Fr. Patrick Sheridan, O.S.B.
There are a number of things in life that we don’t fully understand, but we still believe in. Take for example, the Sun. By a show of hands, how many of you believe in the Sun? By a show of hands, how many of you understand that the Sun gives off light that lets us see during the day, allows plants to grow, and burns our skin if we get too much of it?
By a show of hands, how many of you fully understand the nuclear fusion process in the Sun in which two atoms of hydrogen are combined to create helium-4 and energy, starting when two protons combine to form a deuterium atom, a positron and a neutrino? Not too many!
Yet, we believe in the Sun even though we don’t fully understand. We believe because we see its effects, the light that we see and the warmth we feel. As people of faith, we can also be confident in our belief in the Trinity by observing its effects.
In a little while, we’ll recite the Creed. Do we believe it or are we just reciting it because everyone else is? How do we know that God is three Persons?
According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the Trinity is the most fundamental and essential teaching in our faith. But what do we understand? What do we really believe? This, in a nutshell is what the Church has taught virtually from the beginning:
In the one divine Nature, there are three Persons – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
The Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit is not the Father: no one of the Persons is either of the others.
The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God.
There are not three Gods but one God.
Even if we don’t fully understand the Trinity, most would agree with this statement – God is love. Understand what that means. God IS love. Not God feels love or has love. This is the most profound statement in all of Christianity. Have you ever thought what it means to BE love?
Think about this. God existed before any created thing – before the universe, before our Sun or the Earth. If God IS love and existed before any creation, then God must be a community. If God were just one person, he could not be love, because love cannot exist by itself. By definition, love at a minimum requires three things 1) a person to do the loving 2) someone to receive the loving, and 3) the love itself. Only a Trinity, with the lover, the beloved, and the love could be a perfect being who IS love.
And just as we believe in the Sun because we observe its effects, there are effects of the Trinity that we can observe to help our belief.
Let’s look at the Father first. Who can look at all of creation and believe that everything just came to be randomly on its own? Even Stephen Hawking, an acknowledged genius of Physics and a self- professed atheist, when asked what, if anything, mystifies him, answered: One thing mystifies me: Why is there anything? I think it takes a greater leap of faith to believe that the entire universe came to be accidentally then it does to believe in an all-knowing, all-powerful God who willed everything into existence. The vastness, complexity and orderliness of all creation affirm that the first person of the Trinity, God the Father, the creator of all, exists.
What are the effects of the Son? Think about these three facts.
• Almost every disciple who knew Jesus personally willingly died a horrific death rather than deny his identity as the Son of God. It would be difficult to believe that so many accepted martyrdom for a lie. Would you?
• Christians throughout history to this current day willingly give their lives up rather than deny that Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity.
• There are now over 2 billion adherents to a religion that he started that promises nothing in this life.
The steadfastness of his witnesses and the vastness of His Church are the visible effects of the Son.
What are the effects of the third Person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit?
• It is the Holy Spirit who inspired the writers of Sacred Scripture read by millions every day.
• The same Holy Spirit who inspired the College of Cardinals to elect Pope Francis.
• It is that same Holy Spirit that gives courage and inspiration to this monk to stand up in front of this congregation and try to explain a concept that is essentially unexplainable.
That our Church even exists after 2000 years under the direction of weak and sinful people is evidence of the powerful effects of the Holy Spirit.
I have saved the most important question until last – what are the effects of the Trinity on you? We come to Mass and hear the word of God. We experience the Holy Spirit being called down during the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We receive Jesus, body, blood, soul, and divinity during communion. And because God is an indivisible Trinity, we have also received the Father and Holy Spirit. One would think experiencing God in such an intimate way every week that Catholics would be the happiest people on earth. Sadly there are some Catholics who seem to confuse piety with sadness. They walk around as if they were baptized in lemon juice or vinegar instead of with water in the name of the Trinity. Many appear to be sourpusses, not full of joy.
So today I’m going to give you homework.
By virtue of our Baptisms, each one of us is called to evangelize, to spread the faith. It is difficult to evangelize if we walk around looking like our dog just died. Who is going to believe the good news from a sourpuss? Your homework assignment is very simple – leave Church today and be happy; and reflect your happiness in your face. And when someone asks you why you are so happy, tell them the reason – that you have an intimate relationship with the God who is pure love. The Blessed Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
And if you don’t fully understand, that’s OK. Nobody does. God knows it is more important to believe than to understand.