First Reading: Ex 34:4b-6.8-9; Psalm: Dn 3 R. v. 52b ; Second Reading: 2Cor 13:11-13; Gospel: Jn 3:16-18
REALISING OUR ONENESS AND EQUALITY IN THE LOVE OF THE TRINITY
BY FR VALENTINE NNAMDI EGBUONU, MSP
Every year, whenever we celebrate the solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity, many preachers attempt to talk about God as though we have a comprehensive understanding of God. We rigmarole with philosophical and theological terminologies in a bid to demonstrate a concrete and comprehensible knowledge of God before God’s people. But often times, we leave them even more confused. And God would probably look at us in our foolishness and wonder, “What an attempt!”
How can we even talk about God when we know we cannot come up with an adequate image of who God truly is? Every attempt we make in talking about the Trinity will always be inadequate. So, before we go further in our reflection today on the Trinity, we must admit and understand that we do not understand; for our knowledge of God is just a glimpse of who God is; and it remains an inadequate knowledge.
The doctrine of the Trinity teaches that there are Three persons in One God. The person of God the Father, the person of God the Son, and the person of God the Holy Spirit. But they are One in substance, essence or nature. Now, to start with, it is pertinent to note that God is beyond any sexual differentiation or gender. God does not have sexuality and is neither male nor female. That Jesus came in the form of man and regarded God as his Father does not mean that God is man. And that God chose to express his personhood taking a masculine form, does not define the gender of God either. If God had a lexicon that we knew of, perhaps we would not be talking about God as male or female for God is spirit. Jesus had to use our lexicon to talk to us about God which is why we have this gender problem. But God is spirit even though he identified with us as man.
Ask any little child who is the greatest among the Trinity and the child will readily tell you that God the Father is the greatest, followed by God the Son, and then God the Holy Spirit. We were all culpable of this error but for catechesis. So, no one would inculpate any child for demonstrating such an inadequate knowledge of God because ordinarily, no one would put a son at par with his father. And the manner in which the Trinity is customarily introduced makes it even easier for any child to make such conclusions. And again, this is the danger of talking about God with anthropological terms. And no matter how hard we try to explain the equality of the Trinity using anthropological terms, our explanations will always fall short. But we still have to try
When we talk of God the Father, we do not speak of him as the Father among the Trinity but as the Father and God of all creation. But the Son and the Holy Spirit were not created; so they co-exist with the Father and are co-creators with the Father. Little wonder God used the phrase, “Let us” while he created the universe. When we speak of Jesus Christ as God the Son, we should not literally see him as an offspring or a subject of God the Father; else we would distort that understanding that he is equal with the Father. Jesus Christ is con-substantial with the Father (one and the same) but expressed his mutuality or relationship with the Father in the person of the Son. It was through the mystery of the incarnation that we came to see and address Jesus as the Son of God. When we speak of God the Holy Spirit, it does not mean that the Spirit is elusive. The Holy Spirit is truly and fully God with intellect and will. So, to have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in us is to have God within us.
The nature of God is One; their distinction as Three persons is in their relationship. ‘This means that the divine Persons are inseparable in what they do. But within the single divine operation each shows forth what is proper to him in the Trinity, especially in the divine missions of the Son’s incarnation and the gift of the Holy Spirit’ (CCC 267). So, in the operation of each is the work of the Three. This explains their oneness and equality.
Now, let us try to contextualise this mystery. Human life is a product of relationship. Ordinarily, every relationship involves two or more persons who though are united by one single course but continually perpetuate their individuality or distinctiveness. When a man and woman are joined together in marriage, they are considered one and not two because of the singular reality ‘Love’ that binds them together. In the relationship of each couple, we see two distinct persons expressing their individuality but in essence are one due to the bond of love. 1John chapter 4:16 tells us that the nature of God is Love. So we can say that the Trinity expresses their personhood but are equal and united in love. Again, this is an inadequate explanation.
It was St Augustine who used the idea ‘Love’ to explain the equality and oneness of the Trinity. The Father is the person that loves. The Son is the person who is loved. And the Holy Spirit is love itself. So love in its truest sense is synonymous with oneness and equality. It is not condescending but brings us at par with one another. So where true love exists, no one can say that s/he is greater than the other. Therefore, we realise our true nature and identity as creatures made in the image and likeness of God only when we treat and relate with each other equally in love.
True love is not competitive. That you are the father of your household does not make you greater or any better than your wife or children. Our gift of masculinity or femininity should be seen as a role that God has given us to play to create that perfect harmony in marriage. We could have been created as a male/female had God decided otherwise. So our gender differentiation should not create any sense of hierarchy when it comes to expressing our true identity as creatures of love. If we understood the equality we share as creatures of the Trinity, there will be no room for racism, inequality, partiality, favouritism, brutality, violence or any form of skewed treatment. For that will be a betrayal of who we truly are. Our true nature as creatures of God is to love; and this love should bind us equally together.
Love is sacrificial and altruistic. This does not make the person who gave up certain things to love less important. It rather means that the person for whom the sacrifice was made needed more of our love to feel better and happier. The Father gave up his Son because he needed to reconcile us to himself. Jesus gave up his life on the cross because we needed his love to be saved. And the Holy Spirit filled our hearts because we needed the help of the Spirit to preserve that gift of sanctity that we have received from the sacrifice of the cross. Sacrificial love perfects the one who receives it. And if we allowed this love go round, we perfect one another and create that harmony of oneness and equality as creatures of the Trinity.
Love unites; it is not divisive. We read from the explanation of St Augustine that the Trinity is united in love. The Trinity is indivisible. Their indivisibility means that the action of One of the Three persons is the action of all Three. They are inseparable in what they do. Love therefore abhors rancour and division. Love promotes unity and peace. So we realise our telos as creatures of love when we promote harmony and oneness through the love of that dwells within us.
Our knowledge of the Trinity may be inadequate but a little glimpse of it already offers us so much to learn from. The relational character of the Trinity, their love, equality, oneness, and self-giving should reflect in the manner we our lives in view of the fact that we were created in God’s image and likeness. If we failed in this regard, we would be deviating from our true nature and identity as creatures of the Trinity. And this false image will not lead us to salvation.
PRAYER FOR THE DAY
Most Holy Trinity, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit; may the love and the equality you share inspire us to live by your examples. Amen.