Is. 40. 12-17, 27-end; 2 Cor. 13. 11-end; Mt. 28. 16-end
At the end of the season of Easter, the church presents us with the culmination of the of the mystery of our creation, salvation, and sanctification, namely, the revelation that God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit: a Trinity of three persons in one God. If you were to single out one of the Christian beliefs that make Christianity distinctive it would be this belief in God as Trinity. It distinguishes us from our sisters of brothers of other so-called ‘Abrahamic faiths’, such as Judaism and Islam, who also believe in God as One, as we do. However, the Christian understanding of this oneness of God is revealed through the history of creation, salvation and sanctification to be Trinitarian. But what does this mean that God is both One and three?
It is not uncommon for some to think that this doctrine, this belief, is too complicated for us to understand, so we are better leaving it alone and focusing only on Jesus, as he is more tangible for us. However, in a context, where there are many options for believing today, and indeed not believing, we are shooting ourselves in the foot if we take this approach. We do, as Christians, need to give time to reflecting on our beliefs so that we understand them as much as we can. In this way we are able to communicate them to others should they ask us, why we believe as we do. In other words, understanding our faith is an important dimension of our missionary work. So, let us set some parameters for our consideration of the doctrine of the Trinity so that we neither over-, nor under-reach what we can sensibly achieve in our understanding of this most central doctrine of our Christian faith.
Firstly, we need to be clear what we mean when we say that God is a mystery. This does not mean that we cannot understand God, rather, it means that we can never exhaust the depths of God through our understanding. However, never exhausting these depths, does not mean that we are unable to understand at all. No, because God has revealed Godself to us through his Son Jesus Christ, God has revealed who God is for us (pro nobis). God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, as communicated to us through the Sacred Scriptures.
Our first reading from Isaiah indicates that the people of Israel, were on this journey of understanding who God is, but needed reminding that Yahweh was the God who made heaven and earth and needs no one to be his counsellor. For this God, “All the nations are as nothing before him”. God alone is God, and there is no other to whom we owe our worship.
On the other hand, if one danger to avoid is that we can claim too little in our understanding of God, there is also another danger to avoid in that we can claim to understand too much of God. That God is a mystery means that because we can never exhaust the depths of God with our understanding there is always more to know and to understand. As God is infinite, our understanding can never exhaust the depths of God. Believing as a Christian should never be like learning words in a dictionary, so that once you have mastered the vocabulary, you know the words. No, when we as Christians say that we believe in God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we should always realize that we will never exhaust the meaning of God with our minds, through our understanding.
So, having clear the parameters of the Christian belief in God as Trinity, through understanding what is reasonable to expect of our understanding in this adventure of coming to know God, we can approach the doctrine of the Trinity in an appropriate way, neither expecting too much or too little from our understanding.
What then do we know of God as Trinity? We know principally what has been communicated to us through the Holy Scriptures. And, for us Christians, the New Testament provides the optic through which we understand the Scriptures by means of the full revelation of God in our Lord Jesus Christ. From the incarnation of Jesus in the womb of the Virgin Mary right through to his death, resurrection, and Ascension, what the Scriptures communicate to us is that the God revealed for us in Jesus is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, namely, God is a Trinity of persons, three in one. Jesus is the Son of God, the one chosen by God, the Father, to be our saviour, the redeemer of the world. In other words, this God who is revealed to us in Jesus Christ, is not simply revealed to us as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, more than that, this God who is revealed to us in Jesus is the God who reveals Godself as for us (pro nobis).
The gradual revelation of God through the Sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament and the New Testament, reveals that this God, who alone is God, as the reading from Isaiah reminds us, is the God who is completely for us (pro nobis). In other words, the identity of this Trinitarian God is bound up with the mission of God, to be for us. God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, God’s identity if you will, is oriented towards us and our creation, salvation and sanctification: God’s being is literally for us. This is why the Gospel reading chosen by the Church for today’s feast is the final passage from Matthew’s gospel which speaks of the mission of God and God’s Church to the world.
Let’s listen to the end of that passage again,
“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, and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
The culmination of the revealing of who God is, is revealed in the mission of God. God is the one whom the Sacred Scriptures have revealed as the one who creates us, saves us, and sanctifies us. The God of Jesus Christ truly is the one true God. This creating, redeeming and sanctifying God is the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, and so, when St Matthew at the end of his Gospel records Jesus as telling his eleven disciples on the mountain to make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit”, he is telling us to invite others into this relationship with God, that we have been privileged to share in through our baptism. Baptism is the sacramental door through which we enter into this communion, this intimate relationship with the God who is Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Baptism is this entry point, this sacramental door into an intimate relationship with God, because through our baptisms we are incorporated into the death and resurrection of Jesus. The word, ‘baptism’ literally means ‘to be buried, or to be plunged,’ in other words, to die with Christ in his sufferings and death, so that we may share in his glorious resurrection; and then, in the wake of this resurrection, in the life of the Holy Spirit who makes Christ present following his ascension into heaven. Baptism, symbolized in the ceremony with water, which probably most of us have celebrated as children, is a dramatization of the life process every Christian should undergo as we are all called to die and rise with Christ, so that we can enter into the life of the Most Holy Trinity. This is the sacramental way through which we enter into full communion with the God who is Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
So, on this blessed feast of the most holy Trinity, let us rejoice and be glad that our God is a God who is completely for us as our creator, our saviour and our sanctifier, and that through our baptisms, we are called to share in the Trinitarian life of God that gives by its very nature through creating, saving and sanctifying. That is why the mission and the identity of God is Trinitarian and that is why we are most blessed as Christians to understand God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Amen.