The Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity
A number of years ago, I came across a book called Blue Like Jazz by Donald Miller. He opens the book with these words:
In most of my life, until now, God was like a speck off in the distance. It was as though I was on a dirt road and, somewhere off in the distance, God appeared like a speck on the horizon.
But now, I see that God is walking toward me. He’s close. Close enough, that I can to hear him singing. Someday, I’ll see the lines on his face.
Quite different from the experience described in today’s first reading from the Book of Deuteronomy:
Did a people ever hear the voice of God speaking from the midst of fire, as you did, and live? Or did any god venture to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by testings, by signs and wonders, by war, with strong hand and outstretched arm, and by great terrors, all of which the LORD, your God, did for you in Egypt before your very eyes? This is why you must now know, and fix in your heart, that the LORD is God in the heavens above and on earth below…
For a young guy named Don Miller in contemporary America, God appears like a speck on the horizon. But for the people of Israel in the days of Moses, God wasn’t a speck on the horizon. Rather, His power exploded with the force of a bomb!
Which experience is closer to yours?
I would wager the first. That you probably find yourself in the shoes of that young man walking down some dirt road, straining your eyes to catch some evidence of God. Why? Because in the modern world, God is hidden, and we are forced to look for Him. For most of us, the presence of God is more like a speck of dirt than an exploding bomb.
Think of a woman who works the night shift at the meat packing plant. No family. No friends. No social life. Most of the time, she feels tired and exhausted. Yet, despite her sore muscles and aching back, there remains, deep down, a deeper ache. The ache in her soul for a life of love and meaning. An ache that will not go away.
How will God show up in her life?
Picture in your mind an old man in a nursing home. His wife is gone. His family lives out of town. His body is giving out. But does his soul give up looking for God? Not if the words in today’s second reading carry any weight: You received a Spirit of adoption, writes St. Paul, through whom we cry, “Abba, Father!”
Our bodies grow old, but our souls don’t age. Despite the condition of our bodies, our souls cry out for God. As Psalm 63 puts it, our soul longs for God like a dry weary land without water!
Now, what about a girl in grade school. Her parents do drugs, so her belly is empty and her classmates are cruel. At night, she turns up the TV to block out the sound of anger and arguments.
Will she, someday, long for the Savior, Jesus Christ, who, in turn, longs for her…longs to be the mother, the father and the friend that she needs?
Yes, of course. But, in the end, for all these folks, is God a speck. Or is God a bomb? Well, today’s feast gives us another option. It tells us that God is a Trinity.
In the lives of the people we just mentioned: the woman on the night shift, the man in the nursing home, the young girl at school…and for you and me as well…God is a Trinity.
When it comes to the Holy Trinity, most of us Catholics think of shamrocks and equilateral triangles. Those images might illustrate the equality and the unity of the notion that God is three Equal Persons but One Being, they express nothing of the dynamic energy at the heart of the Trinity.
In place of a triangle or a clover leaf, St. Hildegard used the image of a flame.
As the flame of a fire has three qualities, preached St. Hildegard, so there is one God in three Persons. How? A flame is made up of brilliant light…that it may shine; energy that it may endure; and heat that it may warm.
When we profess that God is a Trinity, we are giving words to the longing of the woman at Tyson Meat Packing, the old man at Bivens Nursing Home, the girl with the sad eyes at Bushland Elementary. We are saying that God is neither a speck nor a bomb, but a flame, the flame of love, an eternal flame of eternal love.
God is love. And love is an experience, not a speck on the horizon. Love is creative, not destructive like a bomb.
When you and I find ourselves yearning for God, longing for God, do we reach for triangles and shamrocks? No. We reach for love.
And, if St. Hildegard is right, that Love will light the darkness in our soul like a the light in the window of an apartment of nightshift worker. It will illuminate the framed picture of the spouse on the bedside table of an old man. It will be the warmth in the hug of a grandmother embracing a girl in the parking lot outside a school.
Yes, our God is a Trinity.
A Trinity of Light, Endurance and Heat. A Trinity of Fire. A Trinity of Love.
(c) Rev. Jim Schmitmeyer