Church, Christians have been baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Since we have been signed with the names of the three Persons of the Trinity it seems to me that we are meant to have a relationship with each of the three Persons and that should make a difference in how we live.
We have inherited from Israel the knowledge that God is a Father who looks upon us with compassion and calls us to return to him. Yet we know too well that we have often turned away from him. Like the prodigal son, we have preferred to go our own ways and wander into distant lands. We have also inherited from Israel the knowledge that relying on our own achievements and projects to reunite ourselves with God will always fall short of our goal. As St. Paul has repeatedly said, our knowledge of what we should do serves to confront us with our inability to do it.
In his love for us the Father sent his Son to show us the way to return to him. Jesus Christ not only shows us the way to return to God; he is the way. Our way to return to the Father is the imitation of Christ, and our imitation of Christ is not limited to an external imitation of behavior. Because Christ has poured his Spirit into our hearts, our spirits are united with the Spirit of the faithful Son. We are empowered to do what we could not do on our own. We can be God’s faithful sons and daughters.
Even more, Jesus has not only revealed that God loves us; he has revealed that God is love. God is a Trinity of persons united in a bond of love and we are invited to share in the life of the Trinity. Because our spirits are united with the Holy Spirit, we are able to return the Father’s love for us with the love of faithful sons and daughters. In the Spirit of Christ we can relate to one another with compassion and forgiveness as Christ has shown compassion and forgiven us, and now intercedes for us before the Father.
If we live out of our experience of God as a Trinity of Persons, our practice of religion can be more than offering prayers to God and ethical behavior, as important as these are. Our lives can become here and now a beginning of life in the love that is the life of the Trinity. We are empowered to worship God in Spirit and truth. We can share the life of the Trinity with those we meet in imitation of Christ, who shares his life with us.