May 30, 2021
For the last thousand years or so, the Catholic Church has celebrated the Feast of the Holy Trinity, officially, the Sunday after Pentecost.
Of all the Sunday liturgies, it is the only feast created to focus on a doctrine, rather than on an event or teaching from the Scriptures.
From our earliest remembrance, we probably learned to make the sign of the Cross from our parents with which we often begin a moment of prayer or a devotion of the liturgy.
Before the sign of the cross became popular, devotional expression or even done, early followers of Jesus kept hearing the oft repeated words, “in the name of Jesus.” Often, stories in the New Testament scriptures found someone praying for a healing or asking for help “in the name of Jesus.”
Somewhere toward the end of the first century, “the sign of the cross” was made; starting as a sign to praise God, to ask God for help or for protection, but it was done without words and the three middle fingers of the right hand. And then, gradually, using the last words of the Gospel according to Matthew, in today’s Gospel: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”
This all begins, scripture scholars believe, in the Church of Jerusalem and the early followers of Jesus who were beginning to express themselves as followers of Jesus, expressing their new religious identity: – in the Name of Jesus, “in the Name of the Father,” etc. Matthew the Evangelist writes his Gospel for Jewish converts to the Way of Jesus. And so the “Sign of the Cross” becomes a first adaptation for the first Jewish converts.
There was no such word in the early years for the Trinity. Philosophizing and creating theologies took several hundred years to develop, but we can begin to see the Christian beginning to talk about Jesus, about God the Father and the Holy Spirit– not in a sophisticated language, and certainly not in terms of Aristotle’s philosophy.
There were two classes of people in those Roman days of the Empire. The Elite and the educated who spoke an upper class, more classical Latin. The workers and the more common people spoke a more common ltain or what was called Koine Greek. Jesus himself spoke the common language of the people as well. He did not speak or write like St. Thomas Aquinas or like the many sophisticated theologians of the Middle Ages.
If you pay attention to Pope Francis, he too writes and speaks in a more simple style using common experiences of life to get across his message.
So let us be simple today:
I do not believe that God intends to overwhelm us, scare us, shame us, or force us to recognize who God is. God does not have to bend our will or use such tactics.
I believe that we are in God’s DNA and God is in ours. God only wants the best for us and has gone through a lot of trouble to let Jesus become one with us in our human experience. In fact, Jesus told us that if we see and accept him, we are getting the real version of Our Father, the real “Our Father.”
The Jewish people were astounded that God would actually speak to them. Our first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy describes God’s speaking to them as simply astounding — never done before to any other peoples in the world, it said.
The presence of God in God’s word. We can converse with each other. Having conversations with God and God with us is the fundamental way by which we prosper and have a long life and live on the land which God gives to us.
Unfortunately, our human thinking raises obstacles between us, we don’t think that we are worthy, we don’t believe that we can keep God’s expectations, and lower God to our level when we ascribe to God the way that we humans treat one another. That is why we think that God wants to pounce upon us all the time. “Prosper,” God says. “Live a long life,” God says. God is always saying: “Let’s talk. Let’s be in touch.” One of the very first ways that we can relate to God is to receive and to listen to his words. And even more so, he can speak to us in the quiet of our hearts — no need even for print on a page of paper. And God can he even speak to us through anyone? This is the most fundamental way that God reveals his presence to us.
Secondly, Saint Paul reminds us today that we are God’s children and we call God Our Father. Jesus’ first name for his Father, God, was “Abba”, as St. Paul writes — the familiar Aramaic word for “dad” or “daddy,” kind of like the familiar and loving title we give to our fathers — Papa, or Pa. We need to get out of our stiff and overly formal way of imagining God. Using such a big phrase like “Holy Trinity” doesn’t help either. Imagining God as some kind of heavenly-earthly leader is not helpful either. If we were to ask Jesus what to call his Father, he would just say, “Abba,” Papa.
Jesus reminds us that we are going to inherit exactly what he inherited — eternal life. All we have to do is to live Jesus’ unconditional heart of love which takes us into a world of love and service. “Our suffering” if we want to use that word, is just a lot of being good and just and blessing people with our lives. That’s what Jesus continues to do for us.
The Holy Trinity is not an explosion of art (like this statue of the Divina Providencia or Divine Providence [that many Catholics have]) that tries to imagine what God’s threesomeness looks like. Nor is it an explosion of philosophical and theological words, one proceeding from the other, consubstantial…
Close your eyes for just a moment, take a deep breath, maybe two…
“My Papa, who gave me life, who gives me life, I love you and I thank you. Jesus who said “As the Father loves me so I love you, remain in my love,” may your Holy Spirit who inspired you, inspire us. Our Dear God, by whatever names you want to be known: Keep us alive, Fill us with your love. Bless our words and actions. Help us to fulfill our lives until we come to meet and love you in the new eternity.”