I THOUGHT YOU SHOULD KNOW | The Trinity reveals to us fatherhood, sacrificial love and joy

What is your image of the Most Holy Trinity? Hopefully it's more than a geometric triangle. Once in teaching second graders at Epiphany Parish, I mentioned that the Trinity is a mystery, which we can't understand. A 7-year-old girl raised her hand and said, "I understand it." I invited her to explain. Quickly rising to her feet, she said, "There is an old man with a long flowing beard, and that is God the Father. Inside of Him is a boy, who is Jesus, with a dove inside of Him." I thanked her for her insights.

A typical renaissance rendition of the Most Holy Trinity consists of Jesus on the cross, front and center. Behind the crucifix is the Father, holding Jesus' hands to the cross. Then either above or below the crucifix is a dove representing the Holy Spirit

The beauty of this image is that it reveals fatherhood, sacrificial love and the joy of the Holy Spirit. Let's return to these three concepts shortly.

In the first reading for the Feast of the Most Holy Trinity is a vivid picture of God as a loving Father. Moses depicts God as reaching out to a people in slavery, rescuing them and bringing them into a land where He reveals Himself as a loving God, providing them food, shelter and safety in the desert.

"... Did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by testings, by signs of wonders, by war, with strong hand and outstretched arm and by great terrors, all of which the Lord, your God did for you in Egypt before your very eyes?" he asked.

The Israelites realized God chose them to be a special people, dearer to Him than any other nation, for the sake of all future nations. God led them out of slavery, through the Red Sea, and remained with them in the desert for 40 years while He prepared their hearts to enter the Promised Land. God proved Himself to be greater than hunger and thirst in the desert and greater than their enemies.

In the second reading, Paul reveals more about God's fatherhood. Through Christ's death and resurrection, and through our baptism, we have become sons and daughters of God.

"Those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a Spirit of adoption, through whom we cry, Abba Father!'" he writes.

Our Father isn't the distant and to-be-feared God of Sinai. Rather, because of Calvary, He has become intimate with us through Christ's death and resurrection and, through our reception of the Holy Spirit. He wants us to call Him "Abba," a term of tenderness and endearment.

In the Gospel, Jesus gives us the divine command: "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age."

Here we have a profound mystery. In baptism we are incorporated into the Trinity — Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In an even more incomprehensible mystery, we are temples of the Father, the Son and of the Holy Spirit. We have the Godhead living within us. That means we should visit this temple daily and fellowship with the three persons who are preparing us to live with Them for all eternity. The more we live in the Holy Trinity, the more we will act out of the Holy Trinity.

Let us now revisit the image of the Most Holy Trinity we mentioned earlier. We immediately understand Christ's sacrificial love on the cross for mankind. But the suffering of the Father in begetting His Son isn't immediately evident. We're told that in emptying Himself totally and pouring Himself into His Son, He suffered, even though He fully retained everything He shared with His Son. However, the love that the Father had for His son and the love which the Son poured out for humanity is nothing other than the Spirit of Love. This is the Holy Spirit, pouring Himself from the Father into the Son and then sent by both the Father and the Son into our hearts so that we can continue God's Trinitarian life on earth.

The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Joy. In His suffering for us, Christ also experienced great joy. "For the sake of the joy that lay before Him He endured the cross, despising its shame, and has taken His seat at the right of the throne of God."

We're called to participate in this joy because we will be celebrating it for all eternity. We need to ask the Holy Spirit daily to fill us with this joy, to make us more magnanimous in embracing the daily challenges that come our way.

The more we experience the joy of the Holy Spirit, the more we want to share that joy with others. This means that we joyously come to the aid of others when they're in distress. It means that we participate in the same sonship or daughterhood with the Father. The more we rejoice in their relationship with our common Father, the more we participate in the Most Holy Trinity's love of mankind. A joyous life is a dress rehearsal for a joyous eternity.

Remember, dress rehearsals end. Eternity does not. 

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