Preached at Holy Sepulcher Parish on June 10, 2017 at 6:00PM and June 11, 2017 at 8:00AM and 10:30AM Masses
A husband and a wife were driving and agreed to stop to eat at the next town along the highway. When an exit sign finally appeared they could not figure out how to pronounce the very long name of the town. They were very hungry and it made them irritable, so they began to argue about who was pronouncing the name correctly.
When they finally got to a restaurant the husband asked the employee, “Before we order, could you please settle an argument for us? Would you please tell us where we are very slowly?”
Confused the guy leaned into his microphone and said, “Burrr-gerrr Kiiing.”
I felt like the couple and the restaurant worker in the joke as I prepared my homily this week. I was really not sure what to say, how to say it, or what my answer should be in regards to the Holy Trinity. I was confused. How do I explain that 1+1+1 does not equal 3, but 1?
So I did some research. St. Augustine wrote about the Trinity. His On the Trinity, consists of 15 books of dozens of chapters each and took almost 20 years to write. So the Trinity is complex and difficult to explain, even for one of the greatest theological minds in history. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church in paragraph 234 you see this about the Holy Trinity: The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith.” Apparently the Trinity is a mystery that even the Church itself cannot fully explain.
The Holy Trinity is very much a mystery that is complex and difficult to explain, yet it is the most fundamental teaching of our faith. It’s what sets Christianity apart from other “one God” religions, like Judaism and Islam. We believe in one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus told his disciples, “Go and baptize all nations, in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” We begin Mass, our meals, and every other good thing by making the sign of the cross “In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.” Some baseball players make the sign of the cross before they bat, some soccer players do it after they score a goal, Sidney Crosby of the Penguins will cross himself after the National Anthem, and when Troy Polamalu played for the Steelers, he did it before each defensive play. Although you should have noticed that he did it backwards from us because he is Orthodox. We disagree with them on how to make the sign of the cross and also whether the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son as we say in the creed, or only from the Father, as they say in their creed. It doesn’t seem that important, but it is one of the primary reasons why the Orthodox split from the Catholic Church. However, we do agree on the basic truth: there is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The rest it seems is a great mystery.
But the Holy Trinity is not a mystery how we usually understand a mystery, like when you watch one of those true crime shows that are on TV. Was it the husband, the boyfriend, or someone else? It’s not about gathering facts and figuring out a puzzle in your mind. It’s not about 1+1+1 equaling 1, although if you want to balance the Holy Trinity equation it is actually 1*1*1 equals 1. The Holy Trinity is a sacred mystery, which you cannot completely reason, or figure out, in your head. Our finite minds cannot contemplate an infinite God (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) of infinite love without the help of divine revelation.
Henri Nouwen the priest who is considered one of the greatest spiritual writers of all time was having a difficult time in his spiritual life. He was having trouble understanding God and what God wanted him to do with his life. When he was in Rome he got a chance to meet Mother Teresa and he asked her what he should do in regards to his spiritual life. She said, “Spend one hour each day in adoration of your Lord. Follow this and you will be fine.”
That is what we all need in our lives. We need time with God. We need time with God to have a relationship with him. In fact God actually manifests himself to us in the Holy Trinity as a relationship between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to show us how important relationships are to him and to us. But this relationship is different from other relationships that we have. We like our relationships to involve talking and texting. We like to be doing things and going places with people. We can’t sit still. We have fidget spinners so we can be occupied doing something. But a relationship with God is not about doing, it is about simply being, being with the God, simply adoring God as Mother Teresa suggested, who is with us, in us, and through us.
Before each Mass I sit in front of the tabernacle. Most of the time I am not doing anything, not even praying. I am just sitting quietly. Sometimes I even fall asleep. But it is usually the most productive and special time of the week for me, because it is when God reveals himself to me. Usually nothing profound or big happens. Obviously God has yet to reveal the secrets of the Holy Trinity during these times or I would have told them to you today, but this quiet time is a small encounter with the divine and it gives me peace and direction in my life that hours of my own thinking, planning and doing will ever accomplish. We feel as if we must be doing something, accomplishing something, in order to make progress. But the most profound progress we make in our lives is often when we are sitting quietly with God. Whether you want to know the secrets of the Holy Trinity or what your next step in life should be, stop trying to figure it all out, just sit quietly with God and allow him to reveal them to you.
Henri Nouwen gave God an hour each day as Mother Teresa suggested and he felt God again at work in his spiritual life. St. Augustine spent long moments in contemplation and reflection with God and received divine revelation about the Holy Trinity and what God wanted him to do with his life.
Everyone can experience God and divine revelation in their life if they can just stop doing and moving for a short time and just simply be, be with God. We need to stop fidgeting, spinning, and going in circles and have a few quiet moments of stillness so that we can receive the direction and clarity we need from our Trinitarian God. Stop doing and just be.
Our God is a God of love. Our God is a relationship of love between Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a love so strong that they are completely and inseparably one God. All God has done for us, he has done out of love. Rest in that love.
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him might not perish but might have eternal life.”
Rejoice and be glad!