May 30; Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity; Year B

trinity sunday 20 21God is Relational

Let me start in treacherous territory. It’s already mind-boggling attempting to understand the concept of the Trinity, One God in three persons, what more explain it. If you are not already familiar with this, there is also the concept or belief in the three goddesses in neo-pagan religions like Wicca, often depicted as the Maiden, the Mother and the Crone, or the Hag. Each of these characters are said to be non-distinct aspects of one divine reality and they basically correspond to three life stages of a female. In other words, the Maiden is the Mother and the Crone, except, in three different stages of her life as she ages.
The point I’m trying to make here is not to suggest that the Christian belief in the Most Holy Trinity is not an original idea or even a cultural appropriation of some pre-Christian religious tradition, but quite the opposite. The dogma of the Most Holy Trinity is distinctly unique. It proposes not just a schizophrenic God with multiple personality disorder or different forms or modes of one Being, or one who likes to play different characters to make life more colourful, but that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit, though not three gods but one, are each distinctively unique, which is why we use the word “persons” to refer to each of them.

This is what a relationship is fundamentally about, a connexion made between “persons,” at least two are needed. I’m not trying to diminish the fact that some people do describe themselves as having a relationship with a myriad of things or objects. For example, I know that many enjoy indulging in mental conversations with themselves, provided that they are aware that the voice in their head is actually they thinking aloud and not some distinct imaginary person. Likewise, there are those who have meaningful conversations with their pets, or their favourite plant or furniture. As much as one could try to stretch the meaning of the word “relationship” to cover all these, as woke culture is so fond of doing, we have to face the reality that nothing can come close to an authentic relationship between real persons.

The fact that God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are persons, tells us that they are authentically relational. God is not just an impersonal principle like a force in nature. The fact that our God is a personal God means that He is a relational God; first in Himself, possessing and capable of a dynamic relationship between the three distinct persons of the Most Holy Trinity, as well as with the rest of His creation, with us in particular because man (and woman) are made in His image and likeness, are the only creatures apart from the angels, who possess distinct personhood which makes each of us unique, irreplaceable, and relatable.

The fact that they are three distinct Persons, not being identical in personality, like clones, nor are they merely phases in the development of man’s understanding of God, nor are they God putting on different masks at different times to appear more relatable to us at a particular moment in time, is a fundamental truth to our faith. The Church has unequivocally rejected any of these alternative explanations and labelled them heresies. No. Though there is only one God, and the Father is God, the Son is God and the Holy Spirit is God, the Father is not the Son, the Son is not the Spirit, the Spirit is not the Father. The fact that there are 3 distinct persons in the Trinity, is a key foundational truth. And yet we profess and believe that there is only one God. That too is another foundational truth.

So, we see the uniqueness of the Christian faith. We defer from strict monotheistic religions which reject any differentiation of persons in the one God. We also reject the premise adopted by polytheistic religions which argue that there are more than one God. And of course, our belief stands against those religions which have a modalistic view of God, that the one God appears in different forms or different modes, but each mode is fundamentally just another form of the same God.

They are not only 3 distinct persons, but each person of the Godhead is intimately involved with the Christian! The dogma of the Most Holy Trinity is not just some lofty philosophical concept or irrelevant dogma but one which goes to the very heart of our identity as persons, made in God’s image and likeness, made to love, to care and to relate with others.

This is what we see in the second reading which is taken from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans. He does not provide us with a theological explanation of how the Father, the Son and the Spirit are related to each other but a statement about how they work together in unison and in harmony in every Christian. The Trinitarian connexion reaches out, connects and enfolds. In baptism, we share in the death of the Lord Jesus and we receive the gift of the Spirit which makes us children of God, and allows us to call God Himself, “Abba, Father”. Saint Paul elaborates on this saying: “And if we are children we are heirs as well, heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, sharing His sufferings so as to share His glory.”

So, what does this teach us about human relationships? The first thing is that people need other people. In other words, humans were made to live within community and to have meaningful love relationships with other humans. Why do we know this? Because we are made in God’s image and God has existed for eternity within a love relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. God has existed within the community of the Godhead for eternity and since we are made in His image, it should not be a surprise that humans are made to need community.

The Trinity also teaches us that the diversity of roles in any relationship is good. In fact, when our uniqueness as distinct persons are erased in the name of conformity, relationships cease to have value. Members of any human community are not products of assembly lines. Therefore, it is important to preserve and promote the various roles, charisms and parts we play in any human relationship, whether it be in a friendship, a marriage, a family or even in the Church. When gender differences are removed, hierarchical structures within the family or the Church are flattened, we end up with a distorted and revisionist vision of God’s plan. We can see from the Trinity that roles in relationships do not devalue one person over the other. There are different roles in human relationships because there are different roles in the Trinity.

In the gospel passage, in this last scene of our Lord’s climatic commissioning of His Apostles to make disciples of all the nations, to baptise them in the name of the Most Holy Trinity and to teach them to observe all His commands, we are reminded that we are sent by Christ on a mission, on a journey of love, on a pilgrimage to God, the Most Holy Trinity. We do so not as individuals, but as persons called into the Mystical Body of Christ, to be part of the communion of saints, so that through our words and deeds, we can testify that the Lord is with us always, “yes, to the end of time.” And, where Christ is present, the Father and the Holy Spirit are present too, for though each is distinct, they are inseparable.