Three, and Yet Only One
GUIDING LIGHT - Rev. Fr. Benjamin Sim sj (The Freeman) - June 16, 2019 - 12:00am

A priest was sitting in an airport lounge waiting for his flight.  A man sat down beside him and began to give his opinions on religion.  He boasted, “I won’t accept anything I can’t understand.  Take this business of three Gods in one God or whatever it is.  I can’t buy that.  Nobody can explain it to me, so I will not believe it.”

Pointing to the sun streaming in the window, the priest asked, “Do you believe in the sun?” 

“Why, of course,” the doubter admitted. 

“Alright,” the priest continued, “the rays you see coming through that window are from the sun, 90,000,000 miles from here.  The heat we feel comes from both the sun and from its rays.  The Holy Trinity is something like that.  The sun is God the Father; the sun sends out its rays, God the Son.  Then from both the sun and its rays, from the Father and the Son, proceed or come the Holy Spirit, the heat.  Can you explain how that happens?” 

The doubter quickly changed the topic.

As we gather today to praise and honor the Blessed Trinity, we are the first to admit that this is a mystery, something that is true, but something we cannot understand or explain completely.  We know it is true because Jesus told us about the Trinity several times.

So, for today, let us consider: The mystery of the Blessed Trinity as we found in the Scriptures, some considerations regarding this mystery, and what does the mystery of the Trinity say to you and me in terms of our daily living?

First, what does the Scriptures say about the Holy Trinity?  The Book of Proverbs, starting at creation, speaks of Wisdom being with God even before the creative Spirit moved on the earth. 

There was a pre-existent pluralism in God: Creator, Word, and Spirit. In time, the Word of God became flesh in Jesus to be our salvation. 

In his letter, St. Paul calls us to recognize our justification in Jesus Christ.  Through God’s love, the Spirit unites us with Christ.  We become redeemed and justified in our day and time.

The best-known biblical reference occurs at the very end of Matthew’s Gospel.  Before ascending to heaven, Jesus says to his disciples, “Make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.”

The most graphic reference to the Trinity occurs at the baptism of Jesus.  At the conclusion of that memorable event, the Holy Spirit “descended upon [Jesus] in bodily form like a dove.”  And a voice from heaven said of Jesus, “You are my beloved Son.”

St. Luke uses these three images – a dove, a voice, and Jesus himself – to present us with a Trinitarian perspective of God.  Also implicit in Luke’s presentation of the Gospel and the Acts of the Apostles is the Trinitarian perspective of God acting in human history.  The Old Testament era is the “era of the Father.”  The Gospel is the “era of the Son.”  And the post Gospel era (starting on Pentecost) is the “era of the Spirit.”

Jesus himself said, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father…  I am in the Father and the Father is in me.”  In his lifetime, however, Jesus could go just so far in revealing God to his disciples. 

This is the point that Jesus makes in today’s Gospel reading, when he says to his followers: “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.  But when [the promised Holy Spirit] comes … he will guide you to all truth.” 

To put simply, the mystery of God is this: God is a single being, composed of a trinity of persons – Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  The Father is truly God.  The Son is truly God.  The Holy Spirit is truly God.  But there are not three Gods; there is only one God.

Second, when it comes to the idea of three persons in one God, the human mind falters.  The mind comes face-to-face with a mystery.  To give us some faint inkling of the mystery, which we will never be able to grasp in this life, St. Ignatius of Loyola used the example of three musical notes played simultaneously.  There are three notes, but the notes form only one sound.

A modern theologian used the example of water.  Water can exist in three different forms: as steam, as ice, and as liquid.  Yet chemically, all are H2O.

As we celebrate the feast of the Holy Trinity, we profess the unexplainable truth of God: three persons, one God.  This is the mysterious truth of God; God is relational.  God lives and moves in relationship with us.  It is a loving relationship. 

We come to know, love, and serve God through God’s revealing of Himself.  God is revealed as Creator and loving Father.  God’s love creates.  Out of that love life begins.  It is life that is provided for and protected, valued, and cherished with love of a parent.

God is revealed as Teacher and Redeemer.  It is in Jesus that God’s love touches our minds and our hearts, teaches and informs us about life, God, and each other.  It seeks not only to create, but also to recreate again and again by healing the divisions caused by our sinfulness.  It is a love that will not stop short of anything, not even suffering and death, to unite us with God.

God is revealed as Guide and Sustainer.  In the Spirit, we are continually drawn to God.  We are moved to know, love, and serve God.  It is a personal abiding presence and love that is a part of our every breath, thought, and movement.  Through that presence every moment is an experience – not only of God’s love, but also of God’s self-revelation to us.

Thirdly, our readings today call us to recognize and celebrate this steady revelation of God to us in the Holy Trinity.  In John’s gospel today, Jesus tells us that slowly the Spirit will reveal his truths to us, as we can bear it.  In his wisdom the Spirit will keep revealing the Father to us in the words and examples of Jesus Christ. 

More than two thousand years after his death and resurrection, Christ’s words and life is ever new, ever challenging, ever revealing God to us.  Thus, we come to see a God who reaches out to us in countless, perpetual ways.  More than a simple gesture of love, God’s love is revealing into the very existence of God.  More than mystery, it is our daily experience of God.

If we are to respond to God’s love, we must be open to God with all of our desires and pains, joys and disappointments.  We must be eager to share ourselves, our lives, and our every experience with God. 

Shared lives opened and revealed, appreciated and celebrated, are the deepest possible expression of love.  There is no end to such a revealing love. 

In the Holy Trinity, we come to know God and experience his love in countless ways.  If we open our hearts and minds, then our longing will be filled with the presence of God over and over again.

But how can we make the Holy Trinity a more practical part of our daily lives?  Perhaps we can strive for three things as our lifestyle that has a direct bearing to the Holy Trinity. 

The first is the simplicity of lifestyle, which can be a special devotion to God the Father trusting in His care and providence, rather than in material possessions. Let us respect and protect the creation God has given us.

Secondly, we can cultivate a personal love for Jesus, to follow him as our life model, in this world of selfishness and self-centeredness, to put his commandment of love into reality in our lives.

And lastly, in this world of conflicting voices and ideas we need to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit as expressed in the teachings of the Church, and through prayers.

In short, we can trust the Father in our hour of need.  We can love as Jesus loved, reaching out even to enemies.  We can listen to the Holy Spirit in our prayer, and in our obedience to the teaching Church.

Today’s feast of the Holy Trinity is a celebration of the great mystery that God is our Father, whom we can trust; Jesus is our brother, whom we can follow; and the Holy Spirit is our constant companion, whom we can always turn to for guidance.           

Let’s close with that prayer to the Trinity that has become a trademark of our Catholic faith – the Sign of the Cross:

In the name of the Father,

And of the Son,

and of the Holy Spirit. 


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