GOD'S WORD TODAY:
WHAT CAN THE 'HOLY TRINITY' TEACH US
27, 2013 (PHILSTAR)
GOD’S WORD TODAY By
Francis D. Alvarez, S.J. - “O Lord,
our God, how wonderful Your name in all
And what is this wonderful name of our God? Say Yahweh, and your answer will be incomplete. Say Jesus or Emmanuel, and there will still be something missing. Catholics have been given a very special name by which we can call our God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We say this wonderful name every time we make the sign of the cross: “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit….”
Today, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity. What do we mean when we say our God is Triune? Can having a God Who is Father, Son, and Spirit really make a difference in our lives? Or is trying to talk about this just a useless exercise in abstraction?
Having a Triune God does not mean that our God sometimes reveals Himself as Father; at another time, He puts on the face of the Son; and at some other instance, He puts on the guise of the Holy Spirit. The Three Persons in the Trinity are not like three masks which, depending on the situation, are worn by one shy actor. The Father is different from the Son and is different from the Spirit. The Son is distinct from the Father and is distinct from the Spirit. The Spirit is not the Father and is not the Son. This though does not sum up everything about our God. Though the Father is distinct from the Son and from the Spirit and so on, we do not have three gods. “We believe in one God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”
In a similar way, in community, all of us are different and distinct. My neighbor is not just another me with a different face. Perhaps, this is one of the first things we always have to tell ourselves in community. I am not my neighbor, and my neighbor is not me. I have to respect our differences and our distinctions. I cannot just swallow someone up or take it for granted that I know what he or she is thinking and he or she knows what I am thinking. This is because he or she is not me. But though we are different and distinct, we can be one community. In fact, our differences and distinctions make us a richer community.
It is also wrong to think that the Father comes first, the Son is under Him, and in third place is the Spirit. No, there is no “greater than” or “less than” in the Trinity.
In a similar way, in community, though some earn more money than others, though some have more friends than others, though some have higher IQs than others, and so on, there should be no “greater than” or “less than.” All are equally important. All should be equally valued.
In our liturgies, we often say that the Father creates, the Son redeems, and the Spirit sanctifies. But this does not mean that the Father creates alone, the Son redeems alone, and the Spirit sanctifies alone. The Father does not “work” alone. The Son does nothing apart from the Father and the Spirit. The Spirit is always with the Father and the Son.
In a similar way, in community, though we all have roles to play – we have a parish pastoral council president, a secretary, a treasurer, and so on – we should not think that we can function by ourselves. I may not be the president, but the president cannot serve well without my participation. It is the same with our country. Senators and mayors and other officials cannot build the nation separated from me, and I cannot help improve the Philippines separated from them. We need each other; we need to support one another.
The Trinity is like the perfect community. Better yet, it is perfect communion. If we say that we have been baptized – immersed, as the Greek word from which it came originally meant – in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, this communion must mark our lives. And if we are to heed Jesus’ command to baptize all in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, we must help build community and help foster communion – a communion that recognizes differences and achieves unity, a communion where all are equally loved, a communion where all are needed. It is from the perfect communion of the Trinity which we come. It is perfect communion we must try to achieve as we return to God. This is a long and difficult task, but it is also the perfect communion of the Trinity which will sustain us.
A thousand words cannot say everything about the Trinity. Even a thousand volumes will not be enough. The Trinity is a Mystery. This is not just a nice way of saying we will never understand it. A Mystery is not something we are too stupid to comprehend. A Mystery is an invitation. Whenever we see something about it, it draws us closer and calls us deeper into itself so that we can embrace it more fully – and it can embrace us. Thinking and talking about the Trinity is not just for theologians. It is for all of us so that we can truly see and say, “O Lord, our God, how wonderful Your name in all the earth!”
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Francis was ordained in 2009 and served
in the PGH until May 2011.
He is currently taking further studies in Sacred Scripture.
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