The Trinity–Our Immersion into God’s Love
This Sunday we celebrate the Solemnity of the Trinity. Rather than give a theological explanation of the dogma, the belief of faith, that we and all Christians, Catholic and non-Catholic, hold regarding the Trinity, I want to focus in on what the Trinity means to us as Church and as individuals.
There is an old story about pilgrims who traveled up a high mountain to a cave where a very holy monk lived his quiet life of prayer. "Help us to find God" they asked the holy man. The monk shook his head and said, "No one can help you find the place where God is." "Why not," they demanded. "The monk only answered, "For the same reason that no one can help a fish find the ocean."
The central truth of the Trinity as it is related to us is that we are immersed in Divine Love. We are at the core of God's Love.
Back in 1970 a musical came out that is still popular today, the musical Godspell. One of the songs reprised several times throughout the play was called Day by Day. I’m sure many of you remember the song and the lyrics, “Day by day. Three things do I pray. To see thee more clearly; to love thee more dearly; to follow thee more nearly, Day by day.” What you might not know is that this prayer did not originate on Broadway. It came from a prayer written by St. Richard Chichester, a thirteenth century English saint. If we look closely at these three petitions, we can come to a deeper understanding of the meaning of the Trinity to our lives. Let’s take them one at a time.
To see thee more clearly. God did not reveal his essence, the Trinity to confuse us. He revealed the Trinity to help us understand our sharing in the intimacy of his being. A story might help here. A woman named Ann Weems was in Wisconsin to give a talk. Ann was from the South and had a beautiful southern drawl. During the dinner before the talk, a man who also had a Southern accent was introduced to her. He asked her, “Where are you from?” She replied, “I’m from Nashville.” “I thought so,” he said. “Who are your people?” he asked. She replied, “My maiden name is Barr.” “Are you one of Tim Barr’s daughters?” he asked. “I am,” she said. Then he turned to his wife and friends and said, “She’s one of us. She’s Tim Barr’s daughter.” And then they began talking about the people they knew from Nashville. She was part of this community all who had a relationship to her Father.
To see thee more clearly is to know who we are, brothers and sisters related to one another because we are made in the image and likeness of God. We are his people. We are united together because we have an intimate knowledge of the Father.
To love thee more dearly. This petition is about our coming to a deeper appreciation of the incarnation, God’s gift of his Son, Jesus Christ. Again, a story can be helpful here. You have often heard me speak about Blessed Damien de Veuster, usually referred to as Damien the Leper. This was the courageous priest who ministered to the poor people of the dreadful leper colony of Hawaii on Molokai Island. Damien was not very successful when he first came to the island. He built a church and would have Mass every Sunday, but only a few people came. His sermons always began with, “You lepers.” During the week he would go around the island encouraging people to come to the Church the next Sunday, but he was largely ignored. One day, after returning from an long trek around the island, Damien put his aching feet into a tub of hot water. One foot didn’t feel the heat. Damien knew what that meant. He had contracted leprosy. The next Sunday when he began his sermon, he began with the words: “We lepers.” Like electricity the news spread around the island that Fr. Damien had leprosy. The next Sunday the church was filled to overflowing, and the Sunday after that and thereafter. Fr. Damien had taken on their flesh, their leprous flesh, and become one of them. They loved him more dearly because they experienced how much he loved them.
To love more dearly is to love the Incarnate God, the One who takes on our flesh, even our leprous flesh.
To follow thee more nearly is to allow the Spirit of God to work through our lives. The Spirit is the one who draws us into the Mystery of God. The Spirit also works through us to draw others to God. It is so difficult to understand the Holy Spirit, because we want to concretize everything. The Spirit is just that, spiritual. He is God as action, God as verb, God as the very action of loving. We are quite correct when we say that we were inspired to say or do something that led ourselves or others to God. To follow thee more nearly is to allow this inspiration to take place.
The Mystery of the Holy Trinity is the Mystery of God’s closeness, his incarnation, his inspiration. A close God is the Father. An incarnate God is the Son. An inspiring God is the Holy Spirit.
Seeing more clearly is to experience God the Father. Loving more dearly is to experience God the Son. Following more nearly is to experience God the Holy Spirit.
Don’t worry about the dogma, and just pray with me today in the words of St. Richard of Chichester:
Dearest Lord Jesus,
Savior and Friend,
Three things I pray: To
See thee more clearly, To
Love thee more dearly, To
Follow thee more nearly,
Day by Day.