ENCOUNTERING THE HOLY TRINITY THROUGH THE MYSTERY OF LOVE
SCRIPTURE READINGS: [ Prov 8:22-31; Ps 8:4-9; Rom 5:1-5; John 16:12-15 ]
Christianity is one of the three monotheistic religions in the world, along with Judaism and Islam, which believe in One God. While the truth of One God understood in a strict monotheistic sense is attractive, it poses an inner contradiction. If God is love, then God cannot be “alone”, otherwise He would be loving Himself and that would be clearly narcissism. If God is truly love, He would need a partner to love. Who is the partner of God’s love? It cannot be us, His creatures, because we are not on the same level as God. It must be someone who is also God.
This is why the Church speaks of a Trinitarian God as the answer to ‘God is love’. Christians believe that in this One God, there is an inner distinction in His being, namely, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. This doctrine is called the Mystery of the Holy Trinity. This doctrine indeed is a continuity of Israel’s faith in God who is love, but with greater depth and breath. In God, there are three persons, the Father loving the Son, the Son loving the Father, and the love that binds the Father and the Son together is what we call the Holy Spirit.
This knowledge of the inner life of God is of course rooted in revelation. Without God’s revelation of Himself, we will never be able to know His inner life. This revelation began in the Old Testament in the Book of Proverbs where we read, “He made the earth, the countryside, or the first grains of the world’s dust.” God is therefore experienced first as Creator and our Father, who is the origin of life. Indeed, when we contemplate on the wonders of creation, especially the creation of man as the summit of God’s creation, we cannot but be awed by His love and care for us. The psalmist, contemplating on the dignity of the human person, sees Him as one that is both powerful and weak. God in His goodness loves human being in a special way as to make him His co-creators. He wrote, “When I see the heavens, the work of your hands, the moon and the stars which you arranged, what is man that you should keep him in mind, mortal man that you care for him? Yet you have made him little less than a god; with glory and honour you crowned him, gave him power over the works of your hand, put all things under his feet.” This is what it means to be created in the image of God, to share in His authority over creation. His special dignity is the source of man’s greatness which cannot be violated. Every atrocity against man is a crime against God who is His creator.
But the Book of Proverbs also hints that Wisdom is also differentiated from God. The first reading presents Wisdom as a person who spoke of Himself as a partner in the work of creation. Before creation came about, there existed Wisdom alongside with God, before time, and was eternal. The book of Wisdom says, “The Lord created me when his purpose first unfolded, before the oldest of his works. From everlasting I was firmly set, from the beginning, before earth came into being. When he fixed the heavens firm, I was there … when he laid down the foundations of the earth, I was by his side, a master craftsman, delighting him day after day.” Alongside God as creator, there was also the Wisdom of God personified. This wisdom of God shares the powers and dignity of God and yet is distinguished from God the creator.
In the gospel, Jesus made it clear that “everything the Father has is mine.” Christ came to reveal to us the Father’s love and mercy. He is the incarnation of God’s unconditional love and abundant mercy. He gives us strength and hope by showing us the way to the Truth, to life and love. Jesus is the Truth, the answer to every riddle, every suffering and pain in the world. Indeed, the Truth is not a philosophical answer but an event. He is the Truth of God because He is the Love of God incarnated. The truth that Christians believe is Jesus Christ who reveals to us the Love of the Father. By His death and resurrection, He shows us that our sins are forgiven and we can look forward to a new life. Indeed, Jesus said to Philip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me?” (Jn 14:9) Jesus is the eternal Son of the Father. Both the Father and the Son are reciprocal to each other in relationship.
In the gospel, Jesus also speaks about a third person, who is the Holy Spirit. Jesus said to His disciples: “I still have many things to say to you but they would be too much for you now. But when the Spirit of truth comes he will lead you to the complete truth, since he will not be speaking as from himself but will say only what he has learnt; and he will tell you of the things to come. He will glorify me, since all he tells you will be taken from what is mine.” The Holy Spirit, therefore, is the one who will lead us to encounter Jesus today. He will give us the wisdom and understanding to recognize that Jesus is our Lord and Saviour. Most of all, the Holy Spirit, as St Paul says, is the love of God poured into our hearts. St Paul says, “This hope is not deceptive, because the love of God has been poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit which has been given us.”
But the Holy Spirit can lead us to Jesus and through Jesus to the Father only if He were also divine. Likewise, the Holy Spirit is inseparably one with the Father and the Son because He is the bond of love that binds them together. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Father and that of the Son. Hence, the task of the Holy Spirit is to reveal the Son to us so that through the Son we might come to the Father. The Holy Spirit quenches the emptiness of our hearts and leads us into communion with the Son and the Father. Consequently, we confess that God is the Father who is revealed through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. Indeed, this is the way we Christians encounter God’s love. Encountering God’s love through Christ in the Holy Spirit is what makes us Christians.
Indeed, when we reflect on our relationship with the Father as our creator, the Son as our redeemer and the Holy Spirit as our sanctifier, we can better appreciate why God is One Being in three relationships. In the Trinitarian Mystery, we understand the divine nature of God as reciprocal love, intense communion, a dialogal relationship and communion in mission. Most of all, it tells us that God’s nature is total self-giving, unconditional forgiveness and self-emptying love. It is this love of God that is then poured out into the world.
Indeed, God is a Trinity of persons and He wants to unite us all into a community of love. In the Trinity, God who is Father, Son and Spirit captures what love is in essence. St Augustine described the Holy Trinity as the Father as the Lover, the Son as the Beloved and the Holy Spirit as Love. Indeed, the ultimate purpose of God’s creation is that we share in the Trinitarian love. To share in the life of the Trinity is our call to be in communion with Him. (cf 1 Jn 1:1-4) God created us not to share in the goodness of creation but more than that, to share in His love. Such is the generosity of God. It is through His grace alone.
What are the implications for us? It means that if we were to encounter God as love, we must proceed from the same way God has revealed Himself to us. To find the Father, we need to come through Jesus who is the sole mediator between God and Man. (cf 1 Tim 2:5). Knowing Jesus’ love and mercy for us is the way we come to know the Father’s mercy and love. Hearing Jesus’ teaching is the way in which we come to know the Father’s heart and mind. That is why we must cultivate a deep love for the Word of God.
But this is not enough. We must be enlightened by the Holy Spirit because He connects us with Jesus and reminds us all that Jesus has taught us. Most of all, the Holy Spirit makes the Risen Lord alive in our hearts and minds when His love, manifested in His gifts, is manifested in us. This is particularly true when we bear the fruits of the Holy Spirit, “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Gal 5:22) The Holy Spirit, therefore, fills us with the love God and His gifts. Through the gifts and the fruits of the Spirit, we live in the Spirit of Christ, sharing in His life and love.
Concretely, this means that we are called to live out the Trinitarian love in our lives. We too are called to love intensely and reciprocally. It means living in unity with others even though we are different in age, charisms, intellectual capacity or in status. We must imitate the Trinity where the three persons live in unity. We are all one in Christ and in Him, we become one with the Father in the Holy Spirit. (cf Jn 17:21-23) Consequently, celebrating the Feast of the Holy Trinity, we must endeavor to be committed to building the Church of Christ into a community of love. We must take seriously St John Paul II’s call to “make the Church the home and the school of communion … if we wish to be faithful to God’s plan and respond to the world’s deepest yearnings. (cf NMI 43)
Without communion among ourselves, there is no mission because the mission Christ has given to us is communion. Again, St John Paul II states succinctly, “Communion is the fruit and demonstration of that love which springs from the heart of the Eternal Father and is poured out upon us through the Spirit which Jesus gives us (cf. Rom 5:5), to make us all ‘one heart and one soul’ (Acts 4:32). It is in building this communion of love that the Church appears as ‘sacrament’, as the ‘sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of the unity of the human race’.” (NMI, 42)
Written by The Most Rev William Goh, Roman Catholic Archbishop of Singapore © All Rights Reserved
Best Practices for Using the Daily Scripture Reflections
- Encounter God through the spirit of prayer and the scripture by reflecting and praying the Word of God daily. The purpose is to bring you to prayer and to a deeper union with the Lord on the level of the heart.
- Daily reflections when archived will lead many to accumulate all the reflections of the week and pray in one sitting. This will compromise your capacity to enter deeply into the Word of God, as the tendency is to read for knowledge rather than a prayerful reading of the Word for the purpose of developing a personal and affective relationship with the Lord.
- It is more important to pray deeply, not read widely. The current reflections of the day would be more than sufficient for anyone who wants to pray deeply and be led into an intimacy with the Lord.
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