Summary: The Trinity is a mystery, but this does not mean a riddle. Instead, the Trinity is a reality above our human comprehension that we may begin to grasp, but ultimately must know through worship, symbol and faith.
Most of you have probably heard the legends about St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. One particular legend, which is based on fact, is his understanding of the concept of the Trinity. In his personal confession, he wrote:
For there is no other God, nor ever was before, nor shall be hereafter, but God the Father, unbegotten, and without beginning…and his son Jesus Christ, who always existed with the Father, before the beginning of time…And he poured out his Holy Spirit on us in abundance, which makes the believers and the obedient into sons (and daughters) of one God in the Trinity of Holy Name.
Saint Patrick was once asked to explain how God could be three in one. He reached down and picked up a shamrock. He held it up and asked, "Is it one leaf or three?". The reply was, "It is both one leaf and three", to which Saint Patrick replied, "And so it is with God"
Here's a simple example of how the Trinity works. God loves us and he is hurt when we turn away from him through sin. Jesus came to restore our relationship with God by paying the price for our sins. The Holy Spirit reminds us of everything Jesus and God said and did, and guides us on our daily walk of faith. The Holy Spirit lets us know that we are loved and that we can experience God's love in an immediate, personal and transforming way.
Why should we even talk about the Trinity, let alone listen to me preach about it? That is a question I asked myself several times during my preparation for this morning's homily. The Trinity is a difficult concept for anyone to grasp, and I remembered the reason why it is so difficult for us to understand when I came across these words which I found in the sermon I preached on Trinity Sunday in 2010.
In that sermon I mentioned that part of reason why the Trinity is so difficult to understand lies in how the Trinity is presented in John’s Gospel. John wrote his Gospel for an audience that was primarily Greek. The Greeks were leaders in science, thought and philosophy. In other words, Greek society was very intelligent and highly sophisticated, especially in terms of understanding abstract concepts. This is one reason why John’s Gospel is very theological in nature.
I also mentioned that the very complications of the Trinity are designed to bring us closer to God. There is something we need to know. We don’t know everything about God, but we know everything about Him that we need to know. The Scriptures assure us of that. We do not have to understand everything, spiritual or non-spiritual, the minute we become adults and that includes the Trinity. We know enough to save us. God pours out grace upon us, in abundance and consistently, whether we realize it or not. The Holy Spirit helps us and the Church to understand all of what Jesus said, especially what he said about God.
The Trinity is one of the most fascinating aspects of Christian theology, but it is also one of the most controversial. It is a mystery to us because it is a reality that is above our human ability to understand. We can begin to grasp it on our own, but we must really discover it through worship, symbol and faith. In essence, the Trinity is the belief that God is one in essence, but distinct in person. In other words, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are somehow distinct from one another, yet at the same time they are completely united in essence, will and tasks.