Fr Billy Swan
St Catherine of Siena once remarked that for the Christian to ask the question ‘where is God?’ is like a fish to ask the question ‘where is water?’ Today we celebrate the feast of the Most Holy Trinity which is an opportunity to think about who God truly is and what is our image of him, how we understand him to be. Quite often the two do not exactly correspond: what God is truly like and how what we think he is like are not always the same. Yet few things are more important than having the right image of God for as the old saying goes, we come to resemble the God we worship. So if we worship a false god who is cruel, demanding and distant then we too become cruel, demanding and distant. If we worship the God who is forgiving, compassionate and loving then we too become forgiving, compassionate and loving. On this Trinity Sunday, I would like to draw out three life-changing truths from our faith in God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
First, as St Catherine reminded us, we are inside the mystery of God, not outside. We may not think it but this changes everything because it means that we no longer have to look ‘up there’ or ‘out there’ for God as if he was a million miles away. Rather we are within the circle of his life that God has opened to gather us into it. With the coming of Jesus into the world, God has opened himself up and inserted us into the space between the Father and the Son where the Spirit of love flows constantly. This can be seen from the famous icon of the Trinity by Rublev pictured above where the three persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit are pictured at a table with a space vacant at the front for the believer, for you and me. It is also expressed in the prayer of St Patrick who prayed that Christ be ‘before me, behind me, within me, to my right, to my left, etc.’ Therefore when we were baptised we were inserted into this circle of the life of the Trinity where we share the life of God. Every time we bless ourselves, we remind ourselves of this great truth that changes everything. We have been gathered into the life of the Trinity where we receive the love of God and learn to share that love in return. We receive this love not as a reward for being good, doing our duty, resisting temptation, bearing the heat of the day in fidelity, saying our prayers, remaining pure or offering worship, good and important as these things are. God loves us for love’s sake. He does not love us if we are good but so that we may be good.
Second, if we are made in the image and likeness of God then the more we become like God the more we become ourselves. God is revealed as ‘a God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in kindness and faithfulness’. It follows then that if this is God’s true nature then it is our true nature as well. When we are tender, compassionate, patient, rich and kindness, we become who we truly are and are called to be. We are at our best.
Third, if I am inside the Trinity, I am never alone. I belong to God and belong to a community. I am part of a family. I am part of this parish. You are my friends in the same faith and love that we share. We live a shared life which is why we share the Eucharist together. This is the shared life we live in the Trinity and that we celebrate at every Mass. We have been gathered into the same unity as Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Again, this changes everything. Of course there are the benefits but the responsibilities too. It means I cannot and must not turn a blind eye to the poor, to persecuted Christians, to the sick and hungry. If I believe in a god that allows me to ignore these people then the god I believe in is not the true God. It is a false god who does not exist.
Trinity Sunday is often referred to the preacher’s nightmare: a mystery difficult to explain, abstract and vague. I don’t agree. Few things are more important than having the correct image of God. To believe in God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit is to become part of God’s circle of life, to share God’s nature as tender and merciful love, to share my life with you and yours with mine. What a wonderful mystery to contemplate!! Do so every day!! I conclude with a beautiful prayer of praise to the Trinity by St Hildegard of Bingen (1098-1179) that captures this spirit of adoration that leads us to God:
‘To the Trinity be praise! God is music, God is life that nurtures every creature in its kind. Our God is the song of the angel throng and the splendor of secret ways hid from all humankind. But God, our life is the life of all’.